It was a sunny day in South Florida. Leigh and Dougie were in the backyard swinging on their rope swing. Leigh would swing and Dougie would push her high…higher…highest. She would close her eyes and imagine she was sailing into the fluffy white clouds. Dougie would then swing and Leigh would push him high…higher…highest. He would giggle with delight as his big sister pushed him over and over again. The world was wonderful.
An hour past and Leigh grew tired of swinging and pushing. She eyed her new blue bicycle leaning against the wall of the house and wanted to ride. She imagined the feel of the wind in her hair as she raced down the street. She wanted to ride with her friend Carol, who had also gotten a bicycle for Christmas. Poor Dougie he kept begging her to keep pushing him, but she laughed and rode off on her bicycle.
Finally, when night had fallen, Leigh’s parents returned for her. They both wore very sad faces. They hugged a very confused Leigh and took her home to her house. She wondered, “where is Dougie?” She asked her father, “where is Dougie?’ “Shhhhh” was all he said. She turned to her mother and asked, “where is Dougie?” Her mother began to cry softtly.
Once inside their house the family began to sort out the days events. Dad took Leigh in his arms and held her firmly. “Leigh, something terrible happened today and Daddy thinks you are a big girl enough to understand. When you were riding your bike today, the rope swing hurt Dougie and he won’t be coming home ever again. Dougie has gone to be with Jesus and be His little boy. Do you understand?” Leigh didn’t really understand but she bravely shook her head yes. She went to bed and had terrible dreams all night about Dougie and the swing and when she woke up in the morning she was very tired and irritable.
The next day she was taken back to Carol’s while her family went to make arrangements. She did not understand what the arrangements were for, or about. She just knew that somehow it was her fault. In her dreams she had convinced herself that it was her fault that Dougie had gone to be God’s little boy and her fault because her parents were crying. She cried silently on the inside yet tried to be brave on the outside.
People came to their house and brought food. (That is what grownups do when there is a death in a family.) There was a service at Mizzell-Favell-Zern, the neighborhood funeral home. The family sat behind a screen and Leigh could here people crying on the other side. Before the service started she peaked through the screen and saw all the people they knew. After the service they quickly took their suitcases and put them in the trunk of the car and drove to Alabama. Alabama is where her parents were from and they wanted Dougie buried there. Buried, now that is an interesting word. Leigh had buried Dougie in the sand once at the beach. All you could see of him was his head and his feet. Daddy had laughed when he saw Dougie. Was this going to be like that Leigh wondered?
Leigh slept in the back seat of the car while Daddy drove during the night. It was almost daylight when the weary travelers arrived at Grandma’s house. Grandma and Grandpa came out and cried with her parents and hugged Leigh a little harder than usual. The next day the family went to Radney’s, another funeral home and said their final goodbyes to Dougie. When Leigh came into the special room that Dougie was sleeping in she tried her best to make him open his eyes…but he didn’t. Leigh truly did not understand that Dougie was not going home with them when they left Alabama. Leigh was kind of mad because Dougie got to go to Grandmother’s town on a train and she had to ride in the car. She could not understand how come all twelve of Aunt Jo’s children were still with their momma and daddy. She thought out loud in the car, “Aunt Jo probably wouldn’t even miss one of her children.” Dougie was all she had and now he was gone. Leigh sat in the back seat of the Chevrolet and told
The ride back to Florida was not fun. There was no singing. There was no sightseeing. There was nothing. Life as Leigh knew it was over. When they returned to the little coral colored house at 1127 El Prado the fractured family went inside and tried to mend. Mending was going to be hard. It would take a long time for the three people in the little house to begin to be a family again. Life went on as it had before Dougie died. Leigh walked to Belvedere Elementary everyday with her neighborhood friends, Daddy returned to work for Arrow Electric, but Mommy was the one who had the hardest time. She stayed at home and dealt with all the ghosts in the house. Eventually we all came to realize that when children are born you begin to let them go. No parent wants to bury their child but in life it happens sometimes. Leigh thought that God was angry with her for leaving Dougie and riding her bike, but she discovered that Dougie’s death had nothing to do with her. It was Dougie’s time. It was all in God’s plan. God meant for this to happen. Leigh would come to understand that Dougie was always with her, just like God. One day, Dougie, Leigh, Mommy and Daddy will all be together again and Leigh believes that with all her heart.
He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away (Revelation 21:4).
To Joey, With Love....WINNER!
8 months ago