Today we are featuring Inklings Book Contest 2018 finalist, Ava Taylor! Ava finished 7th grade this past school year. The story she submitted is called “A Revelation of Love.” One of our judges called Ava’s story “…a powerful story about the importance of family before, during, and after a loss.” Enjoy!
Today was one of those days. The days that seem to last forever, the hours stretching into eternity. I knew that as soon as I left school, I would be able to go directly to the hospital to see my new baby brother. I had gotten a call during lunch that my mother had finally given birth. Right now, I was sitting in the middle of math, which I usually love and pay a lot of attention to, but today I was distracted. I was so excited for this day. I stared out the window as I imagined what I would do with my new baby brother. We would have so much fun, bouncing and playing and spinning.
“Natalie. Natalie. Earth to Natalie. I asked you a question,” my teacher said, annoyed.
I snapped back to attention.“Yes, Mr. Helvenson?”
“I asked you to solve this equation on the board, please.”
I jumped up. “Yessir.”
I walked up the aisle to the chalkboard, which was at the front of the room. As I went past, some of the other kids snickered. I silenced them with an icy stare. I went up and dutifully started working on the problem for the whole class to see. Once I finished it, I started working on the next one, not really realizing what I was doing.
Mr. Helvenson interrupted me, saying, “That’s enough, Natalie. Thank you.”
I went back to my seat and sat down, glancing at the clock as I did so. Five more minutes, I thought, anticipating the bell. I tried to pay attention to the other student doing a problem on the board, but it was hard. I gave up, and finally returned to looking out of the window and daydreaming. When the bell rang, I jumped up from my seat and ran to my locker to grab my books. I stuffed all my homework in my bag and pushed my way through the throng of people to the front door. I saw Amma waiting in the parking lot in her old Maserati Ghibli, which surprised me. My grandmother doesn’t usually drive. Her car is old and dented, and she isn’t the best of drivers. Still, I smiled and waved at her and ran to the car.
“Hello, Amma!” I beamed as soon as I reached the front window.
“Hello, Precious,” she replied gently, calling me by her favorite pet name.
I wrenched open the rusty door and got into the car. Once I was buckled in, she revved the car and pulled into the road. As soon as we were cruising along towards the hospital, she looked at me and patted my cheek, an inexplicable sadness clear on her face.
“I’m glad you’re here, darling. Your mother really needs some support right now,” she said.
“I know! A new baby! It’s amazing!” I squirmed with joy.
“They didn’t tell you, Precious?”
“Tell me what, Amma?”
“Precious,” she sighed, “it was a baby boy, but he… he died.”
She cried. My mother cried for days. She had been in the hospital for two days after the baby had been born and died, and then she had come home on Wednesday. On Friday, we held the funeral behind our small, modest church at the cemetery located there. The baby was buried next to his father’s and grandfather’s graves. My mother cried through the whole ceremony. I couldn’t believe this was happening. Everything had been going fine, there was no reason that the baby should have died.
I cried, too. I had cried so much, always in Amma’s arms, but my mother cried alone, mourning for her lost baby boy.
Two weeks later, when my mother went back to work for the first time on Monday, she forgot to tell me anything about where she was going and didn’t drive me to school like she was supposed to. No goodbye, no note, no anything.
The weekend before my mother was supposed to go back to work, I hadn’t known what to do with myself. It was like my mother had completely forgotten me. I didn’t even know where she had gone. It made me sad to think that she was so far deep into depression that she had forgotten about her daughter. I decided to make the best of the days alone. I scavenged through the pantry to find breakfast and finally decided on toast with jam. I sat with it in front of the TV, on our old, battered green couch. I scrolled through the channels and finally decided to watch a cheesy old love movie. As I watched the actors professing their love to one another and going through trials and hardships, my thoughts wandered. I thought about how hard it must have been for my mother, to have lost her husband to a heart attack just a few months ago, and then lost her child so soon after. How could such a loving Almighty God allow this to happen? Didn’t the pastors all preach that he was here to help us and that he wanted us to have wonderful lives? Why had this eternal, all-powerful being let someone so faithful and loving as Father die? Father was always so strong, capable, and protecting. If only he hadn’t been taken away from us, too, he wouldn’t have allowed the baby to die.
