Friday I stepped outside my home around noon to walk to the mailbox. I’d been working the morning through and hadn’t been out since I took my daughter to school, but it was still dark then. I rounded the corner of the front and there in the concrete driveway just outside the garage door lay two greyish bluish birds. They were in the jay family of some sort, but not bright enough to be a blue jay. I suppose they may have been kingfishers, but i don’t think so.
One was male. The other was female. You could tell by the brightness of the coloring.
Their little claws were curled up underneath their bodies and their eyes were open although they saw nothing. No markings on the body; no trauma, no shots from a boy with a BB gun, no arrows, nothing. The birds looked healthy enough, except for the fact that they were dead.
I looked up and noticed a blur of feathers on my daughters window directly overhead. Suddenly I knew.
On a gorgeous spring day two lovebirds doing what male and female of all species do, they were flying high and soaring, enjoying each other with playful whims and delightful fancy. I’ve seen birds do this, so have you–they dart in and out flying fast through trees and above the water as they call to each other with their many syllabic chirps, “Hey lover,” and “My you’re fast” and “Come fly away with me,” and other playful invitations to romance. Swept up in the revelry of pheromones and the prospect of dalliance, they were not paying attention. I shudder to think of the sudden last moments of consciousness as love turned to death, falling together to earth with full hearts and broken necks.
That is where I found them. I named them Romeo and Juliet and put them in a shallow grave. Love is a man splendid thing, but the world is dangerous.
When people die, it is tragic. Sometimes there are events that happen after a loved one dies that almost seem as hard as the original pain of loss. My newest short story features that kind of event–the ripping away of the scab that has barely begun to heal. It is available right now for only 99 cents at Amazon and comes in at about 4000 words. Click the icon below to purchase (I would love you forever if you did!) it for your Kindle reader at Amazon. It is also available at bardandbook.com and smashwords.com if you don’t have a Kindle and want to print it or read on your computer.
I have not written anything this short in a while because I’ve been working on my new novel, the thriller The Little Girl Waits, which will be released in May and other longer short stories, The Land Begins to Heal and The Deep Cove Lineage (both available at Amazon.) Getting back to the traditional short story length was actually difficult. I kept wanting to elongate the story and go deeper into the back story, however you can’t do that too much with a short story.
The key inspiration for the story was a newspaper article from our local paper back in October of 2013. I was intrigued and cut it out and stuck in my ‘write about this’ pile. It is an AP article (click here to read it) that described the heartbreak of people who had lost the voicemail or greeting message from cell phones from people they loved when the cell phone company made upgrades.
Technology has given families like the Moores a way to hear their loved ones’ voices long after they’ve passed, providing them some solace during the grieving process. But like they and so many others have suddenly learned, the voices aren’t saved forever. Many people have discovered the voices unwittingly erased as part of a routine service upgrade to voice mail services.
Often, the shock comes suddenly: One day they dial in, and the voice is inexplicably gone.–From the AP Article that inspired me
It was a very sad piece that captured my empathy and imagination.
I wanted the story to be almost Rod Serling-like–just enough like our everyday world to seem very, very real, but then a twist that made us realize something unusual was at play. Of course, for me the ‘unusual’ or ‘paranormal’ event is motivated by my faith convictions about the Lord. This led me to the second main thought for this particular story. It has a large pastoral quality to it in that a major character is the pastor for this family and her compassionate tough-love. It is also her prayer that seems to set up the twist ending, but I don’t want to give away too much.
I hope you enjoy it. By enjoy it, I mean I hope it makes you cry your eyes out or at the very least go check your voicemail.
I’m trying to get into the Twitter action (you can follow me @jamiedgreening) and one of the most interesting aspects of it is following people who keep me informed of what other people are thinking. This twitterfication came through this morning and I’ve been mulling over it all day.
Maybe the most offensive thing ever posted at Out of Ur (a Christianity Today blog): http://bit.ly/ekbdtX
Well, I’m not really that easily offended, so I had to take a peek at what on earth this man was so offended about so I hit the link and read the post. What started as curiosity turned into shock. You can read it too at Leadership magazine’s blog site. What was shocking was two long quotations of Christian ministry leaders in Japan who were referring to the earthquake, tsunami, and subsequent nuclear uncertainty as an “opportunity” for the gospel.
As I read the post it reminded me of a pastor’s meeting I sat in almost ten years ago, just days after 9-11 in which pastor after pastor kept talking about how this was God bringing real revival in our land by breaking our hearts and destroying our arrogance. I remember how horrified that thought made me. It is ridiculous and arrogant to presume that tragedy for someone else is God’s way of getting peope’s attention. Jesus talks about this type of tragedy in Luke 13:1-5. Towers fall, governments oppress, earthquakes come, tsunami’s surge, and all kinds of bad things happen to all kinds of people: the just and the unjust. Our role as believers is never to see someone else’s pain as an opportunity but instead incarnationally to hurt and intercede as much as possible for them. Pray for Japan, give to help Japan, and weep with those who weep.
Might some people come to faith in the Lord through this terrible time? Yes, in the same way that the death of a loved one might cause someone to start asking spiritual questions. But no one in the right mind would ever see the death of a loved one as a spectacular opportunity for the gospel. Instead, we realize tragedy makes us think about eternal things and it might also help us realize who truly cares about us. But our care must not be so that we may reap spiritual gains. Our care must be because these people are human beings like us and their tragedy is our tragedy. No man is an island.
For now we pray and give. There are many different outlets for giving, but click here for one through our denomination.