The Color of a Silver Lining
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"Thank you Julianne, your beautiful words helped my center and find peace and beauty in a very challenging time of my life. I hope you continue the series, this book is amazing."Mountain Girl, Amazon reviewer
From USA Today bestselling author Julianne MacLean comes an inspiring novel about secrets, forgiveness, and second chances. It’s the newest title in her popular Color of Heaven Series, where people are affected by real life magic and miracles that change everything they once believed about life and love.
It’s been three years since Emma Cochran endured the worst possible tragedy—the sudden, unexpected death of her four-year-old son. The emotional trauma tore her marriage apart, but now her divorce is final and she wants to begin again. She’s found happiness at last with her fiancé, Luke, who is eager to start a family with her.
On the other side of the country, single mother Bev Hutchinson watches helplessly as her five-year-old daughter Louise drowns in a high-profile boating accident. Miraculously, Louise is brought back to life by first-responders, then claims she went to heaven. The news causes a media frenzy surrounding the little girl, and Bev does everything she can to shield herself and her daughter from the relentless swarming of the press.
Lives collide when Emma becomes obsessed with the story of the child, thousands of miles away, who drowned and went to heaven. She wants to connect with the mother, but Emma’s fiancé is against the idea because he wants her to let go of her grief and move on.
But sometimes, moving on isn’t the right choice when miracles are leading you back to your past—toward something, or someone, who was your destiny all along.
Release date: June 12, 2017
Publisher: Julianne MacLean Publishing
Print pages: 234
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The Color of a Silver Lining
THE COLOR OF A SILVER LINING
By Julianne MacLean
Halifax, Nova Scotia
On the day the tall ship Dalila went down, taking all its passengers—including me, my sister, and my five-year-old daughter Louise—into the cold waters of the Atlantic, I had just turned thirty years old. I was a single mother and had started to notice a few wrinkles I’d never had before, and the odd gray hair in my curly blond locks.
As for Dalila, she was a magnificent, recently refurbished 153-foot, three-masted square-rigger. She was commissioned in 1936 and worked as a support vessel for fisheries in New England and appeared in several movies for the big screen in the 1980s and ’90s. In recent years, she’d become a tourist attraction at Halifax Harbour, Nova Scotia, taking landlubbers on day trips around Sambro Island to view the oldest surviving lighthouse in North America.
It was my sister Claire who convinced me to get onboard that day, because it was something we’d talked about for years. She insisted that my thirtieth birthday deserved a special celebration, something I could tick off my bucket list, and a voyage aboard Dalila had been sitting on that list for a while. What sealed the deal was the fact that my daughter had become fascinated with sailing ships after watching Pirates of the Caribbean, and she was desperate to go “on a big pirate boat.”
So off we went—just the three of us: Claire, Louise, and me—while Claire’s husband Scott stayed home to take their four-year-old daughter, Serena, to a birthday party.
As it turned out, it was a good thing they didn’t join us. It meant there were two less loved ones to worry about when the wave hit.
* * *
The sky was blue and the forecast clear when we stepped onto the gangway in downtown Halifax that morning. It had never even entered our minds that it might be a bad day to go sailing.
In addition to sixteen crew members, there were twenty-five passengers booked for the voyage. Claire, Louise and I were first in line on the wharf, so while other passengers were still arriving, we explored the ship, craning our necks to look at the tops of the masts, which seemed to reach halfway to the sky. We walked around the main deck, marveling at the complex rigging and the sheer volume of rope everywhere we looked.
Louise had always been a mindful, sensible child—surprisingly mature for her age—and she was well-behaved. As always, she kept to a walk when she might have preferred to break into a run toward the bowsprit.
After we’d seen everything on the top deck, we ventured below to the main hold—an impressive, wide-open space with a gleaming oak floor and knotty antique planks forming the hull.
“Feels like we’re inside a giant wooden barrel,” Claire said as she fingered the wrought iron hardware holding the planks together.
“That’s not a disturbing thought at all.” I raised an eyebrow at her while Louise danced around on the expansive deck.
