MaryEllen turned off the vacuum cleaner and glanced at the clock. The vacuuming was done, but she was going to have to hurry to stay on track for the open house.
The phone rang, and her first thought was to let the machine get it. I don't have time for a long chat. Why today? Well, I could use a breather, and maybe it'll be quick. She sat the vac down and reached for the phone on the little table just inside the kitchen.
"Mrs. Stenson? MaryEllen Stenson?" A stranger's voice, official-sounding.
It's the call. The one we've been waiting for... or dreading... for a long time.
A scenario something like this had run through her mind for 18 long years. In the first few months, in her mind's eye, this call brought good news, and a race to the car--"They found her, she's alive, and she's waiting down at the station. Thank you, God, thank you!"
As the years rolled by, that beautiful, shiny fantasy slowly dimmed, and hope's grip began to give way. Still, her waking mind and her mother's heart couldn't, or wouldn't, imagine Lanie's final moments.
But her sleeping mind demanded that these fears be confronted, and her worst nightmares always started with a ringing telephone.
For one suspended moment, she believed she was dreaming, and stared at the phone in horror.
"Mrs. Stenson? Hello? Is anyone there?"
The vacuum cleaner bag settled in the canister, and she knew she was awake. The caller was waiting, and she had no choice but to force a response.
"Yes? This is MaryEllen Stenson." She gripped the phone too hard; her heart was beating too fast, and she was alone. Jack went to get the things from the list. Why isn't my husband here with me now, when I need him most?
Her voice had only been a croak, so she cleared her throat and repeated herself. "I'm MaryEllen Stenson."
The man began the call as she had imagined he would--by relating to her that he was a police detective, in a distant state, and they had recovered some remains...
She sighed aloud, and groaned silently within. Remains, then. Not even a body. Oh, help-- She sat down on the floor heavily, no strength left.
"Yes, I'm still here. It's Lanie, isn't it?"
"Lanie? Oh, Elaine. Yes, ma'am, the state forensic dentist has made a positive identification. I'm so sorry for your loss, you and your family. I can only hope that this news will bring you some peace. Are you able to take down some information, or shall I call back later?" The man's voice held an odd mixture of business and compassion, and MaryEllen briefly wondered what it would be like to be on the other end of this conversation, and how many times he had made such a call.
"Um, I... Why don't you call back right away, and leave your information on the machine, would you mind?"
He gratefully agreed, and let her go with one more expression of his sorrow.
She dropped the phone back into its cradle, but never moved from the floor, a crumpled heap, staring. She wondered why she wasn't crying, when Jack would get back, and why a loving God would let such things happen in the world.
In her world, anyway.
Lanie's disappearance had changed everything. The pressure on the two younger siblings had become too great, and the family had moved to a new city, a new school district, and a new church, where no one knew "their situation." The move had helped, and they had fought through it. The human spirit is surprisingly resilient, and they had each other to lean on, and their faith.
Our faith. MaryEllen also wondered about her own faith. Could she forgive God for allowing this, now that she knew for sure that Lanie was gone? Could she actually have closure and grieve, like any mother who has lost a child?
Can I have peace?
Did Lanie find peace?
God's audible voice, loud and clear, filled the hallway. "Yes, Child, Lanie trusted Me, all the way to the end, and entered My peace, My heaven.
"Make the same choice now, My Daughter, and live in Me as you have never allowed yourself to before. Come to me, enter into My rest, and I will walk with you."
She entered, and never allowed herself to exit.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. --John 14:27
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