A Time to Die

A time to be born, and a time to die – Ecclesiastes 3:2

woman-grieving-loss

Death is inevitable yet when it comes, it’s a blow.  On Wednesday, I lost my father.  Although we were expecting him to pass away, it was still a shock.  We had hoped that he would hang on a little longer so that my son and I could visit him.  He’s never met his grandson.  He has photos of him and they have spoken but meeting face to face would have been wonderful.  I am thankful that they got to know each other, though.  My son is his first grandchild.  He was recently blessed with another–my brother’s daughter.  I don’t think he got to see her but he knew of her and was very pleased.

Death is our enemy.  It robs us of our loved ones.  It brings pain and sorrow.  It leaves an emptiness that was once filled with our loved ones.  It is like an intruder that breaks into our lives and takes away everything we hold dear.  It is that part of life we don’t want to experience.  It is a reality we don’t want to face.  Yet, it comes.

Death doesn’t have the final say, though.  It isn’t the end.  It will be swallowed up in victory.  And one day, we will ask, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?”  And we have this assurance:“God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away” (2 Corinthians 15:55; Revelation 21:4, KJV).

There is a time to die.  My father lived a long life.  And it was his time to die on the day before Valentine’s Day.  I miss him terribly but I know that I will see him again when the Lord comes.  Until then, I will cherish the memories I have of him.

 

Mark’s Letter

“You need to sign for this, Seth,” Lucy said as she handed the registered letter to her boss.

He took it and swallowed hard when he saw who the sender was.  It was sent a week after Mark’s death.  His funeral was two days ago.  He still couldn’t believe it.  Mark was only twenty-five.  He had finally lost his battle with Muscular Dystrophy which he had since he was born.  It was when he was six that he began to slow down.  It was hard watching his younger brother confined to a wheelchair in his latter years, unable to shoot hoops like he used to.

He picked up the pen and signed for the letter.  After she left, he opened it. He leaned back in this chair and slowly read the words on the single sheet.

Dear Seth, I had my nurse write this letter as it would take too long for me to do it myself.  Besides, her writing is far better than mine.  I know that I don’t have much time so I wanted to tell you what has been on my mind for a very long time.  It has to do with Gabrielle.  You know that I am in love with her and wanted to marry her but she turned me down.  She cares for me but she isn’t in love with me and she didn’t think it would be right for her to accept my proposal.  And she was aware that our parents didn’t approve of her for obvious reasons and she believed that you had your own objections but for different reasons.  I know what those reasons are, Brother.  You are in love with her.  I may be slow now but, I’m not blind.  I saw the way you tried not to look at her every time the three of us were together. 

“I still remember the first time I brought her to meet you.  You had just returned from a spin on your new boat.  In your get up you looked like a sea captain minus the cap.  I could tell that Gabrielle was impressed though she tried not to show it, for my sake, I guess.  We were on our way to the hospital and I suggested that we stop by the marina and see you.  I wanted her to meet my incredible brother whom I have looked up to my entire life.  It didn’t take long for me to realize that the two of you were attracted to each other.  At first I was miffed but then when I thought about it, I figured that if she were to have feelings for someone else, I would rather it be you.   When I’m gone, I want you to go to her and tell her how you feel.  Don’t pass up a chance for happiness out of a sense of loyalty to me.  Nothing would please me more than to knowing that the two people I love most in the world have found happiness with each other.  What I’m saying, Seth, is that you have my blessing. 

Please take care of yourself.  And tell Gabrielle, that best thing that ever happened to me was knowing her.

Your loving brother and best friend,

Mark

Seth carefully folded the letter and slipped it back into the envelope before breaking down.

Gabrielle looked at the beautiful pendant Mark had given her as a birthday present a couple of years ago.  Tears ran down her cheeks.  She couldn’t believe that he was gone.

