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Friday, September 19, 2008

Fiction Friday - Resurrections

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Resurrections
Bonnie Winters
Based on Luke 8:40-56

My head ached so much; I could barely hold it up. The last thing I wanted was to be sick, especially on my birthday. Mother promised to make her special barley cakes sweetened with honey if I would grind the grain. But the stone grew heavy in my hands and my muscles felt like mush.

“Mother, my head hurts.” I tried to ease the pain by massaging my temples.
She lifted my chin and peered at me. “I see the pain in your eyes. Your head is hot too. Here, let me help you to bed.”

The room spun in circles and I panicked as my knees buckled. “Hold me tighter, Mother.”

She tightened her grip around my waist. “Lean on me. You’ll make it.” The firmness in her voice calmed me a little.

After I lay down, I struggled to slow my breathing, inhaling deeply, then exhaling slowly. The dizziness eased, but my head still ached. I wanted to cry, but that would only make the pain worse.

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble.” Mother crooned the words of a Psalm while she laid cool cloths on my head. It helped a little, until I began to shiver and couldn’t stop.

“I j-just w-want to get w-warm.” My teeth chattered so hard that I could barely force the words out. “W-why can’t I g-get w-warm?”

“The Lord is my shepherd...” Mother continued to sing as she tucked wool blankets around me. Gradually, my shivering lessened and I began to relax.
The sound of voices in the room roused me. Midday sunlight streaming through the window hurt my eyes, so I squinted to see who was there. Father stood in the far corner of the room talking with my mother.

“Please, Jairus, we have to do something.” She seemed upset. Why was she worried? Perhaps she needed my help.

“Help me up and I’ll...” I tried to call out, but only managed a weak moan. My tongue felt thick and heavy in my mouth. “Thirsty.”

Mother hurried to my side and dribbled water down my throat. “Your father went to see Jesus to beg Him to come and heal you.”

Jesus. Who is this Jesus? His name sounds familiar, but it hurts too much to remember.

A tear formed in the corner of my eye. “Head hurts,” I moaned.
Why does my head have to hurt so badly?
***
Loud crying roused me some time later. I forced my heavy eyelids open a crack and saw my aunts and cousins huddled around my mother.

Please stop crying. The noise hurts my head.

Though I tried to move my parched lips, no words came. I gasped for air, but it felt like a large millstone rested on my chest, squeezing the air out but not letting any back in.

So tired. Just want to sleep. Please let me sleep.
***
Delicious warmth seeped into my body. I stretched, breathing deeply. My eyelids fluttered open, the heaviness gone. My eyes adjusted without effort to the brightness around me.

“My head doesn’t hurt anymore!”

I sat up slowly, pinching my arms and legs to be sure this was real and not another dream. I laughed as I stood, stomping my feet to be sure my knees wouldn’t give out under me. Just because I could, I danced around in circles with my hands raised in the air. I sucked in great gulps of air and shouted “Praise Yahweh!” at the top of my voice.

From far away, I heard the sounds of wailing and mourning, but it didn’t matter anymore. Was this Abraham’s Bosom my father spoke about? I searched my mind for words to describe this place, but I found only one – it was Paradise! I couldn’t contain the laughter gurgling up from inside my heart as I basked in the pure wonder of it all. I wanted to stay here forever.

From somewhere behind me a voice called my name.“Where are you, Lord?” I turned around, searching for Him.

“Daughter, arise.” He spoke with irresistible firmness.

I didn’t want to leave this place – this Paradise – but I knew I had to turn around and go back. I cast a wistful glance at the fading brightness.

My eyes fluttered open.

The same warmth and light I knew in Paradise greeted me, shining from His eyes. Instantly, I recognized Him. “Jesus.”

When He smiled, my heart fluttered with excitement. My whole body tingled with His strength, as He took my hand and helped me up. I felt loved, cherished. As I gazed into His eyes, I promised I would love Him forever.

***
“You were thinking about Him again, weren’t you?” Mary startled me from my reverie as she touched my shoulder.

“I can’t stop thinking about Him. It’s so hard to believe He’s gone.” Tears brimmed in my eyes. I bit my lower lip and willed my tears to stop, but they slipped down my cheeks.

“I know. I miss Him too.” She wrapped her arms around me and we sobbed together for what seemed an eternity.

