“Ok, Mary, did you and Becky search the house? What about the attic, where Dad’s things are stored?”
“We’ve searched top to bottom, and even in the garage. She is not here!” Mary was sobbing. “I should never have left her! Becky can’t keep an eye on her all the time! My shopping could have waited!”
“Mary, calm down. Neither you nor Becky can be watching her ever second. And when was the last time she did anything on her own? I’ll alert the rest, and we will spread out. We can cover the entire neighbourhood, and knock on doors and ask people on the street. What was she wearing?” David kept his voice calm and even, trying to calm his sister.
“She was wearing the violet silk dress Dad loved so much. She wears it as often as she can, and is cranky and uncooperative when we have to put something else on her. Her usual black oxfords, and a white shawl over her shoulders. She does feel the cold, even in this mild weather.” Mary was calmer now, and took a deep breath. “Thanks, David. I’m going to go out now and start with the nearest houses. I’ll leave Becky with instructions to stay by the phone so we can all be in touch. Don’t forget the cell phones!”
“Right, Mary. We’ll be there in a short while. I’m sure we’ll find her safe, in one of the old places she and Dad used to go to. Hang in there, sis.” David hung up, then immediately started calling the family, and getting them organized to search.
His daughter Hannah put her jacket on and headed out the door almost before he had finished telling her what had happened. He called to be sure she had her phone with her, and she turned back and waved it at him, then kept on going. I’m sure I know right where to find Grandma, if she can make it that far. I’ll start at Aunt Mary’s, and look for her. She ran on, certain that she would find Grandma. But whether the old woman would still be alive was the question.
The rest of the family gathered at Mary’s, and then set out, on foot and in cars, checking every street in a spiral from the starting point. Those on foot knocked on doors, and accosted pedestrians, asking if anyone had seen a little old woman in violet silk and white shawl, with white hair and black shoes. None had, and the search went on. Mary called the police, and the patrol officers kept their eyes open for the lost grandmother.
They searched through the afternoon, and it wasn’t until sunset that a call came through. “Dad, it’s Hannah. I’ve found her, but…uh…I can’t explain. Come to the cemetery as fast as you can.” Hannah sounded excited, strained and worried, and David called everyone telling them to go to the cemetery.
It was a strange sight that met their eyes as they gathered several feet away from the old woman. She was standing beside her husband’s grave, her face glowing with happiness, and her arms out. In front of her was a skeleton that, even as they watched, slowly took on flesh and features. When it was fully formed they could see that it was their father, as he had been before the fire that killed him. He smiled at her and held out his arms. Her body wilted and fell to the ground, but they could see her, glowing and ethereal, as she drifted to him. They embraced, and faded from sight. The family stood, awestruck and mute for several seconds, then with a chorused sigh, they went to the body. The old woman’s face was calm, peaceful and wearing the first truly happy smile they had seen there in thirty years. The body was tended properly, and two days later she was interred beside the husband she had loved so well and so long.