This is part three of a story about a little girl, a story I call Missy's Reason. I am sure by now you can see part of her reason forming. But what is that reason? Exactly what does her reason have to do with life? Well, you'll just have to stay tuned to find out. I promise, the tear jerkers won't be here for much longer. Soon, we'll get to watch Missy grow up.
Missy sat with her Aunt Jeanne by her mother’s bedside for a half hour before her father returned. Ben was silent as he entered the room, this time without Pastor Jack. Upon seeing his wife, he sighed, and moved quietly beside Missy.
“Honey, we can go now. I’ve made some arrangements for your mommy, and all we have left to do tonight is to go home and rest.”
“Is mommy going to the funeral home, Daddy?”
“Yes, Missy, they are going to get her ready for her funeral.”
“When are we going to have the funeral? Is it tomorrow?”
“No, honey. It might be in a couple days, we haven’t had a chance to get that worked out yet. I‘ll be going to the funeral home tomorrow to get it all ready. You’ll have to stay at home. Pastor Jack’s family will be coming over to spend the day with us.” Ben told his daughter. “Are you tired, Missy?”
Missy yawned in answer, “Not really, Daddy. I mean, I’m a little tired, but I don’t want to go to bed when we get home.”
Why not sweetie?”
Because I want to be with you, Daddy. I’m scared.”
“Aw sweetie, me too.” Her father sighed heavily, tears forming in his eyes. “Let’s go home, okay?”
Ben lifted up his daughter, and pausing once more at the door of the room, he looked back at his wife. Then, he carried Missy out to their car, the way he used to when she was just a baby. Missy clung to him, leaving faint memories of the tears she had shed on his chest now on the collar of his jacket. He thought to himself, “I don’t know Katherine. I don’t how I am going to do this without you.” Tonight, he had found himself talking to his wife in his mind nearly every minute.
Resolutely he strode toward the car, his sister Jeanne just behind them. Thank God for Jeanne. Missy was going to need her now, and here she was, in the right place, as always, at the right time.
Jeanne, seven years older than Ben, had nearly raised Ben by herself since he had been five years old. Their parents had divorced, their father an alcoholic, who had left without so much as a word one stormy December evening. Their mother had worked two jobs for the next fifteen years, rarely seeing her children, except to tuck them into bed at night. It had fallen to Jeanne to be mother and father, and she had grown closer to Ben than most parents.
She had always been there to protect Ben, but from this, from the disease that had taken Katherine’s life, there had been no protection.
Now, Ben was in need once again, and Jeanne was right there by his side. Two years earlier, their mother had died of breast cancer. They had never seen their father again since the night he left. They only remembered him from a distance, and from what their mother had told them about him. Now, in this moment, Ben felt his old rage against his father rise. He stood still for a moment in the parking lot, Jeanne catching up to him as he did.
‘What’s the matter, Benji?” Jeanne asked.
“Nothin.” Ben answered. But that was not true. For a moment, all of the times Ben had needed his father came rushing back to him. The Friday nights of glory on the baseball diamond, where Ben had always looked from the pitcher’s mound into the stands, hoping, praying to see His father, who would of course be proud of his son in his victory. But his father had never showed up. Or the times he had needed someone to fix his bike, because he wasn’t able to do it himself, yet. His father had never called, never written, and never fixed Ben’s bike.
All of the memories of needing a father cemented Ben’s resolution in that moment. He was never going to leave Missy the way his father had left him. He was never going to not show up for a game, or a recital, or a tea party, although Missy had grown out fake tea parties about two years ago. He was going to be there!
He held Missy more closely as he neared the car. Poor Missy. Growing up without a bad father was one thing. But to lose a good mommy, to go through life without her gentle hand from this point on. “Oh Katherine,” He thought, “How am I going to do this?”
The same thought crossed his mind from time to time as they drove home, Missy now sitting where Katherine had in the past. Jeanne was in the back seat, and as Ben looked in the rear view mirror, in the darkness, he saw tears streaming from her eyes. She had been so strong throughout all of this, so close to Katherine, and in the end, his older sister, his mother, was now broken by pain too deep to speak of. Ben felt a sense of peace in that moment, and through the tears his sister shed for him, for Missy, and for herself, he began to pray.