She missed him so much.  He was such a beautiful person, so full of love and goodness.  She felt blessed for knowing him and knew she would always cherish their friendship.  There were times when she wished that she loved him the way he loved her but she couldn’t force something that wasn’t there.  And when he proposed she had to turn him down.  She couldn’t marry a man she didn’t love.  It wouldn’t have been fair to him at all.  His family was probably relieved when he told them that she had rejected his offer of marriage.  Even Seth was probably relieved too.  Seth…Not a day went by when she didn’t think about him.  She hadn’t expected to fall in love with him but when they met she knew she was in trouble.

At the funeral, she had sneaked glances at him as he stood there, tall, well-built in his expensive black suit with his head bowed and his hands clasped tightly in front of him.  His parents stood beside him.  His father had his arm around his weeping mother’s shoulders.  She wanted to go over and offer her condolences but wasn’t sure of the reception she would receive.  After they laid Mark to rest, she was about to leave when Seth approached her.

“Thanks for coming,” he said quietly, his expression drawn.

“I had to come,” she replied.  “He was my friend.”

“He cared very deeply for you.”

“And I cared deeply for him too.  I will miss him.”

“Yes, we will all miss him.”

A pause and then, “Please offer my condolences to your parents.”

“I will.”

Their eyes lingered on each other’s face before she said, “Goodbye, Seth.”

“Goodbye.”

She turned and walked slowly away, tears welling up in her eyes.  She was crying not only because of losing Mark but at the prospect of never seeing Seth again.

The ringing of the doorbell jolted her from her reverie and she put the pendant back in its box and in the top drawer of the bureau before leaving her bedroom.  On her way to answer the door, she glanced at the clock on the wall.  It was eight-fifteen.  It was dark outside. The sun had set over an hour ago.

She peered through the keyhole, her heart lurching when she saw who it was.  Taking a deep breath, she opened the door.  Seth towered over her, looking extremely handsome in a black silk shirt and black pants.  His hair was slicked back.  “I hope I’m not calling you at a bad time,” he said, his eyes restless on her face.

She shook her head.  “No, you’re not,” she assured him as she stepped aside so that he could step into the foyer.  “I didn’t think I would see you again.”

After he removed his shoes, he followed her into the living-room.  Instead of sitting down on the sofa, he went over to the window where he could see the CN Tower. She joined him and stood watching him, thrilled to see him but couldn’t help wondering why he was there. After a few minutes of silence, he turned to face her.  “I received a letter from Mark this morning,” he told her.  “It was mailed a week after he died.”

Her eyes widened.  “A letter?” she repeated.  “He didn’t write it himself, did he?”

“No, he had his nurse write it. Would you like to read it?” he asked.

“If you don’t mind.”

“I don’t mind.”  He reached into his shirt pocket and took out the envelope.  He pulled the letter out and handed it to her.

She took it, unfolded it and began to read.  Seth watched her, his expression tense.   When she was finished, she looked up at him, her eyes wet.   “He knew,” she said.

“Yes, he knew how we felt about each other even if we didn’t.”

“And he wants us to be together.  That’s why he wrote this letter.”

“He has given us his blessing.”

“Yes.” She folded the letter, slipped it back in the envelope and held it out to him.

He took it, his eyes never leaving her face and put it inside his shirt pocket.  “What about you, Gabrielle?” he asked tightly.  “Do you want us to be together?”

“Yes.  Is it what you want?”

“Yes!” he muttered thickly and reached for her.  “It’s what I’ve wanted ever since we met.”

“Me too,” she managed to say before they kissed.

Mark got his wish.  Two years later, they got married and named their first child, Mark.

Source:  ABC News

Free/Pillars #writephoto

pillars
Photo by Sue Vincent

“Mr.  Johnson, how does it feel to be a free man after spending twenty-five years in jail?” a reporter asked Leroy Johnson as he stood in front of the courthouse with its massive pillars.  His mother was beside him.

He looked around at the sea of reporters with their mikes shoved in his face and the flashing cameras and smiled.  “It feels great!” he exclaimed.

Leroy was freed after spending twenty-five years of his life behind bars convicted of a murder he didn’t commit.  He was a free man now thanks to a couple of law students who examined the questionable circumstances surrounding his conviction and got his case opened.    Malcolm Holder, the real killer confessed to the killing.

“Do you feel any resentment toward Malcolm Holder?”

