Tommy let his head fall back against the crumbling wall of the burnt-out wreckage. His chest was on fire and breath was coming in short, quick bursts. He squeezed his eyes tight against the pain and let loose a low moan.
"Hang in there man," pleaded Dan, his friend and fellow combatant. "You’re gonna be all right, our guys are on their way."
Dan was kneeling in front of him, pressing hands against the wound in his chest trying to abate the flow of lifeblood. Tommy could tell by the look on Dan’s face that he didn’t really believe his own words of encouragement.
"Dan…do you think…it’s too late for this coward?" Tommy asked, forcing his words through the tightness in his throat. He started to cough, and he could taste the warm metallic flavor of blood.
"Course not!" Dan protested. "Not as long as there’s still breath in your body!"
Tommy couldn’t help but notice he didn’t try to persuade him it wasn’t the end this time. He could see the concern, the fear, in Dan’s expression.
"Listen," Dan continued, glancing behind him once to try and peer through the acrid smoke enveloping them, "I was wrong to call you yellow—"
He broke off suddenly as footsteps sounded, closing fast on their position. The two fell silent, straining to see whether it was friend or foe who approached. Then, out of the gray mist they saw the face of their enemy.
The last thing Tommy knew was Dan throwing himself over his body.
The sky was bright and clear that day, not one cloud occluding the suns rays. A light breeze ruffled the hair and clothes of the mourners as they gathered around the burial sight.
Tommy stood near the back, his legs weak and shuddering, as much from leaving his bed as from grief.
He’d been released from the medical facility just that morning and after changing into the appropriate attire he’d come to bury his friend. Dan had died protecting him, had given his life so that he might live on.
As the proceedings dragged on Tommy took in little of what was said. Instead his eyes stayed glued to the woman in the front row, dressed in black, flanked by three young boys dressed in child sized suits. She stood tall and proud, her chin tilted up just slightly, even as the tears streaked unchecked down her face. Then it was over and they handed her the flag which she clutched to her chest as if it were the man himself.
Tommy waited while the crowd dispersed and as the widow walked by he stepped forward, drawing her eye.
She stopped and looked into his face, her eyes red and moist. Tommy pulled off his hat and held it in both hands, fidgeting with it as he willed himself to speak. "My names Thomas, mam, and I was…with your husband in the end. I’m sorry for your loss." Tommy looked to toward the ground and swallowed the lump in his throat. "It should’ve been me."
She looked at him a moment before speaking, reaching out to take one of his fidgeting hands. "Your Tommy?"
"Yes mam." Tommy affirmed with a mumble, still studying the ground.
"Dan wrote about you. He said he’d been praying for you and asked me to do the same."
Tommy smiled sadly. "That last day, before we went out, we argued. He said I was acting like a yellow-bellied coward when it came to coming before Jesus to take him as my savior."
She huffed. "That doesn’t surprise me. Dan never was very keen on tact."
"He was right. It should be him standing here now. Not me. I don’t deserve it."
"Dan is in a far better place than we right now, and though I miss him I know someday I’ll join him. But you—if you had died instead, where would you be? If, by taking Dan, God gave you a second chance, don’t ignore it." She let his hand slip from hers as she walked away leaving him reeling in her wake.
When he finally lifted dazed eyes, he focused on something in the distance that he hadn’t noticed before. The spire of a church. With one last look at Dan’s grave he headed toward it, determined to find the courage this time to carry through, to find the truth, and to make sure his friend had not given his life in vain.
The opinions expressed by authors may not necessarily reflect the opinion of FaithWriters.com.
If you died today, are you absolutely certain that you would go to heaven? You can be right now. CLICK HERE
JOIN US at FaithWriters for Free. Grow as a Writer and Spread the Gospel.