Tears In a Bottle
By Holly Jensen
I stood still as a post and stared at the charred remains of my home. The way I felt, you’d think I was looking at the last shreds of life itself. I was numb with shock and anger-anger at God, anger at my parents, and anger at myself. I was angry at my parents for up and dying on me, I was angry at God for letting them die and letting my house burn, and I didn’t know why I was angry at myself.
Mom and Dad were killed in a car accident, and now, six months later, faulty wiring had caused my house to burn to the ground. All that was left was a shell. All of my parents' things and almost everything I owned were gone.
“Oh God,” I screamed silently, “What more do you want from me? Weren’t my parents enough?”
“I’m so sorry, Annie,” James O’Shay said as he came up next to me and I knew he meant it.
He and his wife Molly are my legal guardians. I’ve been living with them since the accident. When I turn 18 in about a year and a half, I was to move back into my house. I had come over to do some cleaning and when I was running the vacuum cleaner the place was on fire. It burned too fast for anything to be done and now, James was taking care of the particulars.
I just looked at him blankly without saying a word. I didn’t know what to say. He was sorry, but that didn’t change anything. James must not have been able to think of what to say either, because he just took me by the hand and led me to the car. All of us were silent on the way home. I found myself thinking back to the rage I had directed toward God. Before my parents died, all of the members of my family were strong Christians. I had, I suppose, lived a sheltered life with no tests to strengthen my faith. Now that these two things had happened, I didn’t seem to have any left. I found myself wondering if God even cared or if he would just leave me to my own devices.
When we reached what is now my home, I went straight to my bedroom and lay on my bed, still numb and angry. Some time later Molly came in to see if I wanted supper.
“No thanks,” I said.
“But Annie, you need to eat something,” she said, “Sure and you’ll be skin and bones in no time if ya don’t start taken in more food than ya do.”
As you can tell Molly was raised in the old country.
“I’m not hungry,” I fairly snapped at her, “I just want to be left alone.”
The ever-patient Molly just looked at me with helpless concern and left, closing the door behind her. By now, the numbness was wearing off and all I felt was that I wanted sleep. Before I dropped off, I decided to make one last ditch effort to call on the God I thought I used to know.
“God, if you’re there, please show me. I know you’re probably angry as anything at me right now, but I’ve nothing more to lose and no one else to turn to.”
I didn’t really believe he’d answer or that he even heard, but I figured it was worth a try. I fell into a discontented sleep.
The next thing I knew, I was standing outside. How in the world did I get here, I thought? I was standing in a grassy meadow with a little brook flowing through its center. It was a beautiful place, but I’d hardly had time to take in my surroundings before someone tapped my shoulder.
I turned around and saw the palest person I’d ever set eyes on. Her skin was ghostly white, Her eyes were the type of pale blue that makes you feel creepy, and her hair was practically white. I found myself thinking that it was a good thing I knew what an albino was or I’d have taken her for a ghost. Not that I ever believed in ghosts, butt the way I felt right then I’d have probably believed in anything.
“Come,” she said in a soft voice, “we haven’t much time and there’s much to do.”
She grabbed my hand and before I could blink, the meadow and brook had vanished like a puff of smoke. In their place was a cemetery with head stones, monuments, flags and little infant graves all neatly arranged with one or two slightly off center here and there. It was as if I was looking through a movie screen, but I could feel my surroundings and I could feel the pain of the old woman weeping in front of me.
She was crying over the fresh flowers she’d just placed on the grave, which I took to be her husband’s.
I turned to my spectral companion and asked, “What’s going on? Why are you showing me this?”
“Just watch,” she answered.
So I watched. What else could I do? As I watched, I saw the angels. There were two of them. One stood on each side of the old woman and each held a small plain bottle. They were catching her tears in the bottles. I thought I must be going crazy, but I said nothing.
All of the sudden, the cemetery and the widow were gone. They were replaced by what looked like a battlefield. Bodies littered the ground, red-haired soldiers wearing swords and shields that had failed to protect them from the blow of death. They looked like someone had thrown them down with no rhyme or reason, no respect. Among them were wounded weeping with pain and the sight of their friends and clansmen lying dead beside them. There were also the able-bodied from both sides of the fight burying their dead.
