Excerpt from Chapter One
I bent forward and gently kissed Jeff's forehead. He looked so peaceful in his coffin. He was so handsome, a good looking kid. His most outstanding feature was his gorgeous hazel eyes, with long curled lashes. If I weren't his mother I'd say he had sexy eyes. I touched his cold, hands, unappealing in their lifelessness.
Soft music tiptoed gently through the slumber room in an attempt to weave a false peace into the room. Spicy carnations punctuated the sweet fragrance of roses. The walnut coffin at the back of the room was simple but nice. It had been so hard for me to pick out that coffin to lay my son in . . . forever.
How could this be happening? It didn't seem possible that Jeff was dead. He was only sixteen . . . why had he been robbed of a chance to grow up . . . have children of his own?
He had been born on my twenty-first birthday, a wonderful birthday present. He'd been my baby for nine years before his brother came along.
I patted his hair. Maxine Hadley, owner of the funeral parlor, had allowed me to fix it.
As I continued to stroke his hair, my vision suddenly blurred. Jeff's body in the casket faded slowly into the background and then a small bundle, wrapped in brown paper, floated into my field of vision. It looked like a tiny mummy . . . the image was frightening but vaguely reminiscent of something I couldn't identify.
Damn, what is this? I'm losing my mind, that's what's happening. God, please don't let that happen again! I dug my nails into the palms of my hands to fight a smothering darkness which threatened to choke off consciousness.
"Mrs. Newman . . . Mrs. Newman, are you all right?"
The voice sounded hollow--far off in the distance and I felt the floor drop from under me.
Mrs. Hadley grabbed the chair which I reeled into. I clawed my way back into reality, clutching the arms of the chair as though they could lift me to sanity.
With so little time left to see Jeff, I carefully got to my feet and moved slowly back to my place beside the casket. Once again, the vision of the tiny bundle appeared, replacing the actual body of my son in his coffin. I heard a soft, muffled baby's cry. In the shadows of the slumber room, I shuddered, and began sobbing. Tears choked me as I collapsed again into the chair. The vision brought as much distress as the loss of my son.
What does it mean? Is God trying to tell me something? I know I'm losing it. The words made circles in my mind like a mantra.
I purposefully made myself look again toward the coffin. I could see the side of Jeff's lifeless face. Again he evaporated before my eyes and in his place the tiny bundle wrapped in paper appeared, accompanied by the muffled cries of the baby.
I forced myself to concentrate--to rid myself of the image by recalling the still vivid scene at the hospital when Jeff died. I remembered every minute detail, from the time I got the call that Jeff was on his way by ambulance to the emergency room.
The dispassionate voice on the other end began, "I'm sorry to call with bad news, but your son Jeff has just been in an automobile accident. An ambulance is taking him to Keweah Delta Hospital. He asked me to call you."
I remembered thinking, if Jeff had asked the lady to call his mother and given her the telephone number, then he couldn't be hurt too badly. Yet, fear mauled my mind. Oh, Pegi, calm down, I told myself. Why do you always get like this? It's your fear of blood. You're afraid you'll see Jeff covered with blood, and you'll panic.
Hurriedly, I made three telephone calls--one to my husband, another to a friend Merle, and the last to my daughter Shaunda. I hadn't known Merle long. We'd both come into AA the same week. He was a doctor and I knew he'd be a good person to have by my side.