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I’m Sorry

I pulled the large manilla envelope out of the mailbox and looked at the return address. A wave of heat washed over me, my heart beat faster, and those familiar anxious moths in my stomach flapped their wings. I knew I’d have to face it, and him, and soon, I just wasn’t prepared for that today.

A part of my extended family was in a messy conflict. One disgruntled Uncle requesting church discipline for an Aunt (his deceased wife’s sister) because she would leave church any time he preached. That Aunt then, needing to defend her behaviour, opened the closet door to ugly family skeleton’s (and rightly so). Since her defense was serious accusations against my Uncle the local church deferred to the next higher authority to deal with the conflict. I could not let my Aunt fight alone and chose to share my personal experience with this Uncle, confirming what my Aunt was saying against him. My cousin, the one who sent the letter, stood with her as well and we were all to meet and share our stories in a church “court” of sorts. Already filled with dread and fear my anxiety was compounded by knowing I would also have to be with him.

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Guardians of Grief

My office was silent except for the tick… tick… tick… of the clock on the wall. Shadows encircled us, our only light coming from a nearby lamp. I sat across from her in my chair, leaning in. Up until now she had been sitting back on the love seat telling me her story; her face distorted with pain, eyes begging for relief as tears streamed down her cheeks. Now, in the silence, she was bent over, her face in her hands, quietly crying. I let her weep.

Her tears spent she lifted her face and looked at me. Shame clouded the pain in her cried-out eyes. “I know I have to forgive him,” she said, “I just…” “No you don’t,” … “can’t,” we said at the same time. “But my pastor… everybody says”, her voice trailed off, pleading . “No, you don’t,” I said a little more firmly and held her eyes with mine.

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My Son is Home

From here I can see the road, it’s a good place for me to put
my chair. I’ve sat here everyday since the day he left. It feels like a lifetime ago, but I know he will come home. One day. I just know. So I sit. Waiting. Watching.

He always was restless. As a young boy when we worked in the fields he preferred to use the stocks as swords, the stacks of sheaves as fortresses. Yes, I know, that is natural for boys, yet it seemed to me he needed adventure as much as he needed food or air. He longed for something beyond. I remember when he was, oh maybe thirteen, I noticed him seemingly in a vision, he was looking out, far in the distance, his face expressionless. “What are you seeing?” I asked, concerned he would hear the fear in my voice. “Oh nothing,” he said wistfully, “just wondering what’s out there.” My heart sank at the confirmation of what I’d known for a long time. He was going to leave someday.

I have that same knowing now. I know he’s going to come home. So, I sit here wishing, hoping today will be the day. My older son, such a good boy, tells me it’s just wishful thinking, futile.
But I know.

I’m so grateful for him, he is able to run the estate without me. It’s been a tough growing season because of the drought. We had so little rain the harvest has been scarce. Thanks to him, and Yaweh’s provision, we have enough; enough and a little extra. Other estates have not faired so well and the famine extends way beyond our borders. I worry. Does he have enough to eat? Is he warm? Is he safe? Yahweh be his provider, his protector, and defender. And bring him home soon.

I’m tired today. I awoke early from nightmares. I can’t shake the images of him, sunken cheeks, distended stomach. It was horrifying. I’m discouraged, perhaps my older son is right and all this waiting is futile. It’s especially hot and dry this morning. The wind blows the dust up off the sandy road and the horizon is hazy and distorted.
Far in the distance I can see puffs of dust rising in the air.
I stand, put my hand up to shade my eyes and squint. It’s a trail of dust….
it’s moving towards me….

My heart skips then begins to pound in my chest as I hold my breath. Could it be? Gripping my robe, my pounding heart under my fist, I take two steps forward, standing at the edge of the porch.
Then I see.
It’s him!
I know it’s him!
Leaving all propriety on the porch I lift and gather my robe around my hips so I can run.
And I run.
My old legs, renewed with life and energy race me to him. Every step closer, closer, and closer.

He walks slowly, almost dragging his feet, shoulders hunched, head down, eyes looking at the road. His clothes are tattered rags. He is dirty, his face smeared, his hair long and greasy, his beard scraggled and unkept. He looks up and sees me coming to him. He falls to his knees, weeping in his hands. Crashing to my knees I gather him in my arms. His muffled voice keeps repeating over and over ,”Father I have sinned”. I hold him, rock him as he sobs, his body heaving, shaking in my arms. He cries until he is spent. I soothe him, my own tears falling on his head.

