A Second Family

She wrapped her fingers around the steaming mug and willed the heat to seep into her bones. Curling her feet beneath the blanket, she pulled it snuggly around her, tucking in any loose flaps as a barrier to the cold crisp air.

Funny, she thought, how such a cold day offered up a gentle warm breeze to caress her already reddening cheek. It was as if the wind itself was caressing her, letting her know that everything would be okay.

She found comfort in this place. It was her little piece of heaven overlooking the lake, delivering the most beautiful sunsets with their crimson and tangerine skies and hazy purple clouds at night. This is where she found peace, usually.

Her eyes scanned the water at the horizon’s point, where sky met water, and all else seemed to fade away. What she sought, she could not say, but always she looked out, searching.

Birds flew, gracefully gliding on the wind in the distance. Carefree, up and down, swaying in the wind, they danced. Theirs was a playground in the sky. They seemed to have no other purpose other than to ride the autumn wind and keep a watchful eye on the rolling waters for their next meal.

Six months. That was what the doctor had said. Put your affairs in order, and then find a way to enjoy life. Her gaze floated across the water as she contemplated the last 48 hours. She had quit her job, locked up the house and headed north to the only place that brought her comfort.

The family home on the lake was where she met her husband, raised her children and spent much of her life. It was also where she said her final goodbyes without knowing it at the time. If she had known, she would have hugged them a little tighter, told them how much she loved them and tried to convince them to stay so she wouldn’t lose them.

This was the first time she had returned since the accident that took them from her. She couldn’t bear the memories the house held, so had closed it up and moved into a small apartment in the city. Since then, she moved through each day on autopilot. Get up, work, come home, and go to bed. She didn’t need to work, but it provided a much needed distraction from her sorrow. Six years, and it still felt like yesterday, and yet, forever, since she had hugged them. Her heart ached at the thought of them, and sorrow swept over her once more.

Her faith told her she would see them again. She believed it and knew they were in no pain. It helped remind her that there is no pain in heaven. She silently prayed for the strength to endure the coming days. God was good and had thus far carried her through all the storms in her life, but this one was different. She needed His help now, more than ever.

In her final days, this was the only place she wanted to be. She wanted to be close to them. Most people had closed up for the season and left, so there would be no interruptions or unwanted visits and no explanations needed. It also meant there was no one to help if she required it. A risk, she had decided, was worth it. Nothing could outweigh the feeling of being close to the ones she had lost. They would be with her in her final days, even if she couldn’t see them.

The wind caressed her face once more, and she smiled. Her husband used to do that whenever he walked by. They had loved each other with all they had and brought each other much joy. She smiled at the memories that drifted in with the breeze as she rocked gently with the wind.

This was her favourite chair, a weathered oversized rocker on the big wrap-around porch. She had spent many days curled beneath a blanket, rocking and reading with her nose buried in a book, watching her children play and grow.

On hot days, the blanket turned into a beach towel, wrapped around her after a long refreshing swim in the water. Over the years, the chair had moulded to her form. The kids had joked no one could sit in the rocker because it was so uncomfortable, but she knew they always saved it for her, sitting in it when they thought she wasn’t looking.

Her gaze returned to the water. It was too cold for swimming now. Rising, she decided she could still walk bare feet in the sand. She tied the shawl that hung around her shoulders, her fingers stopping at the lace that hung so delicately from the fringe. Her daughter had made this for her. She had said that whenever she wore it, it would be like she was hugging her. Wrapping her arms around herself, she allowed the tears to fall.

Tears were healing and memories comforting now, she thought. Funny how that changed, all in a matter of 48 hours.

“Soon, my darlings, she whispered. “We will be together soon.”

Kicking off her shoes, she headed down the path. Her hands brushed the autumn grass, now waist high, that swayed to the rhythm of the wind. She could hear their soft giggles in the distance—another memory from a time when children hid and parents sought.

She had no one left to leave the family home to. It would be sold to strangers. Hopefully, they would come to love it as she had. Her biggest fear was that a developer would buy it and tear it down. Everything else she would leave to charity.

Her toes sank into the sand as she walked. Each grain scrubbed up against her skin. Nature’s foot spa, she mused. The sand exfoliated, the mud massaged and soothed, the waters cleaned and refreshed. She had always loved the feeling of sand beneath her toes and water lapping at her feet as she walked the shoreline.

Picking up a stick that rolled helplessly back and forth in the water, she scribbled in the sand – I was here. She had written many messages in the sand over the years, her hopes, dreams, and even her fears. She watched as the water secreted them away. The lake, she thought, held them all. Perhaps it connected them, her to the water, and the water to her.

