The Hearting of Lisa Monroe

A Christmas short story

by Corina Lee

It was a sight I had seen many times before. At least, I had seen it many times in my youth. My eyes looked down at the dry, dusty dirt under my feet and at the trail that had been formed by motorcycles and other off-road vehicles. I bent down and scooped a handful of dirt with my hand and let it sift through my fingers. The smell of sagebrush and the heat of the day nearly choked me.

Suddenly, I heard a low rumbling. I stood up and looked toward the sound. A

thick, dark cloud was heading my way fast. I tried to run but my feet wouldn’t

move. The rumbling sound was louder and the dark cloud seemed to come right for me.

But it wasn’t in the sky. It was on the ground and darkness sped faster toward me. I

tried to run again but I still couldn’t move. It was coming closer and closer

and all I could do was watch it come. Right before it reached me I tried to

scream.

No sound actually came out but I did wake up from my nightmare. I sat upright

in bed while breathing hard and I could feel sweat trickling down my chest. The

clock on my night-stand let me know it was only 4:30 am; I still had

two hours before I had to get up for the day. My head felt heavy and I knew I

wouldn’t be able to get back to sleep right away so I stumbled to my feet. The

cold floor was a welcome shock to my hot body. I made my way to the bathroom and

fumbled for a paper cup. There was no way I was going to turn on the light yet.

I took a drink of cold water and carried the cup back to my bed. As I sat down I

put my head in my hands and tried to make sense out of my dream.

I knew the place I had dreamt about. It was a place my sister, Janie, and I had

often played at when we were younger. It was near our home in Rock Springs,

Wyoming. Our town was small and there were many places to escape into the high

desert hills that surrounded us. We only had to ride our bikes for 10 minutes

before we found dirt trails to follow. I laid back down on my pillow but

couldn’t close my eyes yet. Why had I dreamt about that place? I hadn’t been

there for five years, why did I dream about it now?

Suddenly, I had an overwhelming urge to call Janie but I resisted. First of

all, it would only be 2:30 there and I didn’t think her husband would appreciate.

Then there was the fact that we had hardly spoken to each other for the past

5 years, since I graduated from college. She had tried to keep in contact with

me, but I distanced myself from everything that had to do with home since both

our parents died from illnesses within 3 years of each other. I took a job in

New York and moved there and didn’t look back. I couldn’t. It caused too much

pain. But now, all of a sudden I wanted to talk to Janie. I wanted her to tell

me what my dream meant and to calm me down so that I could sleep again.

I must have finally dosed off because the next thing I remember the phone was

ringing which caused me to jump. I looked at the clock and noticed it was after

5:30.

That was the phone call that changed my life. On the phone was Jack, Janie’s

brother-in-law. “Lisa,” he said, his words came slow and deliberate and his

voice was shaky. He told me that Janie and his brother, Craig, were killed in a

car accident on their way home from Salt Lake City. It was as if he was speaking

a foreign language to me I couldn’t understand. When I did not respond, he

repeated himself and I just listened. He told me the two had gone to Salt Lake

 

for a business trip of Craig’s and Janie went along to do some Christmas

shopping. On their way home, a semi-truck jack-knifed on an ice patch and slammed

into them. I clutched the phone to steady myself. The room was spinning and

becoming smaller. What was I to say? I heard myself sob and I hung up the phone.

I started to rock myself on the edge of my bed. Back and forth. Back and forth.

Was it going to be okay? Somehow, I doubted it. Craig and Janie had left behind

three children under the age of ten. What was to become of them?

Here I was, 27 years old and I was completely alone in the world. The dark room

seemed to overtake me as I succumbed to the loneliness. Am I to be alone, then?

I shouted heavenward and the tears came. There was no stopping them.

I don’t really remember the events that happened the next few days. Somehow, I

managed to get a flight to Denver and then to Rock Springs. The only thing I

remember is looking out of Jack’s jeep after he picked me up from the airport

and watching the sagebrush go by. As we drove through town I felt like a

visitor, almost as if I had never been there before. I did know one thing, I

never wanted to come back. This would be my last time in this small town and

then I could leave it behind me. The only thing I had to show for my life here

would be three cold stones in the ground. Three stones to serve as markers of my

family. Why would I want to come back? If I got far enough away, perhaps the

aching would stop. At least, that’s what I thought when my mom died. I’m not

sure if the aching actually stopped or if it just became a dull steady throb. A

throb I had learned to live with.

A week to the day from Thanksgiving, I was standing with a group of people in

the cemetery. I watched as the coffins were lowered into the ground. I must have

been holding my six year old niece’s shoulder firmly because I could feel her

instinctively pull away from my grip. And then, it was over.

At least, that’s what I thought.

Sometimes when life seems the darkest, when it seems no light can penetrate

into your soul, Heavenly Father finds a way to get some light in. The question

is, will we let Him? My name is Lisa Monroe and up to recently, I had a job as a

field reporter for CNN. Not bad for someone as young as myself. It wasn’t that

hard. For the past five years the only thing I’ve known is work. Everything else

in my life was put on a back burner. Maybe I was trying to forget some things,

and maybe I was trying to avoid dealing with some feelings. But as I said,

Heavenly Father has a way of getting the light into our lives, even if it’s not

our prayer He’s answering, but somebody else’s prayer for us.

The first flicker of light began to shine the day after the funerals. Jack

Garrison, my sister’s brother-in-law, and I sat in the small attorney office of

William Holt. I sat numbly in the leather chair as Mr. Holt worked out the final

details with Jack. They asked my opinion concerning a few things and I absently

nodded my head. A dull ache had started in my head and that took over my

concentration. No big surprises were in the will and I started to think of work.

I had to get back to work. If everything went as planned – and why wouldn’t it?

– I could catch the 5:00 plane to Denver and be back at work tomorrow afternoon.

Instinctively, I looked at my watch.

 

“And now the matter of Tara Ray, Christina Ann, and Zachary Tyler,” Mr. Holt’s

voice broke my thoughts. I looked up at him and saw him staring at me intently

as if waiting for my attention. “Based upon the information given to me by both

you and Jack, it seems clear that the person Craig and Janie wanted their

children to stay with,” he looked at Jack and then back at me. “Is you.”

He was looking right at me when he said it but I knew he must be mistaken.

“Excuse me?” Jack and I asked in unison.

Mr. Holt cleared his throat. “You are to be the guardian of the children.”

I let out a short laugh. “No, not me.”

Mr. Holt looked at Jack and then back at me. He took off his glasses and wiped

them with a Kleenex from his desk. “No, I’m sorry, but it is made quite clear

who should be the guardian.” He put his glasses back on then put his finger tips

together. “Your sister,” he glanced at Jack, “and your brother, did not name

anyone specific in their will.”

“Then why me?” I cried.

“They did, however,” he gave me a small smile of tolerance, “ask two

requirements. One, that the guardian be a relative, which, of course, you both

fulfill.”

I nodded my head in agreement. Perhaps, there would be a way out of this, yet.

