The ravaged face twitched in answer to her name. The movement so subtle the onlooker wondered if he had imagined it. An eyelid flickered and he felt her presence. One side of her face drooped like half-melted wax and he knew she would never recover. Her mouth struggled, at war with the stroke that was gently sliding her into forever darkness. Or Light, if believed.
And he knew she believed.
Her breaths came quick and shallow now, the harbinger of death. But, in the time she had left, Sarah gathered strength spoke in trailing wisps:
“Take me home.”
The man frowned and searched the other faces around the deathbed for illumination. No one answered. “Sarah,” he began slowly, “you can’t be moved. It’s hard, I know. But...you’ve had a stroke. Here. At our house. Just half a mile from your home. You were visiting...”
His voice trailed off as Sarah’s mouth moved into a caricature of a smile. Her good eye brightened and truly focused on him. “Not you. Him.” She looked beyond the man to the empty space at the foot of the bed.
“I’m ready.” Her words came strong and the smile deepened as her eyes closed. “I’m ready.”
As her last breath ended with a sigh and her neighbor knew she was gone. His wife cried out. The son of the old woman wept silent tears.
But the man held still in awe. For a Presence passed him from the foot of the bed. He felt the gentlest of touches as It reached for the lifeless old woman. Without form or substance, the man still knew it was there and made no sound as a separate life poured out Sarah and joined with the Being. Together, they rose from the bed and dissipated, like a mist on a sunny day.
Sarah Frances Shaw Graves began her life in a dirt-floored slave cabin. She passed away on the oak floor bedroom of her white neighbors.
Born in Kentucky in 1850, she was only six months old when her master “allotted” or hired her mother to another man, leaving her husband and Sarah’s father behind, never to be seen again. After the Civil War and freedom, Sarah married. Together with her husband and only son, they farmed and worked the land until eventually acquiring 120 acres.
Sarah was visiting her neighbors the day she had a stroke. Her husband had passed several years before and their son never married.
After caring for her several days, Sarah died surrounded by her white neighbors and friends in 1942 in their front bedroom. How do I know? Because as I write these words, I am sitting in the same room where she passed, the same house I’ve lived in for thirty-seven years.