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December 25, 2007 The years have gone by quickly. I am now twenty-two. I regretted a lot of the choices I made in the last few years. I think though that if I wouldn't have made them, that I wouldn't be here now. It's Christmas morning and I'm sitting in the living room with my parents, brothers, and sisters. The room is full of wrapping paper, orange peel, candy wrappers, and popcorn. As I gaze around the room, my eyes rest first on Mom and Dad. They're holding hands and talking softly with each other. My eyes wanders on to my siblings. John is getting ready to take a gift to his girlfriend, one that he had me wrap. He said he was too clumsy and nervous to do it right, especially the ribbon. Only I knew what was in the gift. An engagement ring, one of the best Christmas gifts to receive, I think. Then there is Samuel and Saidee, twins. It was a blessing I had never counted on. They are only six but seem so grown up. I hadn't even known who they were three years ago when I had come home. Now I couldn't imagine them out of my life. I can hardly wait for tomorrow when Steven is coming to pick me up to spend the day with him and his family. The time is flying by and our wedding will be here before we know it. We have planned a May wedding in honor of Mother's day. I look at John again and ask myself why he has to look so much like our first Mother. The pain comes back as the memories flood my mind....
Eight years earlier. As Lizzie skipped down the stairs and went into the kitchen she asked, “Mom do you remember what holiday is almost here?” “No,” answered Sarah, “I don't, Lizzie. Which one is it?” “Mother's Day,” Lizzie cried. “Oh, I forgot all about it,” Sarah told her. “I'll need to write your grandmother a note then soon.” She took a pan of chocolate chip cookies out of the oven. “Your dad's favorite,” she smiled. Lizzie got her backpack and shoes ready and set them close to the door. Then she went to call her father and brother, John, for breakfast. When they had all sat down at the table, Dad bowed his head and signaled for all to be silent so we could say grace. “Our Father in heaven, thank-you for this food you have so richly provided for us,” he prayed. “There are so many people out there that don't have enough to eat. Be with us this day as we go about our schedules. Amen” “You'll have to hurry if you are going to make it to school on time,” he said. He looked at Lizzie and John with love in his eyes. He saw the reminder was not necessary by the way John was emptying his plate. He turned to mom and asked, “What are you doing today, Sarah?” She put her cup of hot mint tea down and replied, “Well, I thought that I would weed the flowerbeds and garden if the fog clears off. Then I want to go to town and get some supplies for supper. I also want to get some fabric and sewing supplies from Pansy's Fabrics to make Lizzie some new clothes. She is growing faster than a weed these days.” She laughed her clear tinkling laugh and looked at Lizzie. When the meal was finished Dad said, “Let's pray. Father, be with these children today as they go about their ways. Protect them as they leave here for school. Amen” As soon as they were done, Lizzie went and got her back pack. “I'll race you to school, John,” she called. Lizzie jumped on her bike and was off with a glance and a wave. John, realizing the race was on, grabbed his back pack and ran for his bike. He met Lizzie at the school driveway where she was waiting for him. “It wasn't a fair race,” he said. “You got a head-start.” With a grin he said, “But it was fun anyways.” John and Lizzie had often biked to school together. It was a foggy day, a bit cold and nippy. As they drove up the long drive-way of the school, they talked of what they wanted to do for Mother's day.