Claire and I turned to watch her do a few pirouettes and pliés, which she’d learned in ballet class. Her blond curls bounced as she moved, and the smile on her face melted my heart. She curtsied and we gave a round of applause.
Continuing our exploration toward the forward deck, we found the galley—an ultra-modern kitchen with the newest technologies—and back toward the stern, through a narrow passageway, we came upon a number of small private cabins for the crew. The captain’s quarters were located aft and spanned the full width of the stern.
“It’s very luxurious, isn’t it?” Claire said quietly as she peered in at the varnished oak furnishings, shiny brass fittings and crimson upholstery.
Louise was about to run in and climb onto the bed, but I held her back. “I don’t think we’re supposed to do that, sweetheart,” I whispered gently.
She gave no argument, then followed Claire and me back to the companionway that took us up to the top deck. By that point, other passengers were exploring below deck as well.
A short while later, it was time to depart.
“Everyone is welcome to take a turn at the helm today,” our captain explained as we motored away from the wharf. He was a handsome older gentleman, very distinguished looking in a navy blazer, white trousers, white shoes and a smart-looking captain’s cap. “Our crew members are expert sailors and if you’re interested, they’ll be happy to show you how to set sails, assist with maneuvers, and once we’re beyond the mouth of the harbor, I’ll talk to you all about navigation, weather observations as well as plenty more. Now…” He spread his arms wide. “Are you all ready to see this gorgeous girl leave the harbor under full sail?”
We all cheered and clapped as the crew set to work.
“It’s going to be such a fun day,” I said to Louise, hugging her close and kissing the top of her sweet head. She wiggled with excitement on the bench, and Claire and I shared a happy glance.
* * *
We learned later that the crew could never have predicted the extreme wind gusts that would slam into the Dalila shortly after we circled Sambro Island, nor could they have done anything to save the boat. What happened was a meteorological phenomenon called a “micro-burst,” which is an abrupt downdraft during a thunderstorm. The wind shoots straight down from the clouds and bounces off the ground or water. Typically, it affects less than a two-and-a half mile geographical area, and wind speeds can reach hurricane force in a matter of seconds. It’s very precise. If you’re near the bullseye of a micro-burst, it’s almost like getting struck by lightning.
* * *
First came the rain, but that wasn’t a surprise to any of us, as we’d seen bad weather approaching from the horizon. The crew donned their foul weather gear, and as soon as the rain was upon us, the captain ordered us all to the main hold below to stay dry, while assuring us that he and his crew had sailed in far worse weather than this.
Down we went to the place where Louise had danced pirouettes a few hours earlier, and where they had served us a delicious hot lunch just before we reached the island. There were no portholes in that section of the ship so we couldn’t see out, but we felt the intensifying movements of the ship through roughening seas.
There was a sudden crash of thunder that seemed frighteningly close, and Louise started to cry.
“It’s okay, baby, don’t worry.” I scooped her into my arms and steadied myself against the center bulkhead. “It’s just a thunderstorm. And the captain knows what he’s doing.”
The ship pitched and rolled, and one of the other passengers—an older lady in her sixties—began to complain to her husband that they should have simply taken the ferry back and forth to Dartmouth like she wanted, rather than get on a sailing ship headed for open water. It would have been far cheaper, she said, and they would be on dry land by now. They continued to argue about it.
I was beginning to think the ferry boat sounded pretty good at that point, because I’d never been a risk taker when it came to wild adventures. I was a nurse in the city hospital, so I’d seen enough broken bones and concussions to steer me away from unnecessary risks to the only body I had. Yet here we were, on an old-fashioned square-rigger, riding violent ocean waves in the middle of a thunderstorm.
“The captain seemed confident,” Claire said to me, rather uncertainly, as she grabbed hold of the center post and braced her legs farther apart. “I’m sure he’ll get us out of this. Right?”
“Of course,” I replied, swallowing hard over a sudden surge of seasickness in my belly.
All the passengers grew quiet, even Louise, who remained very brave in my arms and didn’t cry. I suppose we were all too petrified to speak. It went on like that for a while, with the floor pitching and rolling beneath us while we fought to hold on to whatever was fastened to the floor or walls.
