EXCERPT FROM MY NOVEL “THE SPIRITS OF JADE”
Whenever people asked Jade to describe what happened next, the only word she could come up with was “beautiful.” It’s not a word that anyone would expect, but that was the first thought that appeared in her head when she stood at the threshold of her mother’s bedroom and looked inside. Of course, the first thing Jade saw was Olive. She was lying in bed, her head propped up by several puffy white pillows and a celadon green silk scarf around her neck. Her eyes were gently closed. Jade couldn’t remember when she’d seen her mother so radiant. It didn’t surprise her in the least that her mother didn’t turn to say hello.
An eerie sense of normalcy reigned. Papers were piled high on her mother’s desk, as always. Shocking pink, mustard and tangerine-colored zinnias stood in a Japanese style vase on the bedside table. Next to them, her mother’s eyeglasses rested, as if waiting to be called to use once again.
Jade noticed a yellow pad of paper resting next to Olive’s left hand. She guessed that her mother was writing something when she’d paused for a brief moment to close her eyes. It was so like her. Their mother’s incessant notes sometimes drove Jade and James crazy. They were typically written on small lined index cards. Some were even scribbled on random pieces of paper. The subject matter of these infamous note cards varied widely. Some were simply reminders of people’s names, of things to do, of presents to buy, of sales at a store. Others might list a book she hoped to read or a movie she wanted to watch. A few were more philosophical in nature. One that Jade particularly liked said – “In the end, we are all stardust.” When Jade had asked her mother where she’d found this quote, her mother had simply smiled.
But a legal size pad of paper was uncharacteristic. It was this pad of paper as much as what she guessed she was about to find that drew Jade forward. Only her mother’s two arms were visible above the puffy peach colored winter quilt. Something about them that was different, although it took Jade a minute or two to figure out what it was. Her fingernails. Each one had a dark mark along its base that almost looked like a tiny crescent moon. Jade guessed that this must be what happens when people die. She realized this was the first time she’d ever seen a dead person so close.
Jade was uncertain what to do next. She didn’t feel quite ready yet to touch her mother, and so she turned her attention instead to the pad of paper. Now that she was closer, she could see that there was an open pen next to it. Curious, Jade picked up the pad and read in her mother’s unmistakable handwriting:
Tell Jade about the Spirits of Place
It was only a short phrase – seven words, thirty letters to be exact. But it was enough to shift the whole essence of the experience for her. She couldn’t help but wonder (perhaps selfishly) what her mother’s last note could possibly mean.