Awakening to the realization that she was still in bed, late on a Sunday morning, caused Callie no anxiety what so ever. Not even a brief pause for reflection. She had not been attending church for several years so the last things on her mind, at the moment, were the snap judgments of what to wear, or “How much makeup was too much,” as had become her habit as a one-time, regular devotee. All those last-minute searches of her tiny, efficiency dwelling, for scourings of the “Good Book”, before flying off to worship, had ceased completely.
“We’re waiting for you and so is the Lord. He has a seat saved just for you,” came a quiet, yet joyful male voice.
Callie suddenly tensed up from the shock of the subtle and unexpected pronouncement as she lay on her back, in bed, trying to focus sleepy eyes on the ceiling fan which slowly revolved above her. Next, those same eyes darted wildly around the room from within in a head still frozen, and unwilling to give its presence away, should the voice prove to have come from an actual intruder.
“Come meet with the Lord this morning. Worship begins at Eight-thirty and again at eleven. He’s been expecting you.”
Callie grew even more nervous now, if that were possible. The haze of her barely conscious mind had not yet cleared, as summer’s morning light pushed past gaps in her window blinds. It gave the room the sort of glow she would have embraced under other circumstances.
Who had gotten into her house and what was this cryptic schedule he kept referring to?” More important still, was the clawing notion that, in spite of the interruption of her sleep, and her vague recollections of the previous night’s partying, Callie definitely recognized the owner of the unsolicited voice.
Callie would not turn her head the slightest bit to suss-out the source of the voice from within the room. She grew more and more certain that the instructions originating below her, specifically from under the bed. Had somebody followed her home or worse yet had she invited a now forgotten someone to stay the night? Finally, and more curiously, why was there soft piano and flute music playing in the background, complementing the man’s spoke requests?
Callie soon noted that the music was now coming to an uplifting, and hopeful, crescendo. The time of decision was at hand. (A) Play dead until the bear sniffs around and goes away. (B) Try to fit the pieces together and get on with life.
Seconds later Plan (B) was ratified and adopted. Callie threw off the sheet that covered the lower half of her body. As she first caught sight of what she had worn to bed, she was momentarily stunned and mildly impressed that she had managed to get into a nightgown. With maximum effort Callie swung both legs over the edge of the mattress, leveraging her torso into an upright position; her feet slamming flat to the floor.
A swell of very tinny kettledrums reverberated in Callie’s head and even more unexpectedly through the soles of both feet. Next, there came a familiar rush of strings. Callie had known this piece of music well in her youth and reflexively joined in at the top.
“Mmm sings my soul, mmm mmm mmm mmm to thee. How great thou art. How great thou art.”
She caught hold of herself and immediately looked toward her stereo system on the bookshelf in the corner. No display light, she thought. It was very definitely turned off.
As the melody played on, it quickly faded to background accompaniment while a man’s lively voice declared, “Have you ever been lost but were too embarrassed to ask for directions? That’s the topic for today as we open our Bibles to… SEEK HIS WORD.”
Neurons now firing at 70%, Callie bent over deeply from the waste, straining to see, and finding what she expected to find. “How did you get all the way under there?” she said to herself as she felt around the floor, grabbing for the black power cord. She continued reeling in her catch until she reached the end of the rainbow where her “Pot of Gold” was nothing more than her bedside clock/radio, and a million dust bunnies she had raked up while retrieving it.
She brushed aside the wild life and hit the “OFF’ button.“Nine-o-two a.m.,” she read, sitting in perfect silence, as she gazed into the glowing digits.
“Have you ever been lost but were too embarrassed to ask for directions?” she heard the thoughtful voice echoing in her mind.
Looking around the room she felt a growing sense of weight being applied to her being. From her bed she spotted her television, lap top, cell phone, and her closet full of clothes. She wasn’t lost. This was her place and these were her possessions, yet they all seemed united in staking a claim of ownership of her. Or, perhaps, they served as the definition of her existence. Could she ever be truly lost as long as these touchstone artifacts were within her reach?
The weight persisted.
Turning her attentions to the small table beside her bed, Callie saw the lone picture frame. It was a simple brown, wooden book frame, hinged in the middle, to display two 5X7 photos. She snatched it from its resting place, bringing it in closer for careful study. Her eyes were clear now. Clear enough to recognize all the players on sight. The picture on the right was of Callie’s mother, Kathy.
“Cancer took our Kathy home to be with the Lord” That’s what Pastor Kellogg had said at the memorial service three years ago. “Her home was with us.” Callie thought defiantly, with some time-honored bitterness thrown in.
Callie looked to the photo on the left. It was taken on the day she graduated from East Tennessee State University. The picture showed a tightly huddled gang of three; Mom, Dad, and Callie in the middle, in Cap and Gown. An obvious abundance of love and affection were sewn right into the photo.
