Story A Week: Reflections

It’s been a while, and this is perhaps not my best story to date. It came about from my musings about what it must have been like for Irish immigrants to leave their homes because of the potato famine. \

“Reflections”

Eileen Donovan watched the rocky coastline slowly recede from view. She knew that she would never look upon it again. In a way, it was a relief. The home that had once held such joy had become a stark reminder of all that they had lost. All that everyone had lost. So many hard years… So much death… She had stood at the graveside of each member of her family, save one. It had taken everything that they had left, just to secure passage on the ship. They were lucky, most couldn’t even afford that.

Even so, there was a small part of her that felt sad to leave the only home that she’d known for the past 17 years. Eileen’s fiery hair, emerald eyes and porcelain complexion made her the image of her late mother. She wondered briefly if anyone would put flowers on her mother’s grave now. Truthfully, it was not so much Ireland that she would miss, but her family. At least she would carry their memory with her to America.

Pulling her shawl close against her to fight the damp sea air, she turned from the last glimpses of her past to face the open sea. It was a great unknown, this future that they sailed towards. It wasn’t a guarantee, but at least it was a chance. A chance to make a new life. A chance to build something of their own in this young country so full of promise. She thought about the Israelites, journeying to the Promised Land. Were they as scared as she was right now? Nevertheless, God had provided for them, as he would for Eileen and her brother. It was for her to trust Him.

Connor approached his sister and put his arm around her shoulders. He was a year younger, but topped her height by a good eight inches already.

“Missing home?” he asked quietly.

“Missing those we left behind,” she answered honestly, “But I keep reminding myself that the memories are going with us.”

“Aye,” he nodded seriously, “Are you worried about the journey?”

“No,” she shook her head firmly, “God goes with us Connor. I need not worry.”

He hugged her petite frame closer for a moment. From that point on, neither sibling looked back again, only forwards. Their future waited. One filled with struggles and hardships to be sure, but also one that held great joy, and many blessings. Through it all, God would be with them.

A Mother’s Heart

Amazingly enough, I actually have a story to post this week!

This was inspired by my great-grandmother, the woman who used to live in my house! I don’t want to give the story away, so I’ll explain a bit further at the end. Enjoy!

A Mother’s Heart

I hugged Millie close to me as I rocked her in the dark. She slept the peaceful sleep of an infant secure in the arms of her mother. Another tear trickled down my face as I wondered if I would ever sleep peacefully again.

A month ago, I was the mother of six. Baby Millie had five brothers and sisters. The older children adored their baby sister. They had taken turns holding her, singing to her and counting her ten little toes. Being a mother to that many in the Maine woods meant that my days were more than busy, but I loved all of my children dearly. What mother doesn’t? But that was before…

My oldest daughter was the first to develop a cough. I knew that many families had lost children to this illness, but at first I refused to believe that it could happen to us. It spread quickly to the rest of the children. Every spare moment I had was spent on my knees by their bedsides, begging God to save them. I sat and watched the labored, shallow breaths finally cease altogether. The broken cries wrenched from my lips were the sounds of a mother’s heart breaking, over and over again.

I couldn’t stop the tears the first time we buried a child. By the time we buried the fifth, I was so numb with soul-deep grief that the tears would no longer come. No parent should ever have to bury a child… let alone five.

I became terrified that I would lose my baby girl as well. I barely slept. I was beyond exhaustion, but I didn’t dare sleep. What if something happened to my Millie while my eyes were closed? I spent hours of every night, holding her tightly as I dared, praying desperately that God would spare my last child.

How can I explain it? The life of your child is precious to you beyond measure. But the past month had taught me just how fragile those precious lives are. My heart was in tatters, and my faith was hanging by a thread in the face of such tragedy. Even so, I clung to that thread of faith as if my life depended on it. I suppose it did.

For many long months, I kept up my night vigils. Gradually, they became fewer. I never did sleep as well as I had before. You never forget your child. The faces of mine continued to haunt my dreams occasionally. Eventually, some of the worry calmed. I was always mindful of the danger of losing a child, but it no longer consumed my thoughts. And the importance of cherishing each moment with Millie and her younger brother stayed with me for the rest of my life.

Finis.

Millie was my great-grandmother. Her parents did lose all five of her older siblings in less than a month, probably to influenza. God later gave them another son, Millie’s younger brother. Those are the facts that I have, the rest is merely speculation on my part.

