Chapter 12 - Goodbye for Now
Isabella sat on the steel park bench facing the brightly colored playground where her grandson was playing. Jack was the light of her life. Gracie and her husband had been through so much to adopt him. They couldn't have children of their own. When they vacationed in Africa they were introduced to him and fell in love.
The playground was covered in tan colored bark. The plastic slides were bright green. There were three of them; a spiral slide, a small curved slide and a long straight slide. On the ground next to her was Maggie, her faithful golden retriever. A welcome addition to her family since Nathan had passed away. On the bench beside her was Michael's Magic Box.
"Grandma watch me!" The little boy shouted with glee. He was standing at the top of the long slide smiling as he was about to slide down. Dressed in tan pants and a blue shirt, his dark brown curly hair glistened in the sun.
"Okay," Isabella shouted back, not taking her eyes off of him. He pushed himself down with all his might, laughing all the way until his feet planted themselves firmly on the ground.
Jack ran back around to the slide so he could do it all over again. Isabella sat back and took in all the scenery. Around the perimeter of the park it was lined with big, bushy green trees. On the other side of the park were more trees, she didn't know what kind they were, but the green leaves were just beginning to surface; a sign of spring. It made her wish that Nathan was still here to enjoy it with her. He had passed away five years earlier. Nathan had developed bone cancer, which was ironic since he was an Orthopedic Surgeon. Glaring into the trees, her mind drifted back to that emotional day.
She sat next to him on the hospital bed, holding his hand in hers while he drifted in and out of sleep. The severe pain of broken bones caused by the cancer was being managed through a morphine drip. As a result, he was heavily sedated, but Isabella just kept talking to him as if he was awake listening to her.
"Remember our honeymoon in Hawaii," she said rubbing his hand lightly. "It was so much fun sitting on the beach admiring the beautiful sunset." She looked up at his face to see that he was still sleeping. "Those were some good times." Precious memories began flooding her mind. "We've had a wonderful life together, haven't we?"
Isabella looked down at the floor for a few seconds. Feeling grateful for their life together she looked up and said, "Thank you for marrying me Nathan. I couldn't have asked for anyone better than you to spend my life with." She became somber as she thought about how that would be coming to an end soon.
Nathan began to sitr. As he looked over at Isabella, she was drawn in by his deep blue eyes, sensing that it would be the last time she would ever see them. He softly spoke to her. "No Isabella, thank you for marrying me." She was pleased when she realized that he had heard what she was saying.
They held hands in silence for awhile. Then Nathan turned his head toward her and squeezed her hand lightly.
"It's time, isn't it?" She said with a tear rolling down her cheek.
"I think so," he affirmed gently.
"I don't want to say goodbye," she cried.
"It's not goodbye for good Isabella. It's just goodbye for now."
"I love you Nathan."
"I love you too."
Nathan closed his eyes and took his last breath. Moments after he passed away Michael's Magic Box began to shimmer. It was on the table next to the hospital bed. Isabella wiped her tears and opened it. The sound of Michael's voice comforted her, as did the words he sang.
You are not alone. I am here with you. Though you're far away. I am here to stay.
"What's that?" Isabella was brought back to the present moment by a boy asking about Michael's Magic Box. It was shimmering next to her. Several other kids came over at that point. Jack was one of them.
"It's Michael's Magic Box," she answered in a child like tone.
"What does it do?"
"It plays messages."
"What kind of messages?" The boy inquired.
"Messages from Michael Jackson. Do you know who he is?"
"No," The boy replied raising his eye brows.
"Oh, that's too bad. Michael Jackson was one of the greatest entertainer's who ever lived. He was loved by millions of people all around the world and he wanted to make it a better place for kids just like you," she said playfully pointing to his chest. "Michael had a great love for humanity. He wanted people to love each other and take care of the planet and he had some great ideas about how to do that."
She held up the magic box for them to see it more clearly. "My grandma gave me this magic box many years ago to help me live a life of love. When it shimmers that means I have a message waiting for me; so let's find out what it is," she said excitedly.