Leroy shook his head.  “Why should I feel resentment toward him?  He came forward and confessed to the killing twice.  The first time he did it was a couple of days after the shooting but he wasn’t arrested.  He tried to do the right thing but nobody listened.  They arrested me instead, an innocent man and sentenced me to forty years in jail with no chance of parole before 2029.”

“Is there anything you want to say to him?”

“Nothing except, that he did the right thing coming forward.”

“Mrs.  Johnson, how does it feel to have your son back?”

Mrs. Johnson smiled.  “It feels wonderful,” she replied.  “After twenty-five years, the Lord finally answered my prayers.  My son is a free man now.”

“Mr.  Johnson, what do you plan to do now that you’re free?”

He put his arm around his mother’s shoulders.  “I’m not thinking that far ahead but right now, I’m taking my Mama to lunch.”

I was inspired to write this story after hearing about the New York prisoner, Valentino Dixon whose conviction was overturned because of an investigation Golf Digest’s Max Adler helped to open.  Valentino was accused of shooting a man back in 1991.  He was arrested and convicted even though the real killer, Lamarr Scott admitted to local media just days after the murder that he shot Torriano Jackson but, he was never arrested.  To read the story, visit here.

This was written in response to the Thursday Photo Prompt – Pillars at Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo.

 

Sources:  USA Today; Bossip

Parenting

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye – Psalm 32:8

From the time we are born, our parents are there to care for us.  We don’t have to worry about anything.  They provide for our basic needs.  As we get older, they offer us guidance and instructions.  We listen to them most of the time because we know that they want what is best for us.  There are times when we want to do things our way and soon learn that our way is not best and can lead us into trouble.

Our parents God’s stewards.  He entrusted them with the awesome responsibility of raising us to be godly examples to others.  It is no different from the parents we read of in the Bible like Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, Jesse and his wife, Zechariah and Elizabeth and Joseph and Mary.  Some of them made mistakes but they trusted in God to help them to raise their children.

God is our Father and like our earthly parents, He takes care of us.  He provides for us, teaches and disciplines us.  Moses told the children of Israel, “You should know in your heart that as a man chastens his son, so the LORD your God chastens you” (Deuteronomy 8:5).  When God does this, it isn’t pleasant, of course just like when our parents spank us or punish us, it feels terrible.  It’s painful but they do it because it’s necessary.  They want to do away with a behavior or habit that is problematic.  According to King Solomon, “He who spares his rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him promptly” (Proverbs 13:24).  Although it may be painful for us, God’s chastisement is motivated by love.  “For whom the LORD loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives” (Hebrews 12:6).

Parents raise their children as best as they can.  They train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6).   Some children turn out well while others don’t.  Don’t be discouraged when you’re having problems with your child.  Continue doing your best and pray.  I’ve been having issues with my son lately and this morning when I was worshipping, the Lord put it in my heart to sing, What a Friend We Have in Jesus.  These words spoke to me, giving me comfort and encouragement:

Have we trials and temptations?  Is there trouble anywhere? We should never be discouraged, Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Discipline is also an expression of love, although, the child might not think so at the time but in retrospect, he or she will see that their parents acted out of love and for their best interest.  As parents, we are guides, teachers, disciplinarians, stewards and role models.  We have to reflect God’s character if we want our children to be like Him.  Parenting is a huge responsibility but it is also a blessing and a privilege.

Sources:  Blue Letter Bible; Hymnal Net

Aunt Lindsey

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Copyright Anurag Bakhshi

“Why do we always have to pass by Aunt Lindsey’s house?” Madeline asked her friend, Avril as they walked home from school.

“It’s the scarecrow.  I’ve never seen a female one before.”

“My aunt is weird.”

“Why do you say that?”

“Well, look at the way she dresses–like she’s back in the sixties or seventies.  What about that outfit she wore to my birthday party last week?  I was so embarrassed.”

Everyone thought she looked cool.  The vintage style suits her.  And she had several admirers.”

Madeline’s mouth tightened.  “Yes, including David.”

“You need to get over him.”

“Why?”

“He’s much older and he’s not interested.”