Polaris

A day late and a dollar short, as Mom used to say! I try to post my story for the week on Tuesday, but for this week Wednesday will have to do.

This week’s story is of a genre that is my favorite. I love science fiction. It’s sad that for the most part, it has been taken over by humanistic influences. Well-written “Christian” science fiction is a rarity. It can be a wonderful way to make people think about things that might never have occurred to them before. Some people believe that God has no place in the genre, but that is a mistake. How could we not include something of the very creator of the stars? I’ve drawn inspiration for this story from too many different things to cite them all here, but I hope that you enjoy my little glimpse into the realm of “what if”.

Polaris

“Where is it?” Liberté asked again, just as she had every other night.

Jonah smiled at the familiar question. The pair were side by side in a wide expanse of flat, grassy land. They lay on their backs, gazing up at the brilliant night sky. He studied the stars for a moment before pointing to one in particular.

“That one, right there, just past that cluster of stars.”

“The Mighty Oak, that’s our name for ‘that cluster of stars’,” she pointed out with a slight laugh.

Eyeing the constellation with more care he exclaimed, “It does look like an oak tree!”

“Is that an Earth tree?” she questioned.

“Sure is, starts out as a tiny acorn, about the size of a jiba nut. Over time, that acorn grows into a huge, solid oak tree. Oak is a hardwood, and that makes it durable for furniture, and long-burning if you use it for firewood. The first colonists must have named the constellation after it.”

The explanation was perhaps lengthy, but he knew by now that Liberté did not like it when he gave her incomplete answers.

“It seems so far away,” she sighed wistfully, “So very tiny.”

“That’s exactly how your home looks from Earth,” Jonah reminded her gently.

“Everything in the universe must look small to someone…”

“I suppose that’s true,” he nodded, “Perspective makes a difference.”

Liberté hesitated slightly, “Do you miss it terribly?”

Jonah didn’t answer right away, but pondered his answer for several minutes.

“I suppose I do miss it,” he spoke quietly, “Some things more than others. Some not at all. But the things I’ve seen, the places I’ve been,” Jonah reached over and took her hand in his, “And the people I’ve met have more than made up for it.”

“Are the skies here very different?”

“Well, the stars everywhere always seem familiar to me. Just looking up at a night sky filled with them always gave me a measure of peace, even when I was a kid. But the placement of the stars is vastly different. I keep looking for the North Star. Used to be, I could walk outside our house any time of the year and find it in a heartbeat, along with all of the other constellations.”

“North Star…” she mused, “We have nothing by that name, but we do have an Eastern Star.”

“Really? Can we see it now?”

“Of course, right… there,” she pointed out the glimmering star, “It is in the same place in our sky every night.”

“‘For we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him,'” Jonah quoted.

Liberté ‘s eyes lit up, “I read that in the book that you gave me! They were looking for the infant King, the Messiah.”

“They had been studying the night skies for a long time, and when they saw the signs they made a very long journey to give gifts to Him.”

“Does God still place signs in the stars for those who watch?”

The question gave Jonah pause. He’d never really wondered that himself. It was an interesting question to be sure. Another passage occurred to him.

“It’s also written, ‘And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.’ I suppose it might be possible that God still reveals things in the Heavens, though the Scripture is pretty silent on that topic.”

“I wonder,” she began quietly, “What the sky will look like on the day He returns.”

“Terror From the Swamp”

Another week, another story! This one was inspired by a recent campfire enjoyed by Aaron and me and a very dear friend of ours. We were trying to remember scary campfire stories, without much success. So, we invented our own, and this was the result. A bit of artistic embellishment and this is the finished product. It’s best enjoyed sitting around a campfire on a dark night…

“Terror From the Swamp”

The swamp was inhabited by any number of animals, most of them fairly small and harmless. But there were whispers… Stories told of a creature who lurks… waiting… and none who’ve seen it have ever been heard from again…

Frogs and peepers chirped happily in the early spring air. It was unseasonably warm, and everyone was taking advantage of that fact, not just the frogs! Three young people sat around a small campfire not far from the pond. They were talking, laughing and dousing the fire with lighter fluid whenever the flames died down. It was obvious that they had sat around many campfires together over the years, and there was nothing about this one that was particularly unusual. At least, not until the frogs fell quiet…

An eerie silence lingered over the pond, as if every frog and peeper held their breath in fear. It slipped into the water soundlessly, creating barely a ripple.

