Vada's Turn

Vada died peacefully at age 80. She was remembered as a great friend, and as a successful published author of many best-selling novels, most of them of romance, and poetry. She was guided by her drive, which was born of Thomas J's love and passion for life in general, combined with her grade school teacher's Mr. Bixler's encouragement, and discovering her step mother Shelly's passion for romantic books.

Vada's funeral was held in Madison, Pennsylvania, in fact (according to her request) in the same funeral home run by her father, where Thomas J's funeral was held so many years earlier. Her son, Thomas J Sultenfuss (Vada kept her maiden name when she married) gave the eulogy of his mother, his grandfather Harry, and grandmother Shelly. Her childhood friend Judy also shared memories of her as a childhood playmate, and how in a way, Thomas J had united them all in school and in town with his death, along with Vada's few surviving friends from elementary school, middle-school, high school and college, and her friends who were also successful authors. According to her will, she wished to be buried next to Thomas J Sennett, her best friend from childhood.

Still holding a beauty about her even at age 80, and a gentleness and wisdom in her eyes, Judy stood proud. She was a retired teacher. "Vada was a terrific writer and friend," she said. "There are many authors sitting in the crowd to remember her, as you all can see. Since we were 11 years old, we were friends, from riding our bikes together in the summer, and having girls night out, all through high school. She was a wonderful mother, grandmother, great grandmother, and she was more like family to my own family, than a friend."

Next, Vada's friends Megan and Lisa spoke, speaking highly of what a wonderful friend Vada was, and how she had been more like an aunt than a family friend to their children and grandchildren. At first, as children, they'd been kind of snobby, hanging with Judy only because her father owned the movie theatre. They had become close with Vada after Thomas J's death. In fact, Thomas J's death ultimately united them as friends. After them came Vada's half-brother (the child that Shelly, Vada's step mother, had had with her dad), to give his eulogy of Vada as a wonderful sister and his best friend.

Next came a few of Vada's author colleagues to speak highly of her, along with a few more friends from grade school, middle, and high school. According to Vada's request, the funeral was a happy event, rather than a sad, somber one. The song, "Wedding Bell Blues" was played, according to Vada's request for her funeral. As the service concluded, the funeral proceeded to the cemetery where Thomas J's final resting place was, along with her parents, Gramoo, and Uncle Phil.

Vada woke up on the grass beside a familiar weeping willow tree at a familiar lake. Startled, she recognized it as the dock and tree that she and her childhood friend Thomas J had fished at and played on many years ago, beside this lake. She stood slowly…looked around.

She saw…Harry and Shelly, Uncle Phil, and Gramoo just as she remembered them, when she was in her preteen years, smiling at her, arms extended. Gramoo had her mind again, and looked younger and beautiful. Also standing near was including, but not limited to, Mr. Bixler, Thomas J's parents, Mr. and Mrs. Sennett, the friends she had made in the adult poetry class she had taken when she was eleven years old. "Welcome, Vada," Harry said. "You've made it. You're with us now." "Dad, Shelly, Uncle Phil, Gramoo!" she said, in their arms. She hugged Mr. Bixler, the Sennetts, Dr. Welty, her friends from the poetry class, and the many kids she had known in her young years, as the smiling crowd applauded and looked on.

"A couple of people want to see you also," they said to Vada, smiling as a woman stepped from the crowd, smiling. "Mom!" Vada recognized her mother from the videos and pictures she had seen of her in life. They embraced. "Welcome, Vada" she said in her charming accent. "Now," Vada's mother said, "Here is someone who is waiting for you." She stepped aside, as did the whole crowd, still smiling, to reveal…Thomas J standing there, smiling at her. Exactly as she remembered him at eleven years old. There were no bee stings or any harm to him at all now. His glasses were gone, revealing gorgeous blue eyes. As a child, he'd been frail and suffered asthma, not to mention severe allergic reaction to countless things. Now, he was absolutely healthy and strong, in perfect shape, like the acrobat he had aspired to be as a child. "Vada," Thomas J said, his arms open. "I've been waiting for you. Now you're here." "Thomas J!!" Vada exclaimed. Vada leaned over the dock to see her reflection in the water. She was eleven again, just like in the summer of 1972. She turned back to Thomas , and with a giggle of joy, ran into his arms instantly. She remembered her feeling of denial when her father told her of Thomas J's death by allergic reaction to bee stings, and her denial surrendering to agonizing acceptance of his death, once she saw him lying so still in his casket, his face covered with painful bee stings. Now he was even healthier than he had ever been on Earth. The crowd left, to leave the two of them alone to each other.

After the funeral, Judy stood beside Vada's grave, her friend since she was eleven, to say goodbye to her friend. "Well, Vada," she said. "I know I'll join you soon enough. You're finally where and when you want to be. The happiest time of your life. I know he's happy to see you." She touched each headstone of Vada and Thomas J. "You play all you want now, kids," she said lovingly, glancing skyward.

Vada and Thomas J sat on the ground under the willow tree, as they did in their childhood. Holding hands, they looked at the sky with beautiful clouds. "Vada, you've done well with your life. I'm so proud of you," Thomas J said.

"My one regret is I wasn't as nice to you as you always were to me, and I never told you that you were my best friend," Vada said.

Thomas J shook his head, smiling. "Not necessary. I knew your feelings, Vada. You were expressing your way. You were pure always. And you are." He squeezed her hand as the crowd and angels smiled.