Isabella slowly opened the lid to the box, watching the intrigued eyes staring at her while she did. The message began to play:
I love the planet. I love trees. I have this thing for trees. And the colors and changing of leaves. I love it. I respect those kind of things.
The kids didn't say anything. They just started looking around at all the trees as if they were seeing them for the first time. Isabella watched in amazement at the effect Michael's message was having on them. They looked up at the trees on the left; then looked at the trees on the right, studying their colors and leaves and branches. Suddenly, the kid who asked about the box broke his gaze and ran off to play. The rest of the kids followed. It made Isabella giggle a little.
Jack began to follow them as well, but she stopped him. "Jack it's time to go home," she shouted before he could leave.
"Noooo...do we have to Grandma?"
"Yes, it's time for lunch. After we eat, your mom and dad will be home so we better get going."
Isabella and Jack walked hand in hand out of the park with Maggie on the other side of her. During their journey back home they both silently admired all the trees.
"Grandma?" Jack said looking up at her.
"Do you think I could make a tree house?"
"I don't see why not. Where at?"
"In the big tree in our backyard."
"Let's ask your dad when he gets home."
"Okay," he said smiling at her.
"I love you."
"Aw, I love you too Jack."
A few months later, Jack and his father had built an incredible tree house. Made of light colored wood, it had a steeple roof, a large door and a small window. Surrounding it was a big porch that he could walk all the way around. There were stairs leading up to the tree house and a large plastic green slide coming off the porch to get down, just like the one in the park. Jack spent a lot of time up there. He had come to appreciate being around trees after hearing Michael's message that day at the park.
Isabella watched him play in his tree house from her bedroom window at Gracie's house. She had to move in with her because she had become ill. It was a bitter sweet time. Being there allowed her to spend so much time with her grandson. He kept her spirits up because he was such a joy to be around. On the other hand, she knew it wouldn't be long before she would be joining her husband and parents in heaven. She had an intuitive feeling. She knew her time was coming soon.
Isabella was startled by Spencer's voice. She turned away from the window to look at him.
"Oh, hi son," she said giving him a hug.
"How are you feeling?"
"I'm okay. How are you?"
Spencer was a very successful businessman now. He never married, which made Isabella sad. She wanted for him to experience the kind of love she had with his father. She wished everyone could experience that kind of love. When she looked into his eyes she thought to herself, maybe one day he will.
"I've got to leave on a business trip tomorrow mom."
"Oh really? Where are you going?"
"New York. I'll be gone for a week."
Isabella could see a little fear in her son's eyes. "It's okay Spencer. You can go."
"Are you sure?" He said with a worried look.
"I'm sure. Go. You have work to do."
"I'm afraid to leave."
Isabella grabbed his hand in hers. "Spencer, there is nothing left unsaid between us. You've been the best son a mom could ever have. No matter what happens, I'll always be with you." He stood there staring at her for a few moments, then gave her a long hug, feeling the love in his heart for her strongly.
'Okay, I'll see you next week." Spoken as if he was trying to convince himself. "Bye mom. I love you."
"I love you too Spencer. Goodbye for now," she said winking at him.
As she lay in her bed, Isabella looked around the room, admiring the decorations. On the wall across from her was a beautiful picture of a countryside. The trees were turning bright fall colors of orange and red. In the distance were other trees still holding on to their green leaves. The lake was shining at the sparkle of the sun.
On another wall was a print with a poem on it. It was titled "Angel in My Heart." She read it silently:
An Angel's love is always true
On that you can depend
They will always be with you
And always be your friend
Through darkest hours and brightest day
Our Angel's see us through
They smile when we are happy
And will cry when we are blue
She began to recall a conversation she had with her grandma when she was given the magic box. Isabella, by taking this gift, you are making a pact with me to listen to his messages and use them to live your life with love and help others do the same.
Her mind drifted off as she recalled how much this little magic box had impacted her life and the lives of others. Many lives had been changed because of this little box. She began to reflect back on some of those people. Morgan, the bully she ended up befriending when she was twelve, after helping her learn to love herself. Lucas, the boy Nathan mentored in the hospital. With the help of Michael's Magic Box, his relationship with his father was healed. Emma, Nathan's 16-year old niece who was heartbroken when she learned she was adopted, but later came to see it as a blessing.