“That’s weird,” one of the young man commented.

“What’s weird?” the lone girl asked.

“The frogs are quiet,” was his reply.

The second young man reached for a flashlight, “Did you hear that?”

“What?” the girl nervously asked.

“There’s something in the water.”

Shining the flashlight across the surface of the pond they saw nothing.

Clicking the light back off he shrugged, “Probably just a coyote out for a drink. He won’t bother us up here.”

They resumed their conversation.

It emerged from the water and crept away from the pond. The frogs breathed an almost audible sigh of relief and resumed their evening song.

“See, the frogs are back! It was nothing,” one of them reassured the still-nervous girl.

The unseen creature slithered closer to the campfire, and dinner…

Come morning, only a smoldering pile of ashes remained of the roaring campfire. And the three friends have never been heard from again…

Anne’s Prayer

It’s short, but it’s a start. Getting back to actually writing a story a week, I’m posting this week’s story. I hope that you enjoy it.

Anne’s Prayer

Anne’s fingers tentatively caressed the ivory-encased keys. The soft notes lingered briefly in the air. The wind chimes outside the open window sang in the spring breeze as if they were accompanying the piano. The black lacquered finish of the baby grand glinted in the sunlight that poured into the room. Anne had not been able to bring herself to play it these past months, but she had still polished it twice weekly.

Bringing her other hand to rest lightly on the keys, she began to play. Softly, quietly at first. No sheet music was before her, but she didn’t need any. To this day she could play from memory every song she had played at a recital. Gram had always insisted on that.

The music continued, played almost without any conscious thought on Anne’s part. Hearing it all was like listening to the soundtrack of her own life. These were the songs that she had grown up with. She remembered with crystal clarity why she had chosen to play each of them. They were a reflection of who she was and where she was at in her life at the time that she had learned them so thoroughly. From a crescendo of ecstasy, to minor notes of despair, she poured it all out on the old piano keys.

As the final note vibrated and faded away, a single tear splashed onto the gently yellowed ivory. This had been Gram’s piano. Anne had learned to play sitting on this very bench, just as her mother had. This piano had been there when at the age of eight, she had lost her mom. Gram had held her close, then sat down at the piano to play the song that had always been a favorite of Anne’s mother. The notes had been familiar, bringing both sorrow and comfort to the little girl. Here Anne sat, twenty years later, grieving the loss of her grandmother. Playing was painful, and the ache in her heart was almost unbearable, but once again, the music brought her comfort, and a measure of peace. Who was it that said “God gave us music so that we could pray without words”?

And so, Anne stayed at the piano. Even though the words would not come, she poured out her heart in prayer.

Mom’s Truck

Yesterday was hard. I watched my Mom’s Explorer as it was towed away. She got it after her car accident about 15 years ago. She absolutely loved that truck!

I had my first accident with that truck. A minor one involving a garage door that wasn’t quite all the way open, and the cargo rack on top of the Explorer. The cargo rack was easily bent back into place and Dad fixed the garage door, but I was sure glad that she had an hour and a half drive home to calm down once she knew that I’d had a bit of an accident with it!

It’s been mine for the past three years, and I’ve enjoyed it as much as she did. I have to admit, I was probably as protective of that truck as she was! Eventually, the rust ate away and time took its toll. We tend to drive our cars “until the wheels fall off”. That’s about where the Explorer was at, and it was time to let it go.

I know that it’s completely silly to be so sentimental about a truck, but the thing is, it was Mom’s. I’m having an easier time letting go of some of her things than I did last year, but this one still stung. Letting go sometimes feels like losing another piece of Mom. Yesterday felt like losing a big piece. I know that life goes on, and that things will change, but deep down, I don’t want life to just keep going on like nothing happened! It does anyway…

These reflections led me to pen this week’s story. It’s about a couple of guys, and Mom’s new truck… I hope it makes you smile!

“Do You Have AAA?”

“That was really an awesome movie,” Jack remarked enthusiastically.

Rick shrugged, “It was OK.”

“OK? Come on! I know you’re the world’s biggest critic, but even you have to admit that the twist at the end came out of nowhere!”

“Not really,” he shook his head and replied nonchalantly, “I saw it coming.”

“Yeah right,” his friend muttered.