“They wept silent tears, making futile attempts to hide them from their fellow men. The angels were there too, invisible, respectful, and collecting the tears in their little bottles.
Just as quickly as the widow had disappeared, the battlefield did too and was replaced by another scene of sadness and pain. It would take volumes to tell you everything I saw. I knew I was dreaming, but I could control nothing. I couldn’t stop the scenes I was viewing. I saw things I’d read about in history class, like the battles of Wounded Knee and Little Big Horn, the Civil War, and the American Revolution. I saw little known things like individual American Indian villages that had been all but wiped out. I moved through history, the life spans, of countries, tribes, and clans including my own.
Tears, tears, everywhere were tears. Women, children, young men and old. All of the scenes moved me even when I lost count, but I still couldn’t cry. There was still a hard, numb spot deep inside me. There was also a measure of disbelief, an absence of reality when I saw the angels with their bottles. They were everywhere, moving among immigrants displaced from home, family, and country. They were among the orphans that wept for the loneliness and pain that comes with the loss of the two people a child counts on most. That was almost enough to break my chains. But they held fast, that is until the last scene of pain.
They were people I recognized, my parents driving in their car.
“No!” I shouted at my silent companion, “I can’t, I won’t!”
She would not let go of me. Her eyes held sympathy, but she held fast to my hand. I watched the funeral, all the tears includ9ing mine. I watched the angels gathering the tears in the ever- present little bottles. I watched an angel catching my tears and almost covered my eyes. Then the scene was gone.
We were in a room now, full of the little plain bottles. The only difference in the bottles was that they were labeled with the name of a country, a clan, a circumstance, and a name. Floor to ceiling shelves were packed with them. A door on the far side of the room opened and an angel entered. He mustn’t have seen us or if he did, he gave no indication, but he took one of the little bottles down and turned to leave.
The strange girl at my side tugged at my hand pulling me toward the departing angel. I followed silently. We went into another room, a very big, splendid room that I identified as a throne room.
There was a man on the throne. In a way he looked like every picture of a loving father and in another he looked like the governor of a great country. I knew it was God. It was the God I had raged at, the God I had blamed for all that he’d let happen to me, the god I almost hated. Now, I did not hate him, I was afraid of him.
“Why are we here?” I anxiously whispered to the girl at my side.
“It’s time for you to know your God,” she said.
I didn’t want to know him, I wanted to run away.
The man turned and looked at me. He had eyes like I’d never seen before. Eyes so full of love, justice, faithfulness, mercy and everything that made him God.
“I want to show you something,” he said, “you think I do not care when you weep. You are wondering if I answer prayer. Watch and your questions will be answered.”
I was confused, but I complied. The angel that had taken the bottle from the other room now gave it to God. Though he doubtless knew the origin of the tears, he read the label. Then he seemed to gaze into the distance and I followed his eyes. We were once again looking at the widow in the cemetery. The widow was still weeping over the grave.
God uncorked the bottle and still looking at the woman, he began to cry with her. I couldn’t believe it! I never knew God cried. I must not have listened when the Bible told of God mourning with those who mourn.
God began to catch his own tears in the bottle. He than took the bottle and turned it on end over the cemetery and the widow.
The tears in the bottle fell like a soft misty rain. “all of the sudden, the widow stopped her weeping. A great weight seemed to have lifted from her shoulders. She didn’t smile, but she seemed to know that she was not bearing the burden of grief alone. The Lord and I watched the scene for a moment and then I woke up.
I woke up crying. I was crying as if I’d never cried in my life. I got down on my knees beside my bed.
“Oh God, how could I have doubted you? Why didn’t I know before all this happened? Oh Lord, forgive me.”
I climbed back into bed and as I drifted off once again I heard the faintest sound like the uncorking of a small bottle. As the last threads of consciousness were breaking, I heard a soft misty rain begin to fall.