Then suddenly there was great roar from topside, as if it had come from a supernatural beast in the sky, and water came sloshing down the companionway.
The ship heeled sharply to starboard and we were all thrown against the hull. I tried to hang onto Louise, but I didn’t want to crush her as I slammed into the wooden planks and iron fittings, so I let her go and she flew out of my arms, catapulting into another couple and landing on top of them.
When I gathered my senses and looked up, I realized that the ship was on her side.
Everyone started screaming. I climbed over a man to reach my daughter, while Claire followed beside me.
“Are you two okay?” she asked us.
“Yes, are you?”
“We have to get out of here!” someone shouted in a panic, and everyone began scrambling to clamber out of the hold.
Water was pouring in through the main hatch, and some of the passengers pushed and shoved to be first up the companionway steps, which was no easy task when the ship was lying on her side and heaving on enormous swells.
A man held up his hands. “Everyone stay calm! One at a time!”
He assisted some of the older passengers up the sloped floor and helped me lift Louise past the rushing water. Two crew members appeared at the open hatch and reached their arms down to us.
“Give us your hands! We’ll pull you up!”
Above, they were being battered by wind and rain and I could only imagine what they must have gone through in the past five minutes while trying to keep the ship afloat. As I stared up at them in awe, it all seemed like a terrible nightmare. It had been sunny and clear when we stepped aboard that morning. How could this be happening?
“Give her to me!” a crew member shouted, reaching his hands down to Louise. The wind blew his hair in all directions while he beckoned her forward. I didn’t want to send my child out there. I didn’t want to go out there myself, but I knew we had to.
“Maybe we should stay here!” an older lady shouted from behind me. “It looks too dangerous!”
“If you stay down there, you’ll drown!” the crew member replied. “The ship is sinking. We have to get you in lifeboats. Hurry! Give me the little girl!”
Out of nowhere, crew members appeared behind us, wading through the frigid seawater that was quickly filling the hold. They must have entered from some other passageway near the stern.
They began handing out lifejackets to those who weren’t wearing them, and shouting instructions to get us all out in an orderly fashion. I was grateful to see them, and grateful for their competence.
They began the evacuation while ice-cold water sloshed around at our feet. Within moments it was at our knees. Then we were waist-deep.
“Mommy, no!” Louise screamed as I handed her up to the crew members above, who took her by the arms and lifted her out. For a blistering second, I couldn’t see her. My heart raced as I hurried to follow, to stay with her.
Someone tried to push in front of me. A man. I shoved him back, glared at him and shouted. “That’s my daughter! Wait your turn!”
I scrambled up the sideways ladder, through the hatch to the outdoors, where the wind hit me like a speeding truck. A crew member grabbed my arm but I immediately lost my footing and slid down the vertical deck toward the churning, raging sea. The sails floated on the water. There were ropes and lines everywhere along the bulwark.
I don’t know what happened after that. I think I must have hit my head and fallen into the ocean, because I woke up coughing and sputtering in an inflatable yellow life raft. A young, female crew member was leaning over me, frowning with concern. “Are you all right?”
She was drenched and so was I. There were three other people in the boat with us, but I didn’t know them.
“Where’s my daughter!” I screamed, sitting up, my panicked gaze darting around as the wind and rain struck my cheeks. “Louise!”
“She must be in one of the other rafts!” the girl shouted, sitting up to blow a whistle.
I tried to look for another boat somewhere, but we were being tossed about on giant swells and it was near impossible to make out anything. Then I spotted Dalila on her side, her great sheets of billowing canvas filling with water.
My heart nearly pounded out of my chest, and white hot-terror flooded my bloodstream. “Louise!” I shouted again. “Louise!”
I crawled to the side of the raft to look over the side, scanning the whitecapped sea and searching for my daughter. Then I saw another yellow raft near the stern of the ship. It was full of passengers.
“Louise!” I screamed at the boat. “Claire! Anyone! Is my daughter with you?”