“But the second requirement,” he continued, “is that the person must be

financially secure.” I followed his eyes as he looked at Jack then quickly

looked down.

Jack glanced at me then at Mr. Holt. “So the children are going to Lisa?” he

asked.

Mr. Holt studied us both. “You could contest the will if you like…”

We both nodded our heads in agreement.

“But it would take some time…”

“I have an interview with Charles Smith at the college, here,” Jack said

slowly. “He’s a dean there. Craig was a friend of his and he has agreed to

look at some of my work. If all goes well, I’ll have a job teaching photography

there.”

My jaw dropped open. “You?” I asked. “I didn’t know you could stay in one

place?”

Jack shifted his weight in his chair and I quickly looked at Mr. Holt

horrified. This was not the way to convince him that Jack would be a better

guardian than me.

“It’s true,” Jack said. “I’ve been a bit of a nomad traveling from place to

place with only my camera and myself to worry about. But this is family and I

can’t think of a better time to settle down.”

Both of us looked at Mr. Holt and waited for an answer.

He looked down and then at me. “Am I to understand, you do not want custody of

the children?”

I swallowed. Somehow I had to get out of this without sounding like a heel. “I

live in New York City. I usually work ten to twelve hours a day,” my words came

out slow and concise. “I don’t think that’s the proper environment to raise

 

three children, do you?”

I couldn’t help but take a short intake of breath.

Mr. Holt slowly looked at Jack and then at me again. “No, I suppose you’re

right.”

I exhaled a sigh of relief.

“However,” he continued. “I am not going to make any decisions as of yet.

First, I will need to hear how Jack’s interview goes and if he gets the job. I

will postpone my decision until four weeks from today. Until that time, the

children are to be under Ms. Monroe’s supervision.”

“But…” I said. How could I watch the children for a month?

“You will be responsible for them until that time,” he continued.

“But,” I said again, “I have a job. In New York.”

He looked at me gravely. “I suggest you work something out. Fast.”

 

**************************

 

The trail. I was back on the dirt trail. This time I didn’t hesitate, I just

tried to run. But again, I couldn’t move. All of a sudden, the dark cloud was

back and it was after me. I started to hide behind a large rock but I remembered

something was missing, but what? Two hands were by my head and I figured they

were mine as I could not see them. My heart was empty, but what was missing.

“Lisa,” a faint voice called out.

“I’m here,” I tried calling but the black cloud was like a wall that muffled my

voice.

“Lisa,” another beckon only a little louder.

My throat was dry, I could not answer.

“Aunt Lisa,” came another cry this time closer. Aunt Lisa? The children, where

were the children?

Suddenly I sat upright in bed and caused the little figure standing next to my

bed to jump. It was Christina. I tried to control my heavy breathing and calm

myself before I spoke. “What is it?” I asked hoarsely.

“I can’t sleep,” she said with her fist rubbing her eye. “Can I sleep with

you?”

At first, I wanted to say no. I would have if I had been enjoying my sleep. But

since I was glad for the respite from the nightmare, I opened my covers and let

her crawl in. Her six year old body snuggled in as best she could until she was

comfortable.

“Aunt Lisa?” she asked after a few moments.

“Yes, honey?” my voice was more controlled than before, but I still didn’t

trust myself to close my eyes again.

“I’m glad you’re here,” she reached behind her and pulled my hand over her

shoulder.

There was no answer I could give her and so I waited until I heard her rhythmic

breathing as she slept before I dared close my eyes again.

 

 

*******************************************

 

The next thing I remembered was hearing Jack call out, “Good Morning!” I peeked

my eyes open in time to see him getting ready to open my curtains.

“Don’t open those,” I muttered.

If he heard me he gave no sign and pulled the cord on the side of the window

causing sunlight to fill the room. “I thought I’d find you here,” he said to

Christina.

“Oh, c’mon,” I groaned and pulled the pillow over my head.

Christina yawned and sat up. “Mornin’ Uncle Jack.”

“Good morning to you, princess,” he said and walked over to our bed. “Have you

said your morning prayer?”

I heard the sheets rustle as she shook her head.

“Neither have I. Should we say them together?”

The bed bounced as she nodded her head vigorously. He helped her out of the

covers and I peeked out from under my pillow to see them kneeling beside the

bed.

“Should we ask Aunt Lisa to join us?” Jack asked.

“No, you shouldn’t,” I replied as I cinched the pillow tighter over my head.

“Aunt Lisa’s trying to sleep. Maybe you should go into the other room.”

There was only a moment of silence. “Nah,” Jack and Christina said together.

The prayer was said quietly, so quiet that I almost fell back to sleep. After a

moment or two, Jack asked, “Do you want some waffles for breakfast?”

Christina must have nodded her head as I couldn’t hear her reply.

“I can’t hear you,” Jack said louder.

I peeked out of the covers as she said, “Yes, please,” with a grin that made

her blue eyes dance.

“I still can’t hear you,” Jack said even louder earning him a moan from me.

“I said, yes, please,” Christina said louder to match her uncle’s tone.

“I STILL CAN’T HEAR YOU,” Jack’s voice boomed.

“YES!” Christina cried back.

“Well now, there’s no need to yell,” Jack covered his ears and stumbled out the

door. Christina squealed in delight and followed him. A few moments later, I

thrust back my covers, stumbled to the window, grabbed both sides of the curtain

and yanked it closed. Then I made my way to the door and shut it. It may have

been a slam, but I really didn’t care at the time. I plopped back down on my bed

and opened my eyes. “7:00,” I said out loud. “I need to have a talk with that

boy.” With that, I rolled over and went back to sleep.

 

It was after ten before I finally stumbled down the stairs. I never slept that

long at home but I think after so many nights of restless sleep, I was

exhausted. As much as I hated to admit it, I think having Christina sleep with

me calmed me down.

For the first time since I had arrived, the house was quiet. All three children

were with Jack, wherever he was. I sat down on a stool by the kitchen counter

 

and looked at the mess from breakfast. I pulled a plate over that still had at

least half of a waffle on it, and started eating it.

My mind drifted to a phone conversation with a co-worker that I had had last

night. After the visit with Mr. Holt, I called two people: my boss, and asked

for a leave of absence. It wasn’t hard, in fact, it was too easy. In a matter of

weeks, I could be totally replaced and forgotten about. That was a hazard with

this job, there was always somebody else to take your place. When I got back, I

was going to have to fight my way in again. A thought I didn’t want to think

about. The other person I called was Josh Johnson, a co-worker of mine. He and I

had known each other since about the time I moved to New York. In fact, it was

his influence that had gotten me where I was. Our association, if feelings would

ever deepen, would be nothing more than a big brother, little sister

relationship. We thrived on teasing each other and were both driven by one

thing: work. That was probably the biggest reason we wouldn’t have a

relationship. There would be four entities brought in, Josh and I being the

smallest, our work being the largest.

