Marlene and I went everywhere together. We were “Sis” and “Sissy” to everybody who knew us. We were inseparable. Our only differences were that she was a gorgeous blonde with a killer smile and I was more of an average-looking girl, so we were not easily confused with each other, She always talked of fixing me up with her brother Tom, who was away in the navy. She would wave his picture in front of my face and tease me that he was the guy I should be with.
Marlene was murdered by her boyfriend in July 1978, When I heard the news I was so shocked I couldn’t even think. I felt as if my right arm had been cut off. I was the first time in my life anyone so close to me had been taken away.
I was all of nineteen. Marlene had just turned twenty in February. I couldn’t stand not being able to talk to her , to ride to work with her, to be with her. I prayed for her daily Soon I met Marlene’s brother Tom, just back from his tour in the navy.
I fell head over heels in love with him on our first date and married him three months later. I knew Marlene was always with us and I could still feel her presence in everything we did. We both did. She and Tom had been very close and we talked about her often.
Four years later, we had a baby girl of our own and named her Lauryn Marlene. She had my dark hair, but she had her aunt’s killer smile. When she smiled and laughed, all we could think of was how much she looked and acted like Marlene.
One night when Lauryn was there, I nudged Tom about 2:00 A.M. and told him to listen. I could hear her talking in her room as if she were speaking to someone. We looked around the corner of her door, and there was Lauryn sitting straight up in bed talking and laughing, acting as if she were carrying on a regular conversation with someone. She saw us looking at her then and turned and said, “Mama, Daddy, what are you doing?”
Tom walked past me into the room and knelt down by Lauryn’s bed. I stood in the doorway and checked the thermostat on the wall. It seemed to be unusually cooler in her room than in the rest of the house. Lauryn, illuminated only by the night-light in her bedroom, looked at her daddy and matter-of-factly said, “I’m talking to the lady in the corner by my window.”
Tom looked at her and then turned to me, and I said, “What?” Tom looked back at Lauryn and reached for her little hand. “Really, Bean-Bean, what does she look like, ’cause Mommy and I can’t see her.”
Lauryn looked over to the corner by the window and laughed a little. “They said they can’t see you.” She paused a minute as if somebody had said something back to her and then she looked back at us both. “She said you guys are funny.”
As calmly as ever, Tom again asked Lauryn to tell us what she was seeing. I just stood in the doorway unable to speak, both scared and fascinated at the same time.
I knew Lauryn was not talking in her sleep. She was wide awake, at ease, and not scared at all. She looked at her daddy and smiled. “She has yellow hair and it’s short like mine. She’s wearing a pretty white and pink dress and she’s very nice. She said she is keeping an eye on me.”
Tom pushed her further. ” What’s her name?” I heard his voice crack and I felt a tear slide a tear slide down my cheek. We both had a pretty good idea who she was talking to. Lauryn just looked at her daddy and smiled. “Her name is my Angel.”
I turned and ran for my bedroom. Was my daughter seeing a ghost? We had talked about her Aunt Marlene to her many times, but the few pictures that I had of her aunt I had put away over the past few years because they were still painful for Tom and I both to look at.
I went to the closet and got them out. When I came back to her room, Tom had switched the light on and was sitting on the bed with Lauryn. lauryn said, “My Angel said she had to go for now.” Tom was trying to get her to settle down and go back to sleep.
I sat on the bed next to them and held out a framed eight-by-ten picture of Marlene. It was just a candid shot of her face that I had blown up after she died. Lauryn had never seen this picture.
“Is this your angel, baby?”
She sat back up a minute and smiled, looking at the picture. “Yep, that is my angel that’s keeping her eye on me. ”
Tom and I just looked at each other and he was smiling. He winked at me. We got her settled back down, kissed her good night, and waited until she fell asleep before leaving the room.
We went back to our room together, not saying anything. We both lay in bed and couldn’t sleep. We held each other and were in awe of the entire situation. Finally, in the dark I heard myself asking my husband, “Do you think it really was Sissy in Lauryn’s room tonight.?”
There was no doubt in his mind whatsoever. “Yep, I know it was .”
I tell Lauryn every day how much she looks like her aunt, and I tell Marlene how much I miss her. I thank Marlene for keeping an eye on Lauryn when I can’t be there. She is the best of both of us combined.
Caryn M. Suarez