The reflection in the bathroom mirror revealed a broken heart. Red, swollen eyes peered back at me. In search of relief, I splashed cool water on my face. It didn't work. Overwhelmed with grief, I buried my face in a towel and sobbed, “Please, let this be a dream.”
Emotionally spent, I tossed the towel aside and tried to smooth my ruffled hair. As I rummaged through the vanity drawer for a barrette, my fingers brushed against something silky. Memories from the previous Saturday flooded my mind . . .
The house bustled with excitement. After Derek left for work, Lauren and Mandie scrambled to get dressed. Their long-awaited shopping day had finally arrived. More than anything, our girls loved to shop for their daddy.
Mandie's ponytail danced in rhythm with her five-year-old wiggles. “Mommy, what will we buy for Daddy?”
My attempt to fasten a green ribbon around her ponytail failed. “Mandie, hold your head still. I can't make a pretty ponytail if you wiggle.”
Mandie smirked at me and then shook her head back and forth on purpose.
I tossed the green ribbon back into the drawer and kissed the top of her head. “I give up. No ribbons for you today. Hurry, go get your shoes.”
"Okay mommy!” She slid off the stool and giggled all the way down the hall.
Later, at the store, we shopped for Father's Day gifts. Mandie darted back and forth between menswear and the fragrance counter. She bubbled with anticipation, "Mommy, come see what I found!"
The sales clerk smiled, "How old are you, cutie?”
“Five years old.” Mandie raised five fingers into the air and then scurried back to menswear.
I continued to peruse the fragrance counter until a loud crash startled me. Anxiety crept up my spine, causing the hair on my neck to stand on end. "Something's wrong," I said to the clerk.
At that same moment, I heard Lauren wail, “Mom! Mandie is hurt . . .”
I spun around and ran toward the Men’s Department. When I arrived I witnessed a sales clerk frantically clearing away a fallen rack. "I'm so sorry," he gasped. "I tried to reach her in time, but I was too late. She climbed up on the rack and it fell on top of her."
I dropped to my knees. Mandie's labored breathing, combined with the panic in her eyes, terrified me. All of the training I received as a nurse was futile. Mandie's windpipe was crushed and nothing I did could save her. A few minutes later, Mandie died . . .
A quiet knock at the door brought me back to the present. "Kate, it's time."
I wiped my face. "Okay, Derek . . . I'll be down in a minute."
After the funeral service, I needed to be alone. As I escaped to my bedroom, I caught a glimpse of Lauren sitting on the edge of her bed. Big tears cascaded down her cheeks. She saw me in the hallway and waved me into her room. "Mom, it has been forty-five minutes."
I desperately tried to find meaning in her words. "What do you mean, Lauren?"
Lauren continued, "Pastor said we would see Mandie again in forty-five minutes. It has been forty-five minutes."
"Okay . . . ?" I wasn't sure what else to say.
Lauren sensed my confusion. "Don't you remember? He read a verse from 2 Peter . . . "Her voice trailed off as she flipped through her Bible in search of the verse.
"Here it is," she said. "It's 2 Peter 3:8 -- 'Do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years is like a day.'" Lauren looked up at me. "Mom, Pastor quoted this verse at Mandie's funeral right before he said, 'Mathematically speaking we would see Mandie again in forty-five minutes.' Was he lying?"
I prayed for wisdom and for words. "Lauren, God's timing is different than ours. Personally, I'm not sure how long it will be, but whether it is forty-five minutes or forty-five years -- I know for certain -- we will see Mandie again."
Strangely enough, this odd conversation with Lauren soothed my shattered soul. We sat together for a little while, transfixed by the second hand on her clock. Each click brought us nearer to Mandie, but for the moment -- we found peace in the passing of time.
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