I shuddered at the thought. Somehow, my identity had become wrapped up in my

career. Lisa Monroe did not exist anymore. Lisa Monroe, field reporter, had

taken her place. It wasn’t a quick transition and it had started with little

things. At first, I came home and spent the holidays with Craig and Janie. But

seeing them together, being around them and their family, just emphasized my

loneliness. I no longer had a family and I felt as if I was intruding on theirs.

So, my trips back became fewer and fewer. But to stay in New York was also a

lonely proposition, I needed something to fill in the time, and so I worked. In

my field, it was easy to work on holidays and it helped me get ahead. First, in

a local affiliate, and then at a news channel. I may have been at the bottom,

but I was at the bottom of the tallest ladder I could climb.

Until now.

“It’s family,” I muttered through clenched teeth. “It’s just for a month.”

 

*************************

 

It was almost noon by the time I showered and was dressed. Just in time for

Jack to return with the children. They walked in the door as I was sitting on

the couch reading a magazine.

“Aunt Lisa, Aunt Lisa!” Christina yelled joyfully and ran over to me.

Apparently, you let a child sleep in the same bed as you and you become her best

friend. She hugged me and I couldn’t help but hug her tightly back. Christina

may have been only six, but it was already obvious she was going to be quite

pretty. A blend of both her parents, she had dark curly hair and dimples from

her father. Her deep blue eyes and petite size were inherited from her mother.

I looked at her older sister, Tara. Tara looked like a miniature of her mother,

and I suppose like me also since Janie and I were often mistaken as twins. Her

straight blond hair hung past her shoulders. She often looked as if she was in

deep thought, and she probably was. I was concerned about her because she hadn’t

 

said a word since I had been there. Even then she gave a quick, faint smile and

ran upstairs to her room.

Jack carried Zach in. Zach was built like his dad, stocky. His Uncle Jack was

more of a tall gangly basketball player while Craig had looked like a football

player.

“Christina,” Jack said as he set Zach down and helped him off with his coat.

“Would you take Zach in the other room and color some pictures for me, please?”

She took Zach by the hand and led him into the play room.

When they disappeared into the other room, Jack sat down next to me on the

couch. “I was with the school psychologist.”

I didn’t know where they had gone and this surprised me. “Oh. What did he say?”

“She,” he corrected me, “said it’s a little too soon to do anything. We should watch them and make their routine as normal as possible.”

“Normal?” I asked. “Their parents just died. Their lives won’t be normal

again.”

He looked down. “No, I know that. But they’re only children, and they need some

sort of normalcy to help them get through this.”

“That’s just it,” I said catching the raise in my voice and lowering it again.

“They won’t be ‘normal’ anymore. Their lives changed.”

Jack looked at me. “Changed not ended.”

I blinked my eyes at him.

“They are still here. They still have their lives ahead of them.” He looked

down at the floor then back at me, “They need to know, they don’t have to fear

life.”

That comment was directed at me. I could feel it as if somebody had aimed a gun

at me and pulled the trigger. “Are you saying, I fear life?”

He brought his hand to his face and rubbed his chin. “I’m saying, they have two

ways to go now, into a shell, like what Tara is doing, or they can go on with

their lives. It won’t be easy, but it can be done.”

My eyebrows furrowed. “It’s only been a week, Jack. You have to let them

grieve.”

“I will. But I think we should just keep a close eye on them, so that…”

“So that they won’t turn out like me?” I wanted him to answer my previous

question.

He couldn’t look at me. “I just think that fear is the wrong feeling to

initiate. Once it’s inside a person, it doesn’t go away easily. It just builds

on itself and gets bigger and bigger. And it doesn’t end there, along with it

comes other dark feelings, like hate and anger.”

He caught my attention when he mentioned the word dark. I thought of my dream

and the dark cloud.

“I want to know,” he said softly, “how does light get into a dark place like

that?”

I couldn’t answer him.

“Uncle Jack,” Christina called from the doorway. “Can you help me?”

“Yeah, sweetheart, I’m coming,” he stood up and walked over to her. “By the

 

way,” he said to me, “I have an interview with Charles Smith on Monday.” He

walked into the play room and I could hear him talking with Christina. But I sat

on the couch unable to move. Maybe somebody did shoot me with a gun, after all.

 

After our discussion, the house seemed to grow smaller. As if it wasn’t bad

enough to be stuck in a town with only twenty-thousand people, I was also

stuck without a car. Restless was not the word to describe me, I was past

restless. It felt as if I was bouncing off the walls, flittering from one room

to another. Around two o’clock, Jack asked if I wanted to borrow his jeep to go

to the store. I took the hint that I was driving him crazy with my energy and

readily accepted.

It was the first time I had been out of the house by myself. I was sent to get

a loaf of bread and a gallon of milk, but I knew there was no rush so I took a

detour. The first place I went to was to my old house. I parked the jeep across

the street and looked at the building I called home for eighteen years. Growing

up, I thought I would never leave, now it seemed as if I was never really

there. After I graduated high school I went away to college, but I still came

home for the holidays. Then my parents became sick, and the house was sold. A

car pulled into the driveway and a man got out who looked to be about thirty

years old. He walked to the mailbox and opened it. Suddenly, the front door

opened and two little girls squealed in delight. He opened the door and picked

up both the girls in a large swoop and smothered them with kisses. The door

closed and I felt I was given the next best thing to a glimpse of the past. It

could have been a scene from my past. But it wasn’t.

I felt like an intruder there, watching other people’s lives. The neighborhood

had changed somewhat, not even the neighbors stayed the same. I started the jeep

and drove off. The next place I went to was my old job. The local newspaper had

been one of my favorite jobs. It helped that the editor was my family’s home

teacher and a close friend of my father’s. The paper claimed to be a daily paper

but was only delivered Tuesday through Saturday so that the staff could have

Saturday and Sunday off. People accepted it though because it was just one of

those idiosyncrasies that make up small town life.

Without giving myself time to talk myself out of it, I parked the jeep and

walked into the building. The receptionist informed me that Mr. Cunningham was

still at lunch but that I was welcomed to wait. For some reason, I chose to

wait. It wasn’t a long wait, he walked in and to the receptionist’s desk to

get his messages. I stood as I heard my name mentioned in their conversation.

He turned and scanned the lobby, it had been five years since he saw me, and I

had changed a lot during those five years. At first, he looked past me and

glanced at the other waiting customers. Then his eyes, those gentle gray eyes,

looked back at me and he smiled. It felt good to be remembered and I smiled

back. He crossed the room and we embraced as old friends. Better than that, as a

father and daughter.

Brother Cunningham led me up the stairs and to his office. After we both sat

down, he started, “I’m sorry to hear about Janie. She was so young. It was a lovely service. I’m sorry we didn’t get a chance to speak then.”

 

I nodded.

“I hear you are taking care of the children.”

“For now. I have my job I have to get back to.” I couldn’t look him in the

face.

He paused. “Oh, yes, how is your job?”

I looked at him and smiled. “Wonderful. I’m a field reporter for CNN.”

“Actually, I know. We may not have much, but we do have cable,” he spoke with a

twinkle in his eye.

