“Get out of here and leave me alone. Isn’t it enough that Bill is dead? Do you have to ask me all these questions about the funeral? Get out!”
Laura turned her flushed face away from her sister, Becky. Tears streamed down her face and her heart was pounding so hard she could hardly breath. Her arm was attached to an IV and her leg was in a cast swinging from a T-bar at the end of her hospital bed, leaving her incapable of running, which was all she wanted to do.
She had been unconscious for four days, and today was the first time she had talked with anyone since the accident.
The roads had been slick with oil and scum from the recent October rain, and she had driven home from the restaurant since Bill had consumed three Gimlets and two glasses of wine with dinner. It was not an usual occurrence, actually. Bill was an alcoholic. But, this time, they had argued about it.
“Why do you always have to ruin everything by drinking so much? Can’t you just have one drink with dinner like other people?”
“You don’t have to get so angry, Laura. I can handle it. And it’s not like you can’t join me if you want to.”
“Sure. And then who would drive us home? One of us has to be sober, and it’s NEVER you.”
The fight continued in the car on their way home. Right up to the point when she saw the flash of lights and heard the crash of metal.
According to the doctors, Bill died on impact. She spent her first conscious day crying and feeling guilty, trying to understand how her life could have fallen apart so fast. How was she supposed to take care of herself without him?
Becky returned the following afternoon, bringing Laura’s 7-year-old niece with her.
“Hi, sweetheart. How are you feeling today? I’m so sorry about yesterday. I didn’t mean to upset you. Please forgive me.”
“Oh, Becky. Of course I forgive you. It’s just too much for me right now. Bill and I never talked about death. All I want to do is cry.”
“I know, Laura. I understand.” She turned as Hilary tugged on her shirt sleeve. “What is it honey?”
The little girl pulled her mom down and whispered in her ear.
“You do? Well, I think that is very nice of you. Are you sure?”
Hilary nodded. Moving near her aunt’s bed, she handed Laura a gray and white, stuffed rabbit. One eye was missing and its floppy ears hung loose. The cloth bunny had long arms and legs.
“Aunt Laura, this is Snuggles. Daddy gave it to me when I was four - a month before he died of cancer. I want you to have her.”
Laura took the ragged toy animal from her niece. “Thank you, Hill. But, this is your favorite bedtime doll. Won’t you miss her if you give her to me?”
Hilary’s brown eyes looked sad and glistened slightly. “I WILL miss Snuggles. But I can visit her whenever we come to see you, and right now you need her more than I do.”
“Why do you think that?”
“Because, when Daddy gave Snuggles to me, he told me that whenever I was sad, I was to squeeze Snuggles very tight and put her arms around my neck. He said that when I did that, I would know that God had His arms around me and that He was taking care of Daddy. And it has always worked. But, now, you need to know that Uncle Bill is with God, too. And you need to feel God’s arms around you so you won’t be sad. Right, mommy?”
“Yes, Hilary.” Tears of appreciation filled Becky’s eyes, and she pulled her daughter close to her side.
After they left, Laura looked down at the disheveled plaything. It was splotchy with red stains on one leg and blue ink pen markings on its face. She laid it aside when dinner came, and then fell asleep.
Later, when the nurse woke her up for her evening meds, Laura found Snuggles’ gangly arms wrapped around her neck. How they got there, she didn’t remember. But she did remember dreaming of being cradled in God’s arms - and miraculously - she no longer felt like crying. She gave the rabbit a squeeze and closed her eyes for the night.
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