I died two years ago today. I had just walked out of work and as I made my way to my car in the parking lot, I was mentally going over the list of errands I had to do before I went home. I remembered that we needed toilet paper and stopped to add it to my list on my phone. I thought I had moved closer to the cars. I was so engrossed in fixing my grocery list, that I didn’t hear the car coming quickly down the ramp. I felt the pain of being hit and then I blacked out. There were flashes of light and snippets of conversations. I remember being moved from the ground to an ambulance. It hurt. Everything hurt. The last thing I remember was the EMT going through my medical ID on my phone. He was reading it out loud to himself and then I died.
When I came to again, I was standing in a clean white room. As I looked around, I saw stainless steel tables, tools, machines and the wall full of stainless steel drawers. They were the giveaway. I was in the morgue. There were no bodies out anywhere thank goodness. I had never been able to handle the sight of blood. I was confused. I wasn’t sure what I was doing there. I wasn’t sure how I had gotten there. I tried to remember, but nothing was coming to mind. I decided I needed to find some help. I walked across the morgue and passed a desk close to the door. I glanced at some folders that lay there and almost kept walking, when I realized that one of the folders had my name on it. I stepped back and tried to grab the folder. My hand went right through it. I tried again and again and each time it was the same result. I brought my hands close and looked at them. I hadn’t noticed earlier, but I could see right through me. I tried grabbing other things with no luck. I walked through the tables and machines. I became hysterical as I realized what I must be. I ran through the wall and down the hallway. I saw a janitor filling his mop bucket with water and cleaning solution. I ran up to him and tried to talk to him. I yelled. I waved my hands in front of his eyes. I tried to touch him which seem to give him a chill, but other than that, none of my efforts seemed to get through. I was invisible. I was a ghost which meant I was dead. It came to me then. I had been hit by a car. I wanted to cry, but no tears came. I turned away from the janitor and walked down the hall. I walked and walked for what seemed like hours as I thought about my new state of being. Why was I still here? Is this all there is after death? No heaven. No Hell. Just wondering aimlessly on the Earth as a ghost. This was it? Seriously. I started running then. I ran all over the place looking for other ghosts. There had to be others like me. I ran and ran never getting tired, never feeling winded. I ran all the way across town until I found myself in front of my house. There were tons of cars parked out on the street. Cars I recognized. I saw my parents car, both my Aunt Joy’s and Aunt Marie’s cars, my sister Connie’s car, my brother Peter’s car, my cousin Sherry’s car, my brother-in-law Jerry’s car, and Delilah’s from work. Again I wanted to cry, but no tears came. I walked through walls and into my house. The first thing I noticed was I could no longer smell. Whenever I came home from work, there would always be the smell of food cooking in the kitchen. I had expected to smell something delicious. Not being able to smell things was going to suck. I looked around. No one was in the living room or the dining room. I could hear voices though. At least I still had that ability. I followed the voices and found everyone out in the back yard. They were all sitting in various fold out chairs. A few of them had beers in hand, almost all were smoking cigarettes, and they all looked like they had been crying. I stood and listened for awhile as they told each other stories about me. So many good memories were shared. It was interesting to hear their perspective on some things. I learned a lot about each of them. They stayed there till just after midnight when my husband, Bobby, got up and said he was heading to bed. Everyone left except Jerry. He stayed in the guest room. I overheard him make a phone call to his girlfriend that he was going to stay the night to make sure Bobby was gonna to be ok. It had apparently been a week since I died and tomorrow was my funeral. He told her to come to the house in the morning and she could ride with them. I watched as he went down the hall and was about to knock on Bobby’s door, but decided against it. He went back to the guest room and changed for bed. He left the door to his room open so he could listen out for Bobby in case he got up in the middle of the night or something.
At my funeral the next day, I was overwhelmed by the amount of people who showed. There were my family and friends of course and a few co-workers, but what really surprised me, were all my clients. I was a social worker. I saw so many of the families I had helped through the years. I even saw one of the mother’s who had hated me for having her children removed from her home. She stayed in the back. I wondered why she was here. Was she happy I was dead? I tried not to dwell on it. I knew I had done the right thing. There were no regrets there. I stood and watched everyone as all the speeches were made and prayers were given. It was beautiful. I felt truly loved. The room slowly cleared out and as it did, I saw someone I didn’t recognize, a woman, and she seemed to see me. I thought I was imagining it, but her eyes stayed on me and it was unnerving. I walked over in her direction expecting her to get up and leave, but she stayed put and waited for me to reach her.
“Who are you?” I asked as I came to stand right in front of her.
She smiled as she answered, “Hi, I’m Amber, I’m your Ghost Host.”