“They can’t hear you over the noise of the waves,” the girl shouted. “Please sit down or we’ll lose you over the side again.”
“But did they get everyone into the lifeboat?”
“I don’t know.”
I fell onto my behind, buried my face in my hands, drew my knees to my chest, and began to pray. “Please, God, let my baby girl be okay. Let her be safe. Please don’t take her away from me.”
“My God.” The woman beside me spoke the words in a low, horrorstruck voice.
I looked up to see Dalila rolling over so that her masts were pointing straight down. All we could see was the bottom of her hull. She bobbed there for a few seconds, then her stern went down and she sank beneath the surface. A second later, she was gone.
I put my hands together and prayed that everyone had gotten out. The woman beside me did the same.
Then I heard something. Someone was calling my name.
I scrambled to the edge of the raft and looked over the side. Panic and terror rushed into me, and I pointed at someone in the water, bobbing up and down on the enormous breakers. “There! I see someone!”
The female crew member in command of our little lifeboat dove over the side and swam toward the struggling survivor. Only then did I hear it again—the sound of my name over the din.
I realized it was my sister Claire in the water.
I called out to her as loud as I could. “Hold on!”
Her head disappeared beneath the surface and I almost dove in myself, but the crew member reached her and pulled her back up. She began to swim toward us, dragging Claire to our lifeboat. Only then, when they were close, did I realize that my sister was holding onto Louise, who did not appear to be conscious.
One, two, three…. Come on baby, wake up.
I’d been pumping my daughter’s chest for more than five minutes in the life raft, with the assistance of the female crew member who was taking care of rescue breaths, but Louise wasn’t responding. I fought to stay focused and clear-headed and remember my training, while the mother in me wanted to collapse in grief and just hold my baby in my arms, rock her, beg and plead with her to open her eyes, tell her everything was going to be okay. But I couldn’t do that. I had to keep fighting to save her. Chest compressions—one, two, three, four, five…
“What’s your name?” I asked the crew member, trying to keep my mind focused as I sat back on my heels.
“It’s Susan,” she replied, between breaths.
“I’m Bev.” I shook out my arms to prepare for more compressions, but nothing was making a difference. Louise wasn’t breathing and she had no pulse. Her tiny body was as cold as ice.
But I couldn’t give up. I’d never give up.
Suddenly I heard the beat of helicopter blades in the sky overhead and realized only then that the force of the wind had slowed in the last few minutes. The rain was falling more softly. I glanced up and saw a red Coast Guard chopper with divers at the open door, ready to jump.
Down they came, splashing into the churning water nearby with a rescue basket. One diver swam toward the other raft while the second came our way. Another chopper arrived with two more divers.
Meanwhile, I was still performing CPR on my daughter, and I had no intention of stopping.
When the diver reached our raft, he grabbed onto the side and pulled the snorkel mouthpiece out of his mouth. He saw what I was doing. “Let’s get her out of here!”
“She’s not breathing!” Susan shouted. “She needs to get to a hospital!”
That was obvious.
The diver shoved the basket up over the side and into the raft, but I didn’t want to put Louise in it because I’d have to stop CPR.
“Do you have a defibrillator in the chopper?” I asked, still doing chest compressions.
“Yes! We’ve got an AED. Let’s get her up there!”
Claire helped steady the basket in the center of the raft while I lifted Louise’s tiny, cold body and placed her inside. It was a challenge because the swells were still enormous and we were rising fast over the crests, then sliding down into the troughs.
The diver made sure Louise was secure, then he signaled to the chopper pilot to quickly hoist her up. As she rose out of the raft, I fell to my hands and knees, finally breaking down into an agonizing fit of sobs as I watched her go.
“Please, save her!” I cried as I looked up, even though I knew they couldn’t hear me over the noise of the chopper and the waves.
Claire wrapped her arms around me while I wept uncontrollably, never taking my eyes off Louise until she was safe inside the helicopter.
* * *
The chopper hovered there for a moment, then the basket was lowered again.
“Why aren’t they going?” I asked the diver who was still in the water, hanging onto the side of our raft. “She needs to get to a hospital! They could come back for the rest of us.” I was incredulous and nearly hysterical.
