| While I keep working on learning the art of storytelling and revising “The Wandering Place,” I thought I would give you a small piece of it. Here’s one story about age and beauty from the book. If you get to the end, I’ve added a side note that probably won’t make it into the book. But it amazes me every time I think about it.
William opened his eyes and looked at me.
I couldn’t smile.
Sorrow pulled on his face. He’d grown old, and old isn’t pretty, even to those who must wear it.
I looked at my brown spotted hands, pulling the muscles tight to make the creases turn into smooth skin again. The thought of growing old and unsightly always put an ache in my stomach. I knew my comeuppance was coming.
I sent off a quick question to God. Will I pay for the words I said so long ago?
The older people of my church greet me each Sunday with smiles of joy. Many still see me as the little girl who couldn’t sit still through Sunday School. I’m a reminder that God can transmogrify a rambunctious and sometimes nasty kid into an adult without accumulating jail time.
When I was a child playing tag in the church parking lot after services, I watched an older woman walk from the church steps to her car. She was ancient and decrepit, a ghastly looking soul. From where I stood, she was ugly. Her skin shriveled into layers, drooping rags covering her bones.
I called to the other kids, pointed to the old woman, then called her a witch.
When I got home, my usual after-church punishment increased my concept of compassion. What was I thinking? Did I think she wouldn’t feel those horrid words? She didn’t choose to get old and wrinkled. Inside, she was probably a beautiful gem, a saint looking forward to a better land.
I looked back and wondered if she had gone home and cried. Did she mourn the loss of the days when she was young and beautiful and able to run across that parking lot? Did she forgive my words? Would she ever forget them?
Why do the young think they will escape such a future? Why did I? I remember wanting my friends to see her as I saw her, a sight to behold, hideous beyond imagining. I wanted them to say, “Ohh,” and “Ahh” at my discovery.
Her sad, withered face sneaks through the gate of my memory from time to time. Will I see her in Heaven, or will I be conspicuously absent from her glorious path?
Looking at William, I saw an image of things to come.
Loved ones surround me in the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen. Lingering on the outer edge of the crowd, beside a little Haitian child who holds a picture of herself on a sponsorship letter, stands my witch.
She’ll wait for the ones closest to me to have their greetings and hugs, not too hard, son, for you know how easily I used to break.
After scanning the crowd of familiar faces, I’ll catch her eye and see a twinkle. I’ll recognize her and walk in her direction as my family and friends part for what they anticipate will be a remarkable reunion.
This is a grace moment.
She will hold out her hands to me, and I’ll run like a lost child into the arms of a grandmother. Falling into warm, unwrinkled, unblemished arms, I’ll pull back and look into that beautiful face.
This time, I’ll see the eyes that glow with joy, just as they glittered in God’s delight all the years of her life, even when wrapped in ragged skin.
It won’t be guilt unleashed or regret or shame that shadows me there. It will be the love of God that opens my eyes to this beautiful soul.
She’ll hug me close and whisper in my ear, “I knew you would be here, dear child. I prayed for you.”
Side note – Yes, that rotten little girl was me. I was a rascal. What surprises me about this story, though, is that I wrote it more than ten years ago. Did you notice that my son was already waiting for me in Heaven? He died two years ago this month. Why did I write his death into the story so long ago? I sure do miss you, Ron.