I blushed as a surge of guilt swept over me. He obviously had kept tabs on me

while I had only written once the whole time I was gone. “I’ve been pretty

busy,” I said lamely as if he knew what I had been thinking.

“Busy doing good things, I’m sure.”

His gray eyes put me at ease.

“Well, I hope you’ve kept up your writing.”

I looked down.

“Your folks were always so proud of your writing. Your father thought for sure

you’d go far with it. He figured you’d be writing stories and such.”

The mention of my father brought my eyes back to Brother Cunningham’s face.

“Didn’t Janie mention to me once that you and Jack were going to collaborate on

a children’s story? You were going to write it and he was going to illustrate

  1. Whatever became of that?”

It took a moment for me to remember the incident. “Nothing. I had the story

written long ago but Jack never got around to drawing the pictures. It just sat

for a long time at Janie’s house, until she finally put it away.”

He nodded. “Oh, yes, that’s right.” A moment passed before he continued, “I

hear Jack is going to gain custody of the children.”

It was amazing how fast news traveled. Especially since I had only found out

about it yesterday.

“When I go back to New York. He has decided to stay and be with the children.”

“I see.”

I could tell there was a point he was trying to make. A lesson he was trying to

help me learn.

“I guess it would be hard for a single woman, such as yourself, to care for

three children.”

The point was becoming clearer. “Jack’s a good man. He will do a much better

job of raising the children than I would.”

His eyes studied me for a moment. “But is he stable? Craig has told me about

his many travels.” He looked down and then back at me and took a deep breath. “I

feel as if I was elected to be your guardian, to sit in for your father. Not

only for you but for Janie also,” his eyes moistened. “I can’t help but feel

responsible for you and your family.”

I smiled. “I realize that, and appreciate it. But I really do think this is the

best thing for the children.”

He nodded. “I’m not convinced of that. But I will trust you and your judgment.”

We talked for a little while more and caught up on the last five years. He told

 

me about his family and that he and his wife were going to serve a mission soon.

His son would take over running the paper.

When we finished, he walked me to the door and opened it. “I want you to know,

there will always be a job here for you.”

I smiled. “But I’m staying in New York.”

“Well, I just wanted you know.”

I hugged him. “Thank you.”

Brother Cunningham had done more for me than just offer me a job he gave me

some peace and comfort. Peace I hadn’t felt in a long time.

 

 

By dinner that night, only a residue of the peaceful feeling remained. But at

least I still had that small part and I was clinging to it. I was thinking of

all that I had seen during the day and was lost in thought.

“Can you watch the children Friday night?” Jack asked.

It took a moment before I answered him. “I guess so, why?”

“I may go out,” Jack took a quick bite of the meat on his plate.

“Oh,” I said and put some salad onto my plate.

“Uncle Jack’s got a girlfriend, Uncle Jack’s got a girlfriend,” Christina

started to chant. I looked at her and then quickly at Jack as his cheeks colored

slightly.

“You have a date?” I asked and I smiled at his awkwardness.

“Just somebody I’ve seen a few times. When I visited,” Jack explained as he

jabbed the food on his plate with his fork.

“Oh.” It wasn’t really necessary for him to explain, his life was his life. But

the last remnant of peace I had felt suddenly vanished. With Jack’s next

statement, it turned to a hint of anger.

“Church is at 9:00 on Sunday,” he spoke without lifting his eyes off of his

plate.

I looked at him.

“Will you come with us?” he looked into my eyes. Tara and Christina stopped

eating and looked at me. I felt the weight of their stare and looked down.

“Will you at least think about it?” he continued.

That wasn’t fair. He asked me in front of the children. The only thing I could

do was nod my head slowly, “I’ll think about it.”

It took a moment, but the conversation gradually drifted to safer topics. At

least, safer topics for me. Jack had Christina and Zach laughing before I

finally had the courage to look up again. But no sooner did I lift my eyes when

I met Tara’s eyes. She was studying me intently. I smiled weakly at her and

forced myself into the conversation with the others. During the rest of dinner,

I noticed she kept her eyes keenly on me.

 

**********************

 

 

Somehow, working together, we made it through the first week. My life was

settling into a temporary routine. The girls had gone back to school, though how

well they adjusted, I’m not sure. Tara never spoke a word she only followed us

with her big blue eyes watching our every move. She never let any of her

emotions out, and never let any of us in. Christina showed her emotions as she

felt them. She was cheerful by nature so it was hard for her to have down time.

Her mood was melancholy until her cheerful nature seeped through. Usually, she

would catch herself and repress it. I could tell she felt guilty for any smile

or laugh she gave. Every night she would climb into my bed because that’s when

the weight of her feelings became unbearable. Zach was still fairly young to

know what was going on, he just knew he missed his mommy and daddy and wished

they’d come home.

I felt as if a gray cloud hovered over our little makeshift family. A temporary

family made up of orphans, as if that was a requirement to join. We were all

alone now, everyone of us. I seemed to be the only one to understand this point,

except maybe Tara. I had a feeling she knew. But I wished she would talk and let

us into her world.

Friday night, Jack’s friend, Cindy Black, picked him up for their date. This

gave me an opportunity to instinctively size her up. She was a nice, cheerful

person who resembled a young Meg Ryan except with more of a spiritual glow than glamor.

They left and I looked around the room. I was alone with the children for the

first time, ever. And so, my first babysitting job in over ten years began. It

started innocently enough, for about the first ten seconds.

Zach watched his uncle go out the door and his face pouted. I watched as his

bottom lip quivered, but he held it in. It was a sad sight to see, so I walked

over to him and bent down toward him. “Zach,” I said as comforting as possible.

“Would you like some dinner?” That was it, he knew for sure then that Jack was

not coming back any time soon, and he could no longer keep it in. He started to

cry.

I looked around the room again trying to decide what to do. His cry became

louder so I scooped him up in my arms and started to rock him.

Christina ran into the room and stopped when she saw me holding Zach. Her nose

scrunched up, “You look funny when you do that.”

“Well, I’m a bit out of practice,” I said clipping my words slightly.

Christina observed the situation and ran out of the room. She returned

momentarily with a box of crackers in her hand. “Here you go, Zachy.” The

cracker was waved under his nose. Finally he stopped crying long enough to see

  1. He reached for it while he sobbed and shoved it in his mouth. “If you keep

his mouth full,” Christina explained as she reached in the box for another

cracker, “he can’t cry.”

“Oh, right,” I said. Somehow I knew this probably was poor parenting skills 101

but it seemed to be working. “Maybe I had better hang onto these,” I grabbed the

box from Christina’s hands.

Things were pretty quiet after I ordered a pizza for us. As we waited for the

pizza to arrive, we went into the living room and sat down on the couch. I was

 

still holding Zach as I didn’t dare put him down, but I made sure the crackers

were nearby. The remote control was near me and I turned on the television. I

flipped through the channels until I found CNN.

“Oh, no,” Christina moaned, “not this. Let’s watch something good.”

“I’m watching this,” I said in my most authoritative voice.

