The Little Girl
My mother worked as a librarian at the nearby grade school. She got to know many of the students, including a little girl – I’ll call her Mary – who had some health and developmental issues. One morning my mother was walking down the hall – a fairly short hall, since it was a fairly tiny grade school – and she saw Mary standing in front of one of the classroom doors, looking into the class through the little window in the door. She looked sort of forlorn.
My mother asked her what she was doing. She indicated that she wanted to play with the kids. My mother told her gently that she needed to get back to class and that she could play with them later. Mary stayed where she was, but she did seem to hear my mother and to acknowledge that she should be going. So my mother left Mary in the hallway in front of the classroom door, and she walked to the end of the hall and around the corner to the office.
Several grown-ups were standing in front of the office, crying and hugging one another. My mother asked them what had happened, and they told her that Mary’s family had just called – Mary had died in the night. My mother turned immediately and looked back down the hall, but the little girl was gone. “Are you sure?” she asked the people in front of the office. “Are you sure it was Mary?”
They were sure; Mary had died in the early morning hours.
But my mother was just as sure of what she had seen, that she had spoken to Mary only a moment ago, and that Mary had responded. She decided later that Mary must have stopped by the school to say goodbye, on her way to wherever we go when we’re gone.
And she wonders if perhaps Mary is playing with the other kids now, whether they know it or not.