“Bound together by a scarlet thread
An unbroken ribbon flowing bright red
From the foot of the Cross, where Jesus bled.
Basing my life on the strength of that thread”–From Eleanor Brown’s Journal
Finished with loading her luggage into her car, Clara poured her coffee go cup full. She had consumed two glasses of wine during her long conversation with Nancy the previous evening. Predictably, because she had a low tolerance level for fermented beverages, she had slept poorly and risen grumpy. Emptying the remaining coffee in the pot down the drain, the grounds into the trash, she unplugged the pot. No telling how long she would be gone, although she hoped only a few days, she wanted to leave things in order. Lastly, she shoved her mother’s last letter into the side pocket of her carry-on/purse. Unsure whether she would want to read it again on her flight to Oklahoma City, she didn’t want it too hard to reach.
She felt her cell phone vibrate in her pocket. Checking the ID, she answered.
“What time does your plane land in OKC?”
“Elevenish, your time. Why?”
“That’s do-able. How about I pick you up and you ride home with me?”
“I don’t know, Brian. I was going to rent a car. I may be stuck down there for a while and I need a vehicle. Mom only had the one car.” She felt the choke in her voice and wished she could hang up.
“We can work that out. Let me do this, Clar.”
All Clara could think was, I have got to get off this phone now. “Ok, Brian. I will text you when I land.”
“Bye.” She pressed END before he could reply. Pressing the phone to her chest, she let the tears come. So much kindness, I do not know if I can handle that.
The letter bothered her, not just the contents, the whole concept. It was as if Ellie had a premonition. Or, more disturbing, was it a suicide note left open ended, in case she changed her mind? Why had she not realized Ellie was ill? She hated thoughts like that, hated that she would even give them space in her mind, hated that Ellie had driven in front of a train, and God help her, hated the part of her that groaned under tasks assigned by others. Had she always been that way? A quick inventory assured her she had. Balking at bossiness, people demanding she perform, ‘buck up’, ‘be a lady’, ‘stand up straight’, she could get her back up as Ellie often informed her over the least little thing.
First, Nancy reminded herself, Ellie would never contemplate suicide, even with the grim prognosis she laid out in her letter, Ellie would not go merrily into that dark night. While Nancy had always been grounded in faith, her disposition bordered on morose at times. She had always considered the possible consequences in all their gory details, a glass half empty girl. While she had always maintained she was merely being realistic by seeing the worse case scenerio, Ellie would chide her with that ever present edge of mirth in her voice, “Come on, Nan. You know none of those things are going to happen. Jesus said, ‘don’t worry’. So I am thinking worry is flat out a sin.”
“Ellie, I am not worrying. I am simply looking at the possibilities..”
“Well, I am not going to sit here and let you be a spoil sport. Let’s…” and off they would go, she in the wake of Ellie’s bright ideas and optimism. Then when Gavin came along, another powerhouse of optimism, the two of them served as bookends in her life keeping her from sliding off the bookshelf of into self doubt or despair.
Only after Ellie returned with Clara to raise alone, did Nancy spot a mild dimming of the light within Ellie, but even that did not tamp down the sheer love of living that Ellie imparted to everyone she knew, especially Nancy. And now, both her bookends were gone, both to places she could go. At least she could visit Gavin, watch the rise and fall of his chest, look at his face and thank God she had that much of him at least. She could pretend he heard her and imagine his responses. Ellie, well, Ellie was gone.
A flash of sunlight fell across the table reminding Nancy that time was moving and she had better get moving. She still had that eulogy to write, plus getting lunch for Pete and Dewayne. Lifting her head she caught sight of a heart shaped plaque Ellie had given her. Two little houses next to each other with the inscription, “In my Father’s house there are many mansions. I hope yours is next to mine.” She smiled, the first real smile since the news on Sunday as she remembered when she had unwrapped that gift.
“Nan, if I get to heaven before you, I am going to ask God to let me decorate your mansion, because I will know exactly what you want…and yes, there will be a porch.”
Thanks, Ellie, she thought, I will use that in your eulogy.