Janie reached out and grabbed Joe’s hand, pulling him down on the back row beside her. “Meet me after the third hymn,” she whispered, squeezing his hand before releasing it and moving forward to join her parents in their regular pew. Perusing the order of worship, she saw her chance to escape. The pastor was having a children’s message after “I’d Rather Have Jesus,” and just before “Without Him.”
She made her move smoothly, without calling attention to herself. Slipping out at the side, just below the stained glass window of Mary holding Baby Jesus, she demurely dropped her head, making no eye contact as she moved quietly up the aisle toward the back of the small country church.
Behind the church were two very important additions to the property: a storage building and an outhouse. In the storage building were the tents for outdoor meetings, saw horses and boards for making serving tables, and benches. The whitewashed outhouse was large, big enough for an entry and two separate cubicles for personal use. But Janie had other plans for that space today, thanks to information shared with her by her best friend, Sarah.
She waited impatiently, peeking out the door every few seconds. Through the windows, which were cracked to let in a cross breeze, she could hear the congregation singing: “Without Him, I would be nothing. Without Him, I’d surely fail.” As they reached the final chorus, she saw him rounding the building, looking back over his shoulder. No one else followed. Good.
At fifteen, Janie was impatient to explore what life had to offer. A good student, she also helped at home with the younger children in her large farming family. But life was slow, and she wanted more. Today, she hoped to add a little spice to her simple existence and then compare notes with Sarah after church.
Nervously, she waited for Joe to enter. He came forward a little timidly, but did not stop until they were face to face. He lifted his hand to her hair, and she knew that within moments she would experience her first kiss. Closing her eyes, she tilted her head back and leaned forward.
“Sam, I swear Mrs. Hammond is smiling again. I know that she is comatose, but come here and look.” Jerry Ann, Janie’s regular evening nurse regulated the oxygen flow and checked Janie’s vital signs. Sam, the floor janitor, paused in his mopping to respond.
“Sweet as it can be. She must be dreaming about something good. Looks almost like she is talkin’. See her lips movin’?” Sure enough, Janie was pursing her lips, her eyes moving rapidly beneath closed lids.
“Her heart rate seems to be a little high, “ mused Jerry Ann, “but not scary high. Not enough to worry yet. After a week on hospice, I am just glad to see her looking so peaceful. Sometimes they get so restless at this stage. And her little granddaughter worries so much about how she is. I’ll have to tell her in the morning about her smiles. Doesn’t she look happy? Almost mischievous. What in the world could she be dreaming of?”
Opening her eyes, Janie once again began to breathe. So that was what a kiss felt like. Not bad for a first try. (And she and Joe would have over seventy years to perfect their technique, practicing most every day.) Leaving the outhouse separately, they returned to their places in the sanctuary, just in time for the reading of the scripture.
“To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven: a time to be born, a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck what is planted.” Ecclesiastes 3:1-2, NKJV.
Sitting again beside her parents, Janie sat with hands folded, appearing intent on the scripture being read. The pastor’s voice was soothing and serene.
“She seems to have settled down again,” said Jerry Ann as she left Janie’s room a little later. “Her pulse rate is slower now, and she looks real peaceful. I’ll look in on her again in a little while. I have a feeling it won’t be long now.”
Sam rinsed out his mop, preparing to take his leave. “To everything there is a season,” he said. “It is good to be in His Hands for all of them. I’ll see you tomorrow, Jerry Ann, and Mrs. Hammond, too, God willing. Night.”
Janie dreamed on.
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