Christina jumped down to the cabinet and pulled out a movie. “The Grinch

Who Stole Christmas,” she said as she pulled out the cartoon version of the movie.

“No way,” I said firmly. “It’s time for the news. Either stay in here and watch

it with me, or go play.”

Christina started to complain again.

“Hey, I said no. If you want some pizza you will do what I say.”

She thought about it a moment, then started to play. Zach climbed down and

joined her but Tara continued to sit next to me.

I looked at Tara who was still in her silent world. “You know,” I said leaning

over to her, “I used to do what that woman on TV is doing. That was my job.”

Christina overheard us talking. “We know,” she said. “Mom watched this channel

a lot and would have us watch it when you were on.”

“She did?” I asked surprised.

“Yeah,” Christina said not lifting her eyes up from the blocks she was playing

with. “She would always say, ‘that’s my little sister on TV.’”

“Oh,” I said choking back tears. My eyes moistened and I looked at Tara. She

was again watching me intently. I looked at the television again and fought my

tears back.

Soon, Christina and Zach became too noisy for me to hear the television. I

tried using the pizza as leverage again to get them to quiet down but that was

soon ignored. After awhile I grew tired of telling them to quiet down and tired

of seeing someone else do my job on television, so I put the movie in for them.

It was amazing how quiet they became after that.

The pizza arrived just after the movie ended and supper went well. The girls

between them had one and a half pieces. Although, I wouldn’t technically call it

that much because only the cheese was picked off part, and only sauce was licked

off the other. Zach, after having eaten nearly a half of box of crackers, hardly

ate and resorted to taking a bite, chewing it up and spitting it back on his

plate where he made designs using his fingers.

After supper, I figured it was time for them to go to bed, but Christina

reminded me it was a Friday and they didn’t have to go to bed yet, although Tara

disappeared into her room, anyway. Christina picked out a book for me to read

and her and Zach climbed onto her bed so that I could read it to them. Four

pages into it, Zach climbed off the bed and disappeared down the hallway.

After the story was done, Christina asked, “Don’t you think we should find

Zach?”

“Oh, it’s pretty quiet. I’m sure he found a corner to snuggle up in and fell

asleep,” I said as I stood up and stretched.

Christina watched me. “Right. Aunt Lisa, you’ve got a lot to learn about kids.”

She slipped her hand into mine and pulled me into the hallway. I couldn’t help

 

but smile at her lecture.

My good humor was short lived, however. There was a trail of Zach’s clothes

leading down the hall. We followed the trail to the bathroom and peeked in.

There was no Zach there, but there was almost a whole roll of toilet paper in

the toilet and a tube of my red lipstick was in a sink full of water. Red

smudges from the lipstick were on all the towels. Christina slapped her forehead

with her palm, “I knew it.”

I looked down at her. We slowly backed our way out of the bathroom and

continued to follow the trail of clothes. The last article of clothing we found

was his diaper outside of the hall closet. I put my hand on the knob and looked

down at her again for moral support then quickly opened the door.

Two eyes looked up at me. “Cown.” Zach said and smiled up at us. He had tried

to put on an outfit of Christina’s but only managed to get it around his neck.

My red lipstick was smeared on his face.

“He likes clowns,” Christina whispered to me.

I nodded at her in agreement. “I can see that.”

 

*******************

 

It took awhile, but Christina and I got most of the mess cleaned up. The towels

were put in the laundry room, though I knew they were ruined. Zach was cleaned

up and put into bed. I checked on Tara, she was asleep in her bed.

Christina and I went to the living room and watched television. I let her put

in a movie as I was too exhausted to argue with her and my head throbbed.

Christina snuggled up beside me and was soon asleep using my leg as a pillow.

The remote control laid on the chair, out of my reach. I didn’t want to move and

wake Christina, plus I was too exhausted to move, so I let the movie play.

I nodded off into a restless sleep until Jack came home at eleven. “How did it

go?” Jack asked as I woke up.

“Oh,” I asked groggily, “the kids were…we had….you’re back?”

He smiled at my incoherence. “Yes, I’m back.” he scooped Christina up in his

arms and carried her up the stairs.

“So, how did your evening go?” he asked again when he returned.

“Oh, it went…” for lack of a better word, I said the first thing that came to

my mind. “Fine.”

That surprised us both. “Oh,” he said.

I looked at him for a moment and walked into the kitchen.

Jack followed me in. I grabbed the tea kettle and shook it. There was water in

it so I put it on the burner and turned the heat on.

“So,” I asked since Jack sat down at the table and seemed intent on joining me.

“How was your evening?”

“Fine,” he said in the same tone that I had used. I looked at him a moment

unsure if he was mocking me, or if he had had as lousy time as I had.

We sat in silence until the tea kettle whistled. “Would you like some hot apple

cider, or some hot chocolate?” I asked as I opened the cupboard.

 

“Hot chocolate sounds great,” he said.

I grabbed two cups and fixed the hot chocolate. As I handed his to him, I

accidentally spilled some on his shirt.

“Ow,” he yelled standing up, “that’s hot!” He started dancing around the

kitchen as he unbuttoned his shirt.

“I’m so sorry,” I said as I set the cups down and looked for some paper towel.

He ran into the laundry room as I cleaned up the mess.

After several minutes he came back in the kitchen wearing a clean shirt he

found in the laundry room and sat down.

“I’m so sorry,” I said again.

“That’s all right,” he shrugged it off. He took a sip of what was left of his

hot chocolate. “So,” he set his cup down, “how did your evening go, again?”

“Fine,” I said unsure if he was mad at me and unwilling to talk about it.

He looked at me. “So,” he asked as he tried to keep from smiling, “what

happened to all the towels?”

I looked at him for a moment. I forgot that we had put the towels in the

laundry room after Zach had gotten to them. “Nothing why?”

We looked at each other then both of us started laughing at the same time. “Let

me tell you about my evening,” I said. I told him all about my adventure in

babysitting, and I was even able to laugh about it. And being able to laugh felt

good. Real good.

 

************************

 

“Aunt Lisa!” I heard the cry but couldn’t see which direction it was coming

from.

“Aunt Lisa?” I muttered trying to see through the darkness. “Christina is that

you?”

“Aunt Lisa,” I heard the cry again.

“Christina,” I called out. “Where are you?”

“It’s not Christina,” the faint voice cried.

“Not Christina?” the darkness seemed to muffle my voice no matter how loud I

tried to yell. “Who is it, then?”

There was only the sound of wind for a moment. “Tara,” came the muffled

response.

“Tara?” I yelled. “Where are you?”

“Right here.”

I spun around but lost my balance and fell. As I fell I heard my name being

called over and over again.

“Lisa,” it sounded like Jack’s voice. “Lisa, wake up.”

I woke up suddenly and sat upright on the couch. Christina was laying next to

me and I knocked her onto the floor. Jack picked her up as I tried to orient

myself with my surroundings.

“Are you all right?” he asked and sat down on the couch next to my feet. “What

are you doing down here?” he was rubbing Christina’s head gently who dozed off

 

again momentarily.

