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Beryl, Near the End, Explains Herself

By Noelle Wells

To the young Pastor with the kind eyes who visited me last Thursday,


When you stopped by you asked me to think of heaven, that this would comfort me. I’d told you I’d been depressed when you asked how I was. Of course, I say this to everyone, and everyone tries to solve it. I know it can’t be solved and get grumpy at all the fingers poking themselves into my pie trying to make it look more presentable! But your eyes were young and pleading and as I know my time is short, I thought I should explain myself, so you don’t go losing that strong faith of yours on account of me. Not that you would, but I like you well enough to explain to you the things I don’t know how to say.


You see, when I think of heaven, I think of things I resent not having here. You know, like good feet, working organs, fingers that don’t seize up, fluid that circulates. The simple things. I’ve been sick longer than I’ve been healthy such that I can barely remember the feeling of jumping up from a chair like it’s nothing.


Even then, I was never much to be impressed by. Never rich or notable. Never particularly smart or talented. It’s not that it was all bad. My husband was fine—dead now, but fine—and my children do fine also. Yet still I lessen, like water evaporating from a shower door. Perfectly fine to me has always been a few yards short of finally good. Which is the issue. I can get close enough to see it, but never inside far enough to have it.


I had my moment in the sun way back when. But it wasn’t long enough for a suntan, if you catch my drift. Just long enough to get pregnant. After that first baby I expanded like one of those dehydrated toys dropped into water. You remember how your daughter called me “Fluffy when you brought her to visit me. I laughed, because children will always tell you the truth.


I think what it is, is that I wanted life to be a taste of glory, not an argument against it. And for too long now I have been on the wrong side of that debate. I know sickness should make me cast my eyes forward in search of that new space where I’ll be renovated, rejuvenated and such. But when I’m just stuck here sitting in my chair watching all that goodness prancing along outside my window all I can feel is that I want to get dragged off into that parade and dance a few mismatched steps to the rhythm of it!


I’ve managed to scavenge some happiness in the meantime, gathering mementos of the things I knew were good. Like my first teddy bear who I can’t remember getting, but I know it was from my mother, who loved me like everything warm, right, and supple in life. Her eyes are lost to me most days, the feeling of her hands, the imprints of her hugs, the sound of her fixing my cupboards after my second came along.


I’ll let you in on my best secret though: when the day nurse gives me enough pain meds to manage all I have going on I can see my momma’s eyes through mine. They’re green like seaweed with tears falling from them. Always a whole lot of tears. I sense there’s a reason for it, but no one will tell me why. Maybe I’m seeing her heaven eyes surprised by grief at the sight of me. Maybe she rushes into the throne room and asks God to pull the plug on me so she can hold me and make it better. I wish she would. But I hope she won’t.


What I want is a Pentecostal miracle! To shoot up from my wheelchair, weight peeling off me while I do a little dance through the house eating donuts and buttered bread, because God made the gluten intolerance better also. But God had me be a Presbyterian. So that’s that. It’s told God shook hands with Calvin exchanging miracles for intellectual precision, and that’s why we have such good books and bad Holy Spirit work.


I do know, in the way I believe the ocean is there (though I’ve never seen it) that being with Jesus is better, that I’ll be better and have my fill of all the good things. But I’ve never laid on the beach, and I’ve never gone to heaven. I know it’s there because of maps and other people, but I don’t know that it’s good in the way I know a warm baby on my chest is good.


I watch old shows a lot these days except if the phone rings. I scramble for it like a hungry dog. Wouldn’t miss a call unless I was dead. How I love my loneliness invaded! Anyway, the old shows are how I want it to be. I want to wake up after the shadow, the valley and all the awfulness, in high heels and a starched apron like June Cleaver. I want all the children of paradise to rush towards me, pulling at my apron until I almost fall over. I would kiss their heads then ask God to use the kitchen, where I’d fix them snacks full of sanctified gluten, white sugar, and dairy. I would vacuum the crumbs up after them, wipe their angel faces, and send them off to play. Then I’d find my mother and tell her about all the silly things of hers that I’d kept so I wouldn’t feel so without her. She would laugh and hold me for such a long while—a thousand years maybe?  If I think of it that way, I feel softer towards God and his sharp-edged providence, and I can forgive Calvin for making such a bad deal. I can hope that God will make my resentment soft like my first teddy bear. God is good like that I’m told. I hope he is, I truly do.




(If ever they give this to you)


Noelle Wells works professionally as a counselor in Central Pennsylvania. She is married with a few children. Her work has appeared before in Ekstasis, Heart of Flesh Literary Journal and Clayjar Review. More of her writing can be found at @noellewellswriter on instagram. 


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