Later, this same day, June 16th, 2007, Katherine Elaine Jarret would have a seventeen minute meeting with her Oncologist to discuss certain eventualities. It had been a wonderful day right up till the firing of the starting gun on the 30 day countdown to the end of life as Callie had known it to be.
Callie looked at her Father’s face. It was full of pride and high hopes for is only child’s future. Callie had not seen much of that look from her Father in the last 3 years. He had returned to teaching an Adult Sunday School class just a month-and-a half after his wife had passed and was in his second term as a Deacon of the only church Callie had ever known. She had grown up in that House of Worship
When Callie’s Mother died her Father grieved with the help of a grounded and loving support system, who allowed him to be week and encouraged him to be strong. After 24 years as a husband he was starting to move on.
Callie had not clung to the same buoy. Before she had been made aware of her Mother’s situation, Callie was booked solid with activities. School, of course, was primary as she put the finishing touches on a Bachelor’s degree in Social Sciences. For a time, Calvary Baptist ran a close second. She was third in command of several benevolence ministries, took offerings during both services on Sunday morning, and had worked her way into an associates spot in the youth program where she lead Bible study for the middle school girls. When the end came for her Mother, Callie quickly busied herself with the troubles of God’s world but left God, himself, standing alone at the cemetery. Three weeks later she had resigned from all of her duties and responsibilities by simply not showing up anymore. Her Father’s admonitions and motivational speeches fell on progressively deafened ears.
Callie looked again at the portrait of her Mother, resting her eyes on the slightly misaligned canine on the left side of an otherwise, flawless smile. She was instantly reminded of the countless times her Mother had refused her offers to Photoshop the tooth by contentedly insisting that, “Nobody’s perfect.” One last look and Callie placed the frame back in its spot beside her bed.
“Stand up!” came an inaudible order from somewhere deep inside Callie’s heart and soul. She rose to her feet, for the first time in months, with a real sense of being and a clear cut purpose of movement. Looking back at the clock, still lying on the bed, Callie thought to herself, Hmmm, Nine thirty-seven. Just enough time for a shower before the Eleven o’clock service.
Turning on the shower, then stepping away as it warmed up, Callie next found herself taking a brief inventory of the clothing in her closet. She was over-taken by the conviction that she had become undeniably less modest, in her choices of attire, in the absence of a Godly, female, role model. Over the previous three years it was this kind of realization which had, so often, turned aside any thoughts of a reconciliation of “Faith.” Other considerations had worked equally well in precluding her return to the fold. Questions and comments like: “Where have you been?” and “Where did you go?” or, “Her Mother would be rolling over in her grave.” which Callie thought might likely come from some indignant Elder’s wife. She grabbed a yellow and white sundress that required no ironing and a pair of white sling-back flats, laid them out on the bed, and headed back to the shower.
After towel-drying her brown, shoulder-length hair, she decided to simply comb it straight back over the top. This look was going to be more severe than any style she would ever have been remembered for, by her former fellow parishioners, but it was open and honest, which she now desired to be.
Standing in front of her dresser mirror, applying a spare amount of mascara, Callie paused to re-ask the age-old question; “How much makeup and jewelry is too much for Church?” Looking herself in the eyes she blurted out, “Earrings!”
Callie pulled open the top drawer and after some digging in the back, under a loose collection of sports bras, she emerged with a small, heart-shaped, ceramic jewelry box. She had presented it to her Mother on Valentine’s Day, in the First grade, after creating it in Art class.
Opening the glaze-cracked lid, Callie quickly found what she was after. Reaching delicately in, her fingertips resurfaced, clutching her Mother’s antique, Easter lily clip-ons.
“Never too much.” she said to herself as she fastened them in place.
Lifting the alarm clock off of her bed to replace on the nightstand, she noted that it was now Ten twenty-seven A.M. I hope traffic is light this morning, she thought.
Finally, grabbing her keys from the coffee table, she became aware of a hollow space inhabiting her core. She instantly reckoned how the void must be filled. Stepping into the tiny, galley kitchen, Callie opened the upper cabinet above the stove. Reaching in past her Grandmother’s cookbook, she took hold of the item that had, for most of her life, been the most prized gift she had ever received. Callie jerked a dish cloth from its perch, onthe oven handle, to wipe away an accumulation of debris from the dark leather cover and spine. Holding it firmly in both hands she read its legend, “Holy Bible,” and in the lower right corner, “Callie Elizabeth Jarret,” written in shiny silver.
Opening it for the first time in a long while, she found the inscription, written in her mother’s hand, on the title page. “To Callie, from Mommy and Daddy. Take this with you wherever you go and you can never be truly lost.” Closing the cover she hugged it into place, and the void was dispersed.
Callie paused at the front door, looking back at all she was leaving behind.
“If there is anyone else in here," she said confidently, "you can reach me at Calvary Baptist, downtown, for the rest of today and this evening. And please... lock-up when you go.”
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