Often when I’m writing, I find that the story goes places that I didn’t expect. I have been trying to allow this drifting to occur, because, I’ve noticed that usually what comes out has some deep meaning for me. Whether this is the leading of the Holy Spirit, my right brain getting a chance to speak, or just a synergy that is occurring between the threads I’m trying to weave, these unexpected twists have been therapeutic for me.
I finished a chapter of my novel this week, which turned out different than I had planned. The scene involved the protagonist of the story, Annay, as she deals with her own anger at not being able to do more to stop the orc attacks, and watches a husband and a cleric deal with guilt over letting the husband’s wife die.
The scene was suppose to end with the high cleric talking to both of them about why they shouldn’t feel guilty. As I wrote the story, I got to the point where the High Cleric, Ralph, was ready to make his speech. In context it seemed like he should talk to the husband first, and then talk to the young cleric in private. As I started to write his words, it became clear to me what he needed to say.
Robert lifted his head, “Am I guilty of murder? Am I going to hell?” The tears were gone, his voice quiet, but steady.
“No Robert, you’re not going to hell. What you did today was not murder, it was mercy. You didn’t want your wife to die, but you found the courage to let her go because you knew that was what was best for her. She was going to die whether you told her it was okay or not, but because you did tell her, she was able to die knowing that you loved her, that you cared more about her than you did yourself.”
Then he took the young cleric aside and talked to him.
“Michael, I know this has been tough on you,” Ralph started.
“She died. It’s my fault.” Michael stood there with a somber expression on his face, his cloths ripped and dirty.
“Why do you think its your fault?”
“I didn’t have enough faith. I asked for God to heal her, but I must not have believed that he could do it. I failed.”
Ralph put one hand on each of Michael ‘s shoulders and looked him square in the eyes and said slowly, pausing after each word, “You did not fail.” Ralph pulled his hands to the side and then grasped Michael’s shoulders again. “God used you to do what he needed you to do. God gave you the power to stop her bleeding. Why did he do that?”
“So I could save her life,” Michael almost cried.
“I’ll put it to you that God gave you the power to stop her bleeding, not so you could save her life, but to give her the time she needed, to do what she needed to do before she died.”
“What did she need to do? She didn’t do anything.”
“You don’t think so. What happened between her and her husband?”
“I don’t know, I was busy trying to save her life.”
“Think about it Michael. What just happened to Robert?”
“He lost his two sons and his wife to the orcs.”
“Did he? The orcs took his sons away from him, that is true. But did they take his wife from him?”
Michael’s expression changed as he started to think about what the two had talked about. “No, I guess they didn’t. Robert let her go, because it was what his wife wanted.”
“Right,” Ralph managed to smile. “God allowed her to live long enough so she could say good bye to her husband, long enough to allow him to say good bye to her, and to do one more heroic thing for her. Because of you, Robert will always remember today as the day he gave his wife to God, not the day the orcs took her away.”
Later than night I was thinking about where this had come from. What thing in my life could have triggered this kind of thought – that by letting his wife go, instead of having her taken away from him, it could change the whole way he looked at her death.
In talking with a friend, it became clear that I had a similar, but different experience when I lost my son. When I was told that my son was dead, it was very surreal. I’m sure I was in shock. When I went in to see his body, it didn’t feel real. It didn’t look like my son, the body was pale – like some plastic mannequin.
When we where ready to leave hospital, I excused myself and went back into the room with my son’s body. I stood there next to him and remembered the times I stood next to his bed and had watched him sleep. Almost by instinct, I slid my hand under his shirt and onto his chest. So many times I had placed my hand on his chest to feel his breathing and to feel his temperature. This time I didn’t feel his breathing, but I did feel warmth.
His face and arms were cold, but I could feel the warmth of my son’s life still in the unmoving body. Feeling that warmth made the whole thing real for me. I cried. I knew he was leaving me and that this wasn’t some cruel joke. Feeling that warmth, was a gift from God. It tied up my son’s life from when I held him as a baby, until I held him for the very last time as a fifteen year old.
I could have just left the hospital without going in to see him again, instead of following the urging I felt. I could have just looked at him instead of moving closer. I could have listened to myself when I though, “this is silly, why do I want to touch him,” instead of allowing myself to be led. I could have been angry, instead of feeling my love for my son and thankfulness that I could connect with him one last time.
I didn’t get to have one final talk with my son, like Robert did. I didn’t get the chance to tell my son it was okay that he was going home. But in that time I did get to talk to my son, and I did get to give my son to God. My son was taken away from me, but I was able to give my son into God’s hands, because it felt like he was waiting for me to do that.