When I awakened that morning, I felt pretty much the same as I always had before. As I got out of bed and made my way downstairs, the joints in my legs seemed even stiffer than usual, but then, what else could you expect for a girl my age?
My daughter Helen and my grandson Toby were already downstairs sitting at the table. I noticed that they were both wearing mourning clothes, and that the table was only set for two. They glanced up with disbelieving eyes as I approached them.
"What's the matter with you two? You look as if you've just seen a ghost!" I exclaimed. "And where's my breakfast?"
"Don't you remember, Grandma? You died last night." Toby's voice was hushed.
"What kind of nonsense is that?" I exploded. "I'm not dead, I'm hungry! Where's my breakfast?"
Without a word Helen handed me a plate piled high with grits, eggs, and bacon. I was ravenous and devoured every bite in record time, then made my way to my rocking chair on the porch.
It wasn't long before the physician, Dr. Graves, came along. His eyes practically popped out of his head when he saw me.
"Bertha Green! What on earth are you doing here? I pronounced you dead last night! I just came by this morning to get the signatures for the death certificate..."
"What's all this nonsense about me being dead? Can't an old girl rockify in peace?"
"Resting in peace, that's what you should be doing," he muttered.
"Darn flies," I complained, swatting at them. They seemed especially abundant today, and I couldn't stop them from constantly landing on my skin, which was as annoying as hell.
The next visitor was the minister, Reverend Stone, who looked just as shocked to see me as the doctor had been.
"I come to comfort your family at their time of mourning, and here you sit rocking on the porch just as if everything was perfectly normal! What kind of sacrilege is this?"
"Lovely as I'm sure the weather is at the Pearly Gates, I'd just as soon stay here on my own front porch, if it's all the same to you," I said, swatting at a particularly stubborn fly that refused to leave my nose.
"If you don't watch out you'll end up in a place where the weather's not nearly as pleasant," Reverend Stone retorted. I continued to swat at flies, ignoring him.
A couple of hours later Helen came out onto the porch. "Mama, are you still out here?" She shook her head and sighed sadly.
"I've been telling everybody that I'm not dead until I'm blue in the face!" I exclaimed.
"Yes, you are," she nodded.
"Look here," I said in a calmer voice. "I may be a bit stubborn, but I'm not totally unreasonable. If someone were to show me absolute proof that I'm dead, why, I'd believe them."
Toby joined his mother on the porch with a worried look on his face.
"We have to do something, and soon," Helen told him.
Toby looked thoughtful for a moment, then disappeared.
Evening fell, it got a bit cooler, and the flies weren't as bad. Still pretty bad, just not as bad.
I guess it must have been around dinnertime when Toby finally returned, bearing a huge bouquet of flowers.
"I picked these for you, Grandma," he said as he handed them to me.
"Why, thank you..." I began, then noticed what kind of flowers they were. "Toby, what did you do that for? You know I'm allergic..."
That was as far as I got before I let out a tremendous sneeze. Right afterwards, I looked at the object that had suddenly flown into my hands, then dropped it quickly in disgust.
"Well, I guess that's that, then," I said quietly, heading back inside the house and upstairs to my bed for the very last time.
"You'd best get rid of that," I heard Helen tell her son. Out of the corner of my eye I watched as Toby used a paper towel to pick up my nose and toss it into the trash can.