“He would have been if it hadn’t been for her.  She always ruins things for me.”  She ran up the steps to her house, slamming the door.

Before heading home, Avril stopped by Aunt Lindsey’s house.

“How’s Maddie?” she asked.

“She’s fine.”

“Still upset about David?”

“Yes.”

“She hates me.”

“No, she doesn’t.”

“She will if she ever finds out the truth.”

“What truth?”

“That I’m her mother.”

 

174 Words

This was written as part of Sunday Photo Fiction hosted by Susan Spaulding.  For more details visit Here.  To read more of the stories based on this week’s prompt, visit Here.

 

Riya’s Rescue Plan

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Photo Credit: Fandango

It was a lazy Saturday for Riya.  When she finally got up to take a shower it was midday.  She was in such a good and relaxed mood that she didn’t get upset when the soap slipped out of her hand and fell on the ground.

After a hearty breakfast, she sat down in front of her laptop, switched it on.  She opened her sister, Vidya’s email.  Her face fell.  It was bad news.

Villagers in the Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra state warned Christians that every week a church will be closed.  Their uncle’s home was among the dozens of homes which have been attacked since June.  Believers were told that unless they renounced their faith, water supply would be cut off and food subsidies stopped.  Their cousin, Vihaan was badly beaten by locals demanding that he abandon his faith.  Others received death threats.  The police have done nothing to protect them.

Heartbroken, Riya wondered what she could do to help.  Then the thought occurred to her to sponsor them.  She called Vidya and told her what she was planning.  Vidya was onboard.  They decided to meet later that day to figure things out.

194 Words

This story was inspired by true events in India where there are plans for weekly church closures.  Christians have had their homes attacked, received threats of death or expulsion if they do not renounce their faith.

This post was written as part of Sunday Photo Fiction hosted by Susan Spaulding. For more details visit Here.  To read more of the stories based on this week’s prompt, visit Here.

Source:  VOM Canada

 

Nisha/Wave #writephoto

sea-mist
Photo courtesy of Sue Vincent

Her sister, Nisha was dead and she felt nothing.  As she stared at the sea her mind traveled back to what happened to her ten years ago.  She was 13 at the time.  She left her home with Nisha and her husband, thinking that they were going to Delhi but instead, they ended up in a remote village.  She was sold into marriage to a man old enough to be her father.

Hatred toward her sister and her brother-in-law welled inside her.  They had betrayed her.  She trusted them and they betrayed her.  They made her believe that they were going to Delhi but instead they took her to a village where strange men were coming into the room where she was kept and looking at her as if she were a piece of merchandise and offering money.  All the while Nisha stood outside, knowing what what was going to happen to her and not having a change of heart.  She kept hoping that her sister would rush in and try to stop what was happening but she didn’t.  Fortune meant more to Nisha than her sister did.

She managed to escape and was rescued by an anti-trafficking charity.  She was sent back to her parents.  She was among the lucky girls.  Many of them are lost to their families and trapped in a world of sex and domestic slavery.  Several days later, word got back to the family that police busted a human trafficking ring.  Nisha and her husband were part of the ring responsible for selling girls to men in the same village where they had taken her.

Now ten years later, she was working for the charity which rescued her.  She was determined to fight people like Nisha and her husband and all the evil forces to protect other girls from going through the horrors she did.  Nisha was dead now but there were others like her out there who preyed on young girls for profit.  She was going to fight them.  And more traffickers were going to end up in prison like her brother-in-law.  She hoped he was rotting in there.

One thing she learned from this whole experience was that the face of evil didn’t have to belong to a stranger–it could very well belong to someone very close to you.  She felt no sorrow over Nisha’s death–only peace.  It was one less evil person to fight against.

To remain silent in the face of evil is itself a form of evil – Sue Monk Kidd

Do not accept an evil you can change – E. Lockhart, We Were Liars

This was inspired by a true story of a teenager who was sold into marriage by her sister and brother-in-law.  It was written in response to the Thursday Photo Prompt – Waves at Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo.  For more details click here.

 

Sources:  The Guardian; Washington Post