Thursday, July 11, 2013
Heather's days were difficult, but her nights were impossible. Every single night she would awaken once or twice, soaking wet from tears and sweat, her sheets wrapped around her like she had been tied in them.
She started staying up late, terrified to go to bed because Thomas wasn't in it, would NEVER BE IN IT AGAIN! Late at night she consumed bags of chocolate. She didn't drink, and she wouldn't abuse drugs, so instead she comforted herself with sugar that had chocolate connected with it.
This carb comforting caused her weight to balloon in one month she gained 15 pounds. She stopped looking in the mirror, not wanting to see the pain that was leaking out of her eyes. Sometimes she imagined the pain climbing out of her, and filling her apartment...reaching out to color everything black and white. She loved color, and slowly but surely her world turned to black, white, and gray. Next the black and white also faded and Heather was left with a shadow world...a world of gray, grayer, then grayest.
Sometimes when her baby, Roxy, would cry in the morning to get up and out of her crib Heather imagined what it would be like to take a handful of sleeping pills and then just not wake up. She wasn't quite certain what happened after you die. She knew what her religion taught, but sometimes that concept seemed like the same fantasy as Snow White, Peter Pan, and The Lion King. She wasn't frightened by the idea of never knowing consciousness again. It seemed fabulous to think of just not existing, not feeling.
She was stopped by the knowledge of what Thomas death had done to her, his child, his family, his friends, even the people who worked with him that didn't know him all that well.
Heather forced herself to keep working, and going to school. It was a Herculean effort. She really didn't care at all about anything except her precious baby. That love drove her to keep living, keep trying.
One day she came home with an armful of bills, and her baby in arm, to discover that her electricity was turned off. It was Autumn and the nights were more than just crisp they were cold.
Anger at her situation drove her to pick up the phone and call the electric company. She screamed, "How could you turn off my power. Don't you know I have a baby, and I must have warmth, and food for my baby?"
The man on the other end was completely bored with his customers. He had heard all of this before, far too many times. "Ma'am, if you can't pay your bills, it is not our problem. We are NOT a charity. We are a business. I suggest you go to your clergy, or to Workforce Services, you know, the Welfare System." Then the line went dead and Heather stood listening to an empty dial tone.
"Damn it all to hell." Heather screamed the expletive, and threw a glass across the room. The glass shattered, spraying everything for many feet. The baby started to cry, the loud noise had startled her.
Heather ran to her, "Oh God in Heaven, What have I done, what have I done?" Snatching her precious child in her arms she ran to the changing table. Carefully she removed her daughters clothes. She was ever so relieved to find that Roxy had not sustained a scratch from the glass shower. There WAS lots of shattered glass in the babies outer clothing.
Sobbing, Heather took off her own clothes. Next she carried her precious child into the bathroom, and climbed into the shower with her. Roxy was screaming, frightened by excess stimulus to her tiny brain.
Heather let the warm but not hot water flow over them. She sang soothingly to her babe a song from her childhood, "Stay awake don't rest your head. Don't lay down upon your bed. You're not sleepy as you seem. Stay awake, don't nod and dream."
Soon Roxy quit crying, relaxed, and fell asleep in Heather's arms. Heather felt like staying in the shower forever, with warm water running over her and her sleeping baby.
Finally when her skin was pruned with water Heather turned off the shower and climbed out. She massaged lotion into Roxy's skin, then dressed the baby in her buckaroo pajamas. Those buckaroo pajamas had been sewn by Thomas' mother. Mom Lila had sung Thomas to sleep with the song, "Go to Sleepy Bye, My Little Buckaroo." Roxy had already been fed at the sitter's house so Heather tucked her into her crib with her favorite blankie next to her.
Heather had just finished dressing when her doorbell rang. The decision to ignore it was instantaneous. She had no desire to talk to anyone, not even her family. When the doorbell rang twice, three times, and then four she sighed harshly. Walking down the stairs she marched to the door and angrily pulled it open.
There stood the Bishop with a broad smile on his face. "May I come in Heather?"
"This really isn't a good time, I was just about to go to bed, and Roxy is asleep, and maybe another time?"
The Bishop put his foot in the door so that Heather could NOT shut the door. "Really Heather, this won't take but just a minute, and it's rather important."
Wearily Heather led the way into her tiny front room. She picked up baby toys, and clothes that were draped everywhere as she went. She took the large armful and dumped it on her postage stamp sized table in the dining area.
The Bishop pushed some things to the side and sat down on their thrift store couch. "Heather, do you have electricity?"
That was the final straw that broke her camel-like, burden laden back. She began to sob, "Oh Bishop, I just can't do it anymore. The bills are all behind. Our family depended on Thomas' income. I can't work anymore hours and finish school. I must finish school because my current job skills don't earn enough money to support our family. The world has turned to gray Bishop, there are no colors, and don't tell me that there is light at the end of the tunnel because at the end of MY tunnel there is just another tunnel!"
The Bishop stood and awkwardly patted Heather on the shoulder. "Heather, why didn't you come to my office and tell me all of this?"