“We should buy Mom a dozen red roses and a card,” Lizzie said. “I could buy the vase for the flowers,” John put in. “We could also serve her breakfast in bed if Dad will help us.” With that they reached the school, walked in and put their backpacks and gym stuff in their lockers. Mr. Bennett, the principal, told them to quickly run back outside to play a game before the bell rang “Let us begin,” Teacher Mary said when we were seated. Everyone stood and someone chose a song to sing, after we were done singing we prayed the Lord's Prayer together. ”You will do your math and history first,” Teacher Mary instructed. She got the flashcards out for the multiplication and dividing tables. The time flew by and it was time for lunch and recess. The girls and boys quickly ate their lunches and went outside to play a game of soccer to keep warm. “It sure is foggy today,” one of the boys said. “Yes, it is,” John said. “I just hope my mom is on her way home from the town by now.” Everyone at school knew how close John and Lizzie were to each other and their parents. It was something that everybody in class saw. They always ate lunch together and sat beside each other during class. It's probably because they're twins, they all thought. “Look,” one of the children cried pointing in the direction of the driveway, “a police car.” One of the students ran inside to get the Mr. Bennett, the principal. He came out of the building just as the officer asked, “May I speak to the principal?” “I am the principal,” said Mr. Bennett, walking to him. They talked quietly for a few minutes by themselves. Then Mr. Bennett called, “John and Lizzie, could you come here, please?” John and Lizzie walked to him with dread on their faces and fear in their eyes. “John and Lizzie, I would like to see you in my office, please. That's when they saw their father in the back seat of the police car. Lizzie saw their father get out of the police car, and he came with them to Mr. Bennett's office. She saw that he looked like he had gone into shock.
The fog was quite heavy that morning when Sarah went to town. The fog was so thick you could almost hold it in your hand. Later, nobody knew why she chose that morning in particular to go to town. “I'm going to town now,” she used the intercom to talk to Luke. “I'll start the car,” Luke replied. “Just let me finish sanding this board.” On the road, Sarah hummed a song from the newest CD by Chris Tomlin that Luke had bought her. She had loved to sing since she was a little girl. It always brought her peace and happiness. The streets were busier than usual. There were a few openings in the parking lot close to the door at Pansy's Fabrics and she quickly secured one. As Sarah guided the car away from the market, she saw the bookstore a little ways down the street right beside the grocery store. “I'll stop by there after I get my groceries and see if they have any stationary,” she thought. When she had found a parking spot she walked inside. There were shelves of books, cards, and a whole bunch of other things. She asked a sales person where she could find the writing materials. There were so many different kinds she didn't know which one to choose. She finally decided on a pale pink paper with three pink roses and some babies breath on the bottom right corner. “It even comes with matching envelopes” the sales person told her, showing her the back. After she had paid, she walked back outside to her car. She saw the fog had gotten heavier while she had been inside the store. Sarah decided to go home right away instead of doing anything more in town. She got into the car and drove out onto the street. The light was green so she crossed the road and just went on. That's when she heard the screeching of brakes and then no more. Everything went black around her.
Joe saw the car coming and tried to stop, but the roads were slippery from the heavy fog. He couldn't stop and he slid and hit the car coming from the other direction. He skid to a stop and jumped out. He had to see if the other person was alright. The woman was unconscious when he got there. He felt for a pulse and couldn't find one. That was when he recognized her, Sarah Matthews from church. Sarah was also the mother of Steven’s best friend He could hardly believe his eyes. He quickly dialed 911 and asked for an ambulance as there had been an accident. “I hit a car on the driver's side with my car. The woman is unconscious, I can't find a pulse,
and she isn't breathing,” he said, near panic. “We'll be right there,” the operator said. “Just hang in there.” When the ambulance got there, Joe stepped aside from trying to do CPR on Sarah. “It doesn't work,” he told them. The paramedics took over and also tried CPR, with no results. “Let's put her on the stretcher,” one of the paramedics said. She had been put on the ambulance just as the police arrived. The police asked Joe to give a report of what had happened. “Well,” Joe said,”I was driving down the road and stopped at the red light. The light turned green and I went left. I didn't see the car until it was too late.” He sat there shaking his head, tears rolling down his cheeks. “God forgive me. I've killed someone,” he cried over and over as the shock and adrenaline wore off. The police officer went to go and investigate the car to see if he could find anything to identify the woman with. As he moved aside some things he caught sight of a purse strap. He grabbed it and dumped it onto the seat. “Good, a wallet,” he said. He opened it up and pulled out the driver's license. “Sarah Mathews,” he muttered to himself. He motioned for his partner to come to him. “I want you to stay with Joe while I go and check out this address,” he told him. “Yes, sir,” was the reply. He got into his car and drove away. As he followed the roads to the address he was wondering what to say if he found someone at the address. He has never had to go and tell someone that their loved one had been killed. The thought that it could possibly even had been his own wife hurt him so much, he pushed the thought aside. As he pulled into the driveway and to the side, he saw a man walking out of the carpenter shop towards him. As soon as the man reached the officer, he asked, “Can I help you sir?” “I believe you can,” the officer replied. “My name is Cole and I want to ask you a few things.” “Why don't we go and sit on the porch,” the officer said. As they walked to the porch, he wondered how he would ask this man the questions he needed to. If he was the person he suspected he was. “Is your name Luke Matthews?” asked the Officer Cole. “Yes it is, why?” Luke replied. “And do you know someone by the name of Sarah Matthews?” he asked, ignoring Luke's question. Luke answered him with another yes. “Why all the questions?” Luke asked.