“When I was sick, He touched me and made me live again. Now He’s gone.” I sniffled back more tears. “It doesn’t make sense. He was a good man. Why did they want to kill Him?” I couldn’t hold back the flood of memories. “Jesus healed my friend Thomas from palsy that caused him to fall into the fire. He made Jonathan feel special when He used his lunch to feed five thousand people. Can you believe it? Feeding five thousand people – with just two little fish and five loaves of bread. Another time, the disciples tried to shoo all of us away. They said Jesus was too tired to be bothered with our childishness, but Jesus called us to Him and told us stories about His Father. He laid His hands on the little ones and blessed them.”

I hesitated when we reached the edge of the garden near the tomb. “Mary, I can’t do this. I can’t help wash His body and wrap it with spices.” I felt the scarlet flush of shame creep up my cheeks. I was a young woman now and responsible enough to help prepare the dead for burial, but... I lowered my eyes and wept again. “He did so much for others, and I want to do something for Him, but I can’t bear to see His lifeless body lying there. I feel like I’m letting Him down.”

Mary tried to comfort me. “It will be all right. Sit here and mourn. When you are ready, you may come and help us.”

I sat alone with my back toward the tomb. Voiceless groans swelled from deep within me, as I covered my face with my hands. When the wave of agony passed, I tried to remember the beauty of Paradise and to imagine Him smiling in that place. Even those thoughts brought little relief from the crushing grief. I missed Him. My heart was torn in two and I had no desire to go on living.

Anger trod on the heels of my grief. I swiped away the tears with the back of my hand. Clenching my teeth, I looked toward heaven and shouted, “Why did You have to leave me, Jesus? I wish You had never made me come back to this life. Then at least I could be with You in Paradise!” I hugged myself and rocked back and forth until the next wave of grief passed.

“I’m sorry, Jesus.” I repented of my anger and wished I could feel His comforting presence. “I know that’s not true. If You had not touched me, my heart would have been dead forever. You gave me life and hope when I saw Paradise in Your eyes.”
“It’s a miracle!” Mary ran down the path as if her hem was on fire, waving her arms. “He’s alive!” she shouted over her shoulder at me as she sped by.

I turned back toward the garden. He’s alive? A shiver crept through me.
“Mary?” I looked back down the path, hoping to catch her, but she was gone.
He’s alive. Is that what she said?

I stood rooted there with my mouth open, hardly daring to breathe as His words came back to me: “I am the resurrection and the life... I am the life... the life...” The words pulsed in my veins, quickening my heartbeat.

Jesus said He would rise again. I heard Him say it. Is it possible?
I had to know. Hiking up my robe, I skirted the rocks at the side of the path and ran into the garden.

I stopped running when I saw a man standing behind the tomb with His back to me. I gulped a breath of air, hoping against hope. “Jesus?”

As He turned to me and smiled, the warmth and light of Paradise flooded my soul. My heart fluttered with excitement. “Jesus! It is you – You’re alive!” I couldn’t hold back the tears of joy – I didn’t want to.

I felt like a young child again. Sniffling back the tears, I admitted my deepest fear to Him: “I was afraid You had left me.”

“My Child, don’t you know I will never leave you? I’ll always be a part of you.” My whole body tingled as Eternal Life touched my heart. I felt loved and cherished, like a child safe in her Father’s arms.

I brushed away my tears and smiled. “I understand now – not even death can separate us. My heart belongs to You forever.”

© 2006 by Bonnie Winters

To read more great short stories or to participate in Fiction Friday, visit Patty over at her site Patterings!

Happy reading and writing.

6 comments:

The Surrendered Scribe said...

This is perfect timing---I teach Sunday School and we are studying healing and this was one of our stories. I love it!

LauraLee Shaw said...

Goosebumps are taking over my whole body. Wow. I had never thought about Jesus dying from this POV before. Just beautiful.

Betsy Markman said...

Excellent! Wonderful POV, pulls you right in.

Suzanne said...

Hey Bonnie just thought I'd stop in to say hi. I really enjoyed getting to know you this weekend. Hope to see you again soon!

Patty Wysong said...

Wow. Ab.so.lute.ly. wonderful! I love it!

jamie in rose cottage said...

Oh, that was wonderful!!! I was just here for In Other Words & so glad I scrolled down to read this, too!