“We’ve got a paramedic up there,” he replied. “Your daughter’s in good hands. Let’s get you up.”
The basket dropped into the water. The diver swam to fetch it and bring it back.
Everyone agreed that I should be next because Louise needed me, and I didn’t argue. I got in as quickly as I could. When the basket lifted me up, I realized I was shaking uncontrollably from both the cold and the unimaginable trauma of the past ten minutes. With teeth chattering, I clutched the metal cage with numb, aching fingers, praying continuously that Louise would be okay, because I couldn’t lose her. I loved her more than life itself. If she died, I was certain I’d die too. I’d never get over it. I’d never stop crying or blaming myself for losing sight of her, for not being able to save her.
The noise from the chopper engine and spinning blades was deafening as I was hauled up to the giant red machine hovering above. I looked down at the two yellow life rafts below, where others were being plucked out of the frothing ocean. A fishing boat arrived just then and approached the second lifeboat. They threw a ladder over the side.
I looked up again. With every inch that brought me closer to the helicopter, I was more desperate to reach Louise.
At last, I felt the pull of the cable as the basket was dragged inside.
“How is she? How’s my daughter?” I asked, my gaze darting wildly around the interior of the chopper.
She was on a gurney, tucked under a blanket, strapped in.
A rush of relief flooded my body. I burst into tears and fought like a wild creature to get out of the basket and reach her.
“Louise, I’m here!” I scrambled on hands and knees across the floor and buried my face in her tiny neck, where I wept uncontrollably. Thank God…
I was vaguely aware of the paramedic wrapping a blanket around me.
“Your nose is cold,” my daughter said in the sweetest voice imaginable, though she seemed weak and groggy.
My tears turned to laughter, and I drew back to look down at her angelic face. I pushed her wet curls away from her forehead and kissed her cheeks.
“It was chilly down there,” I replied, rubbing my nose against hers, “but we’ll both be warm soon. Everything’s going to be okay now, sweetheart. You’re safe.”
I gazed down at her for a joyous moment. My love for her was bursting out of me. I felt so incredibly blessed. I never knew such a release of pain and fear.
“Is Auntie Claire okay?” she asked, weakly.
“Yes, she’s fine. They’re bringing her up soon. But how are you feeling? Are you okay?”
“I’m tired. Are you okay?”
I laughed. “Yes, I’m great.”
I turned to the paramedic who was waiting for the next arrival. “Thank you so much for bringing her back!” I shouted to him over the noise of the chopper. “There are no words to say how grateful I am!”
He handed me a headset to put on, then spoke to me through the microphone. “I saw you doing CPR down there. You were the one who brought her back, not me. She was conscious when I pulled her in here.”
My surprised gaze swept back to Louise on the gurney, and the paramedic approached to put a headset on her as well.
“You woke up in the basket?” I asked her. “That must have been scary.” My poor, darling girl wouldn’t have known what was happening to her. She would have been confused and disoriented.
Louise blinked a few times. “I wasn’t scared. Grampy was with me.”
The chopper lifted slightly on a gust of wind.
I inclined my head at her, puzzled. “What do you mean…Grampy? Who are you talking about?”
My father had passed away when I was ten years old, so Louise had never met him. As for her paternal grandfather, I was a single mother and Louise’s father and I weren’t together. In fact, I knew very little about him. We’d only spent a weekend together. He didn’t even know about Louise, and I had absolutely no idea if his parents were still alive.
“Grampy,” she repeated, as if I should understand. “Your daddy. He’s in heaven now.”
Heat pooled in my belly, and my heart began to pound. “Is that where you were just now?” I asked, gently. “In heaven?”
She nodded, and I cleared my throat.
“What did…” I paused and swallowed uncomfortably. “What did your grampy look like?”
Louise wet her lips. “He had brown hair and a mustache and happy eyes that smiled at me. He told me not to be afraid. But I wasn’t afraid. I was just sad.”
Not entirely sure what to say, I glanced over my shoulder at the paramedic to see if he was listening through the headsets. He must have been, because he raised his eyebrows at me.
