Inside the snow globe on my father's desk, there was a penguin wearing a red-and-white-striped scarf. When I was little my father would pull me into his lap and reach for the snow globe. He would turn it over, letting all the snow collect on the top, then quickly invert it. The two of us watched the snow fall gently around the penguin. The penguin was alone in there, I thought, and I worried for him. When I told my father this, he said, "Don't worry, Susie; he has a nice life. He's trapped in a perfect world.Alice Sebold
You don't notice the dead leaving when they really choose to leave you. You're not meant to. At most you feel them as a whisper or the wave of a whisper undulating down. I would compare it to a woman in the back of a lecture hall or theater whom no one notices until she slips out.Then only those near the door themselves, like Grandma Lynn, notice; to the rest it is like an unexplained breeze in a closed room.Alice Sebold
Grandma Lynn died several years later, but I have yet to see her here. I imagine her tying it on in her heaven, drinking mint juleps with Tennessee Williams and Dean Martin. She'll be here in her own sweet time, I'm sure.
If I'm to be honest with you, I still sneak away to watch my family sometimes. I can't help it, and sometimes they still think of me. They can't help it....
It was a suprise to everyone when Lindsey found out she was pregnant...My father dreamed that one day he might teach another child to love ships in bottles. He knew there would be both sadness and joy in it; that it would always hold an echo of me.
I would like to tell you that it is beautiful here, that I am, and you will one day be, forever safe. But this heaven is not about safety just as, in its graciousness, it isn't about gritty reality. We have fun.
We do things that leave humans stumped and grateful, like Buckley's garden coming up one year, all of its crazy jumble of plants blooming all at once. I did that for my mother who, having stayed, found herself facing the yard again. Marvel was what she did at all the flowers and herbs and budding weeds. Marveling was what she mostly did after she came back- at the twists life took.
And my parents gave my leftover possessions to the Goodwill, along with Grandma Lynn's things.
They kept sharing when they felt me. Being together, thinking and talking about the dead, became a perfectly normal part of their life. And I listened to my brother, Buckley, as he beat the drums.
Ray became Dr. Singh... And he had more and more moments that he chose not to disbelieve. Even if surrounding him were the serious surgeons and scientists who ruled over a world of black and white, he maintained this possibility: that the ushering strangers that sometimes appeared to the dying were not the results of strokes, that he had called Ruth by my name, and that he had, indeed, made love to me.
If he ever doubted, he called Ruth. Ruth, who graduated from a closet to a closet-sized studio on the Lower East Side. Ruth, who was still trying to find a way to write down whom she saw and what she had experienced. Ruth, who wanted everyone to believe what she knew: that the dead truly talk to us, that in the air between the living, spirits bob and weave and laugh with us. They are the oxygen we breathe.
Now I am in the place I call this wide wide Heaven because it includes all my simplest desires but also the most humble and grand. The word my grandfather uses is comfort.
So there are cakes and pillows and colors galore, but underneath this more obvious patchwork quilt are places like a quiet room where you can go and hold someone's hand and not have to say anything. Give no story. Make no claim. Where you can live at the edge of your skin for as long as you wish. This wide wide Heaven is about flathead nails and the soft down of new leaves, wide roller coaster rides and escaped marbles that fall then hang then take you somewhere you could never have imagined in your small-heaven dreams.
Now I am in the place I call this wide wide Heaven because it includes all my simplest desires but also the most humble and grand. The word my grandfather uses is comfort.Alice Sebold
So there are cakes and pillows and colors galore, but underneath this more obvious patchwork quilt are places like a quiet room where you can go and hold someone's hand and not have to say anything. Give no story. Make no claim. Where you can live at the edge of your skin for as long as you wish.
Buckley followed the three of them into the kitchen and asked, as he had at least once a day, “Where’s Susie?”Alice Sebold
They were silent. Samuel looked at Lindsey.
“Buckley,” my father called from the adjoining room, “come play Monopoly with me.”
My brother had never been invited to play Monopoly. Everyone said he was too young, but this was the magic of Christmas. He rushed into the family room, and my father picked him up and sat him on his lap.
“See this shoe?” my father said.
Buckley nodded his head.
“I want you to listen to everything I say about it, okay?”
“Susie?” my brother asked, somehow connecting the two.
“Yes, I’m going to tell you where Susie is.”
I began to cry up in heaven. What else was there for me to do?
“This shoe was the piece Susie played Monopoly with,” he said. “I play with the car or sometimes the wheelbarrow. Lindsey plays with the iron, and when you mother plays, she likes the cannon.”
“Is that a dog?”
“Yes, that’s a Scottie.”
“Okay,” my father said. He was patient. He had found a way to explain it. He held his son in his lap, and as he spoke, he felt Buckley’s small body on his knee-the very human, very warm, very alive weight of it. It comforted him. “The Scottie will be your piece from now on. Which piece is Susie’s again?”
“The shoe?” Buckley asked.
“Right, and I’m the car, your sister’s the iron, and your mother is the cannon.”
My brother concentrated very hard.
“Now let’s put all the pieces on the board, okay? You go ahead and do it for me.”
Buckley grabbed a fist of pieces and then another, until all the pieces lay between the Chance and Community Chest cards.
“Let’s say the other pieces are our friends?”
“Right, we’ll make your friend Nate the hat. And the board is the world. Now if I were to tell you that when I rolled the dice, one of the pieces would be taken away, what would that mean?”
“They can’t play anymore?”
“Why?” Buckley asked.
He looked up at my father; my father flinched.
“Why?” my brother asked again.
My father did not want to say “because life is unfair” or “because that’s how it is”. He wanted something neat, something that could explain death to a four-year-old He placed his hand on the small of Buckley’s back.
“Susie is dead,” he said now, unable to make it fit in the rules of any game. “Do you know what that means?”
Buckley reached over with his hand and covered the shoe. He looked up to see if his answer was right.
My father nodded. "You won’t see Susie anymore, honey. None of us will.” My father cried. Buckley looked up into the eyes of our father and did not really understand.
Buckley kept the shoe on his dresser, until one day it wasn't there anymore and no amount of looking for it could turn up.
His love for my mother wasn't about looking back and loving something that would never change. It was about loving my mother for everything -- for her brokenness and her fleeing, for her being there right then in that moment before the sun rose and the hospital staff came in. It was about touching that hair with the side of his fingertip, and knowing yet plumbing fearlessly the depths of her ocean eyes.Alice Sebold
And in a small house five miles away was a man who held my mud-encrusted charm bracelet out to his wife.Alice Sebold
Look what I found at the old industrial park," he said. "A construction guy said they were bulldozing the whole lot. They're afraid of sink holes like that one that swallowed the cars."
His wife poured him some water from the sink as he fingered the tiny bike and the ballet shoe, the flower basket and the thimble. He held out the muddy bracelet as she set down his glass.
This little girl's grown up by now," she said.
Almost. Not quite.
I wish you all a long and happy life.
Born: September 6, 1963