Grandma Emma was a bit of an eccentric recluse, as my family liked to say. She lived in the backwoods of Maine, far removed from civilization, in a dilapidated old turn-of-the-century house. She never entertained visitors and only left the confines of her home when she needed groceries or rations. But, on the rare occasion when she did come around to our house, everyone listened. No one dared argue or disobey her commands, as strange as they often where. She had a foreboding presence that left you with a feeling of unease after you had interacted with her for even a short length of time. I’ll never forget the last visit, when Grandma made that strange request.
Three years ago, Emma convinced my aunt Georgina to purchase a life insurance policy on my Uncle Bill. Georgina argued but eventually gave into Grandma who insisted on paying for the large policy which included a double indemnity clause. Two years later, Uncle Bill passed away from a sudden and strange accident at the steel yard where he worked. He slipped and fell on a beam landing on a construction crane. He died instantly from internal injuries. Aunt Georgina received a huge payout that helped with the funeral costs. With the money from the insurance policy, Georgina was able to live comfortably for the rest of her life.
Sometimes, Emma’s advice would be to get checked out at the doctor, even if you weren’t sick and they would find a life-threatening tumor inside you. Other times, it would be to stay home from work on a particular day and then you’d turn on the news only to find out a twenty-car pileup had just occurred on your usual route. On rare occasions, she would instruct you to stay away from places that you might normally visit only to later discover some horrific crime had just occurred there. Grandma Emma always knew when to call. She had a kind of third eye…a sense of the future. I always thought she was just a bit odd and that it was all nothing more than coincidence.
When Emma died, I inherited all her possessions including her large house. As the sole benefactor of her will, I was left to tie up all the loose ends. I paid a visit to her lawyer’s office to sign paperwork. While I was there, the lawyer instructed me to check her mailbox for a letter Emma left me. Upon my return to the ancient house, I jumped out of the car and immediately opened the mailbox lid perched at the end of the long narrow drive. The letter told me to check the basement. So, with a bit of hesitation, I found myself opening a door in the basement and then almost fainting when I saw the endless rows of hourglasses as far as the eye could see. The size and style of the hourglasses were all identical but, the white sand in each of the hourglasses where at different levels. The closest hourglasses to the door had the names of my family members etched in gold on their big wooden bases. That’s when I saw the sand in my brother’s hourglass about to run out.
With a sense of panic and urgency filling my chest, I immediately pulled my cellphone out of the back pocket of my jeans and, with shaking hands, called him. I begged him not to get on the plane heading to Emma’s funeral. We argued about it for quite some time, but after convincing him that I had a bad feeling about this trip, he finally agreed not to go. I pushed the button on my phone to end the call and glanced over at his hourglass. The sand in his hourglass refilled.