Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Sad (07/26/07)
TITLE: I'll Fly Away
By Angela M. Baker-Bridge
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For the umpteenth time, the phone rang. “Joe, please! I can’t get anything done,” she yelled to her husband.
Marie wanted a pity-party. They were relocating to another state. She’d barely settled into the quaint, college town over the bridge from Philadelphia. Everyone jokingly sang, “Back on the road again.” Marie didn’t smile.
Joe, however, was hysterical laughing with whoever just called. Then silence fell. Marie overheard him saying, “Oh my God, I’m so sorry. Here I’m cutting-up instead of realizing something was wrong for you to call in the morning. I don’t know how or when, but we’ll be there.”
Now what’s he committing us to? I don’t care who it is, we’re in the middle of a move!
Joe slowly walked into the messy room.
“Well,” asked Marie. “Who was it, and where do you think we’re going?”
“Richie’s mother died two hours ago. There are two viewings, one tonight, one tomorrow morning. It’s got to be tonight.”
Stunned, Marie sat on a crate. Floodgates of emotion burst wide-open. Her heart ached for her childhood friend’s loss. Remorse echoed, she’d not said goodbye to Lillian. Selfishness overwhelmed Marie’s imagination with thoughts of stranger’s finishing her packing. Tears of defeat washed her face; she was clueless as to where their dress clothes might be. Ultimately, fear took residence as she considered her To-Do list, the three-hour trip, and traveling during rush hour.
“I’m upset too,” coaxed Joe, “but crying isn’t going to get us there. Let’s get started.”
At tornado speed, Marie and Joe worked. Their focus was their friends. They pushed beyond the record-breaking heat without resting or eating. Even when Marie showered, she couldn’t stop perspiring. She collected kids, duffle bags, sandwiches, and loaded the car. Joe gave final instructions to the van driver. Marie wondered if everything would make it to their new home.
Once Joe cleared the bridge, he began drilling Marie.
“You found my suit, right?”
“White shirt and tie?”
“Good. And my dress shoes?”
Marie hesitated. She frowned. Gasping she responded, “I forgot.”
Joe was annoyed. “How can I wear sneakers with a black suit?”
“It wasn’t on purpose.” Marie’s pent-up tears erupted.
With a frustrated father and crying mother, the kids quietly played with their game-boys.
Arriving in the parking lot, Joe reached for Marie’s hand. “As tough as this day’s been, both of our mothers are alive tonight. Everything will come together. It always does. Now we need to focus on everyone inside. But, watch the time. When we leave here tonight, we’ve got a three hour drive back.”
Agreeing, Marie nodded, though reluctant to consider the impending return trip.
Walking up the Funeral Home’s steps, Marie looked at Joe. “Do you hear giggling?”
“I thought it was just me,” he replied.
Ushers directed them to Lillian’s viewing room. There was chatter and laughter as people strolled about.
Upon entering, Lillian’s family greeted Marie and Joe with hugs and kisses, as always. Nothing seemed different from past gatherings at Lillian’s home. Black was not the color de jour. The atmosphere wasn’t sad and somber, but bubbly and alive, as Lillian, herself had been. Pictures scattered about embodied her zest for life. Conversations centered on Lillian’s passion for bringing joy to those around her. Those present said they heard Lillian giggling in heaven.
Marie and Joe were fascinated as Richie and his family shared of Lillian’s final hours. This was the passing of a mid-aged woman ravaged by cancer, yet the accounts didn’t focus on her illness or their sadness.
Lillian died with her family around her bed, singing hymns and praising God. Her favorite hymn would be the final words she heard on earth.
After an uplifting, funny, eulogy, the Pastor spoke, followed by Richie’s father. Marie thought they’d gone to encourage the family, but the family encouraged them. Big Jim asked everyone to honor Lillian’s final wish by holding hands and singing her favorite and final hymn, “I’ll Fly Away.*”
Driving home, Marie reflected. That was awesome ... a Celebration of Lillian’s Life and Promotion. Lord, her death was precious to you** … it was mourning turned into gladness.*** Help me grasp the privilege of promotion and die singing!
She hummed, “When I die, Hallelujah by and by, I’ll fly away.”
© August 2, 2007
*Written by Alison Krauss and Gillian Welch …
Some glad morning when this life is o'er, I'll fly away;
To a home on God's celestial shore, I'll fly away (I'll fly away). CHORUS
When the shadows of this life have gone, I'll fly away;
Like a bird from prison bars has flown, I'll fly away (I'll fly away) CHORUS
Just a few more weary days and then, I'll fly away;
To a land where joy shall never end, I'll fly away (I'll fly away)
Chorus: I'll fly away, Oh Glory, I'll fly away; (in the morning)
When I die, Hallelujah, by and by, I'll fly away (I'll fly away).
**“Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.” Psalm 116:14-16 (NIV)
***“Then maidens will dance and be glad, young men and old as well. I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow.” Jeremiah 31:13 (NIV)
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