There had been silence in the room up until the moment Missy’s mother passed away. Whether that remained the case or not, Missy was not aware, nor did she care to remember. She only wanted to bury her face in her father’s chest, hide if she could, get away from here as fast as possible, and take mommy with her.
She didn’t want all these people here, and it wasn’t until some years later that she finally understood why they had been there in the first place. But for this moment, Missy could think of nothing, and understand nothing but the fact that she was never going to see her mom alive again. That fact loomed in her mind, and overshadowed everything else, including all of the kind words from the people gathered there to visit her mom one last time. These who had come to see her pass into God’s waiting arms. These who had loved her mommy.
Missy wasn’t selfish, she could only process this with the mind and emotional capabilities that an eight year old possesses. Because of that, temporarily all of the other people disappeared from her recognition; the only thing that remained was her lifeless mother, and her father’s warm chest.
She could feel him sobbing now, shaking as he held her in his arms. And with his sobbing, her heart broke completely. She had never seen her father cry, and to be held by him now as he wept was too much for an eight-year-old’s heart to bear. The world had changed in an instant, and nothing was as it had been just five minutes before. Nothing would ever be the same again.
And suddenly, thoughts raced through her mind like streaks of lightning dashing across the sky. “Mommy’s not going to wake up from this.” Her mind said. “I’m never going to see her again! She’ll never take me to the park, or to a movie, or hold me when I’m sick. I’ll never get to talk to her again, and ask her what it was like when she was a kid. I’ll never get to dress up with her for church, or sit on her lap and watch television just before bed. She’ll never read me another story, and we aren’t even done with The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe! Who’s going to read with me now? Oh mommy!!!” And sobs shook her as well, all in an instant.
As her sobbing gently dissipated, she felt a hand on her shoulder. She didn’t want to look and see who was touching her. She tried to pull away, the touch seemed offensive to her skin, as if it would burn her should it linger any longer. Missy didn’t want anything right now, she didn’t want to talk, she didn’t want to look, she just wanted her daddy to carry them all home, mommy as well, and put her in bed, so she could cry without all these people watching.
“Leave me alone!!” She screamed. “I don’t want you! I want my mommy!”, and she burst into tears again.
The nurse, who had been inside of the room all the while unnoticed, looked reprovingly at Pastor Jack. “I told you, she should not have been here for this.”
Missy looked up from her father’s chest in time to see Pastor Jack’s face contort with something she had never seen in it before. Was he angry?
“She just lost her mom, Ma’am, her heart is broken. It costs you nothing, would let her have this?!” He whispered vehemently
The nurse appeared shocked at Pastor Jack’s response, and quickly answered, “We have other patients we have to think about. We can’t have all of this crying and screaming when there are others who will be affected by it.” She straightened her sweater over her uniform as she made to move into the hallway outside the room.
“Right now, I don’t care about the others,” Pastor Jack said. “Do you have no compassion for this child? Put yourself in her shoes, would you? Would you have denied her the chance to say goodbye?” He whispered hoarsely.
The nurse looked at Missy briefly, and then swung around and left the room. Missy could swear she heard Pastor Jack mutter something like “dammit!” under his breath. Then he looked at Missy, and wiped a tear away from his left eye, the same eye that had teared up just before Missy entered her mother’s room.
Missy had turned around to face him fully now, and asked, “She doesn’t like my mommy, does she?”
Pastor Jack shook his head softly, and answered, “Of course she does, sweetie. She’s just worried about the other patients in the hospital, that’s all.”
“Well…I don’t want her to touch my mommy anymore. I want her to stay away from me, and from my mommy..... I wish it was her who was dead!” The moment she said this, she regretted it, and quickly cried “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I don’t mean it, I really don’t. Ohhh, please, I ‘m sorry Pastor Jack!”
“I know you are sweetie, and I know you didn’t mean it. Don’t worry on it now, ‘kay?” He said, as he patted her hand softly.
Auntie Jeanne again put her hand on Missy’s shoulder, and then her father said something Missy couldn’t quite hear. She knew, though, she just knew what he was saying.
“I don’t want to leave! I’m gonna stay here with mommy, she needs me, she needs me….in case, in case she isn’t really dead!.” Missy squealed, on the verge of breaking into tears all over.
“Missy….” Her daddy told her, “Momma’s up with Jesus now, He’s taking care of her, and she won’t need anything here anymore. You don’t have to worry anymore, Jesus is going to take better care of her than both you and me ever could.” He paused briefly, looking her in the eye. “You have to go with Aunt Jeanne for a little while, okay? I have to take care of a few things here, and then I’ll be with you really quickly. Please, Missy, Aunt Jeanne will take good care of you.”
“I can take care of myself, Daddy. Can’t I please just stay with mommy for a little while? I’m never going to get to see her again.” And she broke, once more.
Jeanne looked at her Daddy, and silently nodded her approval. Missy’s father took her hands in his, then tenderly intertwined his fingers with hers, and lifted them to her face, which he cradled softly. “Okay, Missy, you can stay, for a little while longer. I have to leave the room now, I have to go and see the administrator of the hospital with Pastor Jack. I want you to stay quiet, okay? Try not to talk too loudly, try to whisper if you can. Will you promise me?”
“Yes Daddy, I promise.” Missy answered between sniffles. Her father looked at her for a long moment, and then turned toward Pastor Jack.
“Let’s get this over with….” He said sullenly. Pastor Jack nodded, and put his arm around Ben’s shoulder. As they turned to walk out of the room, Ben stumbled briefly, maybe from weakness, maybe from exhaustion. Whatever the reason, Pastor Jack steadied him, looking into his eyes with deep compassion, and then pulled Ben into his arms and embraced him. “I’m so very sorry, brother. So very, very sorry.” He sobbed.
Ben’s shoulders slumped momentarily, and then he stepped back from Jack, squarely facing him, as bravely as he could. “Jack, remember when you asked if you could help in any way?” He asked.
Jack nodded, but said nothing.
“Well, Jack, I’m gonna need every bit of that help now. The thing is, I don’t even know where to start.” Ben put his arm around Jack’s shoulders this time, and together, they made to leave the room.
Missy, who had been watching this exchange between her father and her pastor, ran behind her father and tapped him on the back.
“Ben twisted around, a puzzled look in his eyes.
“Are you going to come back for me, Daddy?” Missy asked, her wide eyes now immense with pain, and fear.
Ben knelt before his daughter, hugged her briefly, and sighed, “I promise you, sweetie, I’ll always come back.” With that, he kissed Missy’s wet cheek, stood up, turned, and disappeared into the hallway. Auntie Jeanne and Missy looked at each other for a moment, and then went to the bed where Missy’s mother lay.
“I promise you, sweetie, I’ll always come back” were the words Missy held onto for the rest of the evening, quietly waiting beside her mom, for her father to return. Those were the same words she would hold onto every time he went somewhere, they were the words of hope for her heart. For quite some time, the fear of losing her Daddy would always be lurking around every door he disappeared out of.