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Friday, March 5, 2010


***This piece was partially inspired by a true story that I, by chance, saw on television a few days ago.  It was such a bittersweet story that it really stuck with me.  I wanted to try and capture the feelings I had.  I hope you enjoy it.***


That was the last sound she heard.  She didn't hear the brakes screeching or the wheels squealing.  She didn't hear glass shattering or metal twisting.  Just laughter one moment and Death the next.

The boy watched as tiny crystal rivulets ran down the window.  He could feel the soft patter of rain on his face, but he didn't understand why.  Far away he could hear noises, like men yelling, and see flashing lights.  He watched the colors bounce off the raindrops, and then closed his eyes to sleep.

Nancy paced the floor in the warm living room.  She had been uneasy all afternoon.  There are times when a mother just knows that something is wrong.

"Nancy, please relax a little," Roger sighed, peering over his newspaper at her.  "If there really was something wrong, we'd know by now."

Nancy just shook her head and continued her pacing.  Dread had crept over her like a sickness.  If she'd been a praying woman, she would have been on her knees.

A flash of light stopped Nancy in front of the old screen door.  Coming slowly down the long gravel driveway, a white Sheriff's car approached.  Nancy's heart seized in her chest.

"Now, who could that be?"  Roger mumbled as he stood up from his recliner.  He pushed the blinds aside and peered out at the young man that stepped out of the car.  He was walking slowly and looked a bit green.  Roger looked over at Nancy's pale face and felt his own blood run cold.

Nancy's hands were trembling as she pushed the door open.  The young deputy took a step inside.

"Mr. and Mrs. Moore?"  he asked.

"Yes," Nancy whispered.

"I'm very, very sorry to have to tell you this," he paused, looking first at Roger then back to Nancy, "Your daughter, Martha, was in an accident this afternoon.  I'm sorry, but she and the little girl didn't make it."

Nancy's ears grew deaf.  She couldn't hear anything but the beating of her own heart ringing in her ears.  She knew the deputy was still speaking, but she couldn't make out what he was saying.  An iron curtain of despair clamped down around her.  She wavered and the deputy caught her.  Suddenly Roger was at her side, arms around her to hold her up.

"What happened?"  Roger asked the deputy as he held his lifeless wife.

"A truck lost control and veered in to the opposite lane.  She probably never even saw him before the impact.  They were killed instantly."

"And John?"  Roger asked, suddenly in a panic, "was John with them?  A little boy, was he there too?"

"Yes sir," the deputy answered, "The boy was sent to the county hospital.  He's very critical but alive."

"Nancy," Roger shook her gently.  She looked up at him blankly.  "We've got to go to John.  He's still alive.  We're the only ones he has now."

Still wrapped in her cloud of pain and confusion, Nancy grabbed her jacket and followed the deputy and her husband.  The young man had offered them a ride to the hospital.  Roger was thankful.  He knew there was no way he could have drove there himself.  His mind reeled.  His beautiful daughter, his only granddaughter, both dead.  In the backseat of the patrol car, he fumbled with the phone in his pocket.  He dialed his son's number and asked him to meet them at the hospital.  He told him nothing.

The deputy led them down the long hallway toward the nurse's desk.  He quickly explained the situation, and the nurse nodded.  Her face was grim.

"Mr. and Mrs. Moore," she said as she held out her arm, "please come this way.  I'll let the doctor know you are here."

The next few hours passed by in a blur of color and sound.  Nancy still couldn't speak.  Her grief was too raw.  Martha had been through so much in the past year.  Her husband had abandoned her and their children.  She had pushed on, working hard to provide a good life for Leah and John.  She had never complained.  She loved her children, and now she was gone.  And Leah gone too.  Nancy had no words to speak.

Roger paced around the waiting room with his son, Mike.  Roger would grieve for Martha and Leah later.  Right now, all of his thoughts were focused on John.  The doctor's had been working on him for hours, trying to piece him back together.  They weren't sure he'd make it off the table, but they were going to try.  Roger had to hold on to some sort of hope.  It was all he had left.

Nancy watched as the sun rose, turning the world a ghastly shade of pink.  It annoyed her.  The sun should not shine so happily ever again.  Everyday should be filled with shadow and rain.  The world should mourn with her.

The door to the waiting room opened and a man stepped in.  He looked very tired as his eyes searched around the room.

"Mr. Moore?" he asked, approaching Roger.

"Yes, I'm Roger Moore."

The man shook Roger's hand.

"I'm Dr. Cagle.  I've been working on your grandson.  I'm very sorry about your daughter and granddaughter sir."

"Thank you," Roger said and nodded weakly.  "How is John?"

Nancy and Mike gathered at Roger's side, waiting to hear the worst.