The conversation was interrupted by the chirp of a cell phone signaling an incoming text message.

“That your Mom?”

“She says that she has just one more store to stop at and she’ll be out,” Rick said with a roll of his eyes, “It’ll be a while…”

“I don’t mind waiting. It was worth it to see the new movie!”

“Eh, maybe.”

“Well, at least it gave you the chance to drive your folks’ new SUV right? You’ve been just itching to get behind the wheel ever since they bought it!”

That finally sparked a reaction in Rick.

“You’re not kidding! This new model is just crazy! You wouldn’t believe some of the places that people have taken them!”

“Yeah,” Jack started slowly, “But those were souped up to handle it. Straight out of the factory they won’t handle anything that rugged.”

“Of course they will!” he jumped in indignantly, “This SUV will handle far more rugged terrain than anything else out there!”

Eyeing the fully-loaded interior dubiously, Jack pointed out, “This looks more like a luxury vehicle than a rugged truck Buddy.”

Rick spotted the median that they were parked in front of, and noted the evenly spaced sizable rocks placed between small trees.

“I’ll prove that you’re wrong.”

The engine leapt to life as he turned the key. Flicking it into four-wheel-drive he looked over at his friend.

“Watch this.”

Jack did not like the grin pasted on Rick’s face. In fact, that grin set his nerves on edge. Rick could be a bit too impulsive for his own good. The soft jolt of the tires climbing the curb sent Jack scrambling for his seatbelt. Snugging it tightly as he clicked it into place he yelled at the teenager in the driver’s seat.

“Are you nuts!?”

“Oh yeah!” Rick laughed.

The right front tire of the shiny, new Luxury SUV slowly inched up the steep angle of the small boulder. Jack held his breath and squeezed his eyes shut as Rick deftly maneuvered the front end of the truck off the ground.

“What did I tell you? What did I TELL you!” he exclaimed gleefully as the wheel crested the top of the rock.

That’s when his concentration slipped…

Both boys felt the subtle shift of the vehicle. Rick tried to deal with it, but his panicked, jerky movements only worsened the situation. The tire slid off the side of the rock, and with a sickening crunch the front axle dropped onto the stone surface.

Knowing that there was no way of driving back off the rock, the two teenagers gingerly opened their doors and hopped out of the pale blue SUV.

“Oh man…” Rick moaned.

Both front tires were completely off the ground, and the axle was resting securely on the very top of the rather large rock. It was pretty obvious that it would take at least a tow truck to get it down.

“Oh boy,” Jack sighed heavily, “This is so not good.”

“You have NO idea,” Rick insisted dismally, “My Mom loves this truck. She’s going to kill me for this.”

“You’re exaggerating,” Jack shook his head with exasperation, “Your Mom won’t kill you. She may never let you drive again, but she won’t kill you.”

“No, you don’t get it. As soon as we get this truck off that rock, she’s going to get in and run over me for denting her ‘baby’!”

Jack flipped open his cell phone, “You have AAA, right?”

“Yeah, why?”

He dialed and answered the question, “Because if your Mom will be as mad as you think she will be, you’d better hope that they get here before she does.”

“Oh you are not kidding,” Rick returned grimly.

Both cringed visibly at the sound of a shrill female voice behind them.

“Frederick James Montgomery! What have you done to my truck!?”

Trying Something New…

I got an idea at The Green Bathtub. The idea is to write a short story a week and post it to the blog. I’m going to give it a try. I hope that it will sharpen my writing skills and help keep me in the habit of writing. Not to mention being a good outlet when I have writer’s block! I will definitely still be working on my novel, but NO ONE is allowed to read that work in progress!

In any case, let me know what you think. Now, without any further delay…

A Scientific Break

Oxford sat patiently, bowl held firmly in her mouth, pleading silently with her rather pathetic puppy dog eyes. The sight would have reduced the most hardhearted to a puddle. Marie however, had grown used to the antics of her grey Terrier.

“Patience Oxford,” Marie admonished, “I’m nearly done, and then I’ll fill your dish to the brim with kibble.”

She spared the fluffy pup an affectionate smile before returning her full attention to the maze of beakers, glass tubing and Bunsen burners spread out before her. She pulled a pair of glasses with thick black frames out of the pocket of her grey cardigan and slipped them on. Examining the readouts on various gauges and instruments she scribbled notes in a thick notebook with worn edges and multiple tea stains marring the white pages. Pausing to look at the clock on the wall she once again scrutinized the labyrinth of chemistry before her.

