Love Me Tender
“Elvis Presley will be on television Friday night,” said Jon Rider, 17, the thin white boy with long black sideburns. He wiggled his shoulders and adjusted his black leather motorcycle jacket. “I love E.P.’s music.”
Melissa smiled. “You look like Elvis. But can you sing?”
“I’m not much of a singer,” he replied.
Melissa gave the strawberry blonde curl in front of her ear a nervous swirl. “I really like you, Jon,” she said. “You are so cool.”
“Thanks. And you are a fox.”
“Can I play one of my favorite Elvis songs for you?” When he smiled it was breathtaking. She loved everything about him.
She knew that he was two years older. So what? She nearly swooned whenever he flashed his unique grin. She had never felt this way before. She thought, this has to be love.
He sang along with the Elvis tune. “Love me tender.”
She closed her eyes. If only Jon would fall in love with me, she thought.
As the song continued Jon began to speak softly. “For my darling, I love you, and I always will.”
Is he serious? Should I tell him how I feel?
Ten years passed and the pretty teenager, now a woman at 25, stared at the flag-draped casket. Jon, the love of her life, a second lieutenant in the Army, had died in Iraq. They told her he was a hero who fought three terrorists single-handed. They had taken hostage two of his buddies, loyal U.S. Army soldiers. He had raced to their rescue. The rounds he fired ended the terrorists’ lives and saved his buddies’ lives.
After delivering his fellow soldiers back to their camp, he drove to another section of the city. He planned to join others as they searched for insurgents. Unfortunately, a roadside bomb exploded and ended Jon’s life.
One week later, a young man, Joe Cash, 18, who looked a lot like Jon, stood to sing at Jon’s military funeral in San Antonio, Texas. He said, “I was in Jon’s unit in Iraq. Jon and I became good friends. In fact, Jon asked me about my faith in Jesus Christ. I knew how much he enjoyed Elvis Presley music, so I decided to begin my testimony by singing a song. It was a song I had heard Elvis sing.
“Shackled by a heavy burden, ‘Neath the load of guilt and shame, Then the hand of Jesus touched me, And now I am no longer the same. For He touched me, He touched me, What wonderful joy that floods my soul, Something happened and now I know, He touched me and made me whole.”
“Of course, I explained how a person needs Jesus in his heart to be saved from sin. Jon received Jesus Christ, and started listening to gospel songs I had loaded on my MP3.”
After the funeral Melissa thanked Joe Cash. “Joe,” she said, “do you think I could listen to the songs my Jon listened to on your MP3?”
“Yes, Melissa,” answered Joe. He ran to the military vehicle he had driven to the funeral. Then, he ran back to Melissa. “This is the music Jon loved.”
Melissa tenderly rubbed the earphones. She closed her eyes and imagined Jon placing them over his ears. She thought she had cried all of the tears that were in her heart, but when the earphones pressed against her ears, warm tears streamed down her cheeks.
The floodgate of tears opened back up when the music started. She cried and laughed as grief got all mixed up in joy. “Oh, Jon, my Jon, I miss you!”
To every family member and friend urging her to go home, she said, “Give me some time.”
Two hours later, when her brother Charlie drove up, she was leaning against Jon’s white headstone. A sad smile rested on her face. With hands raised to the Lord, she was singing with great passion. Charlie walked to within two feet of her. There he dropped to his knees. She shared an earphone with him.
Thirty minutes later, she blew a kiss toward Jon’s grave. They climbed into Charlie’s ’57 Chevy and headed home. The breeze cooled her face.
Charlie turned on the radio. Suddenly, sister and brother looked at each other, surprised to hear Elvis singing, “Love Me Tender”.
Melissa whispered words Jon had spoken to her, “For my darling, I love you, and I always will.”
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