**TW// This story involves a person who becomes severely paralyzed. Anyone who has personal experience with this kind of tragedy should be advised.**
James Dufont lived an ideal American life. He had a nice, three story house, a loving wife, three beautiful children; the quintessential, traditional western life. He was a cheerful figure; always friendly and talkative. He would uplift anyone who was near him by his mere presence alone. He was religiously devout, stressing the teachings of the New Testament to his children, and always leading his family's nightly rosary. He was hard-working, intelligent, direct, and courageous. Truly, he was the ideal man that anyone should strive to be.
One day, in the wintery mix of the Christmas season, James was at home, working over his presentation he was going to show his parish; as he was asked to give a lecture on the Birth of Christ. While editing his presentation, he heard the dull sound of knocking against his cedar door, and the scurrying of footsteps from his concrete walkway. He went the door, and noticed a small, brown parcel that was sitting there. It was unmarked, and he didn't recall ordering anything. Out of habit, he brought it inside, and sat down at his kitchen table. Going against his conscious, he decided to open it.
The next thing James could remember was that he was in some sort of bed, surrounded by what looked like people in white clothes. He could barely tell, his vision was so blurry that it made things almost impossible to see. He attempted to speak; only to be met with searing, overwhelming pain, jamming into his vocal cords like knives. He attempted to move, but felt nothing. He could not feel his arms, legs, or even his head. It was like he was a statue, forced to stay completely still as these blurry figures poked what looked like daggers into him, filling him with a strange feeling of relief and anguish. The only that wasn't impaired was he hearing, but he wished it was. He could hear the dreadful, heart-wrenching sobs of his dear wife; and the overwhelming bawling of his children. He couldn't say anything, he couldn't even cry out in agony.
Had his faith betrayed him? Had he been wrong? Was he in Hell?
Then, everything went black. He awoke what felt like an eternity later; the draining atmosphere of a hospital room filling his now recovered vision, the buzz of the fluorescent lights filling his ears. He still couldn't speak or move, he couldn't even remember what happened. Then, his bluish eyes darted to the figure entering the room. He could see clearly; it was a doctor. He attempted to call out, only to be met with the same searing pain as before. The doctor walked towards him; a solemn, grim expression adorning their face. The doctor walked then walked to the side of his bed. He was confused, his eyes only being able to make out a blondish figure sitting next to him. It wasn't long before he realized who it was; it was his wife.
"Mrs. Dufont...how should I put this?" The doctor said, a somber tone in their voice. "Your husband had an accident. He unknowingly opened a package containing an explosive, which detonated upon release." They said, their tone as direct and cold. "It's a miracle he's even alive, quite frankly. Officers responding to the scene believed he was dead on arrival, until an EMT found a faint heart beat." They said, a tremble coming over their voice. "We did all we could. Unfortunately, the blast did severe damage to his body. I'm afraid he'll be completely paralyzed for the rest of his life." The moment the doctor's words fell out of his mouth, the blonde figure broke down in tears. She rested her head on James's bed, her tears quickly wettening the sheets.
"Why, oh god, why?!" She cried, her sorrow shattering James's heart. James felt hot tears run down his face, the pain of not even being able to console his wife hurting him more than any physical pain he could ever feel. He tried to speak, letting out a small noise, before being greeted by the searing, burning pain; like he had submerged his body in red-hot coals. His world had changed, his reality had changed. He can no longer be the man his friends need, his church needs, or his family needs. He felt as though he was only a breathing corpse.
Time passed, and James eventually made it home. He was placed in his living room, his mouth ajar as he stared blankly at the wall, his head resting against the cushion of his wheelchair. He didn't move, didn't make a sound, he only blinked. The only real movement he made was when he ate, and even that was a struggle. Life passed him by; his wife had to get three jobs just to support their family, his kids had to pick up jobs like mowing lawns and selling chocolate bars, just so they could just barely support him. He anguished, his mind fully aware and not being able to do anything about it. His faith, the thing that kept him together, felt as though it was flickering, the last bits of wax dripping as it slowly died. He would spend his days wondering why this hardship was placed on him, and more importantly; his family.
He then noticed something, on his shelf. It was a small, red candle, burning brightly. He didn't recognize it, and figured someone must of put it there. However, instead of going back to languishing, it filled him with a strange sense of comfort. He just stared at it, his eyes slowly beginning to close, drifting into a peaceful, quiet sleep.
He found himself falling into a dark lake, the water splashing as his heavy body sunk in, sending rippling waves throughout it. He began to sink, barely being able to hold his breath. No matter how much he tried, he couldn't move his arms to swim. He continued to sink, his eyes wide with fear and frustration. Then, through the debilitating pain, he was able to reach his arm out, his hand weakly opening. As he sunk deeper into the darkness, he saw a bright, glowing hand reach out and grab his hand. It pulled him out of the water swiftly, the inky darkness that had submerged him quickly dissipating.
He was pulled onto a boat, coughing up water, his breathing heavy and raspy. As he caught his breath, he could feel that he was resting his head on someone's lap. He moved his eyes up, and saw the glowing, beautiful face of a woman. She shined brightly, like she was clothed with the sun. She placed a hand on his head, his pain fading away in an instant. After a brief silence, her mouth opened to utter words that would change his life forever.
"It's gonna be okay, I'm here for you."
James then awoke, tears swelling in his eyes, his wife in front of him, a worried look on her face. "James? James, what's wrong!?" she yelped, holding his face. When he saw the billowing tears of his dearly beloved, he stopped crying. He moved arm instinctively, expecting to feel the sharp agony he felt before. But rather, it only felt heavy, and he was able to move it up to his wife's face. He rested it under her cheek, catching her tears in his hand, his thumb slightly moving across her face. She was amazed; a bright, and a hopeful smile coming across her face as she embraced him fully, the weeping of the sorrowful turning into tears of absolute, unbridled joy.
James would never fully recover from the accident, but his condition increasingly got better. In a year, he was able to move his arms fully, and even talk; albeit in short, fragmented sentences. Regardless, he was able to communicate, to interact with the world that was passing him by. He would often be seen reading the Bible, his shaky hands turning the pages as his active and darting eyes scanned the sacred text. Even in his state, he would still deeply pray on the teachings, and praised the Lord every day for his recovery. While reading through the Book of Luke, an image of the dream he had a year ago flashed in his mind. But, when he looked up to gaze upon the candle, it wasn't on the shelf. As he wondered where it was, he felt a warm glow in his heart, and a smile came across his face.