“Please, Frank. I can make it. I’m strong enough today. I might not be tomorrow. Let’s do this.”
He sighed. She was going to wear herself out fretting it he didn’t let her have her way. He looked at her slender, almost emaciated form. He couldn’t imagine there was any strength left in her, but her spirit was strong. It always had been.
“Bring your guitar, sweetheart.”
They stopped three times on the way up. Each time she asked him to sing a song while they waited – while she gathered strength to continue. He pictured her, as she had been only a year before, eagerly jumping across the small mountain rivulet that flowed across the path, rushing the steep part so that she didn’t slide down. Today, he had to pull her up. She panted with exertion. It took nearly three hours instead of the forty-seven minute record they’d set for speed one year.
He’d asked the camp director to send someone ahead of them and set up camp. When they reached the clearing, Annie lay down and was instantly asleep. He promised to wake her in time for the sunset.
He breathed in the crisp air of early October tinged with the smell of dried leaves. Low clouds rolled across a deep cobalt sky. It would be a spectacular sunset.
They’d first started coming here as teens. Every year, the closing night of camp was held around a campfire. All that had taken place that week culminated in an hour of singing and a time of promises: promises to live one more year for their Lord. They were standing just there, near the large flat rock, when he’d asked Annie to marry him. He’d promised to love her forever. Now their forever was drawing to a close, and he couldn’t imagine living without her. In his heart a battle raged with God these days. He didn’t want to let her go. If he fought heard enough, prayed desperately enough, maybe he would be able to hold on to her.
The sun hung low in the sky, and a hush descended. He woke Annie so that he could give her the gift of sharing one more sunset in this place of promises.
As they sat together watching the sunset wash the mountain with its farewell colors, Annie quoted a few verses from the Gospel of Luke: “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer, for I tell you, I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the Kingdom of God.”*
“I understand that in a new way, Frank. I’ve had such a strong desire to return here, and to share the memories of this place with you. This is where I first learned about Jesus, where you and I learned to love one another. God has given us such great blessings and fulfilled so many promises. I know my illness has been as hard for you as it’s been for me. But God uses hard things to do good things. I believe that. I don’t know how He’ll make good come of this, but I hope we won’t let Him down. I pray that we’ll trust Him now more than ever.”
A campfire had been laid and he set it ablaze, illuminating their faces. They sang together, Annie’s voice strong and his weak. “Open the eyes of my heart, I want to see You.”
“Soon I’ll be taking part in my last adventure with Him. I’m going to see Him soon, Frank – face to face. I wish I didn’t have to leave you, sweetheart, but I’m so ready to see my Jesus.”
He knew she had suffered these past months and would suffer much more in the weeks to come. In her loving way, Annie had shared the strength of her faith with him again. This trip was more for his sake than for hers.
He would remember their time on the mountain, when Annie sang with strength and longing while the sun set and the darkness fell. More than once, he would pray: “Open the eyes of my heart, Lord. I need to see You in this darkness.” And then, the blaze of all the promises laid down by God would light the darkness again.
*Luke 22:15,16. NRSV
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