“Why were you sad?” I asked, turning back to Louise.
“Because I didn’t want to come back. I wanted to stay there.”
She shrugged. “I liked it. I flew over the clouds, and it wasn’t rainy up there. The sunlight was pretty. But they all said I had to come back.”
I felt breathless and shaky. “Who’s they? Who said that?”
Just then, the basket clanged against the side of the chopper with a fierce gust of wind. Claire was inside, shivering in the wind. The paramedic pulled her in.
“My God, she’s okay!” Claire said. “Louise!”
My sister climbed out of the basket and crawled toward us. I threw my arms around her and we embraced tightly, each of us crying our eyes out.
“Thank God she’s all right!” Claire shouted over all the noise. “I was so worried.”
“Me too, but you saved her in the water. You didn’t let her go.”
Only then did I realize I had no idea what had happened to Louise, exactly. They had been out of my sight for those crucial moments before Dalila sank into the depths.
“How did you end up in the water in the first place?” I asked Claire, still shouting. The paramedic handed her a headset as well. “The last thing I remember, we’d handed Louise up through the hatch…”
Claire nodded as she adjusted the microphone around her mouth. “Yes, and you climbed out of the hold next, but you fell into the water right away. One of the crew members went in after you—it must have been Susan—and another one had Louise in his arms. I’d just climbed out behind you when another big wave hit us and swept us all overboard. I was scared but I just kept screaming your name and Louise’s name, and then I saw her in the water, in the middle of the sails and rigging. I swam to get her, then I tried to swim for one of the lifeboats, but I got disoriented. The waves were so huge. I couldn’t get anywhere. I just started yelling for help. That’s when Susan came for us.”
I listened to this with shock and horror, unable to bear the fact that my sister and daughter had endured such a terrible ordeal.
And I had questions—important ones—but I couldn’t ask them while Louise was listening through the headsets, so I decided to wait until we landed and Claire and I could talk privately.
The other woman from the lifeboat was brought into the chopper just then—we found out that her name was Margaret—and we all consoled each other.
* * *
The chopper pilot took us directly to the hospital where Margaret was reunited with her husband John, who had ended up in the other lifeboat. They wept as they held each other, because neither had known the other was alive.
Meanwhile, Claire called her husband Scott to let him know that we were all okay, and I called our mother. They were relieved to hear our voices because, by this time, the disaster had made local news headlines. Evidently, Dalila’s captain and six passengers were still missing and a massive rescue operation was underway. Claire and I hadn’t known about that until Scott informed us. We were grief-stricken by the news, and doubly grateful to be alive.
It wasn’t long before a pediatrician arrived to examine Louise in the ER. He wore a tie with Elmo on it.
“I heard that you were very brave today,” he said in a friendly voice as he listened to her chest with the stethoscope.
She smiled and nodded at the compliment.
“It must have been scary in such a bad storm.”
Louise merely nodded again.
He draped the stethoscope around his neck and spoke gently to her. “Can you tell me everything that happened to you?”
She looked at me for encouragement and I squeezed her hand. “It’s okay, sweetheart. The doctor needs to know if you hurt yourself. Go ahead, tell him what you remember.”
Louise wet her lips and looked up at the doctor. “The boat sank and I fell in the water. I tried to swim because I’m a good swimmer, but I was scared.”
He nodded sympathetically. “Did you hit your head or anything?”
“I don’t know.”
“And how long were you in the water? Do you remember?”
She shook her head.
“It must have been very cold.”
He looked in her ear with the otoscope. “Did you swallow a lot of water?”
She nodded again. “Yes, and I couldn’t breathe. I was kicking my arms and legs, but the waves were big. They kept splashing me in the face.”
I had to fight to stay strong as I listened to her describe the details, because the image of my daughter thrashing about in the water, all alone and panicking, was not an easy one to swallow. I hated myself for losing sight of her, for not being able to protect her.
“Then I drowned,” she said plainly, “and I died and went to heaven.”
The doctor simply nodded at this, as if it were the most natural thing in the world for her to say.