House servants arrive where we sit on the dusty road.
“Kill the fatted calf,” I tell them, “we are going to have a party. My son is home.” My son looks up at me. Brow furrowed, his eyes are clouded in shame. I cradle his cheek with my hand and kiss his forehead. “Welcome home Son, l’ve missed you.” Fresh tears wet our cheeks. I remove the family ring from my finger, take his hand and place it on his finger. We get up from the road, well I get up and lift my son to his feet. My arm around him, half embracing, half supporting , his ribs poking into my hand, we walk back to the house.

Hours later all the neighbours are here. There’s music and laughter, dancing. My son has had a bath, his hair washed, combed, and tied at the back of his neck, his beard trimmed. He is wearing clothes I kept for him. They sag on his slender frame. I have not left his side and he seems comforted by that. The remnants of shame linger in his demeanor, his head always down he struggles to look people in the eye.

I search the crowd for my older son. He is no where to be seen. Puzzled I get up from my seat. My son looks at me, his face strained, clouded by anxiety. As I did on the road, I cup his cheek in my hand and kiss his forehead in reassurance, “I’ll be right back.”

I find my older son on the porch. He is pacing. “Come inside son.” He stops. His face distorted, glaring at me, eyes blazing in anger, he hisses through gritted teeth. “I’ve been with you always. Done what needs to be done. Sacrificing. Worked and worked to please you. And what did I get? Nothing. Absolutely Nothing. Not even a small gathering for me and my friends.” His voice rises, his tone full of disgust. “And this brother of mine,” he spits out the words, “Did nothing but shame you. Squandered away everything. And for him you invite the whole town to celebrate?!

A part of my heart sinks. He doesn’t understand. I step towards him and gently take his face in both my hands, I look into his eyes. His head shifts down as he tries to pull away. “Son,” I hold my tender grip. He looks at me. “You HAVE been with me always. Everything I have is yours. But Your brother was lost and now he’s home.” I can see he doesn’t understand. Confusion and bitterness pass through his hardened eyes . His gaze drops. I lean toward him and kiss his forehead, let him go and return to the party. My steps a little slower.

Upon entering the room I spot my son sitting where I left him. He spots me too, his face relaxes in relief. My heart leaps and I smile at him.
My son was lost, and now he’s home.

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The Day She Lost Everything

She was five years old, all sunshine and pigtails. She was with her Daddy. She loved being with Daddy. Saturday mornings, snuggled on his lap in the big yellow rocking chair watching Scooby-Doo. Outside playing nearby while he mowed the grass. Sitting on the floor as he tinkered and fixed things around the house. Daddy could fix anything. He was big and strong, he made her laugh and she was safe.

Today she sat in the front seat of their 1970 dark green Chevrolet Nova right by Daddy. It was just the two of them. She was happy, content, chitter-chattering like five year old’s do. Arriving at the restaurant she hopped out of the car, took Daddy’s hand and walked in. She climbed up on the red vinyl seat of the booth Daddy chose and told Him what she wanted to eat.

A nice lady came to take their order and it wasn’t long before she was sitting with a plate of French fries and a small glass of 7-Up in front of her. Daddy put salt and a little vinegar on her French fries, her favourite. All was well with the world. She sat quietly eating her fries while Daddy drank his coffee.

After a little while the nice lady came and sat beside her and started talking with Daddy. During their conversation Daddy reached into his shirt pocket and pulled out his box of cigarettes. Taking out two, he put them in his mouth. Grabbing his zippo lighter from his jeans pocket he lit them both with a brief inhale and handed one to the nice lady.

She ate while Daddy and the nice lady talked. When she was done and Daddy had finished his coffee and cigarette they got up out of the booth. Daddy took her hand and they walked to the door. The nice lady said goodbye and they left.

Driving home she looked out the car window watching the landscape pass by. Johnny cash played on the radio.

Mommy and Brother were there when they got home. She crawled out of the front seat of the car when Daddy opened the door and skipped to the house. Mommy was in the kitchen doing what mommy’s do asking about her time with Daddy. She chattered on about the drive, the restaurant, French fries and 7-Up. Daddy walked into the kitchen just as she was telling Mommy about the nice lady and how Daddy shared a cigarette with her.

Time stopped. Something changed and she was confused. She looked from Mommy to Daddy and back to Mommy again as they looked at each other. The next few minutes, hours, and even days were are blur of confusion. Daddy was gone, Mommy was crying all the time, and Brother, well he seemed mad and sad all at the same time. All she knew for sure, was that in the moment of the telling she lost everything. And it was all her fault.