“And now, for the final component,” she explained to Oxford, who didn’t understand and really wouldn’t have cared anyway, as she carefully added exactly three drops of a bluish liquid to one of the assortment of glass containers.

The reaction was nearly immediate. The contents began to bubble, readings changed and Marie dashed about excitedly.

“Yes! YES! This is incredible! I’ve done it! Finally done… it…” she trailed off abruptly.

Oxford’s ears perked up, and his tail gave a ghost of a wag at his mistresses excitement. He had the impression that dinner would be forthcoming. The change in the tone of her voice that came next sent him scurrying behind the ancient corduroy couch in the corner.

“..Oh no. Oh No! No, no, no, no, NO!!!!”

Having at least the presence of mind to tuck her notebook under her arm and grab her favorite mug, she threw one last glance at the chemistry set of impending doom. Test tubes shuddered and a beaker cracked, smoke billowed ominously from another. Sprinting for the couch in the corner, her right foot barely touched the seat cushions as she leaped over the back and hunkered down next to her faithful dog and trusty fire extinguisher. Gathering Oxford close she tucked her head into his soft fur and used the oversized notebook to shield the back of her head from any stray debris that might happen to rain down. The pops sounded almost like a bag of microwave popcorn she noted with interest as one by one the small test tubes shattered. It was silent for a long minute, and she had the fleeting thought that perhaps it wouldn’t be quite the catastrophe that she had envisioned…

The following BOOM and resulting cloud of smoke and broken glass that DID rain down on the notebook over her head proved otherwise. After waiting what she felt was a prudent interval, she poked her head up from behind the couch, reaching instinctively for the fire extinguisher.

“Well Oxford, at least there’s no fire this time,” she coughed, removing her glasses and tucking them safely in the pocket of her cardigan.

Waving her arms at the thick smoke and vapor she slapped the garage door opener controls. As the door rose slowly, the air cleared slightly.

Next door, Mr. Smith was watering his small garden when he heard the sound of Marie’s garage door opening.

“What color is it this time, dear?” Mrs. Smith called to him from the open kitchen window.

“Just plain gray this time. It’s clearing off now… No need to ring the fire department this time…” he sighed and shook his head, turning his attention back to his roses.

Back in her garage/lab, Marie surveyed the damage.

“This is going to take a while to clean up,” she remarked grimly to no one in particular.

Oxford recovered his dish and dropped it at her feet with a quiet whine.

“All right,” she laughed, “I suppose it is time for tea. I’m sure this will still be here later,” she gestured towards the pile of rubble on the long white table.

Picking up the empty dish she wandered into her small kitchen, followed closely by the oxford grey terrier. Filling his dish, she placed the dry kibble on the floor and the small terrier attacked it with obvious pleasure.

She peered at the inside of the mug she had saved from her lab accident. Giving it a quick rinse under running tap water she filled it and plunked a tea bag in the cold water before putting it into the microwave. Ninety seconds later, when the microwave beeped, she removed her mug and discarded the tea bag. Settling down at her paper-coated kitchen table, she shoved a stack or two aside to make room for her notebook. Cracking it open and sipping her tea she spoke to her happily munching furry friend.

“Let’s see if we can figure out what went wrong this time, eh Oxford.”

He looked up from his dish and answered with a short little bark before finishing his dinner, and quite literally, licking the bowl clean.

Daybook for January 18th

Outside my window… rather grey, but not terribly cold. The air was crisp when I went out to fetch a couple more bags of coal.

 

I am thinking… that today might be a LONG day…

 

I am thankful for… a certain little redhead sitting on my lap while I type.

 

I am wearing… jeans (naturally), black long-sleeve tee, and my purple wool and silk shawl.

 

I am remembering… odds and ends about Mom.

 

I am going… to be buying a new microwave soon. The old one is rapidly dying.

 

I am currently reading… not enough.

 

I am hoping… that I’ll get a lot of writing accomplished this week.

 

On my mind… a myriad of things, but Munchkin’s upcoming birthday is at the front of my thoughts!

 

Noticing that… I seem to be vacuuming the living room just about daily due to crumbs…

 

Pondering these words… “It is well that war is so terrible — lest we should grow too fond of it.” – Robert E. Lee

 

From the kitchen… MADELEINES!

