The phone calls go from bad to worse, and I'm left shaking in my office. Tears stream. My office mate weeps. The graphic designer weeps. The membership director holds me tight. I rant about suffering and unfairness, blame Him for sorrow, ask why and why and why. They cry with me. We share a packet of Kleenex.
My sister calls late, shrill ringer startling dark house, and I ask again, belaboring the point, "Why? Why does suffering have to exist? He could stop it, you know. He has the power to stop it.”
Jeanine reminds me of the Lazarus story. "Jesus wept," she tells me. "I always remember that line; I always remember that He wept. Because that tells me He knows. He feels our pain. He's been there, too."
A whirlwind journey northward to wait long vigil as surgeon cuts and sews. Saturday night late I say goodbye, clasping her hand as I sit for a moment on the bed, all small talk quiet now. I kiss soft cheek, press my cool skin against her warm flush. Smile bright. I'm not the hugging type. But I can't let go.
Hospital hallway lights sear sharp as we stumble to the elevator. There are others inside that cold metal box, but I don't, I can't, look up. Glimpse only pink crocs and worn Asics as elevator shudders, stomach-dipping down.
I walk past empty waiting room chairs lined neatly against the wall, my arms braced across chest, through whoosh of automatic doors into dark, moist, Minnesota air. Bugs swarm florescent parking garage lights.
The boys and I hit highway 35 and head south – seven hours from Minnesota to Nebraska. Seven hours to think as Scooby Doo squawks from the backseat and fields of corn ripple in August heat.
We pull off in Albert Lea, walk hand-in-hand across truck stop parking lot full of RVs, Subarus with bikes stacked on back. Shania twangs from loudspeakers at the gas pumps. Inside we smell pancakes on the griddle, glimpse families shoulder to shoulder in plastic booths, forkfuls dripping syrup.
The boys beg to eat in the diner. I say no and pull them toward the restroom.
Back on the highway I watch black tar and freshly painted white lines disappear beneath the bumper. Orange construction cones dot the center and flash past perfect, unfurling miles ahead into wavy heat.
The road back to Nebraska is straight and easy, and I wonder, as I drive, why can’t life be like that too? Straight. Easy. No map needed. Why does life turn so twisted? Why does it plunge so deeply? Leave us hanging, splintered?
The boys request a CD. I slide one from the visor that’s labeled "trip music" in Brad's script. Rowan sings Maneater – the Hall and Oates version – from the back seat as he watches haystacks out the window. I smile at his tinny voice, mercilessly off key.
"Why does it say, 'Watch out boy she'll cheer you up?' he asks, puzzled. And I laugh out loud when I tell him it's actually, "Watch out boy she'll chew you up." He seems strangely satisfied with this explanation.
Noah points out a dog in a red sports car passing by, and we all laugh to see the Great Dane, his head straight out the sunroof like a sphinx, jowls flapping in highway wind.
I remember the highway sign I saw 200 miles back – Hope in white letters against emerald green.
And I feel it, a breath. Faint. But there.
Hope glimmers as I glimpse windmill blades spin against Iowa wind, cartwheeling across plains, shadow chasing shadow over rolling fields of gold.
Hope glimmers as I glimpse gold-tassled corn, spread like a wide, sunny beach atop green hills.
Hope glimmers as I glimpse black-eyed susans, goldenrod and buttercups, nodding faces lining the highway ditch.
Mile after mile, blanket of gold. I follow the yellow brick road toward home.
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:a time to be born, and a time to die,a time to plant, and a time to uproot,a time to kill, and a time to heal,a time to tear down, and a time to build,a time to weep, and a time to laugh,a time to mourn, and a time to dance,a time to scatter stones, and a time to gather them,a time to embrace, and a time to refrain,a time to search and a time to give up,a time to keep, and a time to throw away,a time to tear and a time to mend,a time to be silent and a time to speak,a time to love, and a time to hate,a time for war and a time of peace.
What does the worker gain from his toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on men. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.Ecclesiastes 3:1-11