Mrs. Cho’s gift was guiding spirits to the afterlife. People who knew about her ability – and this was all by word of mouth – hired her to sit by the side of dying loved ones. At the moment they gave up their last breath, she had the ability to see the spirit leave the body, and then to help that spirit find its way to the afterlife.
As far as everyone knew, she had never been unsuccessful in her duty. Never was there an unsatisfied customer. All the reports were positive.
But Jacob Mahi was a curious teenager. When his paternal grandmother lay at the point of death, Jacob’s parents hired Mrs. Cho to help conduct Mrs. Mahi’s spirit to the next world. For the Mahis, this would be that place called heaven. When Mrs. Cho arrived at the home, she assured them that if heaven were the goal, she would have no difficulty in assisting Mrs. Mahi’s spirit with its transition there.
“How many times have you assisted a spirit into the afterlife?” Jacob asked.
Mrs. Cho rubbed her chin meditatively, then, “I would say somewhere upwards of three hundred times now.”
“Wow,” said Jacob, “that’s a lot. How long does the journey take?”
“I cannot tell you that exactly,” said Mrs. Cho, “but it is a quick trip, a matter of maybe anywhere from a minute to perhaps five. Some spirits are more willing to go than others.”
“Willing?” asked Jacob. “You mean that there are some who don’t want to go with you?”
Mrs. Cho nodded. “Yes, there are those who wish very much to hold on to their earthly bodies. They are not ready to transition to the next stage of existence.”
“And how do you get them to go with you?” Jacob asked.
“I make them understand that remaining here is not possible. Once those whom I’ve been asked to assist pass, no resuscitation will be performed. They have been given permission by their loved ones to journey on.”
“I’ve heard,” said Jacob, “that some people who die, clinically speaking, but then are revived, they lots of times report seeing some kind of a tunnel of light they’re supposed to pass through, and some of them see dead relatives encouraging them forward to join them. Have you seen that?”
“No,” said Mrs. Cho. “I’ve read about those experiences too. When I accompany a spirit, I actually see nothing, a nothingness that is hard to describe. The spirit that goes with me is pure energy, it is invisible. I guide that energy to the next plane.”
She nodded to Mr. and Mrs. Mahi. “In this case I assure you that plane will be heaven.”
Jacob had another question. “So how do you know when to stop and let this spirit energy go on its own?”
“I do not know that. I only know that once the spirit has fully accepted its transition, then I myself feel that the spirit has left me, if you will. It is, so to speak, as if I myself die in a way. It is when I feel this spirit leaving me that I return to my own earthly body.”
Jacob was still not sure about all of this, but he didn’t know what else to ask except, “Can I sit here with you and wait?” Jacob asked.
Mrs. Cho eyed him narrowly, smiled. “Jacob, I see your parents have not explained this procedure to you. I ask that all of the loved ones say their final goodbyes and then leave me alone with the loved one. My ability to aid the spirit’s journey rests on my being alone with no other human spiritual energies present. This assures that there is no interference between my spirit and the departing spirit when death comes.”
Jacob accepted this half-heartedly. Then it was time to say goodbye to his grandmother. His mother, then he, and finally his father said their final words to Mrs. Mahi.
After they’d left the room and closed the door, Jacob went to his room to lie down. Of all his grandparents, he had loved this grandmother most of all. Sometimes he felt as though she had done more to raise him than had his mom and dad. The thought of losing her disturbed him deeply, and he truly hoped that Mrs. Cho would be successful, but . . .
Jacob could not get out of his mind the idea that there was something just too hard to believe about Mrs. Cho’s ability to assist the dying in the manner she said she did.
And then it hit him. He needed to watch this process, and he knew how to do it.
Leaving the house via the front door, he went around to the window of his grandmother’s bedroom. He dragged a wooden crate below the window, jumped up on it, and then very carefully peeked through the glass. The view was not the best. He could see the lower half of his grandmother’s bed, and her legs were covered by the bed linen. Mrs. Cho’s back was to him, blocking him from seeing the rest of his grandmother.
Jacob waited. And he watched. For more than an hour there was nothing to see. His eyes grew tired, and he wondered how long he might be able to keep up this vigil.
Then, all of a sudden, Jacob saw his grandmother’s legs begin to move beneath the covers. At the same time, he saw Mrs. Cho rise a little from the chair, her back arching forward. This was that incredible moment when Mrs. Cho would lead his grandmother’s spirit to heaven.
Mrs. Cho leaned hard into the bed and Jacob held his breath. He didn’t know how long the whole experience took, but Mrs. Cho suddenly collapsed back into the chair, then slumped sideways, allowing Jacob to see his grandmother’s face.
Jacob exhaled sharply, stunned by the sight of a pillow covering his grandmother’s face.