I leaned back in my first class seat on my third trip to England this year. I smiled at my Gram, who sported a huge hat with a bird's nest and feathers, today. That type of thing was all the rage in the early 1900's. It would get her roasted alive by every environmental group going, today.
The male flight attendant smiled at me, thinking I was flirting with him. Of course he couldn't see Gram in the seat beside me. She was invisible to everyone except me. I always paid for an extra seat because I couldn't stand it, when Gram would sit in the lap of anyone who was sitting beside me. She thought it was hilarious. I thought it was embarrassing. Gram was the spirit of my Grandmother, who had passed away in my arms, ten years earlier. I closed my eyes and envisioned that painful day behind my eyelids.
I sat by Gram's hospital bed and held her hand, sobbing quietly. My hand was not big, but hers was so frail that mine engulfed it. She squeezed my hand weakly and smiled through the wrinkles of 101 years of living on her face.
"Ah now Melody, my dear. You mustn't take on so. I've had a long and exciting life. I'll be leaving you soon. You're twenty now, an adult. You still have your parents, brother and sister. You'll not be alone. You've been a wonderful travelling companion, but now it must end. I must end. It's time to say goodbye, little one."
Her voice was so soft that I had to lean over her to hear her gentle farewell. I had to stifle my sobs so that I wouldn't miss even one of her precious last words. Her voice petered out to a sharp breath, a sigh, then ... nothing. She was gone.
"No! Noooooooh! Don't leave me Gram, I love you. Don't leave me, please!"
I collapsed across her sunken chest and wailed my misery, until my Mom carefully pulled me away. She pulled me into her arms and wept with me. I loved both my parents and my siblings dearly, but my Gram was special. Her loss was unbearable.
Later that night I sat in my bedroom looking through the photo albums of years of travel with Gram, Gramps and my family. My great grandparents had been a family 'of means' as wealthy people were called in the early 1900's. They travelled a lot, just for the pleasure of it. They sometimes brought wealthy friends with them, or made arrangements for other friends. Out of that travel, grew a very lucrative family travel agency that was handed down to Gram and Gramp, and now to Mom and Dad. Eventually it would go to me, as the eldest child.
I smiled through my tears at a picture Gram had taken of me and a young Greek guy holding hands in Athens. I thought he was the love of my life at seventeen, but Gram knew better.
"That boy liked other boys more than you, you know." Gram's voice came out of nowhere.
I screamed and fell off the bed, dragging an armload of photo albums with me. She knelt beside me, making an effort to help me up, but it was hopeless because her hands went right through my arm.
I stared in awe. I knew I was a 'sensitive' as Gram called my ability to sense the spirits of people who had passed on, but I had never seen more than shadows, or felt a presence before. Gram appeared before me as I knew her best, in her spry Eighties when she travelled all over Europe with us, as she passed the family travel agency on to my Dad.
I made a lunge in her direction to hug her, but of course I went right through, and landed on the carpet amid a peal of her laughter. I laughed too, in spite of the goose bumps from going through her.
"Close your mouth sweetie, you'll catch flies." Gram commented as I gaped at her. I grinned happily. I wasn't the least bit frightened of her, I loved her.
"Gram, are you back? Can you stay? Do you have to go into the light or something?"
I shot questions at her as I used to do when we travelled. I wanted to know everything about everything, and all at once.
Her laughter seemed to just bubble out of her. "I'll stay as long as you need me, sweet Melody."
"I'll always need you, Gram." I told her.
I opened my eyes and looked out the window of the plane. We were going through a bank of clouds, so I couldn't see much on the ground as we circled Heathrow Airport to come in for a landing. What I did see though, was Gram as her younger self, sitting on a cloud, wearing a battered old toy halo and broken angel wings from my Halloween days. I stifled my laughter with a hand over my mouth. Even dead, I would always need my Gram.