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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Surprised (09/06/07)

TITLE: Once in a Lifetime
By Debbie Roome


Sparkles of glittering gold and rich red illuminated the street, reflecting off soft banks of snow. From a distance, gentle harmonies drifted on frozen air. “Oh Come all ye Faithful, joyful and triumphant.” As he stood in the bus station, Henry’s thoughts turned to home, to Christine. This was a hard Christmas for her; for both of them. The first one without Robert.

He’d told her he was going out. That he’d be bringing a surprise home. That she needed to make up the guest room. She was curious of course. “Who is it Henry? Old, school friends? Long, lost aunts?”

He’d smiled. “Just get it ready.” Christine was a great entertainer, graced with the gift of hospitality. He knew the room would be fragrant and clean, winter flowers on the dresser and chocolates on the pillows. He wanted that. These guests were special and besides, it would occupy her thoughts. Distract her from grieving for Robert.

His heart ached as he thought of Robert’s death. Of how an aneurysm burst, wrenching him from life before his time. Ten months had passed since that day. Ten months of intense pain and grief. Ten months of leaning on God. “We don’t understand, Lord, but we trust You. You know what it’s like to lose your only son.”

Robert had lived in the city but called them often. Henry believed his last call was a gift from God. “I’ve given my life to Jesus.” he told them, animated, excited. “I know you’ve spoken about it many times, but it wasn’t real until now. I’ve got a few things to attend to. To put right, and then I’ll be flying home for a visit.” How they had rejoiced that day. He knew Christine still missed the calls. He would see her gazing at the phone, pensive, sad.

Robert’s funeral had been held in their church but many of his new friends travelled to be there. Through their testimonies, they revealed the last days of Robert’s life. Made known the story of his salvation. Henry was grateful to them. Thankful, that even in grief he’d found peace and comfort and answers to some of his questions.

Henry had been the one to sort out Robert’s affairs. He found the air ticket that would have brought him home and a birthday card to “Dear Mom”. He also found bank statements with regular payments being made to a Miss Michaela Jones. He hadn’t mentioned it to Christine, wanting to spare her further grief and worry. Instead he quietly investigated on his own. Dug and probed for eight long months.

It had been a shock when he finally traced Michaela. When she revealed the story behind the payments. “Robert called me months ago to set up a meeting. Said he’d found God and wanted to tell me about it. That he wanted to come clean with his parents. When he didn’t pitch, I wasn’t too worried. It was only when the money stopped that I tried to call him.”

They’d chatted several times since and Henry had shared stories about Robert and how much they’d loved him. About Robert as a child and how he’d given his life to God before he died. She was curious, interested, and asked many questions.

It had taken Henry a while to process the layers and implications of the whole matter. A while to work through the issues and how it would affect Christine. A while before he called Michaela and suggested the Christmas visit.

“Henry?” He recognised the warm timbre of her voice as he turned to greet her. Recognised her face from the photograph she’d sent.

Christine was waiting at the door, eager to see who these visitors were. Behind her the house was warm with Christmas baking and tiny lights that winked gold, silver and crimson. Henry led the way in, laden with bags and parcels. He could see the surprise in Christine’s eyes. The unasked questions. Instead of two older folk, the guests were a young woman and a toddler? He dumped the bags in a corner and took hold of her hand. “Christine,” he had to pause for a moment. “These are your surprise guests, Michaela and Brandon.” Michaela smiled gently as she lifted her drowsy child into Christine’s arms. It was a sacred moment, a once in a lifetime miracle. Henry’s voice cracked as he spoke again. “This is Robert’s son, Christine. Our grandson.”

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This article has been read 973 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Verna Cole Mitchell 09/13/07
I loved this story. The ending, even though anticipated, was perfect. This is one I will choose to read again. I loved this story.
Dee Yoder 09/13/07
Really beautiful! I like your characters and how even the son was well described.
Joanne Sher 09/14/07
Beautifully descriptive and so moving. Wonderful job slowly unwrapping the surprise.
Mo 09/14/07
Well done. The ending made me a bit teary.
Betty Castleberry09/15/07
Lovely, warm story. I guessed where it was going, but that doesn't take away from the fact that's it's well written. You made me feel like it was Christmas time, when it's still hot here. Well done.
Jan Ackerson 09/17/07
Oh my, you caught me in a vulnerable moment, and now there are tears itching my eyeballs--great story!
Patricia Todd09/17/07
I did enjoy reading this piece and it was great to have such a happy ending.
Jacquelyn Horne09/17/07
What a wonderful surprise! I would be elated!
Beth LaBuff 09/17/07
This is such a heart-warming story that's perfect in a Christmas setting. It was wonderfully written.
Janice Cartwright09/19/07
I am thrilled for Christine. Now she can pour out her heart of love on that which is nearest to the son she lost. If I were Christine it is what I would most desire.