Sister to Sister: “More of Gravy than Grave”

images-11In some bizarre and horrific case of mistaken identity, my husband had been convicted of a crime worthy of the death penalty. Surgeons had inserted an electronic device into his neck that, upon detonation, would shock and kill him. The surgeon’s blue markings were still all over the side and back of his neck. We knew his time on earth was short, even though we were uncertain of exactly which breath would be his last. Sobbing and speaking in hushed tones, I asked him to kiss me goodbye. He gently pulled me in to him and…I woke up.

It had been a long series of flights from Huntsville, Alabama to Honolulu. An energetic and wonderful crowd of Christians had met us at the airport with multiple beautiful leis and hearty welcomes at about 8:30 pm last Monday night. To our weary bodies, it felt like midnight, though. After collecting our luggage, getting a rental car at a different location and finding our way, with lots of help to our very comfortable lodgings, the Christians (Yes, they know about souther hospitality. They are 2100 miles south of the mainland!) brought wonderful Popeye’s fried chicken and shared a sumptuous feast with us, complete with sweet Hawaiian bread and mashed potatoes and gravy. I loved it!! The thing is, we usually don’t eat so sumptuously even when it is dinner time, much less when our body clocks are at 2 a.m. But we were famished and it was delicious. I guessed, though, as I awoke from that dream, that, like Scrooge said, ”There was more of gravy than grave” about that nightmare.

So I turned over and went right back to sleep (after checking Glenn’s neck just to be sure) and dreamed this time that one of the sites for the Lads to Leaders convention had suddenly become unavailable, so we were planning to have the convention at my house. I was, in my dream, pretty much okay with this, just working the sandman’s hours away in my methodical middle-of-the-nightmare psyche, figuring out just where each competition would be held, how we could stagger the awards ceremonies, where I could store the trophies till Easter, how many families could share the cabin and how many children could sleep on the hammock.

Food. Now figuring out how to feed that crowd was proving the biggest challenge, but lots and lots of Popeye’s Fried chicken—that would be just the ticket.

So yes. I think jet lag and drumsticks were barging right into my dreams. As I awakened the second time, I thought surely the sun was almost up; after all, I had lived through a crime, surgery, a painful good-bye, and the meticulous planning of a home convention.  But alas, the only lights in the window were from the corridors of the apartments next door. I found a red clock on the wall. It was just 2 a.m.! Glenn awakened just enough to turn over and groggily ask “Is everything okay?…Come back to bed.”

“Everything is okay…yeah…but this night is eternal…It surely seems like it should be morning by now.”

I’ve thought about eternal night several times since then. I’m never afraid of misshapen stuff in the closet floor in the day time. Our old house creaks and shudders all through the bright morning and afternoon hours and it is never alarming at all. I do not worry about family members from whom I am separated while I am busy ironing or washing dishes or shopping; only when I am lying awake at night listening to my husband breathe. It is then that I think about how I may have misspoken with a sister and perhaps she thought I was angry. It is in the dark when I reconsider what I said in that ladies day speech that may not have been entirely correct. It is in the night, when my husband is out of town, when I wonder if I actually locked the basement door or blew out the candle in the kitchen. In the night. There are a thousand  unanswered questions and every tiny hitch in my world is blown exponentially out of proportion.

Even when I was a little girl and my mom told me it was bedtime, my response was to cry and say, “But Mama, I don’t wike to sweep.”  But I do “wike to sweep” now. More than you can imagine, I like to…. Rest is what keeps my perspective optimistic, my body rejuvenated and my schedule bearable. But, in my world, rest and night-time almost always coincide. So every now and then, there are anxieties, imaginary noises and even nightmares before I get to the restful part of the dark hours.

I think about heaven a lot. Predictably, for the first time ever, I’ll have rest without darkness. I am going to love that. All of the complete rejuvenation, all of the anticipation of complete newness every moment, all of the joyful relationships without any of the angst, dread, fears or overblown complications of the night. I will rest…in peace.

And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them (Revelation 14:13).

And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever (Revelation 22:5)

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