"He's stable, for now."  Dr. Cagle answered.  "He's in a coma."

"A coma?"  Mike asked.

"Yes.  The amount of trauma he's endured ..." his voice trailed off,  "it's truly unbelievable that he's alive at all.  His body is weary."

"How long will he be in the coma?"  Roger asked, his voice quiet.

"There's no way of knowing.  It could be a few hours, a few days, or longer.  But the longer he's in it, the less chance he has of waking up."

Again Nancy stopped listening to the men talk.  She sat back down in the hard plastic chair and cupped her head in her hands.  If she'd had any more tears, she would have shed them.

"Nancy," Roger said, pulling her arm gently, "let's go see John."

The family followed behind Dr. Cagle not quite knowing what to expect.  At the door of the room, the doctor turned to them.

"Try not to be shocked by his appearance.  He's very badly bruised and cut.  He's hooked to a lot of machinery.  If you touch him, be very gentle.  And talk to him, as much as you can."  He held open the door and stepped inside.

Roger gasped.  He could hardly recognize John under the darkened skin and bandages.  His eyes were black, like he'd been punched.  His head was bandaged.  There were stitches in his lips.  One arm lay casted at his side, while the other bore more stitches and bruising.  Everywhere ran little tubes of clear liquids and wires to machines.  Monitors beeped and oxygen was pumped inside his tiny body.  Finally, Roger broke down in tears as he very gently touched the boy's hand.

Days passed.  Nancy and Roger slept little.  They kept a constant vigil at John's bedside.  They read him books.  They sang him songs.  They talked and talked until their throats were sore and their mouths dry.  But still, John slept.

One afternoon, as Nancy waited on Roger to return from his trip to the diner across the street, a light knock came on the door of John's room.

"Come in," Nancy said.  She expected it to be one of the family, or perhaps a neighbor.  She looked up and saw a face she did not expect.

"Rita?" she said in half disbelief.  Rita looked nervous.  Behind her, so did Carl.

"Nancy," Rita began, then stopped and looked at John.  Her eyes welled up.  "I'm sorry we didn't come sooner.  We wanted to, we just didn't..." her voice trailed.

"You aren't needed."

"Please, Nancy, he's our grandson too."

"Not anymore.  Your son left him.  You couldn't even pick up the phone and call to check on them.  He's nothing to you anymore."

The door opened again and Roger walked in.  He stopped, staring blankly at the people in front of him.  He hadn't seen Mark's parents since Mark had abandoned Martha and the kids.  They were the last two people he expected to see in John's hospital room.

"Make them leave," Nancy said grimly to Roger.  "They've no business here."

Carl looked at Roger hard.  They had been friends for many years.  But the separation of Martha and Mark had strained their relationship.

"Please Roger," Carl pleaded, "We know we've done many things wrong.  But we love John.  Just like we loved Martha and Leah.  Please."

Roger stepped around the couple and sat down the bag he was carrying.  He put his arm around Nancy's shoulder.

"You must realize how difficult this is for us," Roger said quietly.  "For the past year, we have helped Martha bear the burdens your son left her with.  Not once did you offer help to her or your grandchildren.  Martha didn't understand why you turned your backs to them.  It hurt her as much as Mark leaving her did.  Can you understand why we are angry and hurt?"

"Yes, we do," Rita answered, tears still shining on her cheeks.  "We've been terrible fools Roger.  We were so embarrassed that Mark had ran off that we couldn't face Martha.  We don't know where Mark is.  He hasn't contacted us once in all this time.  We were so wrapped up in ourselves, and our own pain, that we neglected those that were most important.  And now, it's too late to fix things with Martha and Leah.  But John is still here..." her voice trailed again.  Her eyes lingered on the little boy in the hospital bed.

"You should just leave now," Nancy started.  Roger interrupted her.

"You must be gentle with him, if you touch him," Roger began.

"Roger, what the hell are you thinking?" Nancy demanded, pulling away from his side.

"I'm thinking that it's high time we stopped thinking about only ourselves.  That's all we've been worried about this entire time.  We worried how our lives would go on without Martha and Leah.  We wondered how we'd be able to take care of John if he lived.  We struggled with our own fears like they were all that mattered."

Roger stepped over to John's bed and touched the sleeping boy's cheek gently.  "Not a damn one of us matters in this.  John is all that's important.  Martha would want us to focus on him.  She and Leah are beyond our help now.  Mark isn't coming back.  All John has is us now.  And he is all that matters."

Nancy felt suddenly very ashamed and silly.  Roger was right.  The past could not be changed.  The hurt was already there, and it could not be undone.  But the future was still there to be saved.