Officer Cole swallowed the lump in his throat and began telling him, “This morning we received a call asking for an ambulance. The person on the other end said that he had hit another car. The woman inside was unconscious and had no pulse. We rushed to the scene but it was already too late; the woman was dead. They brought her to the hospital. We have reason to believe that she is your wife. Here is the purse that was in the car.” Luke sat in shock thinking, this is just a bad dream and it'll soon be morning. He reached for the purse the police officer was holding out to him. He recognized the purse and when he looked inside he saw the familiar things: homemade lip-balm, lotion, the all familiar wallet with Sarah's name on a key-chain. “I'll take you to the hospital so that you can identify the body and make arrangements,” Cole said, compassion in his voice. “Could you first take me to the Christian school and pick up my children?” Luke asked him with a tear-filled and hurt voice. “Of course,” Cole said.
As Mr. Bennett lead the group into his office, Lizzie was wondering what was going on. She didn't have long to find out. Luke slowly and painfully told them what had happened that morning. Lizzie sat in shock not hearing a word, the words that her father had said were ringing in her ears. ”Your mother has been killed by a car.” She wanted to scream that it wasn't true, that Mom was at home working in the house or in the garden. John couldn't believe it, Lizzie could tell just by looking in his face. Just this morning he had sat in the kitchen talking with Mom. He had begged her for two extra cookies for snack at recess. He had seen the twinkle in her eyes and could still hear her laughter as she put them in the lunch pail. “It can't be true, God, it just can't,” Luke whispered. I should have gone with her instead of trying finishing that bookshelf, he thought to himself. Officer Cole then brought Luke, John, and Lizzie to the hospital. The ride was silent and tearful for them all. For Cole the trip was also painful as he witnessed the pain and tears on his passengers’ faces. When they arrived at the hospital, a young man wearing green scrubs greeted them after he found out who they were. “My name is Dr. Jason. I'm sorry, sir. Your wife didn't make it. We did all we could for her,” he told them while leading them down the hallway. As Luke and the children looked at their mother's body, Lizzie asked, “Why, Dad, why? Why did she have to die? Why did God take her from us?” The pain in her voice caused him to close his eyes and wince. “I don't know, sweet-pea, I don't know. But we have to believe God knows what is best,” he told her. Hugging both of his children close, he prayed, “God, you know the pain in our hearts. It's almost impossible to bear and our hearts are breaking into many little pieces. God give us the strength to go on.” A nurse came and gave Luke a form to fill out. It asked if him if he wanted to donate Sarah's organs. He couldn't bear the thought of a doctor removing any of her parts of her body so he answered every question with a no and handed the form back to the nurse. Luke took his children's hands in his own and said “The next days, weeks and months will be hard. But we'll get through them with each other and God.” As they were walking back down the hallway, they were met by Officer Cole. “I can take you home if you want,” he offered.
As they left the hospital, Luke felt as if half of his heart was missing. He and Sarah had been
very close all their married years. They shared everything even though it sometimes hurt the other. They had never argued. Sure they had their disagreements, but they never broke out into arguing. They had always worked problems out together. Now his help-meet of almost fifteen years was gone. The pain it brought him was harder than when she almost died giving birth to their children. They had been so excited to find they were going to have twins. They had chosen the names together, John Luke and Lizzie May. Now she was gone and the children had no mother. But he felt he was more prepared now than if she would have died when giving birth to John and Lizzie. Now he had only God to fall to and help him through.