“I’m here to help you through this stage of the death process. There are 3 stages. This stage is the Ghost Stage. Then there is the Host Stage. And lastly, there is the Judgement Stage.”
I stared at her trying to comprehend the words that were coming out of her mouth. It must have showed that I didn’t understand. She reached out and touched my shoulder. I was surprised by the touch, but said nothing as she began to speak, “There is a lot to learn in this stage. It may take weeks, months, or years for you to get through it. Everyone is different in how they learn, process, and proceed through it all. When you are ready, you can find me at the Golden Gate Bridge. I will be there all day tomorrow. I know you want to get back to your family for now.” She was right I did. I thanked her and went back to watching my family and friends, but I kept thinking about Amber and what she planned to teach me.
All the grieving was hard to watch, but I was touched by many of the things I overheard. I stayed with Bobby overnight again. I watched as he tried to sleep. He kept waking up and crying. It broke my heart.
In the morning, I walked to the Golden Gate Bridge passing some of my favorite spots like the coffee shop where Antonio made me my Frappucino as I rushed to work, the bus stop where Bobby bumped into me and spilled said coffee, the hole in the wall restaurant he took me to on our first date, the park where my Connie, Peter, and I stood up to the bullies who wouldn’t let us on the play structure, and as I walked along the beach I remembered kissing Troy Cross, my first kiss when I was 14. So many memories.
I made it to the bridge. I saw Amber standing near the gate that closed the bridge to pedestrians at night and walked toward her.
“I’m ready,” I said as approached her.
We took a walk across the bridge as she explained the Ghost Stage. In this Stage, I would be given the chance to deal with any unresolved issues. I would learn to manipulate objects and people to get it done. Everyone had unresolved issues though figuring them out was hard for some because they don’t want to admit to the problem in the first place. She also explained that it was a time to get used to the fact that I was no longer alive and would go through my own stages of grief as she put it. The Host Stage was where I would get the opportunity to do what she was doing for me. Helping other ghosts that just died, teaching them the stages, etc. The last Stage, the Judgement Stage, she explained was where I would stand and be judged for the life I had lived and for my work through the first two Stages. This terrified me the most. She couldn’t say what happened after that. She hadn’t made it there yet. I was the third ghost she was helping. She wasn’t sure how many you had to help in the Host stage. It seemed to be different for every Host she had met.
I took it all in and got to work. I cleared up my unresolved issues. I didn’t have many thank goodness. It wasn’t easy and had taken me almost a year to get through. Yesterday, I finished helping my fourth ghost through his first stage. I was beginning to wonder how many others I had to help when, Orion, another Host, found me watching a Warriors basketball game. I had never really been a big sports fan in life, but it’s a whole other ball game when you can sit in the middle of the court and watch it from there. Orion sat down with me as the players rushed around us dribbling the ball.
“I have been dead for 5 years now and I never thought to sit in the middle like this,” he said as he stretched his legs out and leaned back on his hands.
I laughed and said, “Well, you know me, I like to be in the thick of things.”
He laughed too.
“Whatcha doin’ here Orion?”
“What a ghost can’t come visit a friend when he wants to?” he chided with an elbow to my side.
“Some ghosts can, but you, well you I only see when something’s up like when you came to warn me that Lucinda was trying to lay traps for her husband so that he would die and be with her in this afterlife. She was a piece of work and a hell of a first ghost to host. So what’s up?”
“You got me. I’m here to give you some news.” He paused for affect. “I am here to tell you that you have 24 hours to Judgement.”
I just looked at him unable to speak.
“Don’t worry, it’s a quick and easy process.”
“But what happens afterwards?” I asked.
“I can’t tell you that. All I can say is the outcome is different for everyone.”
“Well that doesn’t make me feel any better. So what do I do with the time I have left?”
“Do whatever you like. Most Hosts use this time to say goodbye and check in on their charges. Some just visit their favorite spots, look in on their loved ones one last time or there have been some that have just sat watched movies all day. It’s up to you. It’s your time that’s why we give this heads up.”
I stood up and looked around at all the people cheering the Warriors on. What did I want to do?
I went to watch the sunrise one last time. Then I said my goodbyes to the ghost friends I had made, checked in on my loved ones, lingering with Bobby for quite awhile, then I made my way to the top of Coit Tower. Which brings me to the present.
I am sitting here waiting for whoever is going to lead me to my appointment with the Judge. I am trying to resolve my feelings of fear about this whole thing. I want to go in there feeling confident and ready to fight for whatever comes next. All I can do is hope. Orion came and stood next to me. “It’s time,” he said. I took one last look around and went with him. Wish me luck.
- I died two years ago today – writing prompt from Write World on Tumblr