Over the next few days, Rita and Carl took over some of the reading time with John.  Two more chairs were brought in to the room.  Together, they waited.  Nurses came and went.  The doctor would only shake his head grimly as he left.  Hope had all but vanished.

Again, Nancy watched the sun rise from the hospital window.  The sky turned a rosy pink, casting a strange soft shimmer around the room.  For a moment, she felt at peace.  It was a strange feeling after all the tension she'd been under.  She breathed in deeply, as if drawing in a new beginning.

"G..g...gran?" a small voice said beside her.  She whirled around, thinking she had finally gone completely mad.  Two small blue eyes looked out of the bruises at her.

"John?" she asked, trying to subdue the joy in her heart.  She still wasn't sure she wasn't imagining things.

"Hi," he whispered again, smiling just a little at her.

Nancy shook Roger hard.  He woke up with a start, dropping the magazine he'd been reading the night before.

"What is it?" he asked, still in a daze.  Across the room, the noise aroused Rita and Carl.  They rubbed their eyes like children.

"Hi gramps," the little voice said.  Roger's eyes widened.

"John?" he stammered.  Tears welled up in his eyes.

"Hi," the little boy said again.

The next few hours were filled with nurses, doctors, specialists, and a swarm of people in awe at John's awakening.  They were still shaking their heads as they left the room.  However this time, it was in awe.

"I just can't believe it," Dr. Cagle said again and again.  "It's been three weeks.  He shouldn't be so alert.  He shouldn't be speaking or sitting there eating ice cream.  It's just not possible."

Roger patted the doctor on the back and smiled.

"I don't care if it isn't possible.  I only care that it happened."

Dr. Cagle shook his head again.  Then, he pulled Roger to the corner.

"Have you told him yet about his mother and sister?"

"No, and he hasn't asked."

"I think you should wait a little longer.  A few days, let him build up his strength."

Roger nodded.  He'd been worrying how he'd explain to John what had happened.  He wasn't looking forward to it.

Rita and Nancy were chatting happily while Carl dozed in the corner.  Roger sat down in the chair next to John's bed.  He smiled at the boy.

"How are you feeling son?" he asked.

"Ok," John answered, his voice still quiet and small.

"You'll be back up and running in no time."  Roger smiled at him.

John smiled back at him, and then turned his attention to the far corner of the room.  He stared intently for a moment as if he were listening to something Roger couldn't hear.

"John, is something wrong?"  Roger asked worriedly.  Rita and Nancy stopped talking and listened.  Carl sat up in his corner.  John didn't answer.

"John, what is it?" Nancy asked, feeling a bit panicky suddenly.

"Don't you see them?" he finally whispered.

"See who John?"

"You don't see the light?  Or the hole?"

"John, what are you talking about?"

John picked his little arm off of the bed and pointed at the corner, toward the ceiling.  His gaze was focused on something, but the others saw nothing.

"Mom and Leah are right there, in the light."

Nancy gasped and stared at the spot John was pointing to.

"John," Roger began warily, "John, your mom and Leah..."

"They're dead," John said matter-of-factly.  "I know that."

"But how?"

"Mom told me they were dead.  When I was asleep, she talked to me.  She said that she and Leah were going to the light, but that I needed to come back.  She said I needed to come back and take care of everyone.  And I told her I would, cause I'm the man of the house now ya know."

Rita broke down in sobs, and Carl rushed over to hold her up.  Nancy and Roger looked at each other blankly.

"Can't you see them?"  John asked again.

"No son, we can't see them," Roger whispered.  "John, how do they look?"

John smiled at his grandfather, despite the stitches still lining his lips.

"They are beautiful Gramps.  All bright and shimmering.  Leah is laughing and waving at you.  Mom is smiling.  She's sad, but she's happy I decided to stay.  There's a hole right there.  That's where they're going--through the hole and in to the light.  It's happy there.  Mom let me see it while I was asleep."

Roger's eyes burned with tears.  He'd never been a religious man.  He believed in a higher power, but had never given it much thought.  He'd certainly never thought about what happened when the living body no longer existed.

John turned his attention back to the corner and smiled.

"I love you too," he said and waved a little.  "Bye mom.  Bye Leah."

The room was silent for a while.  No one moved or spoke.  Finally John's eyes left the spot and looked around the room at his grandparents.

"You shouldn't be sad ya know.  Mom and Leah are ok.  They're gonna wait on us in the light.  Mom says I have a lot to do before I can come, and that I need to hurry up and get better.  Oh, and one more thing," John stopped for a moment.  "She said to tell you all that she's proud of you.  I don't know what that means, but that's what she said."

The shimmer in the room began to fade as the sun rose higher in the sky.  Amid the tears that flooded the room, a new day dawned...

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