“I couldn’t sleep, so I came down here to read for awhile. I must have fallen

asleep,” I rubbed my sore neck with my hand.

“And this little princess found you anyway,” he kissed Christina’s forehead.

“What time is it?” I asked looking around the living room.

“Five in the morning.”

“Five AM?” I asked leaning back on the couch as I yawned.

“Are you all right?”

“Yeah,” I said with a hint of irritation coloring my voice. “I just couldn’t

sleep.” Our eyes met. “I’m going to bed,” I said as I stood up and walked to the

stairs.

“Don’t forget, you’re taking the children shopping today.”

“I know, I know.” I walked up the stairs and back to my room. He wouldn’t let

me forget I had agreed, although reluctantly, to take the children Christmas

shopping. It was Saturday, one week and one day since Jack’s date. Somehow

during the week he had convinced me we should celebrate Christmas, albeit a

small celebration. It had something to do with his ‘giving the children a normal

life theory’ of which I still disagreed. But, I overheard Christina telling Zach

that Santa Claus would still come to them even though their mom and dad were

gone and hearing that almost broke my heart. So, I agreed to take the children

Christmas shopping to get gifts for Jack. He had already taken them to get

presents for me and for each of them, all I had to do was this one last trip.

What concerned me the most was Tara. She still hadn’t spoken so I did not know

how she felt about celebrating Christmas.

I took all three children shopping later that day. We ended up at K-Mart with

Zach riding in a shopping cart and the girls walking beside me. As we turned a

corner our cart bumped into another. At first, the driver of the other cart,

a plump, older lady looked as if she was going to yell at me but then her face

softened as a spark of recognition flickered in her eyes.

“Aren’t you, Lisa, Janie’s sister?” she asked.

I nodded my head.

“You must be,” she said as she smiled and looked down at the children. “Because

these are her children, clear as day, looking back at me. Janie used to visit

teach me and often brought the children to say hello.”

“Hello Sister Kingsford,” Christina said.

“Hello dear,” the older woman said as she bent down by her. “And hello to you

too, Mr. Zach and Miss Tara.” There was a moment of silence as she waited for

Tara to speak to her.

“She doesn’t talk anymore,” Christina said.

Sister Kingsford stood up and looked at me.

“She’s still grieving,” I explained.

“Oh, sure, sure. So, I bet you children are excited to be living with your Aunt

Lisa now. Janie often said you’ve done quite well for yourself.”

“Actually,” I said, “I’m just here for a month.”

“A month?” she asked alarmed. “Where will the children go?”

 

This was not a conversation I wanted to be having in the middle of the store or

with this person who may have known Janie but was a stranger to me. “They’ll be

with Jack. He’s agreed to stay here and get a job.”

“Jack?” Sister Kingsford asked.

I looked at the good sister.

She realized her blunder and tried to cover her surprise. “It’s just that Janie

often said he…well, that he has a hard time keeping a job.”

I suddenly wanted this conversation to be over right then.

“Hello there,” we heard a familiar voice call behind us.

“Uncle Jack, Uncle Jack,” Christina called as she ran over to him.

He scooped her up in his arms. “Hello Princess.”

Zach started dancing up and down in the cart as Jack walked over to us with

his friend Cindy.

“Hello Sister Kingsford, hello everyone,” Cindy said with a smile. “I

convinced Jack to come shopping with me today.”

“Hello dear. Hello Jack,” Sister Kingsford replied. “Lisa was just telling me

that you are going to watch the children,”

“Yes, that’s right,” Jack said as he rubbed the top of Christina’s head. “I’m

the lucky one.”

“Well, what are you going to do, you know,” I could see she was struggling for

a tactful way to put it, “to support yourself?”

Jack looked at the her. “I’ve been offered a teaching position at the college.

I’ll be teaching photography and eventually become an art teacher as well.”

“Jack is a very talented photographer, you know,” Cindy said as she slipped her

arm through his.

I felt as if I was no longer necessary for this conversation. “If you will

excuse us,” I said as I started pushing the cart. “The children and I still have

some shopping to do.”

Christina said good-bye to her uncle and walked next to me. When we got out of

earshot she looked up at me. “I think Uncle Jack’s going to get married.”

“What makes you say that?” I asked.

“He’s got to be married to take care of us.”

“I don’t think he does.”

“Well, it’d help.”

“Maybe,” I said. “But don’t rush him into anything.” Before we turned down

another corner, I glanced back to see the three of them still standing where we

had left them. “Hmm,” I muttered under my breath.

“What?” Christina asked.

“Nothing,” I said and we turned down an aisle.

 

*************

 

Darkness again. I never realized how consuming darkness is before. It doesn’t

just affect you physically, it affects you emotionally as well. The dark cloud

had completely overtaken me now, and I remembered I wasn’t alone. “Tara,” I

 

called out. “Tara can you hear me?”

“Aunt Lisa,” came the muffled reply. “Where are you?”

“I’m right here,” though I didn’t even know where right here was. I felt a hand

slip into my own and I grasped it.

“Aunt Lisa, I’m scared,” she sobbed.

I couldn’t even see her but I pulled her arm close to me until I could feel her

body next to mine. “I’ve got you now, I won’t let you go.” At that moment, a

gust of wind knocked Tara off of her feet and pulled her away. Her fingers

slipped through mine.

“Aunt Lisa!” Tara cried.

I tried to tighten my grasp but she continued to slip from my hold.

The wind gust was too powerful, I lost her. “TARA!” I screamed and woke myself

  1. I looked at Christina who was still sleeping soundly next to me. What a

relief, I must have only screamed in my dream. Sweat soaked my shirt and pillow

and I was still breathing hard. I stumbled to the bathroom and turned on the

light trying to make the bad feelings dissipate with the light. It didn’t work.

I turned on the cold water and splashed my face and looked at the girl in the mirror. What was becoming of her? Christmas was just over a week away and the dreams were getting more frightening because the children were now included in them.

*********************************

Jack was determined the children should have a Christmas and even decorated the

house with a tree and a few lights. But I could tell the Christmas spirit was

fading from him the closer it got. Today was Friday, in two days it would be

Christmas Eve. We decided to have a small Christmas Eve dinner with just the children and then

go to a special fireside that night at the church. Christmas morning we would open presents of course and spend the day low-key, together as a family.

I looked in the mirror and studied my face. My eyes slowly looked at the

reflection of my chest in the mirror and I was reminded of a conversation I

overheard between Jack and Christina a couple of nights ago. He had been tucking

the children in when I walked down the hallway. I stopped behind Christina’s

partially closed door when I heard her mention my name.

“Why is Aunt Lisa so sad?” Christina asked.

“Well,” Jack said, “she just lost her sister.”

“I know, but she seemed sad before, too.”

“How do you know that?” Jack asked.

“Mom said that Aunt Lisa never came to visit us because she was too sad.”

My hand came up to my mouth.

“She did, huh?” Jack continued. “Why do you think she was sad?”

