Stand Up Be Counted
On June 24th, my parents’ anniversary, I decided to go to the cemetery with flowers, like I always did. The day was warm and sunny, and a Saturday. My family was at home as I had to work at the hospital. When I left Strong, I stopped at Salmon Florist on Mt. Hope Avenue and picked up daisies and carnations. The clerk put them into a holder with a stem on it so I could push it into the ground.
I drove over to Greentree Road, parked the car and walked over to the Vick family plot. I put the flowers down in between the graves then looked at the other plots before turning to leave.
I jumped back at the sight of several images that were about me in a semi-circle. I took a calming breath and decided to wait. It didn’t take long for a tall man dressed in black to ask in that quiet way of theirs, “How is it that you can see and hear us?”
A short lady also in black chimed in, “Yes. You’re the only one so far. What is it about you that makes you different?”
“Wait! Wait for me!” A small boy cried as he came running up, his white suit coat flapping open. “We don’t have anyone like her where we are. I want to see her! We almost had somebody, but when she really saw us, when we came into focus, she ran away and never came back!”
“Come over here,” the man in black said.
More figures were coming around me where I stood near the Vick monument. I wasn’t sure what they wanted.
“What enables you to see and hear us?”
“We really want to know.”
“Yes, tell us!”
So many people talking gently, but all at once. “Where do I begin?” I asked myself. “Well, I think it started a long time ago. I felt people around me when I was young, but I could never see anyone. Just felt their presence.”
“Please go on!” A lady in a long blue dress coaxed.
“When I was a teenager, I noticed drawers open and close in my bedroom, but I sure didn’t do it. At first I was afraid. Later, after things continued, but no one hurt me, I asked who this presence was.”
“What happened next?” asked the boy.
“No one answered. So, I let it go.”
“And then?” asked the man in black.
“Nothing happened for a long time. Then before I got married, my future husband was on the phone with friends in Richmond, Virginia.”
“Wait! What’s a phone?” asked the boy.
I explained what a phone was then continued. “For some odd reason, I was able to see each and every person in the room, which was the kitchen. They were waiting to talk with Fred and me. The plan was that after the wedding, we were to drive down and stay a few days with them before driving on to Florida.”
“Yes…” asked the lady in blue.
“One by one, I was able to describe to every person what they had on and that they had been eating breakfast in their kitchen. Even down to the detail that the mother was in a purple bathrobe with curlers in her hair. They were surprised, but confirmed every detail to a T.”
“But, what’s that got to do with your being able to see us?” asked another person who had joined the group.
“I’m not really sure. This, well,….this talent continued to develop. My boss’s wife, Isabelle, was interested in the psychic world. I told her a couple of things that had happened to me. She invited me to a Frontier Fellowship group. This was a group of people with psychic abilities who gathered for a conference. There were different activities planned for those who attended.
“I was given something from a stranger to hold. Then I was asked to talk about anything I picked up from this object. This went on with several people. I did this with three individuals.
“What did you do?”
“I held the ring of the girl next to me. I waited and waited. When the leader came over to us, he asked me what had happened. I told him, “All I got is spaghetti, spaghetti, spaghetti!” Everyone in the audience laughed.
“Was it true?” the leader asked the girl next to me stepping closer to me.
“Yes.”. She said her husband had been out of work and all they could afford was spaghetti. She said she was sick of eating spaghetti!” Everyone laughed.
After a while, he asked three pairs of people to come up onto the stage. I was one of them. I was paired with a stranger, a middle aged man. We sat on a mat with hands barely touching.
“One by one, the pairs talked about the other person with information garnered from the close contact. He was able to tell me what I did for a living, that I lived on a farm, some of my hobbies and that there were problems with our old house. He was right in his findings.”
“How about you?” someone else asked.
“I remember his name; it was Victor S. I could see an aerial view of his house, 3 pine trees, then the inside rooms of the house and furnishings, including a wooden knitting barrel by a rocking chair in the living room. There was a beautiful earth toned braided rug next to the chair. And, I saw the members of his family, too. But that was the end.”
“Well, what’s the connection?” a man in a blue suit asked.
