Dead Man Walking

The leaves fell, fell like her tears.  They hit the ground, making no sound, just wet imprints beneath her.  Her tears chorused down her face, leaving trails twisting and turning, just like those she had followed to get there.  In her hand she held the letter, crumpled against the rotting wood she sat upon.  The moss on the log smeared, smudging the page.  He’s gone, gone. The thoughts ring hollow, just as her sobs ring through the forest.  Only this morning his commander appeared, missing for months is what he said, dead likely as not. It was then she took off, running blindly into the forest, the one place she could always find solace.

But not today.  She hugged her arms around herself, doubling over in pain, wishing she could die instead of feel such agony.  She was in a fog, a mist, a storm of grief. Impenetrable.  She lowered her face to her folded knees, her sobs softening as they are muffled by  her clothing, black hair falling over her face like a curtain, blocking out the sunlight filtering through the leaves, blocking out life.

He knew where she would be, he had met his commander on the lane to her house. She believed him dead, and there was only one place she would go. He ran to the forest, heart pounding, lungs expanding.  He ran for all he was worth, and then stopped short at the scene before him.  The sunlight filtered down around her, she resembled a woodland fairy, dressed in greens and browns, crumpled in on herself, shoulders shaking.  Silently he walks to her side and drops to one knee next to her. Softly, he tilts her chin upwards so she is gazing at him.  He brushes a tear away and grasping her shoulders lifts her to her feet, embracing her securely.

A dead man stood before her, his frosty eyes the same as in life, his strength undiminished; he pulls her up, wrapping her in his embrace.  Her arms instinctively fasten behind his neck, clinging to him for dear life, the tears flowing again.  After ages, she loosens her grip, looking, searching his face, confused. He’s dead, yet he’s here, alive. And then she tests his existence.  She reaches up to his lips, slowly kissing them, knowing he would respond if he truly lived.

That kiss revived him, awakening him for the first time in years.  He could taste her familiarity, feel the texture of her lips as he ran his tongue over them, the foreign taste of salty tears she cried.  Her kiss reawaked his desire for her, stirred something deep in his core, a need to be close to her, closer.  Her kiss is paralyzing,  he slowly sinks to the ground, using the log as support, dragging her down on top of him.

She locks arms and legs around him, never wishing to be parted from him again, gripping with all her strength to hold him to her, never letting him go.  Her fingers tangle in his long brown hair as she lays upon him; heart to heart, breath to breath, chest to chest.  They were one, after years of separation and moments of desolation, they were together again.

Eventually she loosened her grip on him and, sliding partially off his chest she whispered, “They told me you were dead.”

Looking back deeply into her eyes he replied, “Without you, I would be.”

Her green eyes glowed as she kissed his cheek.  She settled herself against him, arm across his chest, one leg bent over his, his arms securely around her.  The stars shined down on them in the little clearing, watching over them as they slept, peacefully, in each others arms.

Day Without a Cloud and yet it Storms

Today was a beautifully sunny day, smiling faces, laughter rippling across the campus. So much noise, just the normal conversations: homework, boys, girls, drama, the long weekend beginning after lunch. But today of all days demonstrates how quickly that warm chatter can turn to cold silence. One of my girls, a high school senior named Neema, was in the hospital due to complications with her sickle cell anemia. We just visited her two days ago, Tuesday on our way back from town. She was sitting up, eating, and laughing with us or at us. This morning after staff worship it was said she’d probably get to leave the hospital soon, she was scheduled to be released Saturday. Spirits were up, smiles were present and we went back to work. Not long after I get a call from Mrs. V… Neema is gone.

I know my heart stilled for a moment, it’s hard to process, and until we gathered everyone together I didn’t shed a tear. Not when I could hear the girls sobbing in the rows in front of me did I cry. It wasn’t until the closing prayer that a tear slipped from beneath my eyelids. This morning was hard on the girls, I saw many crying, some doubled over in silent agony, others wailing in despair. I vividly remember when Corine came in. She was supported between two other girls, she was barely walking, dragging her feet and moaning. It was an eerie and mournful sound.

They guided her to her bed where she lay, still moaning. At times she would move in a way I can only describe as convulsively, her wails would grow louder in pain. I climbed across her, sitting there with her on her bed, softly trying to calm her. It is then that I cried, tears flowed easily from my eyes at the intense pain. Pain that I know all too well was demonstrated before my eyes. I knew that pain, from nearing two years back. All I could do was hold her and rub her back in an attempt to comfort her.

Today was a sad day despite the sun. Neema’s presence will be sorely missed as she was one of the kindest girls I know. I am at least glad she did not die in pain. The doctors say she just went to sleep, they tried to revive her, but it was not to be. Goodnight Neema, may you sleep in peace until the day that Jesus comes back for us all. I am glad to have met you even if it was for a short time.