I’m writing short stories to practice third person instead of first.
The clock showed 2:37 a.m. when she picked up the phone.
“Marsha, Mom is dying.”
For the first time in five years, Dan’s voice caused Marsha’s heart to twitch. “Is she home?”
“Yes.” Dan tried to control the pain in his voice. “She wants to see you. Can you come? Bring the kids?”
Marsha turned to the back seat as she fastened her seatbelt. Jenny was already asleep again, but David’s eyes were wide open.
“Dad said Grandma is going to die?” He gulped. “Right away?”
How could a twelve-year-old look so weary with life?
“Yes, honey. The doctor said it will probably be today.”
Dan took the kids to see his mother often. They knew she had cancer and that she’d asked for the treatments to be stopped. Still, this would devastate them.
Why, God? Why does such a great lady have to die too early? She loves you. She trusts you. And her family still needs her. Marsha’s breath caught. I still need her. Please, God …
Marsha couldn’t force any more prayer. David had no further questions. The rest of the trip to Cindy’s house stayed silent.
Marsha stopped the car. “Guys, wake up. We’re here.”
She wrapped an arm around both kids as they walked to the front steps. Dan stood inside the open door.
“Hey, guys. Come on in.”
Jenny looked up at her dad. “Daddy, why are we up so early?”
He pulled her into a hug. “Come on, baby. Grandma wants to see you.” Dan glanced at David. “Hi, son.”
“Hi.” David lowered his head from his father’s gaze.
Dan looked to Marsha. “Thank you.”
Marsha nodded. Her throat couldn’t open enough for words right then.
“The Hospice nurse is sitting with Mom right now. She’ll leave so we can have privacy.” Dan gave a light knock on the bedroom door, then led them inside.
Marsha noticed a slight, gray-haired lady slip out of the room, but her eyes were drawn magnetically to the bed.
When she and Dan divorced five years earlier, he asked her not to tell his mom. She’d just learned of her cancer.
“We don’t need to give her another reason for sorrow.”
Marsha agreed, not because she wanted to please Dan, but because Cindy was her friend. Her sister. Her mother.
Since then, she’d continued to visit Cindy with the kids. It’s only been a month or so. She is … she’s so different.
Cindy lay asleep, her hands curled beside her face. She’s shrunk so much. She’s … dying.
David moved to the side of the bed. He held out his hand, pulled it back, then laid it on his grandmother’s shoulder.
Jenny pressed close to Marsha. “Mama?” she whispered.
Marsha wrapped her arms around her child. “It’s okay, honey. Do you want to hold Grandma’s hand?”
Jenny gave a sharp shake of her head.
Dan knelt in front of Jenny and cupped her cheek. “That’s okay, sweetie. If you’d like, I’ll take you to the kitchen and get you a drink.”
Jenny nodded. Marsha felt her daughter’s tears drip onto her hands. She bent to kiss Jenny’s head. “Go with Daddy, sweetie.”
Jenny’s just eight. Should we have done this to her?
“Dave, you want to come with us?”
Dan wrapped an arm around David’s shoulders. David stiffened, then sank against his dad. Marsha watched the three of them walk out of the room. That looked like a comforting group to be a part of.
Five years ago, Dan met Judy on a business trip. For a short time, he turned his back on Marsha and his children.
It didn’t last long, but when he came to Marsha to beg forgiveness, her heart shriveled and lost any spark of life for him.
Marsha bit her lip and turned back to the bed. She sat on the floor and rested her head on the pillow next to Cindy.
“You were my Mama.”
Cindy had been her piano teacher, her confidante, her encourager when Marsha’s family showed her little support.
“You loved me, and listened to me. You helped me believe Jesus loved me.”
And when Cindy invited Marsha into her home, Marsha met Cindy’s son. A man with laughing eyes and a warm hug.
She folded her hands around the tiny, bony hands which once were so strong.
“I’m sorry if I disappointed you. I love you so.”
Dan sat down on the floor next to her. “Jenny’s already asleep on the couch. David found a book to look at, but he’ll probably be out soon.”
Marsha turned to look at the man who, for so many years, had been her best friend. More recently, this had been a stranger’s face, but today?
She had an overwhelming need to touch him.
She held out her hand, then stopped.
Dan enclosed her hand in his. His eyes held such sadness.
Marsha leaned to Dan, and his arms came around her. It felt like home.
“Thank you. Thank you … for letting me see this.”
Marsha stayed in Dan’s arms, but turned back to face her friend. Cindy’s eyes were open, sunken, but smiling.
“Marsha.” Her voice was low and breathy, but still kind. “You are my daughter. You don’t disappoint me. But … please remember … forgiveness is healing, and mostly for the one who forgives.”
Marsha gasped. Did Cindy know? How could she not know?
Dan laid a gentle hand on his mother’s cheek. He opened his mouth, but no words came.
Cindy nestled her cheek against his hand. “I love you, precious Danny.”
Her eyes closed again and she smiled. Her breaths were slow and calm.
Dan stood and turned to Marsha. “I should get the nurse. In case … in case she needs medicine.”
His lips trembled, and his hands shook.
Marsha moved back into his arms and wrapped hers around him.
Who was comforting who? It didn’t matter. Their strength mingled to hold each other upright.