He was on the edge of breaking. The demons that had haunted him throughout his life were finally closing in, and beginning to make their presence known. It wouldn’t be long now before they would strike him and tear him away from the home he knew.
He was afraid. There were so many questions left unanswered. Fears that had yet to dissipate. Dying, he wasn’t afraid of. It was normal right? To die. To return to the earth which provided you the tools to survive for so long. It helped you; now it was asking for your help in return. Go back to the soil and provide nutrients to its fields until God commanded it to be no more.
Being forgotten. That was the thing that really scared him. If he left this world and no one remembered him, had he really existed? Did he actually make a difference? Or was this life all for nothing?
So far, it seemed that his life had no impact on the world around him. He had to admit he was selfish in his younger years. He wanted nothing more than to live by his own rules and his own standards. Any authority figure could get over themselves, he was so far beyond them. They didn’t even register on his radar.
He often found himself in the company of his so called ‘friends’, and they would frequent the many bars around town, getting drunk until they couldn’t see straight. Walking home had always been an adventurous endeavor, and often led to situations that would have been deemed terrible and extremely dangerous by societal standards. But at that time, it seemed like another silly event brought on by a drunken stupor.
It was in the middle of April when the accident happened. The one that would change the course of his life. It was the rainy season in his home town, and night time was already into its own mid-life crisis. They had been drinking since eight that evening and had been kicked out of the last bar they had entered. As they left to go back to Todd’s place to drink more vodka that he had hidden away in his cabinets, his wife had always been a stickler for drinking, Todd complained about the heat. The extreme heat that plagued his mind, body, and soul; he needed relief. He would yell for some rain, cursing God because there wasn’t any going on when he needed it but it always rained during inconvenient times. He stopped at the bridge, the only one that allowed them to cross the river that separated Todd’s house from the rest of the town.
Todd stared at the fast moving water, as it roared and violently shook the support beams. “The water will be cold,” he slurred and looked down at the water watching it with curiosity.
The man sighed as he looked back over the beach, this memory was always one of the hardest to get through, but he had too, in his final moments; he had to know. Did his life matter?
He tried to reason with his friend, “You can take a cold shower when you get back to your house, man,” he kept repeating. Todd didn’t seem to hear him. He ignored him and shakily hoisted himself onto the arms of the bridge, looking down at the water.
“But I am hot,” his friend replied and looked up at the cloudy skies. The moon’s golden light broke through the small breaks in the clouds and lit up his face. “Besides, there is no rain…why isn’t there rain tonight? God wants me to jump….right? If not, there would be rain….lots and lots of cold rain.”
“No….no, jumping is not good,” he tried to explain…but he was beginning to see black spots in his vision...he was tired, so tired. A nice nap sounded good. But first, first he had to get Todd. “Come on, let’s go back to your place.”
“After my swim,” Todd answered, looking back down at the water, he allowed his feet to hang halfway off the edge and he would periodically swing his arms to try and keep balance.
“No…swimming is only allowed during the summer time….wait.”
Todd looked back at him, his eyes glittering under the moonlight, “I am….a rule…bre-breaker, not a…..follower,” he hiccupped and then leaned a little too far forward. He fell.
Time seemed to stop. He ran to try and catch his friend but, in his state, he could barely walk forward. The dark splotches in his vision were growing…they were taking control. He tried to fight them off. Todd, his friend, needed help…but he couldn’t move forward, his body seemed to be frozen.
He heard the splash…and then it was over. Darkness took over and he fell….
He shook his head…trying to clear the memory from his thoughts. The days that had followed that dark night were just as bleak as the incident itself. He had been numb. Too numb. It was his fault that Todd was dead….but he felt nothing. Nothing but the cold empty drumming of his own heart. He had been too numb to even feel the angry stares that were thrown at him at the funeral. Too numb to feel the slap that came across his face as he was met with Todd’s grieving wife.
His drinking only got worse from there. He soon lost his job for not being able to show up on time. Or for not being there at all. He didn’t care. He couldn’t care. He couldn’t feel. In a vain attempt to escape this terrible sensation of nothingness he packed up his things and left. Got on the interstate and just drove. No destination in mind. Just until he ran out of gas…or needed a drink.
He got to the small town of Bridgewater. The place was so small. Quiet. Save for a liberal arts college that was down the road. But he avoided them. He lived in a small house in a small neighborhood, and the only communication he had with the neighbors was small talk. He couldn’t feel. It didn’t matter.
He would often take walks. Sometimes during the brightness of the day, sometimes in the cover of the darkness. He preferred the dark. It was easier to hide there. His numbness was wearing off. He could feel the tiny pin pricks of pain beginning to set in. He didn’t like it.
So he consequently drank more. More and more. Returning to that numbness. It was better not to feel.
Or so he thought.
A couple of months living in Bridgewater had begun to change some things about himself, which he wouldn’t have noticed if it wasn’t for her. He had begun to feel again. The pain that he had been ignorant to came back with a vengeance. But so did some other feelings, such as anger and hurt. He had been the one to blame for Todd’s death…but that wasn’t fair. He didn’t make Todd jump. Or drink.
These are the thoughts that ran through his head when he met her. The only person in the world with the ability to take his pain away. She was an angel, a misguided angel, but an angel nonetheless. She had eyes that were the darkest green he could have ever imagined and they melted his soul. She had short auburn hair and a small delicate mouth.