Then there were the teens who united together to stop The Shamers, and the boy who was saved as a result. And of course, her sister Kristina. Those messages helped her heal after the death of her son and ended up changing an entire town. Isabella thought about how happy she was that Kristina found love again and had three other kids.
Gracie walked into the room. "How are you doing mom?"
"I'm okay," she replied weakly. "Will you do me a favor Gracie?"
"Sure mom, anything."
"Go get Jack for me. I want to give him something."
When Gracie left the room to find Jack, Isabella picked up Michael's Magic Box and said, "I guess it's time to say goodbye Michael."
The box began to shimmer in her hands. She opened it to hear the message:
I'm so glad we had this time together, just to have a laugh and sing a song.
"Me too, Michael. Me too." Admiring the beauty of the gold box one last time, she expressed her appreciation. "Thank you for enriching my life. I am so blessed that I was given the gift of these special messages. I have learned so much about love because of you."
"Hi honey. Come sit here," Isabella motioned to the chair placed next to her bed.
Jack sat down in the chair looking at his grandma, anticipating what she was going to say.
"I have a gift for you."
"For me?" His eyes opened wide at the thought.
"Yes, just for you."
"What is it?"
Isabella handed him Michael's Magic Box.
"You're giving me your magic box?" He said surprised.
"Yes, I'm giving it to you."
"Well, a long time ago my grandma gave me this box as a gift to use throughout my life. She told me that when the time was right, I had to give it to someone else...and I choose you."
"Really?" He smiled with delight.
"What should I do with it?"
"I'll tell you what my grandma told me. Every person on earth begins life with a heart filled with love, but sometimes things happen that cause you to close your heart. Then you can't feel the love anymore. If that happens, it makes life very hard. When your heart is closed, you can't love or accept yourself or others. It makes you see people through the eyes of judgment, and that is very painful, for you and for them."
Jack sat there hanging on to her every word.
"This box is magic because it plays message from Michael Jackson. These messages will teach you how to live a life of love, just like it did me. Keep this box for the rest of your life and use it to help yourself and others. Then when your time on earth is done, pass it along to someone who will appreciate it, just like I'm doing to you."
"Okay," He said graciously.
"How do I know when I have a message Grandma?"
"You should already know that. You've seen me get messages. When it starts to shimmer, a message is waiting for you."
"Oh yeah, I remember. I can't wait to get one!"
"I know. It's so much fun," she said smiling at him.
Isabella took the box away from him and set it down on the table, so she could grab his hand. "Jack, I'm going to tell you something else my grandma told me. By taking this gift, you are making a pact with me to listen to Michael's messages and use them to live a life of love and help others do the same."
"Okay Grandma," he agreed. "Mom, can I go put it in my tree house?"
Jack gave his grandma a kiss and walked out of the room, carrying the box carefully with both hands.
"That was nice mom," Gracie said sitting down in the chair where Jack had been sitting. "Are you sad about giving away Michael's Magic Box?"
"I have mixed emotions about letting it go. After all, that box has been my faithful companion ever since I was seven years old, but my time with it has come to an end. I promised my grandma that I would pass it on to someone who would use it and appreciate it. That way Michael's message of love will be carried on for generations to come."
"That's nice," she said smiling at her mom. "I'm curious to know how having Michael's Magic Box has affected your life. Do you feel like it made you stronger and what did you learn from it?"
"Oh it definitely made me stronger," Isabella confirmed. "I've learned that there is power in love. People think love weakens, but it's not true. Love strengthens. When you withhold love, you're actually weakening yourself because love needs expression. Love is who you are. It's what the spirit inside of you is made of. If you want to ignite your spirit and unleash it's power, you have to be a vessel; a vessel of love. If you deny love the ability to be expressed through you, the light within you starts to dim."
Isabella fluffed up her pillow a little bit and continued. "What has been incredible to witness is that regardless of what the problem was - in my life or someone else's - Michael's messages proved time and time again, that love is always the solution."
