The summer breeze wings across our lined and furrowed brows, ruffling white wisps of hair in a gentle tease as we sit here together, my wife and I. The glider swing cocoons us together while she dozes against my shoulder, my foot occasionally nudging the ground, keeping us in rhythm with nature’s orchestra.
“Ah, lassie, but it’s a lovely lullaby today making your dreams sweet,” I whisper, tracing the lines of her hand lightly with my fingertip, a familiar caress that even now causes her lips to curve up in a fleeting smile.
The lemon lilies we planted together years ago are in full bloom, the shorter tiger lilies competing to catch the sun’s rays from their back row. Pink and red roses climb up the flower garden trellis like graceful debutantes at a ball while cicadas chirp and sparrows frolic in the birdbath. A baby white butterfly flits around the magnolia tree, landing for a split second before racing on.
I rest my head back, gazing into the azure blue sky, white cotton candy puffs spun across it’s expanse, and I sigh in delicious contentment. My mind wanders, as it does more and more these days, to a panoramic view of memories playing across my inner vision as we sit here together, my sweetheart and I.
What strangers they seem, this Miranda and Paul of old, as they take their wedding vows. So lovely she is, all in pristine white lace and pearly buttons, so that even now I remember feeling unworthy to kiss the hem of her gown. How excited we were to begin the promising future I had planned for us, stars shining in our eyes as we stood on the brink of a union that would end up spanning continents and decades.
My “secure” job lasted all of two years before the war pushed me into enlisting and I see Miranda’s proud eyes conflicting with the pain of separation piercing our hearts while we say our tearful goodbyes at the train station. I remember as if it was yesterday, the locomotive window-framed picture of her in that perky little sailor hat she wore on special occasions, as it bobbed, growing smaller and smaller as I bumped over the tracks into the unknown.
The war years are a blur of anguish for fallen friends and confusion of faith as I struggle to chaplain my comrades’ souls, along with my own. I fast-forward over these memories, not wanting to stir up old ghosts. It is enough to know that God was there, molding me, maturing me, and preparing me for His call to the ministry.
I now see more years of separation while I travel from country to country to share God’s love, leaving Miranda behind to manage the children and household. And, although I can never be sorry for following God’s leading, I am saddened and ashamed that I have so few family images to recall. In their place are throngs of strangers’ fleeting faces, lonely motel rooms and victories for the kingdom of God mingled together in a jumbled collage. And, I marvel that He chose me, a farm boy from Kansas, to serve Him in this way. Remembering her many letters and descriptions, I imagine Miranda in my absence, following God’s leading by using her musical talents at a small church, keeping the ‘home fires burning’ and reaching out to those who are in need around her. I scroll through these thirty-odd years of mind snapshots quickly, anticipating the ones after that are so dear to my heart.
Here’s Miranda and I together again at last, walking through fragrant meadows, hand-in-hand like honeymooners, the time apart having made this present all the more cherished. I watch our grown children and their children walking beside us and laugh out loud, joyful that I can play a part in their wonderful lives.
“Paul?” Miranda awakens and I pull myself back into the present, ever ready to sense her needs.
“Yes, love, I’m here,” I respond. “Are you hungry?”
“Not really. Have I napped very long? Did I keep you from your work?”
“Oh, I’ve been just fine. It’s nice to just sit beside my colleen,” and I lift her chin to gaze into her blushing face, her faded beauty still charming.
We arise together, my wife and I, and I lift her back into her wheelchair, her slight wasted body feather-light in my arms.
And the Maestro’s hands gently conduct the melancholy melody of dusk.
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