Qualified Entry: Non-Fiction Category
By: Amy Prisco
My mother, Virginia Marie (Holmes) Gurrere was born on July 28, 1926 and passed away on April 12, 2000, at the age of seventy-three. She was known as Virginia and/or Ginny to family and friends. My grandfather always called her “Honey.” When I was a teenager, I nicknamed her “Honey Holmes, Girl Detective,” because it sounded like the Nancy Drew books that she always spoke so fondly about. I think the nickname annoyed her at first, but she grew to like it with time. The nickname was truly meant with a lot of affection. The last time I saw Honey alive was in December 1999. She was very sick and in the hospital. I flew to New Jersey, where she was living with my sister, Beth, and her husband, Harry.
When I saw my mother in her hospital room, she didn’t recognize me. Three or four times, I repeated that I was Amy Marie, her middle daughter, but there was no reaction. She just stared at me. Numerous tests and scans were performed and the results showed that her oxygen level was dangerously low due to her emphysema. The doctors regulated the intake of her oxygen and new meds were prescribed, and after a couple of days, she started to feel better.
Honey was released after a week. As I drove her back to Beth’s house, I mentioned that I had to leave the next morning to return to California. She didn’t answer me, but when I glanced over at her, she had tears in her eyes.
For years, I had prayed to God to give me an opportunity to clear the air with my mother and I now knew that this was God’s gift to me. Beth and Harry were at work. Mom and I had the house to ourselves and we talked, laughed, and cried for hours. Best of all, we both learned more about each other than was previously known. This experience helped me to turn my life around, and I now had much more respect and love for her than I ever did.
For the next few months, I phoned my mother a couple times a day to check on how she was feeling. She usually sounded good considering how sick she was. One evening, she sounded tired, out of breath, and confused. I asked her to promise me that she would call her doctor the next morning if she didn’t feel better. She promised and that was the last time I spoke with her.
The next morning while I was at work, Beth called and said it was time to come home. Honey was in the hospital, dying. I was able to get a flight that afternoon that departed from John Wayne Airport to Philadelphia Airport, with a stopover in Dallas. I couldn’t believe I had to make this trip. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to my mother. We recently started to have a good relationship and now that was going to end.
Unfortunately, the stopover in Dallas lasted the whole night due to tornadoes. When we passengers departed the plane and entered the terminal, airport personnel handed out blankets. Just as I was going to take one, a young woman shoved me aside and grabbed the last blanket. Great, I thought. What else can happen to me tonight?
I phoned Beth with the news that all planes, trains, and automobiles were grounded due to the weather. I couldn’t go anywhere until the next morning. Beth was crying and said that Mom repeatedly asked where I was and said that she would wait for me. I felt my heart break. I asked Beth to tell Honey I was praying for her and to hold on, if she could, until I got there.
I lay down on the floor and used my backpack as a pillow- not very comfortable but it was better than nothing. I glanced over to the nearest person and recognized the jerk who stole the blanket from me. She walked across the terminal to use the restroom and I took her blanket. I was thrilled with my victory! When she came back to her pile of stuff, she noticed her blanket was missing and asked a few people what happened to it. No one answered her. I wrapped the blanket around me and finally drifted off to sleep.
About an hour later, I awoke to very loud music playing in the terminal. I sat up, looked around and wondered where it was coming from. Within seconds, the music was blaring and I recognized Sarah McLachlan’s song “I Will Remember You.” As I looked around the terminal again, everyone was asleep. How odd, I thought. No one else has heard this music but me. I was a little frightened but also instinctively knew that I was going to be okay.
When I stood up, I noticed there was a huge sign (the kind that announces arrivals and departures) above my head. The sign was flashing “DEPARTURE” rapidly and the music was so loud now I had to cover my ears. Again, I looked around the terminal and everyone was STILL asleep.
I muttered out loud to no one and anyone, “What the heck is happening here?”
As soon as I closed my mouth, a very white, bright light floated straight towards me. The music was still playing, the “departure” sign was still flashing and now the light had turned into my mother’s face. Her white hair looked whiter than usual, her dark blue eyes were more stunning than I had ever seen them, her cheeks were very rosy (she was always so pale) and she was not wearing her oxygen tube. She then kissed me on my forehead. As I tried to touch her, her spirit went through my heart and dissipated. The music stopped and the “departure” sign disappeared. I looked at my watch and it said 1:04 a.m. (Pacific Standard Time). I wrote the time on a piece of paper, sat down on the floor and tried to compose myself.
After a couple minutes, I walked over to a pay phone. When I reached the phone, I noticed there was not one single arrival/departure board anywhere in this particular terminal.
I called Beth’s house and was told by Harry that my Honey Holmes, Girl Detective departed at 4:04 a.m. (Eastern Standard Time).