On Sunday, when Amma dropped me off at home after church, my mother was nowhere to be found. I decided to go and read in my room, all the while pushing thoughts of my baby brother out of my head. That quickly grew tiresome, and I wandered through the halls listlessly, not really knowing what to do. As I passed my mother’s room, I noticed that the door was cracked open. This filled me with a burning curiosity. I tried to restrain myself, knowing that barging into her room would be rude. I returned to the living room, but the curiosity gnawed away at me. Finally, I gave in and creaked open my mother’s door.
The first thing I noticed was the tissue. That single tissue, sitting in the middle of the floor in my mother’s room, was the saddest thing I had ever seen. But if you looked closer, you saw the other tissues. The ones shoved into the corner, no space left in the trash can for them. The ones under the covers, the result of her careless and fruitless attempt to make the bed. Somehow, this made me even more sad than to see that one tissue, lying on the ground.
I quietly left and closed the door behind me. The rest of the day I managed to keep myself occupied, all the while purposefully not thinking about my mother and her room.
When my mother came home Monday night, she apologized to me curtly for not taking me to church or school and went straight into her room. She didn’t ask how my day had been, what I had eaten or done, or how I had gotten to school. She just went straight to her room.
I started to get mad at her then. She was ignoring me. She was sad, yes, but she should still pay attention to her child. She hadn’t taken me to school, so I barely caught the bus. She had had two weeks to mourn in which Amma drove me everywhere, but by the end of that time, she could still hardly get herself to work, let alone worry about me. This was all her fault, too. She was the one carrying the baby, she could have prevented him from dying. Just as I was about to storm into her room and insist that she talk to me, I heard muffled sobs coming from her room. My heart softened, and I was mad at myself now for being mad at her. Of course she was sad and depressed. She had just lost a baby, and there was no father to help work and take care of me, only Amma.
That night I lay in my bed and thought about my baby brother, in Heaven now. It filled me with grief to think of him, but happiness too, because I knew that he was now with God in a better place. I tried to go to sleep, but my brain would not shut down. Late in the night, when morning had almost dawned, I finally slipped into a peaceful sleep, a sleep filled with dreams of my brother, in a place radiant with God’s glory.
When I woke up, I squinted up at the ceiling. I thought I heard my mother whistling in the kitchen, but my sleepy brain would not process this. Why would my mother be whistling? She was so down yesterday. The smell of sizzling bacon pulled me out of bed, and I stumbled into the kitchen. There was my mother, whistling so happily at the stove. To my utter surprise, I saw that she was making a lavish breakfast. I rubbed my eyes, thinking I was still dreaming. She turned and saw me standing in the hallway. She walked up to me, still in her apron, with bacon grease on her hands, and enveloped me in a tight hug.
“Tilli, I saw him, Tilli. He’s fine,” she said, holding me and spinning me around in her arms. “My baby is fine.”
It took my brain a minute to comprehend this, tired as I was. Then I realized she was talking about my baby brother.
“But Mama, how did you see him? He… he died.”
“Yes, honey, but God allowed me to meet him. He brought me up there. Your Daddy and Grandpappy are taking care of him now. He’s fine.”
“But Mama, how did this happen? You aren’t… dead.”
“It was during the night, honey. God brought up my soul, so I could meet my baby.”
“So… my little brother? He’s in Heaven now? He’s fine?”
“Yes, darling. He’s with God. He is amazing,” she said as she smoothed down my hair.
I hugged her like I would never let go. She hugged me right back. It was the first time she had hugged me since we lost the baby. I hugged, and hugged, and hugged her hard, determined not to be the first to let go.
“It’s me and you now, sweetheart. We’ll see your brother, but not for a while. For now, we’re family.”
Family. It rang through the room. It rang throughout the streets. At that moment, if you looked down Charleston Street, to the Fedderson Apartments, through the front window on the twelfth floor, you would see a mother and her child, tightly embracing, oblivious to the world. Family.
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