There was a slight pause. “Maybe because her mom and dad died.” There was

another pause, “Does that mean I’ll always be sad, too?”

My throat became tight and dry.

“You’ll always miss your mom and dad, I know I do. But you don’t always have to

be sad. They wouldn’t want you to be.”

“Why is Aunt Lisa still sad?” she asked again.

“What do you think?”

It took a moment for her to answer. “In my book, the Grinch is sad because his

heart is too small. Maybe she needs a bigger heart.”

 

His voice was husky, “Do you think we should help?”

“I think mom would want us to. I could tell she was sad whenever she talked to

Aunt Lisa on the phone.”

I had to swallow my tears so that they wouldn’t hear me cry.

“What should we do?” he asked.

“I don’t know. Do you think loving her is enough?” she asked.

“I think it’s a good start,” he said. “I think we should come up with a name

for our project. What should we call it?”

There was a rustle of sheets and I figured she sat up. “Well, she needs help

with her heart. How about Hearting Aunt Lisa?”

“What a great name,” he said. “You and I are officially in charge of project

Hearting Lisa Monroe.”

I couldn’t take anymore and ducked into the bathroom shutting the door quietly

behind me. Now, there I was again, looking at my reflection in the mirror trying

to decide who it was that I saw. Who am I? I realized the children had somehow

become part of my life. They were my family and I was concerned about their

well-being. I also realized the bitterness I carried around had become part of

me, and I wasn’t willing to let go of it. It had become a shield. To let go

of my bitterness, would be to change who I was. I would lose my identity, and

that scared me. I desperately had to cling to my bitterness to keep myself,

even though I could feel I was already changing. But I didn’t want to admit it.

So I stood in front of the mirror that Friday morning, as I had done a few nights ago, and tried to determine who it was that stared back at me.

 

*********************

 

Later that night, after the children were in bed, Jack and I gathered in the

kitchen for hot chocolate, an event that had become a nightly ritual since the

night of his first date.

“So,” I asked as he poured the hot water into the cups. “How was your date

tonight?”

“Fine,” he answered.

I watched as he set the tea kettle down and picked up the hot chocolate packet.

“You know, Christina thinks you’re looking for a wife to help you take care of

them.”

He laughed. “She does?”

I studied him and grew serious. “You’re not, are you?”

Jack looked at me. “What?”

“You, a single guy, will have custody of the children. Are you looking for a

wife?”

“No, not really. Cindy has been the one to call me and ask me for dates.”

I nodded. “Just wondering.” But my conversations with Brother Cunningham and

also Sister Kingsford had been on my mind for awhile. “It must be kind of hard

for you, going from a world traveler to a stay at home family man.”

He looked at me. “What?”

 

“I mean, you are used to traveling so much and now you’ll have to stay home.

An instant family seems like it would be a bit overwhelming.”

He looked down at the floor for a moment then back into my eyes. “I guess a

part of me died when Craig did.”

I was shocked. “Part of you died?”

“Well yeah, the selfish person who had to be on the go died away. But a part

of me, I didn’t even know was there, awakened.”

I looked down at the floor. “I’ve noticed a change in me also.” My thoughts

from the morning came back to my mind. “What a group we are! A bunch of orphans

trying to form a family.”

“I’m not an orphan,” he said.

I looked at him unsure of what he was trying to tell me. He was as much an

orphan as I was or the children were.

“I know who my Father is, and I know he is there for me.”

My bitterness resurfaced. “It was your Father who took your parents away.”

“It was my Father who gave them to me in the first place. And it was my Father

who provided a way for me to be sealed to them for eternity. That’s comforting,

I get to not only see my mom and dad again, but also Craig and Janie.”

I thought about his words for a moment. “But you’ll have a long lonely wait.”

He looked at me. “So, I’ll wait.”

There was no answer I could give him so we sat and drank our hot chocolate in

silence.

 

****************************

 

 

 

 

I did my best to avoid Jack for most of Saturday. Saturday night Christina told

me she wanted to go and look at the Christmas lights on people’s houses. So I

took her and Tara with me while Zach stayed with his uncle. We drove through old

neighborhoods I had ridden down with my parents during past Christmas seasons.

Some neighborhoods were new though. As we turned down one street, a little brown

dog ran in front of my car. He ran too quick for me to avoid him and I hit him.

I slammed on the brakes in stunned silence. I was expecting to have to quiet

Christina but she wasn’t the one who spoke first.

“You killed it!” a cry came from the back seat.

I turned around as Tara jumped out of the car and ran to the wounded animal.

“Stay here,” I told Christina and jumped out of the car. I walked slowly to

the front of the car and saw a bittersweet sight. Tara had the dog’s head in her

lap and she was crying profusely. A man from one of the houses ran out and

toward us.

I watched as Tara cried as she hugged the dog and rocked back and forth.

The man bent down by the dog and scooped him up. “Sammy, oh, Sammy,” he cried.

“I’m sorry, sir. I didn’t see him. We were going slow though because we were

looking at Christmas lights,” I explained.

 

“I put up a new fence that has a little opening in it,” the man explained. “He

keeps getting out and I’ve had no chance to fix it.”

I helped him carry the dog back to his house and got his name and telephone

number so that I could find out how the dog was doing. More for Tara’s benefit

than for mine. When I walked back to the car, I found Tara and Christina sitting

on the sidewalk sobbing.

“Hey there,” I said and sat down next to them. “We weren’t going very fast so I

think the dog’s going to be all right. I got his owner’s name and number so that

we can call and find out how he’s doing, if you want.”

Christina nodded. “I’m cold.”

“Why don’t you get in the car. Tara and I will be in in a moment,” I suggested.

She obeyed.

“It was kind of scary tonight wasn’t it?” I asked Tara when we were alone.

She nodded. I was afraid that was going to be the extent of our conversation.

“I miss my mom,” she said eventually.

I wrapped my arm around her. “I do too.” And then the flood gates opened and

she cried and I cried with her. It was a cleansing kind of cry that left us

both exhausted.

Some carolers came up to us, “Are you all right?” one of them asked.

I looked at them with swollen eyes. “We will be.”

 

**********************

 

When we finally arrived home, I could tell Jack wanted to ask questions,

especially since Tara was talking, but I shook my head at him. Now was not the

time, I could explain tomorrow. Tomorrow was Christmas Eve, it was finally here.

Christina, Tara, and I, exhausted from our outing, went straight to bed. This

time, both girls came into my bed which made it a little crowded.

*************************

 

The wind was still blowing and the darkness was still there, but I wasn’t as

frightened. This time I called for all three children. “Tara, Christina, Zach,

where are you?”

“Here we are,” Tara said from the darkness.

“Keep talking,” I swung my hands back and forth in the darkness.

“Here, Aunt Lisa, here.”

And then I felt it. The warmth and softness of a child’s hand. “Tara?” I

asked.

“Aunt Lisa you’ve got me.”

I reached with my other hand and grabbed her near the elbow to keep her from

slipping easily. “What about Zach and Christina?”

