…from the archives…
The lunch bell rang at 11:30. My fifth-grade teacher dismissed the
class. I put my sweater on, picked up my cello and navigated my way
through the crowded hallway. As I crossed from the dark interior to
the bright sunshine my mind swept through the corners of the morning
looking for a scrap of a story to tell my mom. Since Danny had moved up
to Jr. High, I had Mom all to myself during my lunch break.
I bumped awkwardly down the sidewalk, stopping every ten paces to change the clumsy
cello to the other arm. A tune passed through my head and came out with
a hum. Turning left at Elizabeth Street, I looked up and saw-my dad! – a
block ahead at the edge of the school property. He stood still as a
sentinel, shoulders slumped.
I hitched the
cello closer to my body and broke into an exuberant trot. Never
before had I seen my dad! in the middle of the school day. One by one
he had collected my six older siblings out of their classes, had broken the
news to them and had brought them home. For this final breaking, he
waited for me to come to him. Out of breath, I set the cello down and
gave him a hug.
“How’s Mom? Did you bring her home from the hospital?”
His face was tired granite.
“Honey, I have some bad news.”
It wasn’t his solemnity that struck me; it was the absence of any movement. I looked up with questioning eyes.
“Carol, Mommy is in heaven with Jesus.”
I stared at him, staggered–completely stunned. It was only supposed to be a “Very Minor Surgery.”
“She died very early this morning.”
He picked up the cello and we trudged the two-block trek home. We had passed two houses on the left when, looking up at him, I protested.
“Wait, Daddy. You said it was bad news. But if she’s in heaven with Jesus, that’s good news, isn’t it?”
For the first time the muscles in his face moved. He smiled down at me wordlessly. While I couldn’t comprehend that my Mom
was dead, I could see the grief that had already moved into his eyes; I
could sense him pulling into himself. Flitting back to my own
concerns, I saw my First Problem.
“But I wanted to tell Mom that I got an A on my spelling test.”
I didn’t ask for details. Clearly, what he said was true. I just didn’t quite know what it had to do with me.
My next impulse was to lighten his load.
“Daddy, let me carry the cello. Please, Daddy. Please…let me carry the cello for you.”
shook his head as we continued to walk. In silence we turned right onto
Greenfield Avenue. Our heads bowed in surrender to the
heavy weight as we forced our feet forward. Even with a dozen people inside, the house was as
quiet and still as my father had been.
As we approached the porch, I bounded up the steps, remembering my good news.
“Mom! I got an A………………”
My voice broke off as the news dangled in midair.
Pour out your heart before Him.