“Nathan, Lana, dinnertime,” their mother called. The sweet smell of cooked salmon, rice, and dumplings filled the summer air.
“Five more minutes!” Nathan exclaimed. The little six year old held tight to his remote control, his heart pumping from the intensity. “I’m almost done with this one!”
Their mother, Eun-Jung (also familiar with the name Grace), sighed wearily. “Nathan, you need to eat. You need enough strength to prepare for his division test!”
Lana groaned. “Eomeoni (Mother),” she said. “You know Nathan isn’t learning division in school until he is eight.”
“But it is good practice,” Mother answered simply. “He must learn to prepare for second grade.”
“If he survives first grade first.”
Nathan piped up. “My friend Caleb told me everyone survives first grade.”
Both Lana and Mother laughed. “Sure,” they said.
“Eat your dinner,” Mother added.
“But what about prayer?” Caleb asked eagerly.
Lana peered up at the sky. She always did, every night before she ate dinner. It was like a daily evening routine that she always admired doing. Looking at the bright, twinkly stars was like watching little kids laugh and swim in a community pool. Come join us! The stars would shout.
But this time, the sky was odd. It didn’t look it was enjoying its time watching the earth twirl. The night shimmered, but the color was faded.
Help me, the stars whisper in her ear, dry and weak. Help. The sound was a doll eating dentures and trying to talk. She shuddered of the image. Dolls itself are frightening enough for her.
Then she focused. What was wrong with the night sky?
“Amen,” her mother ended her prayer. Then she glanced at Lana, who stared intently at the midnight black sky. “Lana, did you pray? Or were you showing disrespect to God?”
Lana hung her head in shame. “I’m sorry, dear Mother. But the sky isn’t what it is supposed to seem like. Look— there aren’t many stars. We used to have so many stars, we couldn’t see the sky! Right now there are only several, but not enough.”
Mother squinted. “I see. I also see smoke rising. What on heavenly earth is this? Lana, you are very right. We should check it out.”
Lana felt what it seemed like pride. But also a tinge of guilt stabbed her. I’m sorry, God, she prayed. Please forgive my sins. It was wrong of me to not pray with my mother and brother. I’m very sorry. Help me repent.
Lana ended her prayer. Her mother always told her that God will make a way, but it took patience. Her mother told her that waiting was the key and that God never forgot anyone’s prayers before, starting from the start of life.
“He’s amazing,” Lana whispered to her mother. She snuggled more closely. “I wish God will speak to me, though.”
Her mother smiled and kissed her forehead. “Salangseuleoun ttal,” she said to her in a low voice. “Lovely daughter. God will speak to you when you are ready. But remember, he is watching every move you do and is always here to comfort you.”
“When am I ready?” Lana asked. She yawned.
Her mother smiled again. She did not answer her but sleepily yawned back in response.
“Good night,” Lana said softly.
“I love you, daughter,” her mother replied back. “Good night.”
Lana snapped back into reality.
“Lana!” her mother screamed. “Lana!”
She had not noticed that she was crying. She didn’t know the reason why she was crying, either. All she knew was that the policemen and firefighters came into her house. Her vision blurred. She thought she saw a glimpse of a familiar man, lying unconsciously on a stretcher.
“What’s happening..?” she muttered, her tone weakening.
“Lana!” her mother repeated again, although this time it was stronger. She hugged Lana tightly, so tight Lana thought her brain would squeeze into soup.
“We thought you fainted or had some kind of seizure!” she said, gasping. “You were unaware for at least twelve minutes!”
Lana was again guilty for making her mother worried. “I apologize,” she said apologetically.
“Of course, no worries.” She smiled, but it eventually ended up turning into an upside-down U. Then her eyes got watery, and she sobbed on Lana’s sleeve.
“Mother!” she screeched. “What happened?!”
She sniffled noisily. “I’m horribly sorry for turning things down! But when you saw the lack of stars, there was an airplane crash, and the smoke rose into the air, and that is why you couldn’t see the stars.” She sniffled again, this time using a tissue.
Lana stopped dead. “Where’s… F-father?” she asked, afraid to know the answer.
She shook her head at me. And I knew what she was about to say.
“Don’t tell me he’s dead!” she yelled, crying.
Her mother was all red, her eyes were puffing up. “He’s up there, enjoying it in heaven.”
“God. We must pray that we are happy he is up there. We must pray that we are thankful for letting God bring Father up there with him.”
Lana made a face that was worse than a frown. “I didn’t let God! I didn’t let him do anything! And I certainly did not let Father die!” she said loudly, her face flaming.
“Shh…shh…” she whispered gently. “Go to sleep.”
“I love you, Mom.” Lana managed to say without choking.
“I love you too, honey.”
Lana watched the sky again. It began to clear up, the red smoke was disappearing. The black was now beginning to fade fire, it was turning back to pitch black. Lana tore her anger out on the pilot, but became guilty again because number one, she doesn’t know and never met him, number two, she wasn’t any better at flying planes, and number three, she read in the Bible she had to love everyone as she loves herself.
Dear God, she thought, her anger began to ease as she prayed again. I love you. Take good care of my father. I will see you soon.