“I’ve got them,” Tara yelled clutching my arm.

I reached out in the darkness until I could feel them both and pulled all three

little bodies close to mine and hunched over them. The winds picked up. “Hang

onto me tight,” I yelled.

 

The winds blew more fierce than I remembered them blowing before. But the four

of us stayed intact. I closed my eyes and waited. There were times when I wanted

to let go, but some sort of strength other than my own, helped us stay together.

And then, the winds stopped, and the darkness dissipated. After awhile, I

finally dared to open my eyes and I saw the old familiar dirt trail I had been

standing on in my first dream.

I woke up. It was morning and the sun had risen. I had had the dream again, but

that’s all it was, a dream. Not a nightmare. I rolled over and saw the two girls

sleeping soundly beside me and I knew the nightmare was over, but what was it

trying to tell me? I refused to think of the message. It was still my plan to go

back to New York, but I almost had to remind myself of it.

 

Later that morning, I was helping Tara curl her hair for church. Christina came

into the room and plopped down on the bed still wearing her pajamas. “You better

hurry,” I told Christina.   “You’ll be late for church.”

“I’m not going to church today,” she responded.

“Not going to church?” I asked. “Why not?”

“Don’t want to,” Christina shrugged her shoulders.

“What kind of reasoning is that?” I asked.

“Why don’t you go?”

I couldn’t believe I fell into a trap so big. Set by a first grader,

nonetheless. “Well, I…” it was a good question. Why didn’t I? It didn’t happen

consciously. I missed one Sunday to work, and I didn’t feel any different than

if I had gone. So, that one Sunday slipped into two, which slipped into three,

and so on. Until, before I realized it, a year of Sundays had gone by and I felt

like the same old me. Even when I didn’t work, I still didn’t go. “All right,” I

sighed. “I’ll go.”

So I went to church for the first time in several years.

 

********************

At church, we were reminded of a special fireside that night. After our little

family ate dinner, that’s what we were now, family, we went back to the church.

It was a special stake fireside and the stake Relief Society was in charge.

There was lots of music and singing. An hour into it, Zach was asleep in Jack’s

arms and Christina and Tara were both fighting to stay awake. The next number

was announced, it was ‘I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.’

I listened to the words intently. “Peace on Earth, Good Will To Men.” Peace,

that’s what I had been feeling since morning even though I felt a little guilty

doing so. What was peace? Peace was not having war or hate. What was it Jack had

said about hate? It was related to fear as they were both dark feelings. I

thought of my dream and how good I felt when the darkness disappeared.

I swallowed as I listened to the second verse, “For hate is strong .” Dark

feelings were strong with me. “Then pealed the bells more loud and deep, ‘God is

not dead,’” I rubbed my right thumb into my left palm.

What was it Jack said, how do you let light into a dark place like that? How

 

much darkness had I let seep into me, and where was the light? Did I even know

where to find light?

As soon as the song ended, I excused myself, and told the girls to stay there.

I closed the doors to the overflow and leaned back against them. The

announcement that the next song would be the last, came over the speaker in the

hall. A moment of shuffling places took place and then the music of “O Holy

Night” filled the foyer. I walked closer to the outside doors which had been

propped open to let some of the cold air circulate in where all the hot bodies

were. It took a moment for the cold air to penetrate my body. I stood, listening

to the song. “Til He appeared and the soul felt its worth.”

I couldn’t take it anymore and walked out the doors. I stayed by the building

so that I could remain in the shadows and not be seen.

I could still hear the music. “Fall on your knees.” I put my hand on the

building to steady myself. Tears started to pour down my cheek. But these

weren’t the same tears I shed the night before with Tara, these were tears of

realization. Jack was right, I had let fear consume my life. I wanted to let

light into my life again, but how?

At that point, a scripture I remembered from seminary came to my mind. “My

God,” I cried, “why hast thou forsaken me?” As soon as I said it, I remembered

the words from the last song, “God is not dead, nor doth He sleep.” If God isn’t

dead, He is still there. If I couldn’t find light in my life it was because I had let the light go.

“Fall on your knees,” the choir sung almost as if it was a direct command for

me, I fell to my knees.

“My God,” I whispered, “why have I forsaken thee?” Years of aches and wounds

formulated and poured out in a simple plea, “I don’t want fear to run my life

anymore. I want to find the light again.”

I can’t say what happened next. If someone had seen me, that person would have

had to say that he saw me kneeling for a few moments and then stood up. That was

all anyone could have seen. But it was an understatement for the quiet miracle

that happened inside me. I felt the darkness and bitterness tumble down in my

mind like a brick wall. They were replaced with light and even love.

My next question was answered before I even asked it. “Should I stay here with

the children?” My voice became husky, “Help me to be able to help and teach

Zach, Christina, and Tara,” I swallowed hard, “and help them to continue to help

me.” I stayed kneeling, unable to force myself up yet. “I will do my best,” I

promised before I closed my prayer.

When I finally opened my eyes, I was surprised to see a light covering of snow

all around me. It had finally snowed. Laughter broke through my tears as I

stumbled to my feet and went back inside the building, just in time to hear the

‘Amen’ from the closing prayer.

I retrieved all of our coats from the coat rack and watched as people filed out

the chapel doors. Finally I saw my small family and waved at them.

Tara spotted me first and walked as fast as she could without running while

dragging Christina by the hand.

 

“Aunt Lisa,” they said in unison and I hugged them both.

“Hey,” Christina said. “You’re all wet.”

“That’s probably from the snow,” I tried to say nonchalantly even though I

broke into a smile.

“It snowed?” Tara asked.

I nodded my head enthusiastically.

“Can we play in the snow?” Christina asked as she put on her coat.

“Not tonight,” Jack said as he handed sleeping Zach to me. He softly grabbed my

elbow and raised his eyebrows at me as if to ask if I was all right. I smiled at

him. Satisfied that I was okay, he put his coat on and wrapped Zach’s around

him. He took the sleeping boy from my arms and I put my coat on.

“We can play in the snow tomorrow though,” I bent down by the girls and hugged

them again. “And if not tomorrow, then the next day. And if not then, next week

or even next month.”

“But you’ll be gone,” Christina said sadly.

Tara looked at me. “No, she’s staying. Aren’t you Aunt Lisa?”

Jack and Christina looked at me eagerly. “Yes,” I replied. “As long as you let

me stay.” I stood up and looked at Jack. “Is that okay? I mean, you had things

worked out already.”

“That would be great,” he quickly added, “for the children.”

“I had a feeling you might. Actually, so did Brother Cunningham, he offered his home for me to stay in while he and his wife are on a mission.”

“He did?” I asked.

He nodded his head.

I’ve been told that when I turned my head a high five was exchanged between a certain uncle and niece along with the words, “Mission accomplished.”

I turned and smiled at them and at Tara. The smile wouldn’t come off my face that night.

“Everybody ready?” I asked as I held Christina and Tara’s hands. “Let’s go home.”

 

© 2016 ck’s days

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s