December 2, 2017

IMG_0127.JPGThere are certain days on the calendar that are marked for celebration or remembrance.  Usually we think of them as happy days but sometimes they are quiet days of reflection.  December 2 became a marked day for me in 2011 when mom passed away.   Every December 2nd since then I have remembered, reflected, and some things I try to forget.  I have tried various ways to spend that day to help get through the 24 hours.  One year I bore my testimony.  One year I tried to do an act of service.  I just try to find some small way to do something mom would be proud of. Continue reading

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The Gold Leaf

(fiction)

A little box filled with my office belongings sat on the passenger seat as I drove home.  I decided last week that this would be my last day.  My last day at the office and the last day on this earth.  I didn’t tell anyone when I said my goodbyes.  Mainly because I didn’t think anyone would really care.

“It seems unfair,” I mumbled to myself. I was stopped at the usual red light on my way home. If I didn’t know any better, I would swear this intersection had it out for me. The light always turned red whenever I approached. No matter which direction I came from.  “This is our last time to meet like this,” I said to the light.  It stayed red.

I looked at the row of trees next to the road. The leaves were already turning yellow and the evening sun lit them up like gold. It seemed unfair to me that God would save this beauty for the leaves’ dying breath. “I wonder if humans get the same dying beauty?” I asked only the car because as usual I was the sole occupant.

The light turned green and the traffic began slowly moving. I made my way home on my usual route. My apartment had a certain autumn coolness when I stepped in and I turned up the heat but not too much. I couldn’t afford to heat my apartment as much as I wanted to. Instead, I put on my old sweater I kept at the foot of my bed.

I opened my freezer and stared at my choices for dinner. Frozen Teriyaki Chicken edged out frozen Chicken and Mushrooms just barely. I threw the box in the microwave and began heating it up. Warmth was finally reaching my cheeks as I looked at the blank walls in my kitchen. The off white walls could use a fresh coat of paint. Maybe the new tenant would get lucky and the landlord would paint.

The microwave beeped and I took out my dinner. Of course, the middle was still cold but the edges bubbled. I turned the television on to watch.   I sat on the couch and put my feet on the stupid coffee table my great aunt had given me. If I wasn’t so lazy, I would have thrown the table away a long time ago. Instead, I used it as my footstool.

What would my final viewing be? I flipped it to Entertainment Tonight. The can of Pringles I kept by the chair only had crumbs left. I brought the can up to my mouth and tipped my head back. The crumbs fell liberally on my shirt. “No matter,” I said and brushed a few off, “it’s not like I need to impress anyone where I’m going.”

Last week I had decided while at work that this would be my last day on this earth. My dreams had remained just that, dreams. My life was pathetic. No one would notice if I didn’t show up to work tomorrow. What if I just let the night take me?  Yesterday I purchased several over the counter drugs to help me drift off into a never ending sleep.

Just then, my neighbors on the left returned home. The thin walls in the apartment building betrayed the dwellers. There were no secrets here. I referred to my neighbors as the “Typical American Family.” Whenever I saw them outside, they always smiled and said a cheery hello. However, I knew how artificial and hollow their smiles actually were. I could hear them through the walls at night. Like an invisible member of their family, I knew their secret.

Instinctively, I used my remote to turn up the volume on my television set. That never helped. I heard the heavy thuds on the stairs and my heart raced. No matter what I tried, I could not block out the sound. I even tried ear plugs but I hate sticking anything in my ears. So, I audibly witnessed everything that happened to this family.

I clutched the arm of the couch and held my breath as I heard the door open. What I referred to as the Beast had just come home to its lair. Right off the bat, I could sense he looked for a fight.

“Where’s my food?” he snarled.

“We just got home,” his wife replied quickly.

“That’s just great. Been out spending money faster than I can make it. Hope you’re happy.”

“We were grocery shopping,” she explained and could hear her opening cabinet doors.

“Grocery shopping?” there was a pause. “What are these then?”

“Cole needed new shoes. His last pair was held together with duct tape.”

“That’s just great,” he said. “As long as Cole is taken care of. I guess it don’t matter if I go hungry.”

“I got some tv dinners, supper will be ready in a minute.”

“Because I have time to wait.”

At that last statement, I snorted. From experience, I knew the only pressing engagement he had for the evening was watching ESPN. I wished he would just turn on his television already. The added noise helped muffle sounds.

Even though I knew the outcome, I turned up the volume on my television.  It was my hope he’d get the hint even though he never did get it. I heard him trudge to the wall and start banging on it. Normally, I would acquiesce and turn the volume back down. But tonight? Tonight I had nothing to lose so I didn’t do anything.

“Turn down that racket!” he yelled. “My family can’t hear themselves think.”

