Come In Time


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If I could have, I would have shoved my feet through the floor of the bus and used my own legs to push it along. If mind ever had power over matter, mine should have forced the driver’s foot to press down harder on the accelerator.

The night flashed by, faint outlines of trees interrupted by the occasional house dimly lit by a yard light or edged with Christmas bulbs. The road stretched before me. I willed it to end where I needed it to end, but perversely it refused, one curve morphing into yet another length of highway flecked with swirling snow.

The demon of doubt whispered: She’s going to die before I get there. A desperate faith countered: Please don’t let her go before I arrive.

Does a minute always take so long? How is it that an hour seems like an eternity? Eight hours on a bus crawling through the night. No flights available this close to Christmas. No trains leaving that would get me there any faster. Faster?  My demon doubt mocked me. What was that verse about taking on wings and flying away?

Go! Go! Don’t stop at the sleeping towns. See, there are no lights in the houses. No one is waiting for a bus at this time of the night. Just go! If you don’t hurry she’s going to die before I get there.

That dreaded phone call had come that afternoon. A massive heart attack, not expected to live. Time stopped then for a brain-numbing breath. Now it was moving too quickly and not quickly enough—too quickly for her and not quickly enough for me. All the Christmas baking I had planned to take home the next day got shoved into the freezer, forgotten. The plans to make this first Christmas after Dad’s death something special for Mom were abandoned, stillborn.

The downshifting of gears and a lurch to the right told me we were somewhere, but nowhere I wanted to be, just a 24/7 coffee shop in the middle of another nameless, lightless village. The driver needed coffee and I had enough adrenalin rushing through me to supply us both. I’d be happy to share, just go!

We went, though not at my bidding. There’s no one on the road. Go faster! Time dragged her feet, heedless of my urgency. If it goes faster for you, it will go faster for her, and you still might not get there in time. God knows what it will be no matter when you arrive. That voice of calm broke through the screaming anxiety. I quashed it. I wasn’t there when Dad died and now I won’t be there when Mom goes. Please, God, don’t take her yet.

The night crawled onward toward a reluctant winter dawn as more miles were left behind than were in front. Finally, finally, we were under the railway bridge and into the bus station.

The hospital was two blocks away—short blocks of a thousand miles. I ran. Have I come in time? Please, Lord, make me be in time. Still, the doubt niggled at the corner of my mind, attached to the vision of some starched nurse, suitable sympathy etched on the face of a twelve-hour shift. I’m sorry, she passed away just a few minutes ago.

In the door, up to the Intensive Care Unit, through yet another door and then…

“Mom?”

In that moment the long, dark night released a watery, pale sun. It wasn’t much, and it wasn’t destined to last long, but nevertheless it still shone. I had come in time.

___________________________

The 22nd of December will mark twenty-five years since my mother passed away. The story you have just read describes my feelings on that night of the 21st as I journeyed home. It was to be a bleak Christmas. But at the same time, I realized that God's plans for my mother's, and my father's, Christmas was a whole lot better for them—in the presence of the Lord to celebrate His birth with Him. It doesn't get any better than that.

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