“That’s not what I’m hoping for. It’s just that… I’m not ready. Not yet.”
“Ok,” Finn gives in. “What else would you like to do today?”
I look out the window, my gaze instantly drawn to the water.
“I’m hungry for crab legs.”
Finn smiles, the slow one that I love. “Crab fishing, it is.”
So I dump my dishes in the kitchen and job upstairs to change into old scrubby clothes and a floppy hat to protect my white skin from the sun. I meet Finn in the foyer.
“Do you have sunscreen in that thing?” Finn eyes my giant beach bag. I nod.
We head out to the trail that leads to the beach, then climb over the rocks and strewn seaweed to get to the rickety pier. Our little boat bobs gently in the slip, it’s graying sides faded by the sun.
As we step aboard, I lick the briny air from my lips, while the breeze rustles the hair away from my face. There’s already crab traps loaded in the cargo hold, and Finn releases the anchor so we drift out in the bay.
The sun beats down through the thin material of my sleeves, and I imagine that even now more freckles are forming, but I don’t care. All I care about is moving through the water, over the swells and further into the ocean.
Finn leans down and grabs a crap pot, dropping it over the side. The orange buoy bobs in the waves to mark the spot as we move to a different location, and then we drop another. We drop five total before we drift further out to sea and lay limply in the sun on the hull of the boat.
I stare up at the sky, at the blueness of it, and watch the way the white clouds frolic with each other, bouncing and stretching and existing in the air. It makes me wonder if it’s where Heaven is. Or if there’s even a Heaven at all. I ponder this, of course, because of mom. Because she’s always in the back of my mind. And because Finn ripped the Band-Aid off that wound this morning.
“Maybe Heaven is another dimension,” I muse out loud. “Maybe the people there exist right now, moving and talking alongside us, we just can’t see them. And maybe they can’t see us, either.”
Finn lays back, his arms behind his head, his eyes closed.
“I think they can see us.”
“So you definitely think there’s a Heaven?” I ask doubtfully. “How can you be sure?”
“I can’t,” he answers. “But it’s what I believe. Mom did too.”
That catches my attention and I stare at him. “How do you know that?”
He’s unconcerned with my anxious tone. “Because she told me once. She used to love those Chicken Soup for the Soul books, remember?”
Of course I remember. “She got me Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul last year. She put in my Christmas stocking.” I’d wanted an iTunes card.
Finn grins without opening his eyes. “Well, she put Chicken Soup for the Grieving Soul in the foyer waiting room. I read it one day when I was bored, and she caught me.”
I giggle because I can only imagine how happy she probably was… to think that she was finally influencing Finn’s literary taste. She loved those freaking books.
“One of the stories was about the afterlife. Sort of. It was her favorite.”
Finn falls silent and I wait.
“And?” I prompt him. He opens an eye.
“And? Oh, you want to hear the story?”
I roll my eyes. “Obviously.”
“Fine.” Finn is clearly bored with this, but he humors me. “Once upon a time, there was a colony of water bugs. They were a close colony, a family. Where one went, the others went. But every so often, one would straggle away on their own, crawl onto a lily pad, and never return. This was a great mystery to the family of water bugs. They couldn’t figure out what was happening to their family members, or why they disappeared. They talked about it often, and worried about it, but they could never figure it out.”
Finn opens his eyes now, and stares out at the water, past me, past the waves, and out to the horizon. He fixes his gaze on the red lighthouse in the distance, on the pelicans that dive for their dinner around it, and the waves that break apart against the rocks.
“Well, one day, another water bug climbed onto the lily pad, drawn there by invisible forces from within itself, forces it didn’t understand and couldn’t control. As it sat there in the sun, it transformed into a beautiful dragonfly. It shed its water bug skin, and sprouted iridescent wings that gleamed in the sunlight. Wings so large and strong, it was able to fly into the air, doing loops in the sky.
“The new dragonfly was ecstatic with it’s new body and thought to itself, ‘I need to go back and tell the others. They need to know that this is what happens so they won’t be scared.’ So he dipped and dove through the air, directly at the water. But unfortunately, he couldn’t dive below the surface to where the water-bugs were swimming. In his new form, the dragonfly was no longer able to communicate with his family. He felt at peace, though, because he knew that someday, his family would all transform too, and they’d all be together again.”
Finn pauses and looks at me. “And such it is with Heaven. People die, they go on to another place, a better place, but they can’t communicate with us anymore because they’re in a different form. But it doesn’t mean that it’s not just as real. Or that we won’t find out for ourselves one day.”
My throat feels gunky and tight, so I clear it. “Mom believed this?”
Finn nods. “Yeah. She told me.”
The story is beautiful and it makes me want to cry, and it also makes me resent Finn just a little bit because he shared that moment with mom and I didn’t. But I push that irrational thought away. It’s enough that I know now.
We float for a while in silence, and I drag my fingers through the water.
At least an hour passes before Finn finally speaks again. “We need to go to the cemetery, you know.”
I nod. “Okay.”
He raises an eyebrow. “Okay?”
I nod again. “Yeah. Soon.”
He smiles, a real smile, and we float randomly for another hour before he finally points the rudder toward the first crab pot. As we approach, I reach over the side and drag it in, pulling the wet chain into the boat. The crab pot is empty. But the next one isn’t, nor the next. We end up with five crabs, a good haul for the day.