Talk to Me, Casey
Mother was beside herself since her son died. It had never occurred to her she might outlive Casey. He was just thirty-three when his car crashed during a race on Friday the 13th.
She knelt in the third pew of St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church, the same pew for the past fifty-two years. She was spiritual, but also mystical. Gazing at the statue of Joan of Arc, an old memory of her Great Aunt Isadora’s visit sprang to her attention. Although Mother was eight that year, her Aunt Izzy insisted that she was only two, as February 29 on came every four years. Izzy claimed she was only eighteen on their shared birthday. That year, she handed Mother tarot cards from Romania. Another special year, she mailed to her favorite niece a Ouija board with runic letters. Other years brought games of chance and once a Magic 8-Ball. Mother believed her claim they were on a cosmic roulette wheel and Leap Year Day was the luckiest day.
Although Mother became a devout Christian, last year her bridge partner invited her to a seance. She didn’t truly believe the voices from the beyond, yet she couldn’t dismiss the thrill of the unique link across the realms.
A bleak pall of the memorial mask lay upon her. She fingered the diamond necklace that Aunt Izzy had bequeathed to her. Izzy claimed she earned the necklace by forecasting a particular oilman’s son would be accepted by one school if he applied to all the Ivy League colleges.
If only Mother hadn’t argued with Casey the last time she’d seen him. He’d wanted money, as always. This time his excuse was rent. She wanted to give it to him. She found it nearly impossible to refuse him anything. She’d requested for him to come to church that Friday morning and ask God for help. But he’d refused, calling it a childish superstition. He stalked out the last time she ever saw him.
Mother gazed at the closed coffin. The thought sprang to her mind unbidden. Finally, he’d come to church. She castigated herself for the ungenerous thought.
Looking up at the terracotta statue, rich with blues, greens, and ivory, she wondered again if it would have made any difference if Casey had attended church. Would his race car have spun out on the fifth lap of the unsanctioned race if God was on his side? Was he only in the race because she refused him money?
If only she could talk to him and soothe his soul and hers for the eternity to come.
Mother had simplified her life when her husband died. Very few things happened that disturbed her, which made those few things that she did notice of overwhelming significance. She couldn’t get her guilt at refusing Casey’s money out of her mind.
Father Broderick took the incense burner from the altar boy, walked over to where Mother knelt, and, murmuring Latin phrases, blessed her while swinging the chain in the prescribed manner. The thick smell and cloud of frankincense enveloped her. Through the haze, a handsome stranger in the jet-black suit with thin pink pinstripes watched her with warm eyes.
At the graveside service, when Father Broderick said that Casey had gone to a better place, that he was beyond the worries of this world, Mother couldn’t help worrying about how difficult his journey through purgatory would be. He couldn’t be in Hell. He was reckless, irresponsible, but not evil. Mother moaned out loud. “Casey… I’d give anything… Once more, please.”
Father nodded. “Let’s pray together. God answers all prayers.”
She needed to be forgiven, not by God, but by her son. She knew herself well enough. She’d pray to God later. But now. . . maternal guilt. She couldn’t forgive herself.
Although Mother didn’t lift her head, she realized a black-suited stranger watched her. Was he a work friend of Casey?
Father Broderick was concerned about this lonely widow who had lost her only son. He dropped her off at her empty house and pleaded with her to let him stay and console her more, but she refused. Although she didn’t tell Father, she was desperate to talk to Casey one last time. She had to relieve her conscience.
With misgivings, the priest said goodbye after she promised she’d call him in the morning.
Mother sat in her darkened house, praying and remembering all the things she had done over the years for her son. But she always came back… too quickly… to their last angry conversation.
She was quietly sobbing when a soft but persistent knocking on her front door got her attention.
Dabbing her eyes with her handkerchief, she looked through the white lace curtains of the cut-glass of the front door. It was the handsome man in the black suit with pinstripes from this morning’s service. She mumbled, “Leave me alone.”.
“My dear,” the man said, “I knew Casey. He was difficult, but he loved you. I know your distress. I too have lost a loved one and needed to talk to her one more time. And I did.”
Mother gave the man more attention. “You did. I don’t believe it. How?”
The man’s wide smile revealed straight teeth and deep dimples in both cheeks. “My dear,” he said, “if you’d like, I can help you talk to your son one last time.”
Mother wanted that very much. She opened the door. After she had him comfortably sat at her dining table with a hot cup of chamomile tea, she pressed him to explain.
The man sipped his tea before answering. “To talk to the other side, I must transmute a recondite material into a bridge.”
Mother’s eyes glistened with tears and hope. “I don’t understand what you mean, but I’d give anything to talk to Casey again.”
“Give me your hands,” the stranger said. And she placed hers into his larger ones. Using his fingertips, he nodded at her diamond necklace. “Diamond is the hardest, most pure substance known to man. It is necessary to bridge from this world to the next.”
Mother reached behind her neck, unclasped the necklace, and dropped it into the stranger’s hand. He closed his eyes, gently stroked the gems, then told Mother to place her hands on his. “Close your eyes, too.”
After a silence, he said, “Your son is listening. Speak to him.”
“Casey,” Mother said. There was no immediate reply. She opened her eyes, finding the stranger’s eyes open too.
“Say what you need to say to him,” the man in the jet-black suit with thin pink pinstripes said. “The bridge is stronger when your eyes are closed.”
After wiping her eyes, Mother shut them. “Casey, I’m sorry for not giving you rent money the last time we talked.”
Mother never saw his lips move as he cast his voice. “Mother… I miss you… Money means nothing.”
At that, a slight smile crept along Mother’s face. She told Casey everything she wished she’d said over the years.
Finally, she opened her eyes. Smiling widely, she ushered the handsome man out into the night with many thank you’s for allowing her to talk one last time with her son.
That night, Mother slept through the darkness for the first time since her son’s crash that horrible Friday the 13th.
The next morning, when her doorbell rung, Mother opened it to Father Broderick. “Will you pray with me today?” He asked.
Mother raised her hands. “Yes, I feel more peaceful this morning. Let’s pray.”
“I’m surprised,” Father Broderick said, “and pleased. Was it something I said?”
“Just help me through the next stage of grief.” Mother went to finger her lucky necklace, found it missing, then smiled with the peace it bought.
Featured image. Fantasy Art 2022 Shaman and Spirit World by David S. Soriano, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons