Never doubt the power of a muse.
I’ve had this story, all of which is completely true, in my head for almost 15 years now. I’ve been able to share it verbally but for reasons unknown, I’ve just never been able to commit it to paper. Maybe I hadn’t found my writer’s voice yet, which is probably a big part of it, but I also just didn’t have the necessary experience needed to put pen to paper (or more accurately, fingertip to keyboard).
Last month, the leaders of Faith Baptist Church asked members of the congregation to submit pieces for an Advent devotional to be published this season, focusing on the themes of hope, peace, love and joy. I knew I wanted to share something, but I wasn’t quite sure of the approach. I originally thought I’d share something a bit funny with a lesson subtly mixed in, but I kept coming up empty.
Something just didn’t feel right for writing.
Enter the muse.
I asked if the Dec. 17 date was still open (it was) and if I could have it (I could). Finally, the words that had been huddled up inside me for so long, spilled out, almost breathing as they found themselves on the page. So, in this Advent season, thanks to my church and my muse, I share this, a theme of love, but really, one that’s also just as much about peace, joy and hope:
He stood next to his car, garden tools loaded in the trunk, a water pail hanging from his hand. The boy, his grandson, about 10, walked out of the house, anxious to tag along, wanting to be a man, wanting to help, wanting to do more than just carry a water bucket while working to stay out of the way.
The old man started to get in the car, hesitated, stepped away.
“I forgot something,” he said.
The old man walked back inside, letting the screen door slap shut as the boy stood by. A minute passed, maybe two. The boy peeked through the mesh screen and watched as his grandfather kissed his grandmother, the two of them momentarily acting closer to 18 than 80.
The boy turned away, and soon the old man returned outside.
“I always gotta say goodbye before I go,” the old man said.
The two left, off to the garden, off to their lives as the years passed and boy became a teen and the old man became weaker, forgetful. Soon, he stopped eating, as dementia ravaged his mind, making him unable to remember anything, anyone.
But he held on, with occasional glimmers of his old life, recognizing the boy, talking about the garden.
Soon, he could hold on no more. He lived in a hospital bed at the boy’s parents’ house, while his wife, a tiny woman hobbled by broken bones, lifted by a strong spirit, remained in their house, the bed they shared for more than 60 years.
“Mother, it’s time,” the boy’s father said. “He’s slipping, more and more each day. If you don’t come now, you’ll have waited too late.”
Still, she put off.
The plea was repeated, then ignored; repeated, ignored.
Finally, she relented, arriving to see a shadow of her husband.
The old man had been mostly unresponsive for days, his eyes not opening for anything, but as she took his hand, his lids lifted. They sat together, she at the side of his bed, holding his hand, patting it, putting off the only word that remained.
She kissed him, softly. And she said it, “Goodbye.”
The old man died the next day.
My grandfather, the old man, would have turned 100 today, and everything I’ve ever needed to know about love, I learned on those two days.
Some things are worth waiting for.
Some things will never die.
And love – real love, honest love, true love – is a gift.