 

Around the house… never-ending laundry, dishes and a hundred and one other things, but I have happy kiddos. J

 

One of my favorite things… telling my Aaron a bit about my writing from time to time.

A Writer’s Dilemma…

I’m an author. I can’t help it, writing is just in my blood. However, I am not a published author. I’ve submitted various articles, poems, etc. for publication, but have yet to actually see my work in print.

Perhaps that’s part of the reason why I started blogging. It gives me the chance to share my passion for writing with, gasp, actual readers!

My great love is writing stories though. I’ve been writing stories and coming up with ideas for stories since I was just a kid. I’ve been working on one of my stories for nearly 15 years! Some of the basic ideas that I came up with 15 years ago are still favorites of mine, thought the plot and characters have changed a bit as I’ve grown. They’ve matured and gained a depth and experience that wasn’t there before. Yet, I was somewhat disturbed to find that a few had also grown a bit darker.

This presented a dilemma for me. Should I be writing anything that contained evil or violence at all? I pondered this and struggled with it for a while. Evil exists, and there is no getting around that. We’re all born sinners, and that leads us to commit acts of violence against others. At last, I concluded that writing about evil was not the real issue. The question was, what light would I cast evil in? Would I choose to write in such a way that sin was glorified, or portrayed as acceptable in some cases? Or, would I honestly write about the evil that exists, leaving an unmistakable impression of dismay and sorrow at the wrong being done?

That’s the shift that I see happening in the literary world today. Evil used to be, for the most part, portrayed as just that, evil. Today there seem to be differing degrees of it. We’re told that the “sort of evil” character isn’t really bad, because they are fighting against the REALLY evil character. We are told that you have to fight evil with evil, employing the same tactics they use. We’re told that not all evil is truly bad. But there is no truth in that.

Sin abounds, and we’ve all participated. That’s the reality of it. I’ve participated in sin. But I can repent. I can be forgiven. I’ll still face the consequences of my evil though! And even though I have forgiveness, I’ve been called to a higher standard.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Hebrews 12:1-3

Murder, theft, deceit… each one can be found in the pages of the Bible. But never once is it glorified or encouraged. That’s where I ultimately found my answer.

A Christmas Tale

I’ve spent my evening reading through some of my old files. I have come across a lot of poetry, some wonderful stories that I think I really should finish writing, and even a few completed short stories. One of those completed stories is a Christmas story. I wrote it in high school, in the year or so following Mom’s car accident. As with everything I write, there is something of me in it. Reading it touched a chord and I shed some tears, but ultimately came away encouraged anew. It’s not quite as polished as what I try to write these days. Perhaps someday I’ll find the time to smooth out some of the rough edges a bit, but for now, I’ll leave it as it is. I decided that it might make an appropriate blog post for the Christmas season. I hope that you enjoy my tale…

 

Christmas Miracles

 

    Christmas Eve, and where was I spending it? In the on-call room at Northern Emergency Services (NES), just waiting. I worked a lot of holidays, especially Christmas. Oh, I had a father and brother whom I could spend the holidays with. Truth is, I hadn’t been home for years. Dad and I had never really been close, but things had gotten worse after Mom had died. My brother, Larry, had tried to get me to visit Dad, but I wouldn’t listen. So, I spent most Christmases working.

    I should probably introduce myself before you get too confused. My name is Jenna Parker. I’m a licensed paramedic, and I’ve worked at NES for five years.

    It had been a quiet night, so far. There were two EMTs working that night in addition to myself. Sam Kingston, the resident comedian, and Jack Sherman were both on hand. Jack’s wife had died of cancer not quite three years ago. Unlike me, Jack had no family. His parents had died when he was young, and he had no siblings or children. He spent the holidays alone because he had to.

    I was becoming uneasy at the direction my thoughts were taking, so I decided to find out what Jack and Sam were up to. I found them in the kitchen getting some coffee.

    “Who made this batch?” I asked as I poured myself a cup.

    “Sam is the culprit this time,” Jack replied.

    “Is it drinkable?” I joked.

    “Of course,” Sam answered laughingly.

    The three of us talked for several minutes until the phone rang.

    “I got it,” Sam said as he rushed to answer the phone.

    “I sure hope it’s just someone calling to wish us a Merry Christmas,” Jack remarked grimly.

    “You and me both,” I said quietly.