"It's MY problem Bishop, my family. I have to be responsible. Roxy needs me, but I just want to go to sleep and not wake up!"
"Heather, you are not considering killing YOURSELF are you?"
There was an extended space when Heather's sobbing would not allow her to speak. Finally she wiped her face on the back of her sleeve and said, "NO, I will NOT leave Roxy alone. Thomas and I brought her precious spirit into this world as an extension of the love we shared. I will NOT leave her alone to face this world.
The Bishop pulled up the other chair that they owned. It was wobbly, ugly, but it was a chair. Facing Heather he handed her some toilet paper that he had retrieved from their bathroom. "Have you ever considered killing Roxy, and then yourself?"
That startled Heather enough that she quit sobbing. Her answer was immediate, "NEVER! I could never take the life of my precious baby. I brought her into the world...I was in labor for three days. Stubbornly she refused to be born. I had to have a Caesarean section. After giving her life, I could NEVER take it away again.
The Bishop said, "Our church group is very concerned for you and Roxy. We love you Heather, God loves you. I know that it's hard to believe right now but life is precious...even in the worst of circumstances, and I know that your circumstances are hard as can be."
Pulling an envelope from his pocket the Bishop handed it to Heather. "The people who contributed this wanted you NOT to know their names. There were many, and I did not solicit funds from anyone. They came to me asking if they could help you.
"Where are your utility bills?
"Oh no Bishop, I couldn't..." Heather's words trailed off as she opened the envelope and saw five crisp, new hundred dollar bills.
The Bishop said, "Please Heather, the bills?"
Wordlessly Heather walked to the corner of the cupboard where the bills were stacked. She pulled out the electricity bill, the gas bill, the trash bill, and the water bill. Handing them to the Bishop she said, "But Bishop, shouldn't I use the money that they gave me to pay these?"
"No Heather, the money I just gave you needs to help with rent, and food. I know that your parents are having a tough time financially or they would help you. I want to visit with you in my office at church tomorrow night at seven o'clock. Does that work for you?"
Heather said, "Just a minute Father." Running to the kitchen she grabbed her planning journal and came back. "Seven o'clock is fine, but I will have to bring Roxy with me."
"That would be grand. I love your precious daughter. She is such a happy child."
Heather said, "Well, she's not so happy at three in the morning when she awakens with "Night terrors." Thomas used to rock her, sing to her, and pray for her. Now there is no Thomas to take a turn, or to take care of her. No Thomas...Heather began to sob frantically.
The Bishop said, "In the New Testament Christ teaches the apostles to "Lay hands" on the heads of the sick or afflicted. Then to offer a prayer of faith. I would like to pray for you Heather, is that all right?"
Heather had sobbed so hard that she had the hiccough's. She managed to get out the one syllable, positive affirmation, "YES."
The Bishop put his warm hands on Heather's head. Instantly she felt a flowing movement that seemed to come through the Bishop's hands, and into her body. Peace, warm and rich, filled her soul.
The Bishop's prayer was life affirming and positive. The line that Heather planned on remembering forever was about how much God loved her, loved Thomas, and loved Roxy. When he was finished Heather was amazed at the light, and peace that she felt in her small apartment.
The Bishop said, "Heather you still have a rough road ahead of you. I want you to understand that you will NOT walk this path alone. We have a prayer group that meets every Tuesday night at church. We pray together for those in need in our church group. Your name and Roxy's name have been prayed for with rich love, and faith, since Thomas' death.
In addition, God will NEVER leave YOU. If you feel far from God, it's because you have drawn away from Him.
He handed Heather a card. She read, "God loves you, and so do I, call me, Bishop Brown....801 555 HELP. Heather you can call me anytime, day or night that you need me. Several church members take turns with me so that I can sleep through the night once in awhile. All of the volunteers are licensed psychologists"
"We will schedule some appointments with one of the psychologist's. You need the release of being able to tell the worst to someone."
"But I have no money to pay..."
The Bishop said, "Did I say we wanted your money? This is a service provided for those in desperate need...I believe that would make you slightly OVER qualified? Right?"
Heather started to laugh, it felt good, that creation of endorphins. "Bishop, how can I thank you? How can I ever repay all of you?"
"Repay us by letting us help you. Remember my dear, all of us will need help at some point in our life. By letting us serve you, we are blessed."
The Bishop stood and walked to the door. "I'll see you at our appointment. Remember, if you need anything, anything at all, call, any hour of the night or day you can call. Also, the Bishop held up the utility bills...these will all be paid. Your power should be turned on by tomorrow or the next day. If you need to go somewhere warmer you can come to our home. OK?"
Heather stood on her tippiest toes and kissed the very tall thin Bishop's cheek. "Do you know what you just did for Roxy and me?"
The Bishop winked at her. "I gave you hope?"
Heather smiled through tears. The tears were different this time. They weren't of bitter sorrow, they were tears of joy. "Yes Bishop, you gave me hope."
Posted by CJ Smith at 11:04 AM