I was settling back into the swing of things, getting used to life again, when Cec burst in, talking a thousand miles an hour.
“He’s back! JC! Joshua! He’s…he’s…he’s back, I saw him, he’s here, he’s alive, he’s the same, but different, uh, like, JC IS ALIVE!”
I was dumbfounded.
“Alive?” I say slowly.
“YES. Alive! Like back from the dead! Like a zombie, but ya know, less…gross.”
I didn’t know what to think. Obviously, I believed Cec, but I couldn’t believe it. It was too much. I couldn’t bear to be disappointed again. No. I can’t fully let myself believe until I see him. The cost of hope is too high.
I sat, overcome with the feeling of hope that I couldn’t stop myself from feeling, no matter how hard I tried. How could I not believe my wife?
I look over at the clock.
“Shit. Babe, we’ve gotta get going or we’ll be late!”
We hurry to gather our things and H— before rushing to church.
As we’re hurrying we pass a middle-aged woman in disrepair, looking in need of a shower, holding a piece of cardboard with, “2 kids. No work. Need food. Anything helps.” scrawled on it. I scrounge for some cash and hand her five bucks without stopping.
Clouds are starting to gather above us.
We pick up the pace and make it inside, just as the rain starts to pour. The tall heavy wooden double doors of our old school chapel closing behind us.
I breathe a sigh of relief and the three of us find a seat.
We’re next to an older gentleman in the congregation, who is notorious for talking through the entire meeting. Immediately he starts in on some meanderings about a dog or a horse and the farm and a broken tractor and I’m trying to pay attention to the meeting while nodding and “uh huhing” along with the story so he doesn’t feel ignored.
This went on for a few minutes and then I glanced over at the old man and his eye twinkled.
I startled. Wait is that….no. It’s just Wilford. Just Wilford. What am I saying. Even as ye have done it unto the least of these. The woman from earlier flashed before my eyes. I’ve been failing you, JC.
I turn to Wilford and truly listen to him. As I turn, his eyes are welling up with tears, he’s talking about loss and pain and loneliness. I simply lock eyes with him and put my arm around him before pulling him in close. We stay like that for a moment, the rest of the chapel fading from view. He pulls away, and whispers, “Thank you.”
We sing some hymns, as I continue to ponder what has happened and what I’ve done.
I repeat the refrain that’s pulled me through the grief thus far.
Lord, I believe.
Help thou mine unbelief.
The organ swells and the prayer’s about to start when thunder booms throughout the chapel, echoing along with the trample of the rain. The prayer begins and before the last “amen”, the sound of the thunder and rain ramps up and the doors begin to creak open.
I look back.
A tall, dark-skinned figure, head bowed, hair covering his face dripping with rain, pushes both doors open, in shadow, until he stands tall, moving his head out and to the right, shaking his long hair out of his face. The shorts and floral shirt are too good to be true. It can’t possibly be.
“Well, God surely does send down rain on the just and the unjust.”
His eyes twinkle, the smile that crosses his lips filled with renewed energy that I haven’t seen in months.
I climb to my feet and leap over the pew to run to him.
He opens his arms wide, grinning with his whole face, his whole being.
Tears stream down my face.
We hold each other close.
My friend. My brother. My king.