It had been a year since they found him, purple, limp, in the bathroom floor. She knew a year had passed, but couldn’t imagine how; it seemed only yesterday they’d prepared for his graduation, looked at colleges, purchased his car.
She couldn’t remember most of the year. All she did now was sleep. She’d heard her sister say that “no matter what time I go by, Doris has either just gotten up or is fixing to go to bed.” Doris knew the truth of that, but couldn’t find a way to make it stop.
Not that there was much to stop for, she thought as she readied herself for bedtime—real bedtime; it was almost midnight.
Terry had just come in from work, muttering a quiet ‘hello’ as he went into the kitchen.
He’d had a difficult time, too, she knew. Their business had fallen apart in the past twelve months. They’d gone from two million in their accounts to almost that much in debt. Terry stayed gone most of the time, although he couldn’t seem to do anything right anymore.
Things were falling apart everywhere they turned. Doris yawned as she slipped into bed, imagining their marriage would be next. She wondered if she would care.
She realized she was climbing a ladder. She didn’t know how long she’d been asleep, and wondered how long she’d been dreaming. This was, she thought, obviously a dream. It had all the indicators of one; a lack of reality about it, a sense of imagination. She stopped, hugging the ladder, and looked around. She couldn’t see ground and, looking up, realized she couldn’t see where the ladder led. She paused, trying to decide. Up or down? She continued climbing, since that’s what she’d been doing before.
She climbed. Her legs began to ache, a burning sensation that pulled at her energy. ‘I can’t climb anymore, God,’ she thought. She took another step up and cried out. This time she spoke the words aloud, wondering if she were muttering them in her sleep. “I can’t climb anymore, God! I need Your help!”
A hand grabbed her wrist. It startled her and she looked up. At first she couldn’t see a face, just feel the hand. It wasn’t a dream hand—it was a hand of substance and firm reality. She wondered if Terry had taken her hand in the real world and it had transferred into the dream.
“Mom,” a tender, familiar voice said.
Doris looked up again. “Jeffery,” she breathed.
“Mom,” he reached down and stroked her cheek,
She was taken by the warmth of his touch. She tried to remember if she’d ever felt warmth of a touch in a dream before, if she’d ever felt the substance of another person.
“I love you, Mom,” Jeffrey smiled. He took her other hand and squeezed it gently. “And I want you to know I’m fine. I’m with God, Mom, and I’m good.” He smiled his crooked smile the way he always had. “I want you to stop, now, Mom. Stop letting your life go. You have things to do. You have people to bring to Jesus.”
“You can’t do any of that from inside this house. Find your purpose. Tell Dad I love him, too.” And then he was gone.
Doris jerked forward in bed, her hand still warm from his touch.
Terry stood at the window, watching the dawn.
“Terry,” Doris tried to keep her voice level. “How long have you been at the window?”
“About half an hour.”
It couldn’t have been his hand she felt.
“And, Doris…the strangest thing… There’s not a cloud in the sky. Not one. But a few minutes ago this little puffy cloud just seemed to settle outside this window and sit.” He looked over his shoulder at her. “It disappeared just now.” He walked to the bed and sat down beside her. “I think…I think it was…”
“Jeffrey,” Doris supplied, her eyes tearing.
Terry shook his head. “Not Jeffrey…” He fidgeted and finally looked into her eyes. “God.”
Doris nodded. “I think it was a very special visit.” She leaned into him. It was the first time since the funeral she’d let him put his arm around her.
“You know what verse I was thinking of when I woke up?”
Doris shook her head.
“*Weeping may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning.”
“Well, then, Terry…” Doris smiled, looking at her husband, “good morning.”
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