This is for a friend, or actually several friends who have lost loved ones lately. It is from my novel “Broken,” by WC Turck:

…Her eyes were the color of a silver Dollar moon on a warm summer night. They were clear but distant, as if away in a memory that only just now gained its true importance. That distant gaze hovered somewhere between the flowing lace curtains and the window of the little hospice in French River just north of Duluth. A warm breeze through the window carried the perfume scent of lilac. Life was running away from those eyes, but not in a cruel or sad or lamentable way. Instead it ran away like a child in a grassy meadow. Eleanor’s eyes were laughing, filled with a light that infected fellow church members gathered around her bed.

Pastor Simmons held her hand tightly in his. He’d known her since, since… well it seemed forever now. He too saw that light in her eyes, but saw something more, something he knew that the others did not. He carried her secret and would always carry that secret, because she had asked him to. That boy at the docks had begged her not to tell because he had a family to look after and she had given her word. Not that it mattered much anymore. It had been so long that Simmons could no longer recall his name.

A knowing smile creased his mahogany face as he led the others in quiet prayer. They saw only a woman so filled with love and warmth that Pastor Simmons could already feel the world becoming a little colder for her passing. Her hand was warm enough, but Simmons was quite certain there was no feeling in it any more. It was a bittersweet thought, for he understood as well as anyone how she had struggled with her affliction all these years. He thought of those who had taken such comfort and inspiration in the peaceful fortitude and quiet indifference to her own troubles. Some folks suffered much worse than Eleanor. She was humbled and sympathetic to those folks, and an inspiration to those whose suffering paled by comparison. From Eleanor’s private confessions Simmons knew it was the affliction in her heart that gave her the greatest difficulty.

Funny but Simmons couldn’t think of a prayer. He had never been without a prayer, but now he couldn’t think of one. What kind of pastor can’t think of a damn prayer? Problem was, prayers were always sort of somber and solemn things. They were acts of desperation, appeals for consolation, or they betrayed a sense that good fortune was maybe a little undeserved. But somehow Eleanor’s passing did not qualify under any of those. That was fully evident in the smiles and joyful tears of those gathered around her bed.

The nurses had gone. There was nothing more they could do, or should have done, except let this moment pass in peace. Spontaneously the others began to hum “Nearer my God to thee.” They were holding hands and swaying gently to the melody.

…Darkness be over me, my rest a stone.

Yet in my dreams I’d be nearer, my God to Thee.

Nearer my God to Thee, Nearer my God to Thee…

Simmons imagined that she would be reunited with him again. He imagined that everyone would be together again, one day. Not like some big town picnic, or as some continuation of this world, where folks went off to do their own thing for eternity. Instead Pastor Simmons believed it was something much different. He imagined that we were all pieces of a greater whole, as if God did not wish to interfere with the evolving universe, but rather sprinkled parts of itself to truly experience the wonder of what unfolded quite on its own. It made her handicap less of an affliction and more of a perspective. It comforted him, and explained the deeper connection all living things share. All those different faiths were, in the end, different roads to the same destination. In the end all roads lead home.

Her hand was colder now, lying limp inside his. Tears streamed down his cheeks. He was humming with the others. The song could be heard clear down the hall of the hospice, and out into the yard where it was lost among the singing of birds and the rustle of spring leaves. Simmons wanted to laugh from joy through the tears. So much so he thought his heart might just burst.

…There in my Father’s home and at rest,

There in my Savior’s love, perfectly blessed,

Age after age to be, nearer my God to Thee…

Folks don’t pass all at once, Simmons thought. They pass on in pieces, a memory here, a memory there. Maybe it’s a card, or a letter they wrote that one day gets put away for good, a brush that’s no longer of any use now that the owner is gone, or a way they flavored the world that fades like an echo. Just pieces, that’s all folks are. Broken pieces, the lot of ‘em, some more broken than others.

Something in her gaze changed at that moment. It came as a moment of clarity. It was brief, and most of those in the room missed it somehow. Others couldn’t be certain just what they had seen, though it would resonate in their lives for all time, like an ideal to aspire to or to pray for. Simmons saw it and new exactly what it was. He leaned and brought his lips close to her ear. He could smell the musky scent of her skin and breathed it in one last time as he spoke. Oh, how he would miss her.

“It’s all right now,” he said. “You go and be with him. The rest of us will be along soon enough.”

Eleanor’s breathing paused. The air seemed to catch in her chest a moment. It was as if that breath was something more, something suddenly undecided about the body and its viability anymore. Her body tensed a little with it, holding vainly for just another second. This time they all saw it. The singing that had built to something of a crescendo quieted. It didn’t stop altogether, but was low and peaceful, like it was a quality to the air and the room itself.

 …Nearer my God to Thee.

Nearer my God to Thee.

Then, with that final breath, Simmons thought he had heard her say something. He couldn’t be sure. Even this close it was almost too soft to be heard, though Simmons could be quite sure no one else had heard. Even if they had, it was certain none of the others would have understood what it meant.

“Timothy,” he thought he heard her say. With that Eleanor’s body relaxed as the last breath escaped from her body. Her eyes closed a moment later and she was gone…


BROKEN: ONE SOLDIER¿S UNEXPECTED JOURNEY HOME is available on Amazon, Barnes and and Amazon Prime.


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