She became quiet for a moment, obviously reflecting back on her life. "I think the greatest lesson I've learned is that love is the most important thing in the world. Mahatma Ghandi said, Where there is love there is life, but that also means where there is no love, there is no life. Whatever you give love to, you give life to. Whatever you withhold love from, you destroy."
"If there is one piece of advice you could give to someone based on all the messages you have received throughout your life, what would it be?" Gracie asked.
Isabella instantly replied, "To keep your heart open no matter what. When I kept my heart open, I was happy. When I closed my heart off, I was unhappy.
"Wow mom. What an incredible gift you were given."
"Life changing...to say the least," she said shaking her head in agreement. "And now it's Jack's turn. I hope he cherishes it as much as I did."
"Oh he will mom. I'll make sure of that. You forget, I grew up with that magic box. I know exactly what those messages can do for a person."
Gracie grew quiet for a moment.
"What's the matter honey?" Isabella asked.
"If you're giving away Michael's Magic Box it must mean that you think you're not going to be around much longer."
Isabella didn't respond.
"I just want you to know how much you mean to me; to all of us. You've been an amazing mother. I'm so blessed to be your daughter."
"No Gracie. It's me who's blessed."
The next morning Gracie went in to check on her. The peach colored bedroom was still dark from the curtains being shut. A night light was glowing in the wall. She walked over to the curtains and flung them open.
"Mom it's time to get up." She looked over at her mom lying in bed. There was no movement.
"Mom?" Her voice conveyed the worry she felt inside. An overwhelming feeling of fear came over her. She hurried over to the bed and sat down next to her, grabbing her arm. There was no pulse. Tears immediately began to flow. She gently ran her hand across her face and then kissed her on the cheek. With a lump in her throat she said, "I love you mom. Say hi to daddy for me."
Later that day, Gracie went to find Jack. He was sitting in his tree house, on the floor with his legs folded. Michael's Magic Box was in his lap and Maggie was lying next to him.
"What are you doing honey?" She asked, after opening the door.
"I'm waiting for a message."
"You can't sit in here all day waiting for a message Jack. They come at random times."
"No, there's one coming soon. I just know it," he replied confidently.
"Come on honey, let's go inside," she said holding her hand out for his.
Just then Michael's Magic Box started to shimmer. His face broke out in a great big smile.
"See I told you!" He was beaming from ear to ear.
"Go ahead. Open it," she encouraged.
Jack couldn't contain his excitement. He quickly lifted the lid to hear the message play. It was the same message Isabella first received when she was given the box.
You and I must make a pact. We must bring salvation back. Where there is love, I'll be there.
He closed the box gently and looked up at his mom with wonder in his eyes. "Mom, do you think grandma told Michael to give me that message?"
"Why do you ask?"
"Because that's the same thing she said to me before she went to heaven. She said I have to make a pact with her."
Feeling the presence of her mother, Gracie shook her head and said, "Yes, I think she did."
"Will I see Grandma again?"
Gracie smiled and reached for his hand, "Of course honey. It's not goodbye for good. It's just goodbye for now."
Jack smiled and took her hand to go inside.
He set Michael's Magic Box down on the table next to his bed. After he said his prayers, Gracie tucked him into bed and gave him a kiss goodnight. When she left, Jack looked over at Maggie who was lying at the foot of his bed. "I miss grandma. Don't you Maggie?" She barked in agreement.
"Yes, I know you do girl," he replied rubbing her head in his hands. He grabbed Michael's Magic Box off of the table and held it in his hands. "I think we're in for a great adventure with this box Maggie." He laid his head down on the pillow and stared at it, thinking about the magic it holds inside. "When do you think we'll get another message girl? I hope Michael doesn't forget us."
The box began to shimmer in response. Jack gasped at how the light from the box lit up his entire room. Maggie barked at the shadows it produced on the walls. He sat up and placed it next to her on the bed. Upon opening it he heard these reassuring words:
I love you all very, very much and I shall never, ever forget you, I promise.
Director of Community Development
© Linda Higgins, 2013, All Rights Reserved
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