Lindsey bent and kissed her 14-year-old, who was sitting crossed-leg reading beneath the sprawling oak tree. Her curly brown hair brushed lightly against the teen’s cheek, tickling her. Michele squealed when her mom goosed her. Soon they were rolling over and over on the freshly mown lawn laughing breathlessly. When they stopped, Lindsey was on her back. She cupped her hand above her eyebrow to shield her face from the noon sun. When she did, her daughter noticed tears streaming down her cheeks.
“Wasn’t that fun, Mom? See, you laughed until you cried,” she exclaimed while poking her mom in the ribs.
“Yeah, baby, yeah. I did.” Her melancholy tone didn’t escape Michele’s keen perception.
“What’s wrong,” she asked, stopping her playful antics.
Attempting to mask the sadness that had suddenly overwhelmed her, Lindsey faked a laugh.
For a lengthy moment, they lay silently; one struggling to experience a different emotion, the other trying to find comforting words. The cheerleader and president of the student body had clad herself with academic achievement and social recognition as a shield from those memories that haunted her mom. Not today, she winced; but despite her resolve to keep them imprisoned, the same images flooded her mind.
“Do you remember . . . ? ” They started together.
“What were you going to say?”
“I was going to ask . . ., “ again they spoke at the same time.
Chuckling they threw up their arms pretending exasperation. Lindsey hugged her daughter silently vowing always to let her know how much she loved her.
“Do you remember the smell of his hair?” Michele cuddled her mom.
“I used to bury my face in his head just to smell his hair. What was that shampoo? It always made me think of Grandmama’s kitchen.”
“You, too?” Her mom slapped her thigh laughing.
“I told him once, Danny Ray, you’re a city boy now, a corporate ‘somebody’. Just because you grew up on a farm, you don’t have to bathe in fruit. I wonder who came up with making soap smell like apples and oranges and, what’s that other one? Oh yeah, kiwi.”
“I miss him,” reflected Michele.
“I miss him, too,” Lindsey sobbed.
Michele heard a still small voice reminding her of the things she learned during counseling started a month after her daddy’s funeral. When she shouted angrily, “I’m just not feeling this ‘Jesus loves me, this I know’ stuff, “ the compassionate care minister simply listened, giving her his handkerchief when she couldn’t hold back her tears any longer. He told her the drunken driver breaking the laws of both society and God caused her daddy’s death. Not God’s indifference. Because he had been kind, Michele not only continued counseling until her grief was bearable, she accepted Jesus as her Savior.
“Mama, you know what Pastor Art says?”
“What does he say?” She was woman of strong faith ever since she and Danny Ray gave their lives to the Lord during youth revival when they were about her daughter’s age and thus was genuinely interested.
“He says that God is a father to the fatherless and a husband to the widow.”
Lindsey wept. She’d read that during her morning devotional. She wished that she had allowed herself to rest in that promise. But how could she? It was Danny Ray’s birthday today. Or it would have been if he’d lived. They would have celebrated not just his birthday; they would have celebrated their love. She knew God didn’t just let him die, but she had to confess, she wondered why an angel hadn’t saved her husband, her friend and lover.
“And mama, Pastor Art says that Jesus is the lover of our souls and a friend who sticks closer than a brother,” her daughter’s words interrupted her ruminating. She heard them as the comforting healing words of Jesus resounding in her soul and in that moment she felt like celebrating.
“Celebrate what, Mama?”
“Celebrate a husband and a father,” she said serenely.
“So we are going to celebrate daddy’s birthday, huh, mom?”
“Yes; and we’re celebrating the husband to the widow, the father to the orphan.”
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