“Who is he kidding?” I mumbled but I didn’t budge. My palms became sweaty but I decided I was going to take a stand on this last night.

He banged again and I ignored him. My heart started racing.   I thought he might just bang a hole in the thin walls but instead, he gave up.

A few moments of eerie silence in their apartment betrayed the intensity. I took a deep breath because I knew what was coming. First the dull thuds followed by the screams and groans. All sounds that should have bothered me more than they do. I was sad that they didn’t bother me more.

This was my cue to get as far away as possible. I gathered my half full garbage and headed for the dumpster. If there were to be strangers in my apartment tomorrow, I wanted it to be somewhat clean.

As I walked back to my apartment, I saw a little boy sitting on the steps in front of my door. He couldn’t have been more than five. I recognized him as Cole because I had seen him with his mother. His blue eyes were filled with tears and he watched me approach. I put my head down and started to walk past him. But at the last moment, his eyes penetrated my soul and I couldn’t move.

My throat went dry. What was I doing?

“Do you wanna come in?” the words had to have come from somebody else. Surely, I wouldn’t be getting involved. Not tonight of all nights. I wished life had an undo button that I could push and then just keep walking.

He sized me up. Weighing options heavier than I ever had to make and then he nodded his head once.

I knew we would have to hurry. The beast was surely on the hunt searching for his prey.

“C’mon,” I said quickly. He knew to hurry. I let him in my apartment first and closed my door. My hands were shaking as I fastened all the locks. I looked at the door and thought it look like it was made of straw. Definitely not a match for the big bad wolf.

The noise from the television caught my attention and I picked up the remote and turned it down. I looked at Cole. My only thought was, ‘now what?’ With any luck, no one had seen us come into my apartment and we could hide out for a while. But for how long? The boy was only five and he was in my apartment. There was no happy ending with this.

“Oh no,” I said out loud as sweat beaded on my forehead. “I just kidnapped someone.”

His blue eyes continued to watch me.

“Look, kid,” I said quickly, “I’d like to help you, but…”

He sensed where I was going and began to cry. Loudly.

I heard the footsteps at my door, then someone banging on it. “You got my kid in there?”

Things just went from bad to worse.

“You calling the police?” he snarled.

The police? I crossed the room to the sobbing figure on the couch. “You know how to call 911?” I asked with a sudden clarity of mind.

He nodded.

“Go into that bedroom,” I pointed. “Close the door. Hide under the bed and call 911.” I instructed. I wished the boy and I could switch places and I hide and let him answer the door. But from somewhere deep inside me, very deep, a wave of bravery swept over me. I didn’t know what the source was but I acted on it.

The beast continued to bang on the door and I thought he was going to break my door down. I waited for a few moments after the boy had run out of the room and down the hall. Hopefully, the boy would follow through. I took a deep breath.

I’ve never been a praying kind of person but I could feel one growing inside of me. To my surprise, I wasn’t praying for myself. Instead, I was praying for the boy and his mother.

My palms were dripping with sweat when I finally opened the door. The first thing I could see was a heaving chest. My eyes slowly made their way up to his red face.

“Where is he?” he spit his words out.

I clenched my fist but did not move my body. This must have been what David faced when he stared down Goliath. Suddenly, I wished I had sling shot and stones. Just as well I didn’t, I had no idea how to use them.

“Where’s my kid?” he snarled again looking over my head into the living room. “I know he’s in here.”

Everything in my makeup and history told me to step aside. Actually, that familiar inner voice told me to run away. But for some reason, I refused to move.

My hesitancy agitated the beast.

“Get my kid,” his tone changed from angry to losing-control angry.

To both our surprise, I didn’t move.

“Get my kid,” he warned again and I knew I was pushing my luck.

Where were the police? It felt like a lifetime ago since I sent the kid down the hall. What if he didn’t call? Suddenly I sensed my fate rested on a five year old and I felt stupid.

My body wanted to run but I just stood planted in that spot blocking the doorway. The beast knew there was nothing I could do to physically stop him. It didn’t take much effort for him to push past me. It took all the strength and skill I had to not fall.

The beast was in my apartment. He searched for his boy. I didn’t recognize the resolve inside of myself but knew it had somehow, somewhere along the way, surfaced.  It was a small place and it would only take moments for him to find the boy. Then what? I wasn’t sure what to do to stall him so I did the first thing that came to my mind. I jumped on his back.

It definitely did not stop him or even slow him down. What it did was make him even angrier. He spun around trying to shake me off. But fear made me cling even tighter. He stumbled in my small living room doing his best to get rid of his unwanted passenger. I did my best to hold on.

We heard the sirens at the same time. Both of us knew their destination. Actually, I hoped this was their destination. I continued to cling to him despite his best efforts to free himself. I needed to see the protection of the police before I let go.

