“Mummy, wake up. I think there’s someone at the door.”
I heard Jack stirring beside me, working hard to get his stiff arthritic body in motion. I turned over, put my hand on his back, and looked at the clock. It was only 7:15, much too early for visitors, but then I heard it, too— a small tap-tap-tap at the back patio door. Very curious, I thought, no-one uses our back door. It’s inside our fenced yard, but that was definitely where the sound was emanating.
“It can’t be a visitor, Bubba. Must be the wind,” I said as Jack stiffly rose from his bed and slowly limped out of the room. I sat up and reached for my fluffy blue robe, then slid my feet into the raggedy red slippers I kept meaning to replace.
The sound was getting louder and more insistent. I glanced in the mirror as I followed behind Jack and softly chuckled at my hair sticking out in all directions and in definite need of a cut and colour.
“Mummy, hurry, Gnorman is here,” Jack shouted.
Gnorman! What the heck is an elf doing here? My mind raced as I turned the corner. Jack was already at the door with his nose between the curtains and his tail wagging excitedly. I pulled back the drapes, and sure enough, there stood Gnorman in a tall green cap with a grey fur tassel, a long coat that reached to his feet and on those feet, a pair of shiny red boots with pointy toes that curled up. His round cheeks and stubby nose were red, but his eyes were smiling as he removed his cap and bowed to us in greeting. I quickly opened the door and waved him in, remarking,
“Gnorman! Welcome, please come in.”
“Thank you, Voyager. Hi Jack,” Gnorman said, going over to Jack and giving him a deep, long hug.
“It’s good to see you, Gnorman, but how did you get here,” I asked.
“I used the magic door, of course,” he said, adding, “and it wasn’t easy on this end because of all the snow piled up. I used a bit of magic to clear a path, but it should be kept shovelled!” He looked up at me pointedly, and although his merry eyes twinkled, I could see he was serious.
“Yes, of course, Gnorman. I’ll make sure to do that from now on.” I replied.
In all honesty, I’d completely forgotten about the door. It was given to Jack at the summer party the fairies threw to thank Bubba and me for finding Oma Trautchen and bringing her home. The door was custom-made and calibrated just for Jack and was presented to him by King Gunter. It came with a note saying,
Made with care by Sir Surly Badger, Wizard at Large
Maker of fine magical doors and latches, cooking pots, crystal balls, swords, pasta, weather vanes, and sporks.
The door allows Jack to travel from home to the fairy woods. He stands in front of the door recites the phrase,
Pizzlewizzle bag of balls,
I wish for you to make me small
So I may see my friends this day
and spend some time engaged in play.
Then blammo, whammo Jack shrinks down to the size of a mouse, the door swings open, and he walks into the tree and out of a distant tree at the fairy woods.
Jack started using the door in the autumn when his failing mobility began making it hard for him to get in and out of the car. He made almost daily trips through his magic door until the deep of winter set in, and his legs became unpredictably weak. It had been many weeks since Jack even talked about his fairy friends or tried to visit, and now here was Gnorman visiting us.
“We’ve been missing you, Jack,” he said. “I came to see if there is a problem with the door, but it worked perfectly for me, so I’m left to conclude that there is a problem with you.” He looked deeply into Jack’s eyes for a moment and then away.
“I see. We wondered about that, too.”
“About what, Gnorman?” I asked.
There was a long, loud silence before he spoke. “Voyager, I’m sorry, but Jack is entering his end time in this realm,” he said as a tear slipped down his cheek and disappeared into his whiskers.
I felt my legs go weak, and I sunk to the floor beside Jack. My eyes filled with tears, and I couldn’t speak.
“Mummy,” Jack finally said, “Gnorman is right. This old body is worn out, and I can’t stay in it much longer.” He reached over and kissed me gently, continuing, “The fairies have told me that I can come and live with them in a ‘spirit’ body, but it means I must leave here…. and you, forever.” He nuzzled his bowling ball of a head into my neck as I began to weep.
Gnorman reached over and put his small hand on top of mine and said,
“I know this is difficult, Voyager, but we will love and cherish Jack always, and he will be free of pain and struggle.”
“I understand. That’s what I want too,” I said. “When will you leave?”
Gnorman spoke up quickly, “the sooner, the better, Voyager. His pain is sharp, and his legs are weak.”
“Bubba, what do you want,” I asked.
“Mummy, I’m worried about you. I don’t want to go until I know that you’ll be alright,” he said, nuzzling close to me.
“Oh, sweet Jack. I’ll be sad no matter when you leave, but you taught me to be brave. It’s most important to me that you are not suffering.”
We all stood there for a moment, lost in our own thoughts, when Gnorman finally spoke up, “we can be ready by tomorrow for the ceremony. King Gunter and the fairies have been preparing for this time. Jack is one of our own. He came from the spirit realm, and we will carry him back to it.”
“I’m ready for tomorrow,” said Jack.
I couldn’t speak. A knot had taken hold in my chest, and all I could do was reach up to stroke Jack’s ears. Tomorrow was so soon, and I realized at that moment how difficult Jack’s life had become for him to make this decision.
“Ahhh, Voyager,” Gnorman put his tiny hands around mine, “I know this is hard for you, but I promise you that Jack will be safe and loved.”
“That’s all I want.”
“Then, so it shall be. I’ll return tomorrow at this same time, and I will help Jack through the magic door for the last time. He won’t be able to return, but you may keep the door as a memory holder.”
The rest of the day passed in a fog. Jack and I reminisced about our many adventures and spent the day holding each other close. The hours flew by, and I wanted to scream at the universe that time was passing too fast. Jack., though, was calm and steady, and I could see in his eyes that he was already letting go of his life here. That night, I slept on the floor with him curling my body around his.
Gnorman and Gmary were back at my door at first light, both dressed in long silver robes with white fur and carrying lanterns lit with a bright white light.
“Are you ready for your return to the realm of the spirit, Jack?”
“Yes, I am. Mummy, I love you. My love will always be with you. I have had a wonderful life here with you, and the bond we share will live on.”
My tears were flowing freely, and I hugged Jack close. “Will I ever see you again,” I asked.
“No, but you will feel me. I will live in the wind that rustles the trees and makes the flowers dance. When you’re tired or lonely or sad, I will be beside you and whisper my love in your ear. I will speak our devotion to the birds, and they will carry it in their song, and your love will nourish me through all eternity.”
A million words ran through my mind, but all I could speak was, “I love you.”
Jack nuzzled close for the last time and said to me quietly, “I hear all the words you cannot speak, Mummy. Please don’t stay sad. You have much love inside of you, and it’s important to share. You will find new things to love and hold close, and our bond will survive always.”
And with that, Gnorman and Gmary raised their lanterns and led Jack toward the magic door. Jack took a long lingering look back and finally, with a heavy sigh, spoke the magic words and said, “I am ready.” The door opened, and in an instant, they were gone. The door heaved a heavy sigh and snapped shut with a finality that made my heart skip a few beats.
“Goodbye, my sweet Bubba. I promise I will listen for you in the wind.”