“But your mommy brought you back to life because she’s an excellent nurse. You’re a very lucky girl.” He moved to the foot of the bed. “Can you wiggle your toes for me? Very good.” Returning to her side, he asked, “How are you feeling now? Overall.”
“My chest hurts a little,” she shyly replied, and pointed at her heart. “Right here.”
He raised her hospital gown and examined some bruising where I had been doing chest compressions for over five minutes. He felt around the area, asked her to tell him if it hurt when he put pressure on it. Then he glanced across at me. “You were quite a hero today.”
“No, really, I was just a mom.”
“You saved your daughter’s life.”
A lump formed in my throat and I had to lower my gaze.
He tested Louise for strength, sensations, and reflexes and asked her questions to determine if she had suffered any neurological damage because of a lack of oxygen to her brain. There was no evidence of that, which was a relief to say the least, and I suspected that the cold water had slowed down her body systems, which helped bring her back.
When he finished examining her, he turned to me and said that he saw no reason to admit her. He then told me what to watch out for at home, and if there were any issues at all, to come back and have her checked out right away.
He said good-bye to Louise and pushed past the privacy curtain, but I still had questions, which I didn’t want to ask in front of Louise. I told her to wait there, that I would be right back.
I caught up with the doctor by the nurses’ station. “Dr. Patterson. Can I ask you something?”
“Sure.” He turned to face me.
I glanced uncertainly at the women behind the desk and felt suddenly self-conscious, so I pulled him aside, down the corridor, and spoke in a hushed tone.
“Do you see many children who say they died and went to heaven?”
He considered that for a moment. “No, I can’t say that I do.”
“But you didn’t seem to find it strange at all—that she would say something like that.”
He studied my face. “No, I just thought it was something you must have said to her. I assumed you’re religious.”
I shook my head. “No. I mean, yes, we go to church, but I didn’t tell her anything. I certainly didn’t tell her that she died.”
His eyebrows pulled together with concern. “Did she say anything else about it? That she saw a light, or anything like that?”
“Not a light, exactly,” I replied, “but I haven’t questioned her very much. She did mention clouds and sunlight, so maybe she did see that, I don’t know. What I find most strange is that she told me she saw her grandfather, but she’s never known him because he died long before she was born.” I paused and took a breath, trying to make sense of it. “The way she described him… It was like she knew him intimately. Affectionately. She called him Grampy.”
Dr. Patterson simply stared at me. I suspected he didn’t have the slightest clue what to say.
I shivered a little and rubbed my upper arms. “You’ve never encountered anything like this before? With a child who died or flatlined?”
“No, but I’ve certainly heard plenty of stories about near-death experiences. I just never met anyone who actually had one.”
A couple of nurses walked by, and I waited until they passed. “So… Do you think that’s what it was? Do you think she experienced the afterlife?”
Hearing myself say the words felt completely crazy.
He quickly held up a hand. “Now, now, I don’t know anything about that. I don’t really subscribe to those beliefs.”
“How would you explain it then?” I quickly countered, although I wasn’t trying to argue with him. I wasn’t even sure I subscribed to those beliefs myself. I just wanted to know what he thought.
He shrugged a shoulder. “I think that when we die, there are all sorts of electrical impulses in the brain that can cause hallucinations.”
Suddenly, I did find myself wanting to argue with him...
“But isn’t there evidence that some people see and hear things on the operating table when they flatline? I’ve heard stories where people say they floated up to the ceiling and witnessed everything that was happening while they were clinically dead.”
He scratched the back of his neck, as if he were uncomfortable with the direction this conversation was taking. “Maybe, but as far as I know, there’s no scientific proof of any afterlife, but it’s not my field. If you like, I could ask for a psych consult.”
No. Absolutely not. I had no desire to go that route with my daughter. Not at this stage.
“Um…” I pretended to think about it. “No, thank you. Let’s just leave it for now. Maybe she was imagining it, or dreaming. I don’t know. I’ll keep an eye on her and let you know if she needs to be seen. Thank you.”
I turned away from him and hurried back to Louise.
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