Now I lay me down to sleep;
I pray thee, Lord, my soul to keep.
We’re in a meadow at the crest of a hill. Sunlight glints across wave tops on the ocean far below. He sits on a low, smooth rock just above me. I lounge in the grass by His left knee.
“Watch,” He says.
Our immediate surroundings remain the same but the sea fades; it becomes a small city. He points to a highway on the edge of town. A red Volkswagen beetle travels along the lane. Around a curve, visible to us from above—but beyond the view of the bug’s driver—a rusty, dented pickup crosses a solid yellow stripe to pass a slow-moving van.
There’s little doubt as to what’s about to happen. I watch, concerned, but not afraid. In this meadow—with Him beside me—calm pervades.
We remain on the hill but my awareness changes; I see the scene in detail, drawn close as though I watch through a camera’s zoomed-in lens. The pickup driver walks, with help, to a waiting ambulance which carries him away. It takes much longer for rescuers to extract the other driver from the tangled mass of metal that was once her little car.
He watches me as I watch her.
I know. Not by revelation. Not through emergent thought. Not in a proverbial light-bulb-moment; I just know. It’s like I’ve always known but had forgotten for a time.
The view shifts rapidly now. Bits and pieces of my story flash by in quick succession like chaotic movie action scenes.
Hospital. Surgery. Friends and family gathered. Prayers.
Doctors, nurses. Conversations, prognostications. I hear, but can’t participate.
“Vegetative state.” “Permanent.” “Residential facility.”
New building. New room. Fewer machines. …Fewer visitors.
My husband, Tony, is there. As often as he can be. Others come and go.
The view settles for a moment. In a rare occurrence my body and mind unite in time and place. Tony sits beside my bed; he dozes in a chair. I wish I could reach out to him and brush back his too-long hair. When did it turn so gray?
How long has it been?
I’m back in the meadow, with Him. Waves, once again, break below.
“It’s been seven years.” He answers my unvoiced question.
“I want to show you something else,” He says.
This time the focus is beside Him. A spark appears. It flares, burning a hole through the sky. What lies beyond seems impossibly bright yet I can see without discomfort. I stand and stretch to get a better view. I glimpse a throne but it’s angled away. I cannot look at the One who sits there. A host is gathered round. I recognize a few of them. I see my mother but her attention is fixed on the throne. She doesn’t know I’m there.
Someone with her does. Holding her hand is a little boy. He turns and squints to look through the hole into the meadow. He sees me and waves; he giggles and bounces in delight.
I gasp and look at Him. He nods.
Until that moment I’d never known whether the baby Tony and I had lost had been a boy or a girl.
The brightness dims. Slowly, at first, then faster as the edges of the burned sky stretch out to close the gap.
“No!” I cry, but it’s too late. A lingering ember offers the only glimpse of what lies on the other side. Then it, too, fades.
I sink to the ground. He reaches for my hand.
I exist in fragments. My body’s in one place. Mercifully, my mind stays mostly in another. My soul reaches beyond while my heart is divided; a piece of it is in each spot.
...And it’s been so for years.
Again, he answers my unspoken thought. “It’s time for that to change. It’s up to you.”
“I can choose?”
“You can,” He says.
I look to my right. My hand’s entwined with His. Just past, a spark appears. It flares, burning a hole through the sky.
My left hand rests in Tony’s. His head is bowed low. His nose nearly touches my thumb. Something warm hits near the knuckle. It glistens in the light.
Now I lay me down to sleep;
I pray, thee, Lord, my soul to keep.
If I should die before I wake…
I look, once again, at the hands on either side. I make my choice and squeeze.
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