“I’m not really sure. But, I remember going to Wendy Baker’s wedding. Her father had committed suicide the same year as the wedding. It was a really sad time for the family.”
“Please continue. What happened?” another person asked.
“As we were sitting at a long table at the reception, I looked over at the wall near me. I saw Bruce Baker in a white tux with a black bow and black pants. He was smoking a cigarette, and his right foot was up against the wall. He often did that. He looked at me and smiled. He stayed there for several minutes, then he was gone. ……He was at his daughter’s wedding after all. I felt sad that no one else saw him or knew he was there.”
“WOW!” the boy exclaimed. “Maybe that’s it!”
“I’m not really sure, but maybe you’re right.
“Where’d he go?”
“I have no idea. I never saw him again.”
“That’s too bad. Maybe he was trying to talk to you. Maybe he wanted you to tell his family he was there.”
“That’s possible, but I didn’t get any message from him. And, I don’t know if they would have believed me.”
“Maybe you’re right,” the man in the black suit said.
“I remember another time. It was with our friend, the man for whom I worked when I also worked for the Heart Association. His name was Fred Bryant. He was a dentist in the same building. We were talking one afternoon when he asked me if I saw anthting about him.”
“Did you?” asked the boy.
“Yes, but it was strange. I saw him, his sister and his mother. Both he and his sister were small children playing in the family’s kitchen. Their mother was washing dishes at the kitchen sink that over looked the back yard. I described each one and what they had on.”
“Were you right?” the man in the blue suit asked.
“Yes. Dr. Bryant was shocked, but pleased I saw the other two people. Both meant a great deal to him. His parents were both gone. His sister lived in California. His dad was a dentist like Fred was. I’d wished I had seen him, but I didn’t.”
“Thank you for talking with us.” He turned and the rest of the group around me started to walk away.
I was all ready to leave when a young woman wove her way up to me. Her clothes were ripped, bloody and old. The black dress identified her as belonging to another era.
“Please help me.”
I didn’t know what she’d say, so I waited for her to continue.
“I was badly beaten and deformed by my husband. No one knew who I was. I was unconscious and unable to answer the doctors’ questions. I’ve been staying in the Potters’ Field after I died because no one could identify me.”
“I’m so sorry you had to endure that. I don’t know what you want me to do. How could I be of help?”
“My parents both died shortly after I did. My father died in a factory accident, and mother of a broken heart. I know they’re buried here in this cemetery. I want to be moved to be with them. Can you please help me?”
“What’s your name?” I asked.
“And your parents’ names?”
“Raymond and Drucilla.”
“I don’t know what I can do, but I’ll try. I’ll go to the office as soon as I can. Maybe someone there can help.”
The woman thanked me and started to walk away.
“Wait! I’ll need to know where you are in Potters’ Field.”
Priscilla Coulton told me where she’d be waiting when I found out where her parents were.
I again told her I’d do my best.
The following Tuesday I called the cemetery office and talked with the secretary. I gave her the particulars. She told me she had an appointment soon and would have to call me in a couple of days, giving her time to research my request.
Two days later I received a call from the secretary. She had checked the records and found Priscilla’s parents’ graves. We agreed on a time on Saturday to meet at the cemetery at the parents’ grave. I drove over after work that Friday. I went over to the Potters’ Field to see if Priscilla would come to me.
Sure enough, she materialized. “Did you find my parents’ grave? Did you?”
“Yes, we did. I was thankful that no one asked me how I knew where you were. We’re coming over tomorrow.”
“Oh! Dear God! I’m so thankful! This means I can be buried next to my parents?”
“Yes, it does. I’m sure she’ill follow up after our meeting.”
“She knows where I am now?”
“Yes, I told her. She said the crew would take care of your transfer from Potters’ Field to where your parents are. AND, boy am I thankful she never asked me how I knew about you or where you are in the cemetery. I don’t know how I’d have covered that one!”
Priscilla laughed, then cried with the realization that finally she would be able to rest with her family.
We said our goodbyes. Priscilla turned and walked away. I went back to my car.
Alicia Beckwith is a local poet and has been writing poetry for four decades. Her poems have been published in book collections and magazines.