Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Twilight Years of Life (07/02/09)
TITLE: Perfect Timing
By Gail Koop
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Lena’s gnarled hands held her weight against the sofa cushions as she pushed herself up from her knees. She stood for a moment, giving the stiffness its time, then turned and lowered herself onto the couch. She pulled a Kleenex from the pocket of her robe and wiped her eyes. As she slipped on her glasses, she reached for her Bible. She opened it arbitrarily, but with expectation. Her eyes fixed on 1 Corinthians 13:12: “…Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”* Lena closed her eyes, awed by how the Lord continued to speak to her.
Distracted by Stan’s footsteps descending the basement stairs, she sighed. At 85, he was unusually spry, a testament to a life dedicated to fitness and exercise. But the yoga and meditation he’d reverted to after Luke’s death concerned her.
Lena refocused, taking in the tumble of life surrounding her - the walls of pictures that, until five years ago, had defined her. But now, just days from her 82nd birthday, she knew a joy unspeakable, one that made every framed memory pall. Yet Luke’s pictures would continue to elicit the question that would hold her hostage until the day she died – why hadn’t He revealed Himself sooner?
Luke’s heart attack came two days before his 50th birthday. That’s when Lena and Stan turned their backs on God. He had taken their baby, the twanging of their heartstrings blind to chronology. They’d always believed in God in an amorphous way, so it hadn’t been difficult to dismiss Him.
Stan began to take up the practices he’d followed as a young man. He couldn’t do most of the yoga positions, but he’d sit in the dark, turn inward. Lena wanted only sleep, stayed in bed for days at a time. But the ladies from Luke’s church wouldn’t leave her alone. Week after week they would come, make sure she showered and got dressed. They brushed her hair, put fresh-smelling sheets on her bed, brought food, and cleaned her house. As Stan continued to retreat within himself, Lena found herself responding to the hearts of these loving strangers.
One Sunday she accepted their offer to be picked up for church. The service was unlike anything she’d ever experienced. The pastor played guitar, the congregation sang and cried out to God. Strapping young men lifted their hands, young children jumped and danced. As the chorus of voices rose in worship, Lena’s heart quickened. She began to sense what Luke had repeatedly tried to tell her and Stan about – the love, acceptance and forgiveness that was washing over her like a desert rain. After the sermon, she went forward at the alter call. Ever since the pastor prayed with her, she’d felt an uncanny sense of peace about Luke’s death. And she longed for Stanley to feel it, too.
When her devotional time ended, Lena tightened her robe and made her way to the kitchen. She put up water for tea, and then opened the cabinet, where her medications were aligned like obedient little soldiers. At the same time, Stanley emerged from the basement, its door opening into the sunlit kitchen. He stumbled backward, blinking against the light, as Lena slumped into his arms.
She felt the grip of Stan’s hand as the years flowed through the IV, weaving their histories together like vines. She heard music - an indescribable blend of singing, instruments, wind and rain. Scents from every flower she’d ever smelled filled her. And when she saw Luke shining and smiling at the end of her bed, she sat up and looked at her husband wide-eyed, like a child. The monitor beeped, jagged lines danced across the screen. “Oh, Stan, it’s beautiful! And Luke’s there! Stan, you have to believe me!”
Stan grabbed his wife, held her with the force of a half century of marriage. As she once again slumped in his arms, the monitors quieted to a steady hum. Then, as if the IV had been placed in his own arm, an unknown passion transfused him, turned his heart inside out. Tears filled the crags of his road mapped face as he whispered, throatily, “I do believe you, Leenie. I do.”
Lena took the hand of her son and walked toward the glorious voice beckoning her from the light. “That is why I waited so long, my dear child. That is why.”
* Zondervan NIV Study Bible
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