    Neither of us said anything else as we waited for Sam come back and tell us what the call was about. We didn’t have long to wait. Sam ran back in and explained.

    “We’ve got an accident on route 3, just before the inn, one injury.”

    “Jack and I have this one you cover the office,” I said as we rushed out to the garage.

    “Right,” Sam replied.

    “I’ll drive,” Jack told me just before we got in the ambulance.

    We were both pretty quiet on the way to the accident scene. Any car accident is terrible, but on Christmas Eve…

**********

    When we got to the scene there were several local firefighters and one police car. Apparently, everyone in the first car was fine. The only person who had been hurt was the driver of the second car, a woman.

    How she could have possibly survived the accident is beyond me. I had never seen anyone get out of an accident that bad alive. Even then, I didn’t think it was very likely that this woman would make it.

    It took a few minutes for the firefighters to finish freeing her from the wreck. When they finally did we went right to work. We got her into the ambulance and started for the nearest hospital. I tried to stabilize her, but her blood pressure had dropped drastically.

    “Step on it Jack, I’m pretty sure she has some bad internal injuries. Her pressure is dangerously low.”

**********

    Officer Kevin Marks watched the ambulance drive away.

    Please God, let Beth make it. Please don’t let her die, he prayed.

    Then he called his friend, Ed Anderson, Beth’s husband.

**********

    When Jack pulled into the hospital driveway I was relieved, but also a bit depressed. This woman, Beth, was in very serious condition. I didn’t really see much hope for her, but I kept telling myself that she would not die. I don’t know if I believed it or not.

    We got Beth into the hospital quickly and turned her over to the doctors’ care. I saw a man with two teenage girls waiting in the hallway.

As Beth was wheeled by one of them called out, “Mom?”

In that moment I saw myself twelve years ago as a seventeen-year-old waiting in a hallway like this one…

**********

I leaned over as far as possible trying to see Mom. I still couldn’t believe she had been in a car accident. Someone had told us that they were taking her into surgery. I watched as they rushed Mom into the operating room. When the doors closed behind Mom I asked God to save her for the hundredth time since I had found out about the accident.

“I really don’t know if we can do anything for her Mr. Parker. Her injuries are extensive, but we will do everything we can,” the doctor told my dad.

Even then, I refused to believe that she could die. We waited for an hour and a half before we heard anything. Then, the doctor came out to the waiting room. Dad, Larry, and I stood anxiously, waiting.

The doctor hesitated before saying, “Mr. Parker, I’m very sorry. The internal injuries were very severe. Maybe, if we had gotten to her sooner… I’m sorry, there was just nothing more we could do. I’m afraid your wife died in the OR.”

I didn’t hear anything else that anyone said after that. My mother was gone, and nothing would ever be right again. How could it be?

The months that followed my mother’s death were very difficult for all three of us. I did my best to try and keep everything together, especially myself. I couldn’t let anyone know how much I was hurting; I didn’t want to. So, I hid behind walls of cold detachment and kept myself busy so I couldn’t think about how I felt. I didn’t want to face life without Mom. However, that couldn’t last forever.

Five months after she died I began to feel very depressed and angry. I was mad at Dad because he was so wrapped up in his own grief that he didn’t notice that I needed help. I was really angry with God because I blamed Him for Mom’s death. After all, He could have prevented the whole thing. So why didn’t He! That’s when I stopped talking to God and my dad. I didn’t think either one noticed. I didn’t think either one cared.

Since then I had learned to bury myself in my work and pretend that there was nothing wrong. Most of the time it worked. Still, every now and then I would remember. Then all the feelings would surface again before I could stop them. All the pain and grief inside would almost overwhelm me. Fortunately, I had become very good at burying my feelings.

**********

I watched that teenage girl standing in the hallway, and she didn’t cry. She looked fine, unless you really looked at her eyes. You could see the storm going on inside of her. It was like looking at myself, and for the first time in many years, I prayed.

God, I know that we aren’t exactly on great terms now, but this family really needs You. Help Beth, You let her survive that accident, please, save her life. Help her husband and kids right now; don’t let them feel alone like I did.

“You ready Jenna?” Jack asked.

“Yeah, I’m ready.”

**********

Sam met us at the door when we got back and asked, “What happened?”

Jack glanced at me and then answered, “It was a really bad one. There was only one person injured, but I don’t think her chances are very good.”