She had spotted him on the side of the road. He was a mess that day. After having a couple of drinks, he was finding it hard to walk. Also, he wasn’t becoming numb. He could still feel. He had fallen while trying to step up on the curb. He was crying out. Angry. So angry. It was God’s fault that he was in this mess. Why didn’t he use his divine will to stop Todd?
She came over to him. Her eyes studying him. He could barely look at her, a nasty snarl coming across his face. “Go away, b—“ he cursed at her, his eyes glinting with rage.
She simply slapped him across the face and in an even tone commanded. “Pull yourself together.”
He was shocked. But allowed her to lead him away.
Who was she? Why did she stop to help him? It didn’t make sense. But he followed her.
And he continued to follower her. His whole world began to revolve around her. She was the sole reason he had gotten up from that curb. She was a light, a light in this ever present darkness and despair.
She began to tear down the walls that he had set up. It hadn’t occurred to him before, the idea that, when building up walls to let no one in, so that you couldn’t be hurt, you did more harm than good. Not only could people not go in…you couldn’t get out. You couldn’t escape. You trap yourself in your own mind. Your own darkness.
A year and a thousand bricks later, the wall was down, and love began to build itself up. It was exhilarating. It made his heart pound, his palms sweat, and his mind whirl. Pain had no place in his heart anymore. So it vanished. Like a bad dream.
They got married and they were happy. So happy. The days were so bright and full of new life, that he began to feel as if maybe the whole drinking incident was finally behind him. He left the bottle.
He didn’t need it anymore. He wanted to feel. He wanted to live.
They thrived. Soon, they were expecting a baby. A miracle. He was beginning to see life the way God had intended it. Life wasn’t about doing what you wanted. It was about loving those around you. Supporting them. In return, God would support you and make sure that all of your needs were met.
He began to dedicate his time to his local church and his wife. And the small church in Bridgewater began to grow. It drew more and more crowds, becoming so large that the old building wasn’t big enough to support them. So money was raised to build a new building, a bigger one. So that all the people may come. So that all may hear. So that all may live.
The baby was born, the building was almost done.
Two years passed.
The child was learning how to walk. Her eyes were the same dark deep green as her mother’s. He loved her.
Though, life again began to take a turn. April was coming. Storm clouds were building. It happened so fast, so silently. No one ever expected it. She was so young. But cancer was a hateful demon and it latched itself onto his wife.
The days grew longer. He watched her fight, with all her might, fighting an unseen enemy. This enemy, dragged away her energy. Left her humiliated as she lost the ability to take care of herself.
He cried at night when he was alone on his walks. That was his only time to grieve. He had to be strong for his daughter, who did not yet know the terrors her mom was facing. He had to be strong for his wife…
But he knew his strength wasn’t enough. But what if…what if God put his strength in her. Could she survive? Of course she could, he resolved, and feverishly, he began to pray.
God would sustain them. He would protect all of them.
Though, her will to fight began to die. She was too weak. Finally, on a lonely Sunday night. She looked up at her husband. A frail hand running down her cheek. “Continue forward, I will meet you when you come home,” she said quietly. She passed. He stopped.
He could feel the numbness returning. His daughter didn’t understand. She kept asking for Mommy. At the funeral, she wanted to know why she was sleeping. What could he say?
He began to drink again. To hide his pain away with the deadening effects of alcohol.
His daughter cried. She had finally realized that her sweet mother was never coming back. Why? Only at the age of two and yet the world bared its fangs at her. No more. He was done.
The church reached out to him, but he pushed them away. He was tired of their pity. He was tired of their smiles. What did they know? Why didn’t God help him?
Five years later and now he found himself standing on this beach. He was trying to defeat the demons that were trying to rebuild the walls. But his wife wouldn’t have wanted that…right? He wasn’t sure anymore… He looked down at the piece of paper in his hand. It was blank. In the other hand was a beer bottle.
He looked behind him and his daughter sat on the towel. Watching the ocean with dead eyes. Soulless eyes.
Those eyes. He could see his wife through those eyes.
She wasn’t gone. Not as long as he still had her in his memories. Not as long as he loved her. Love could bypass the hands of time.
God never left him. He never stopped loving him. He was trying to change his world view. He had taken his wife home. She wasn’t gone. She was still there. He needed to tell his daughter this. He needed her to know.
He opened the bottle.
The sickening smell reached his senses. The demons that were clinging to him told him to drink the pain away. He shook his head and then tipped the bottle over watching as its contents went to the ground.
He then took out a pen from his pocket and began to scribble a message on the piece of paper.
His daughter, who had been observing him, rose. She made her way over to her father. A force, unlike she ever knew, was drawing her forward. She could see it. Life. New life. She only needed to grasp it.
“Daddy…what are you writing?” She whispered.
He looked down at her, a warm smile coming across his face.
"A message to an old friend,” he answered.
He didn’t answer. He just handed her the note.
“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. Romans 5:1-7” She looked up at him after she had finished reading. “How will your friend get it?” She asked.
“God,” he began, taking the note back from her and placing it in the empty beer bottle then replacing the cap, “will deliver it for me. He will take it where it needs to go.”
He knelt down and placed the bottle in the water.
They watched as the ocean current carried the bottle off. Both watching as the world began to change. A brighter day was ahead of them and their fears and pain….they were being carried through the current.