She was startled as a small hand grabbed hers. Looking down, she saw a tiny version of her younger self. She looked back to the water and felt the hand slip away.

Turning, she faced the house and once again, tears formed.

“It’s okay,” said the little human beside her.

“I know. I’m just sad.”

Sad and happy. Strange that a part of her longed to be with them and was happy.

“Are you lost too?”

Looking down, she was startled again, realizing that the young girl was real and not a figment of her imagination. Crouching down, she looked into the child’s sparkling blue eyes.

“No, I’m not. I live there.” She pointed to the house and watched as the girl processed the statement.

“Where are your parents? How did you get here?”

“I wanted to go for a walk and pick shells.” She pulled her flowered dress pockets out to reveal the tiny treasures. “My mom is in heaven, and my daddy is writing something. He said I had to stay by the house and not go near the water. I was picking pretty shells, but now I don’t know where I am.”

She said it so matter of factly and didn’t seem upset that she was lost, or that her mom was no longer alive. Most children would be crying and scared. She, too, had been like that when she was young. A kindred spirit, she decided.

“It’s a big pink house. Do you know it?” The girl bounced back and forth, secretly looking for more shells.

She knew the house well. The Darlings. A massive pink cottage with ornate shutters and perfectly manicured lawns that seemed so out of place. It was around the bend, thankfully hidden from view.

Spinning her gently around, she smiled, “I do. Come on, let’s get you home.”

“It’s not our home,” she whispered. “We’re borrowing it, but don’t tell daddy I told you. No one is supposed to know.”

She heard him calling as they neared the bend, a frantic parent who imagined the worst. She had been there too many times when the children were little.

“I’m here, daddy. I’m here.” She waved and ran to her father, who grabbed her and hugged her tightly. He glanced her way. There was both relief and fear on his face.

“Hi. I live just around the bend, and your daughter found me.”

“I’m sorry.” He looked like he wanted to run but stood his ground. “We are staying, uh, in the pink cottage.”

“The Darling’s place. I know it well. We have been neighbours for years.”

Suddenly, the world swayed, and everything went black. The next thing she knew, she was waking up on the Darling’s overstuffed green sofa. It was as hard as it looked and as stuffy as the family who owned it, but she kept that last thought to herself,

Handing her a glass of water, he asked if she was ok.

“Yes, just a little cancer that seems to kick me and bring me down at the oddest of times.”

“I’m sorry.” He twisted a towel in his hands, not knowing how to respond.

“No, I’m sorry. I haven’t told anyone, and I’m not sure why I said that. I guess your secret is safe with me and mine with you. Perhaps that’s why.”

Taking the opening given, he sat down and told her his story. He had lost his job, his house, and everything they owned when his wife was sick. Cancer had taken her, and they had put everything they had into trying to help her get better. Now, they wanted to take his daughter because he didn’t have the means to support her after losing his job. He had run, not knowing what else to do. Thinking the house was abandoned, he had broken in until he could figure out what to do next. He was writing to an agency that specialized in his type of circumstances when his daughter went out to play.

“I think God sent us to each other. Perhaps, I have a solution for both of us.”

She told him about her family and having no one left to help her in her final days. Boldly, she asked him if he would consider moving in with her. She had plenty of room, and he and his daughter could live there and help her as the cancer progressed. In return, she would leave them the cottage, so they always had a place to stay. She didn’t tell him she would also leave them everything else, and they would have no worries. That would be her present for them after she had departed.

Funny how life turns out, she thought. Somehow, she had inherited a new family at the end of her life. Whether God sent them to her, or her to them did not matter. He saw the need and filled it for all of them.

They spent several weeks getting to know each other. There was much needed laughter, and tears. They collected shells and snuggled beneath blankets on the porch. She experienced what it would have been like to have a grandchild.

After a few weeks, she had him drive her into town so she could change her will. She left it in the drawer by her bed, telling him where it was and then went outside to read.

It was a perfect day, she thought and laid the book in her lap. She sat in her favourite chair, wrapped in the shawl her daughter made and the blanket from her son’s bed, watching the water and her second family. She heard their laughter on the wind. Yes, they would be as happy here as she was.

She saw her husband and children standing, watching this new family. They were smiling at them, and her. She knew it was time. And so, it was with peace, not pain, that she slid into her journey home, with a smile on her lips and a happy heart. Her last thoughts were that she was blessed and God was good.

If you liked this faith story, you can find others on the Faith Stories link of Leslie’s website.

Published by Leslie Dobson

Leslie has been writing since she was a young child, first with poetry and short stories and later with song lyrics, young adult stories and inspirational sayings. She is a multi-genre author and her blogs and books come when and where the Spirit leads.

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