At that point I hurried into the kitchen and tried to pretend I was making coffee. A minute or two later Jack walked in.

“Do you want to talk about it, Jenna?” he asked.

“About what?” I asked.

“About why you just ran in here and hid.”

“I’m not hiding!”

He walked over to the table and sat down before replying calmly, “Yes, you are. You’ve been hiding ever since your mother died. I think this just brought the whole thing back along with all the hurt and feelings you buried twelve years ago.”

“You have no clue what you are talking about Jack.”

He was quiet for a moment, then replied, “Jenna, I know what it’s like to lose someone you care about very deeply. Believe me, I know. But you can’t hold onto it forever, because it will kill you inside. You have to let go of the past and deal with all the hurt and bitterness inside of you.”

    I whirled around and faced him long enough to yell, “Deal with it? My mother died. I lost her! How am I supposed to get over that?!”

    “You don’t get over it, but you can get past it. I believe that everything happens for a reason, even what we consider a tragedy. I know it doesn’t make sense, and I know that it hurts, but that’s when you have to trust God…”

    “No!” I interrupted, “He let my mom die. He could have stopped the whole thing, but He didn’t! How am I supposed to trust Him after He ruined my life?”

    “Did He really ruin it?” Jack asked quietly. “Jenna, all our struggles, all the painful things that happen to us are what make us grow and mature. That’s what shapes our character and makes us who we are.”

    “Or, shatters your life,” I said bitterly as I sank into a chair.

    “I can’t possibly understand why God does most of the things He does. But, I do know that He loves me and that He can give me the strength for just one more day. I think you know that too.”

    “I know,” I whispered.

    

“There are days when I feel like the sky is falling on me. I guess those are the days that I have to depend on God the most. It’s not easy to deal with the pain, and it does take time for your heart to heal. God told Paul that His grace was enough, and it is. He can help you, and He will, always.”    

“Jack, I’ve hardly said a word to God in the past twelve years. How could He forgive me after all this time?” I asked feeling the walls I’d built crumbling.

    Patiently and gently, he explained, “That’s what Christmas is really about. It’s about the miracle that God loves us enough to have sent His Son to us, for us. He did that so we could be forgiven. Psalm 130:3&4 says, “If you, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness…” Whatever you have done, wherever you have been, God still loves you and will always forgive you.”

    “You really believe that?”

    “With all my heart.”

    “There was a time I did too. Now, I don’t know what to believe.”

    “Believe what is true, Jenna.”

    “What is true?”

    Jack thought for a moment and then he answered, “Maybe other people forgot about you, but God never did. He loves you more than anyone else ever could. He wants you to be close to Him and to let Him help you. That’s the truth, and that’s the only way you ever will get through this, with His help. I personally know this to be true. It’s the only reason I’ve made it this far. I couldn’t have done it alone, no one can.”

    I could feel the tears pricking the back of my eyes, and for once, I didn’t try to stop them. Yes, I knew it was all true. I also knew that I had to take the next step, I had to ask for forgiveness. The choice was mine, I could get better or I could be bitter.

    “Jack, I think I need to be alone for a while. I’ve got some praying to do.”

    “O.K. I’ll be right out here,” he said before he left the room.

**********

    Oh Father, please mend her heart, Jack prayed. In fact, he prayed for a long time. He prayed that Jenna would find the strength and peace that he had come to depend on.

**********

I cried and prayed for what seemed like ages. I felt drained, but lighter. Something very heavy had been lifted, something that I had carried for too long. Now, after twelve years, my heart could finally start to heal. I could start to live again.

    When I got home the next morning I noticed the phone sitting on my desk. Oh God, I don’t think I can do this. Still, I knew I had to call. So, I found my address book and looked up a number that I had not dialed for far too long.

I waited while the phone rang and when it was answered I said, “Hi Dad. It’s me, Jenna. I was wondering if maybe I could come home for a few days.”

 

**********

 

Oh, and about Beth Anderson, she did pull through. That’s one Christmas miracle that she and her family will never forget. It’s one I’ll never forget either.

    That Christmas Eve I found out that Christmas is truly about miracles. I found out that God’s love is one constant in a world that changes every day. I found out that broken relationships can be put back together. And I found out that any heart can be renewed, even mine, if it is only willing.

 

“…because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.'”

Hebrews 13:5b NIV