I had lived in Ohio since 1968 and had not seen my brother during that period. I had almost erased him from my mind. The first six weeks of 1977 brought nothing but vague dreams of him and my home in Alabama. Each morning I had severe headaches and pains in my chest and arms.
I tried furiously to come up with even the most vague interpretation of the dreams, but each attempt brought only frustration.
A few days later, the urge became more demanding. On Thursday, I left work and headed straight to the interstate.
After driving about ten hours, I began experiencing breathing difficulties and my heart pounded as though it would burst. It was almost dark as I pulled into a gas station in a small town near Chattanooga, Tennessee.
I went into the restaurant after splashing cold water on my face at the pump. I sat down and looked for a waitress. I was distracted by an image entering the café. It was my brother, Bobby, whom I was going to visit. Without saying a word he sat down across from me. All he did was sit there and smile. There was a glow on his face that I had never seen. I was uncomfortable to the point that I couldn’t wait to leave. A cold chill permeated my body. I paid the tab and headed for the door. Bobby went to the men’s room and I waited by the door. After about 20 minutes, I became concerned. He never came out. I checked each stall in the restroom only to find them all empty.
My imagination ran wild. I thought perhaps he had deliberately slipped out. I returned to my car to fill the tank before continuing my journey. I pulled up to the pump. The pain returned stronger than ever. I slumped over the steering wheel. As the station attendant revived me, I felt I had left my body and floated upward. My entire being was loose and free. Then I felt myself re-enter my body.
I got back on the road and tuned the radio to an Anniston station about 100 miles away. The first thing that came over the air rang throughout my entire being. I froze, dripping cold sweat. The announcer continued: “Heflin youth Bobby Brown was pronounced dead early this morning at the scene of a car/truck collision on Routh 78 at the foot of Heflin Mountain.” Heflin was another 200 miles.
When I reached the funeral home hours later, I waited another hour before I could see him. After talking with the funeral director, I realized the sharp pain in my heart coincided with the steering column impacting my brother’s chest. This explained the unbearable pain that I had experienced the past week.
The following day a seven-mile-long procession headed from the closely knit town to a small church outside the city limits. The service was short. I found myself standing by the grave dropping a handful of dirt on the shining casket.
As I released the dirt, a gentle breeze kissed my cheek and I heard a faint voice saying, “Thanks for lunch. I love you, always remember that.” As I returned to my car, I heard the same faint voice calling, “I will see you again.”
It has been almost 30 years since the tragic accident without any message from Bobby. On July 9, 2004, my brother Lyle was preparing for vacation in Florida. Prior to leaving, he purchased a disposable Polaroid camera from a local discount house. I was sitting at my computer when I heard him say, “Smile.” I was partially turned when he snapped the picture. He pulled it from the camera and headed toward the door. I was pressed by a deadline and ignored the picture. Later that day, I peeled the backing from the picture and saw an amazingly clear print of Bobby sitting there by my side, infatuated with the mechanics of a computer.
—Charlie R. Brown,
From True Ghosts, by Andrew Honigman