He called me every name he could think of as if that would entice me to let go. It did not. It made me hold even tighter around his neck.

At that moment, I wished I hadn’t been so lazy. I wished I would have thrown away that ugly coffee table that took up too much room in my tiny apartment.

The beast must have gotten dizzy from all his spinning. All I know is, he lost his balance and we both went down. Unfortunately, he fell backward. We seemed to fall in slow motion. I saw the police barge into the apartment. I also saw his wife with a swollen and bloody face come around the corner calling out for Cole. Then I heard a horrible crack and felt a searing pain in the back of my head. My head had just connected with the edge of that stupid coffee table and then a 250 pound mass fell on top of me.

The door was left open and when I opened my eyes I could see a tree out in the courtyard. I watched as a beautiful gold leaf take its last breath and let go. Just like me. So God and I had planned my last day to be the same day. Go figure.

© 2014 ck’s days

Sweet dreams

Occasionally I dream of my mom.  I can no longer see her face but I can feel her presence.  I simply know it’s her.  Lately, when mom does come to visit in a dream it’s with the “she’s not really gone.  She didn’t die.  She was not as sick as we thought,” theme.  I get this hope inside me.  You know, like the hope Rafiki gives to Simba about Mufasa.  Simba chases after the aged simian and the audience thinks, “Oh, I hope Mufasa is really alive!”

I wake up as disappointed as Simba when he looks at his reflection in the pool of water.  Mom is gone.

When she does make an appearance in my dreams she usually talks to the family.  Or helps us out.  We tend to keep her pretty busy.  Some things never change.

I experienced a rather stressful weekend last week.  Not bad stress just busy stress.  I kept busy from quitting time on Friday to Sunday afternoon.  At times, I felt overwhelmed.  Sometimes inadequate.  I questioned if I am really cut out to do the job asked of me.  Thankfully, I was so busy I didn’t have much time to devote to self-doubt.

By the time Sunday afternoon rolled around I felt exhausted.  I gave my best and prayed it was good enough.  That night I had a momma-dream.  This time we just hugged.  It was a long embrace that lasted until I woke up.

It was enough.

I received the strength I needed to face my week.  Yeah, I got this.

Worst Day

guest blogger

By Trey Lee   

Through life we experience trials and tribulations. There are ups and downs along the way but we hold firm to the belief that there is a wonderful ending. This has proven true in my life as I have gone through my ups and downs. A particular down that I had to deal with was when my grandmother passed away. This was particular hard on me for a number of reasons. The first was that she had a special connection with everyone she met. She had the ability to be anyone’s friend. She shared a common connection in that sense with my grandfather who to this day has never met a stranger. Another reason that her passing was hard on me was the fact that she had suffered having been diagnosed with cancer for four years. This was very hard for me to see.  The third reason I wish to share about this being a trial in my life is that I had never known death until her passing. Her passing taught me a number of things including stronger faith, dealing with pain along with a number of other things.

My grandmother had a special connection with everyone she came into contact with. She had the ability to talk to anyone no matter how ruff they may have appeared on the outside. She was constantly serving others and helping them become better. After all she raised the man who would raise me, so she must’ve done something right. It was hard for me to ever imagine she would pass on. To me all men were immortal because until that point I had never had someone so close to me pass on.

My second reason that the passing of my grandmother was difficult for me was that she had suffered battling leukemia for four years. When they found the cancer she was not expected to make it through the night. This proved to be wrong seeing that she lived an additional four years. That was a miracle in and of its self. She would get better and then a little worse. Towards the end of her time on earth, she decided that she might be ready to meet her maker. She was placed on hospice and was taken care of for a number of months. This was hard for my grandfather to see; she was and still is his queen. I still, to this day, get choked up even writing about it. To see one as wonderful as this human being suffer, was a very hard thing to do.

The last thing I wish to write about is that up to that point in my life, I had never seen someone pass on. In my world all men were immortal and there was no death. I guess that comes with the naivety of youth.  This was an eye opener. It taught me much about faith. During this time of mourning I knew that it wasn’t the end somehow. But it was part of something bigger.  I cannot say that what I felt was something other than what it was because that would give anyone who ever reads this great injustice. Her passing was hard on me but it taught me many great things. The mercies of God are great and powerful.  A scripture passage that helped me cope with her loss can be found in 2nd Nephi chapter 4 verses 15 through 35.

Hard things do happen. And how we respond to the hard things in life can enormously effect what we do after the trials. I was fortunate enough to grow from this hard time. Many however are not so fortunate. The total realization that came to me can be felt by anyone who so desires. It is only up to the person to find for themselves.  Millions have found it and there are millions more who can.