Lizzie lay in her bed crying, her pillow hugged to her side. She felt so angry at Joe Baker. He had caused her Mother's death and she would never forgive him for it either, she promised to herself. In her heart she knew what she had to do. A weed of anger and hate was already growing in Lizzie's heart strangling any thought or feeling of forgiveness and love. “God,” she whispered, “You let my mom be killed, and I hate you for it. My hate is so big already for the man who killed her, it is choking me up, but it keeps on growing by the hour. I promise to never pray to you again, God, for allowing this to happen.” Lizzie was shocked by her words but had a feeling of satisfaction. She was never going to forgive Joe Baker for what he had done. Never Lizzie had cried herself to sleep the last nights. She hoped she would be able to make it through tomorrow, the day of the funeral, without breaking down.
John sat on his bed, chin on his knees. He was crying and praying, “God help me to forgive the man who did this to our family. I can't do it by myself, God. It will have to be your strength and love flowing through me. Give me strength for tomorrow as we bury mom.” John knew that his dad had talked to Joe Baker, the man who had killed their mother. He also knew that Joe would be at the funeral. Nobody had told Lizzie as she didn't even want to hear about the man. Joe's oldest son, Steven,was John's best friend since from before he could remember. They had been close growing up and had done a lot of things together. John hoped Lizzie would get along better after the funeral was over. Right now she wasn't saying anything to anybody. Lizzie had John completely puzzled, which was a very rare thing. It seemed she had become a changed person overnight.
The day of the funeral was bright and sunny. Birds were chirping and flowers were blooming. Luke woke up to the sun streaming through his window. As he looked outside at the flowers and birds he still couldn't believe that Sarah was actually gone. As Luke sat through the service, he couldn't help but think of all the times that he and Sarah had sat in this church with their children and worshiped God. As he sat and listened to Sarah's favorite songs being sung by the church group, he felt the tears well up again. The passages of scripture he had selected were some of the ones that Sarah had quoted the most often when times were hard for them. “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee,” Reverend Matt read. The verse caught Luke's ear, He remembered Sarah quoting that verse after wanting children so badly. When the funeral service was over everybody started to file out of the church to the graveyard. John and Luke were both helping to carry out the coffin and Lizzie was right behind carrying a bouquet of red roses. As they started to put the coffin in the grave and cover it with dirt, Rev. Matt read a poem that Luke had chosen—one that had been read at his mother's funeral five years ago. He knew the third stanza by heart: “I know how much you miss me, I see the pain inside your heart. But I'm not so far away, we really aren't apart. So be happy for me dear ones, you know I hold you near. And be glad I'm spending Easter with Jesus Christ this year.” As Pastor John finished reading, Luke wiped away the tears. He knew that Sarah was in heaven now, but it was still so hard to let her go.
Lizzie stood between her father and brother by the grave as close friends and family started to cover the coffin. As she heard the clumps of dirt hitting the lid, she felt a sharp pain in her chest. It seemed like she couldn't breathe, her chest was so tight. That's when Lizzie saw Joe Baker, the man who had killed her mother. As she looked over to him and his family, she felt a hatred she didn't know was inside of her. What nerve he had coming to my mother's funeral when he was the cause of her death. How dare he do this, Lizzie thought.
Lizzie lay in her bed, looking at the stars through her window, she was rehearsing the funeral in her mind. A framed picture of her mother held close to her chest.
Her thoughts kept bringing up memories of the past years. Thoughts of making cookies, sewing clothes and quilts, making scrapbooks and cards, visiting the older people in the seniors' home, with her mom were some of her best memories. Oh, how it ached deep down that they would never do those things together again. Would never be able to scrap-book or bake cookies on this earth ever again.
John sat on the stuffed chair in his room holding a book full of pictures of when he and Lizzie were younger. He realized almost every picture had his mother on it. He had never seen that before. Oh how he missed her. He knew though that he would see her again someday, of that he was sure. The pain was still so raw and fresh. Knowing that he would see his mother one day again helped to relieve some the built up pain.
Luke sat by the kitchen table drinking Sarah's favorite tea out of her favorite mug. Though he didn't care for the flavor, he drank it because it seemed to make Sarah feel closer to him. He had been reading in Sarah's Bible. Some of the things she had written in the margins were so touching that he teared up all over again. He dreaded to go upstairs to their bedroom. My bedroom, he corrected himself. The house seemed so empty without Sarah's laughter or singing coming from the other rooms while she cleaned or made meals. He remembered the days when John and Lizzie were only a few months old. Sarah always woke him up during the night to help her feed and change them. Those times had been joyful and filled with laughter. Then his memory took him to the twins’ first day of kindergarten. Luke had put aside his furniture orders and tools so that he could be there too. Neither John nor Lizzie both had wanted to let go of his hands and enter the classroom. Lizzie's eyes had been full of tears, while John just stood staring at all the people around him with uncertainty in his eyes.
Time passed and the end of summer came. The months had passed by without Lizzie even noticing them. Lizzie suddenly sat up straight when the thought crossed her mind. This month John and I turn fourteen. She couldn't believe that the time had just slipped away from her. But then again she had lost track of time and didn't even care about the things that happened around her after her mom was killed. Thinking of her mom brought back the memory of them shopping together for new fabrics for school outfits and other supplies they needed during this time of year. Her breath caught in her chest and the same choking sensation came back as it did every time she thought of her mom. The next days were filled with sending out invitations, buying supplies for the birthday party, and buying gifts. The house was filled with laughter and joy until someone in the family mentioned that the job they were doing usually was done by Mom or saying something that Mom had enjoyed the most of parties. As the day arrived for the party, the house started to fill up with guests that were invited for a late morning brunch. The menu Lizzie had planned was filled with foods and goodies that she and John both enjoyed and said were favorites. On the table laden with gifts, Lizzie thought she saw a bag set off just a little ways away from the other gifts. Just thinking that she was imagining things because she wished with all her heart that her mother was there, she dismissed it. Lizzie looked over to the other side of the room when a loud laugh erupted where the boys were playing games. She knew she should join her friends, but she just couldn't seem to laugh or have fun without thinking that she was betraying her mom. As the day passed, Lizzie sat off to the side watching their guests. The gifts had been opened and thanked for. But there was a gift missing, Lizzie thought. Her mom had always had a gift for her and she had always opened that one first and now she would never be able to do that again. Lizzie saw her best friend walking towards her. Sasha had been her friend since grade one. Their friendship had only deepened over the past years. Lizzie could count on her fingers the number of times Sasha hadn't been there to enjoy an adventure with her. As Sasha sat down next to Lizzie she said, “You know Lizzie, I know how you are going through a hard and painful time right now. Yet the pain will go away as time goes on. Let's go upstairs where we can talk.” Lizzie could feel Sasha put her arm around her waist and lead her towards the stairs. As they walked she could feel the tears well up in her eyes again. When they reached Lizzie's' bedroom and walked in, they sat down on her bed. Lizzie just started to cry and couldn't stop.
As Lizzie sat and cried, she could feel Sasha holding her. She realized that she could feel a wetness on her neck. That was when she saw that Sasha was crying with her. “Sasha?” Lizzie asked. “You know,” Sasha said. “I know just how you feel.” “How?” Lizzie asked. “Your mom's passing away has brought up a lot of memories that I haven't thought of for a long time. My name hasn't always been Sasha Davis. When I was just six years old my birthparents me left at an orphanage in New York.' “I stayed there for four months, waiting for my parents to come back. They never did. But one day a family came to get me and that family is my family now. I'll never forget the feeling of being unwanted and not having parents. Of a mother that doesn't even care for her own daughter.” “Sasha!” Lizzie exclaimed. “Why did you never tell me this before?” “Talking about was painful,” Sasha said. As Lizzie looked at Sasha, she could see the tears slide down Sasha's face. She could see the pain and hurt on Sasha's face. When Sasha was able to talk again, she said, “Lizzie, count it a blessing that you got to know your mom this long. I will always wonder where my birth mom is. You know where your mother is, Lizzie. I will probably never find out.”
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