I love the sound of fresh snow crunching under my feet. The way the cold smells, the way the wind bites my face, the way Rosie (my dog) smiles at me… what is there to not love about taking winter walks? Every time I go, I wonder why I don’t go more often.
My foot catches on a disguised root, and I land awkwardly, smashing face first into the wet white stuff. Spitting out snow from my mouth, I scramble back up to my feet. Continuing on! Braving the elements with my valiant tiny dog by my side!
I adjust the leash on my wrist— wait. It isn’t there. I look down at the snow; maybe I’ve dropped it. My eyes move slow-motion style behind me, to where I had perhaps dropped the leash… where should have been a scuffle from my footprints. I look farther, and there is Rosie, her fur orange against the snow. She doesn’t look at me. She is looking at something else.
At my body.
There I am, in my giant coat, boots twisted, hair splayed out, bright red face pressed against the snow. I walk towards me, slowly. The snow doesn’t make any sound when I step on it. I realize when I look down at my feet that I’m not wearing boots— those are on my body. My brain goes into panic for a bit, but I’m not naked; I’m not sure what I am wearing, though. Then my mind switches back into the confusion mode. I kneel down beside me and instinctively try to lift my face out of the snow, but my hands possess no power to push. Rosie comes back to poke her wet nose in my face. When I don’t move, she starts to whimper.
“Shh, girl. It’s okay,” I say to her, instinct showing itself a second time as I try to pet her. Again, my hand can touch her, but with such little force that she can’t feel me. She didn’t hear me, either, and continues to whimper. My brain is such a fog. I don’t know what is happening.
“God, I need help,” I whisper; instinct again. “I don’t know what’s going on.”
Something warm lands on my shoulder.
“Don’t scream, please,” a voice says.
I stand up as if in a dream. There is a man standing there, and someone standing beside him— a very strange someone, who gives a businesslike nod and speaks again.
“Thank you. Screaming is particularly unpleasant.”
“You’re welcome,” I say, staring. I can’t decide if he is a man, a lion, a bull, or a huge bird of prey. In a way, he is all of them, but I can’t look at him for much longer. There is something about the man he is beside: his eyes, I think. They burn. This is so strange. “Can I help you?”
“No, but I can help you,” the man says.
I look at him, entirely uncomprehending; then duck as a streak of lightning flicks overhead and is gone.
He laughs, watching the retreating light. “Showoff.”
Another streak of lightning appears and vanishes in the sky. The sky— which is now streaked with purple and white and gold and other colours I don’t even know the names of. Farther off, I can see more flashes traversing the airways. “What is this?” I whisper, looking back at the man.
He looks intently at me, brow furrowing slightly. “You are getting a glimpse of reality.”
“Reality…” all the puzzle pieces click in my head. “Jesus?”
He smiles and nods. I fall to my knees, shaking, as everything bad I have ever done comes to the forefront of my mind in stark contrast to His perfection. His hand touches my shoulder again.
“I forgave you, remember?”
“Right.” I take His hand in mine, and there is the ugly wound in his wrist from that nail. The English language fails me miserably as I try to express the overwhelming emotions welling up inside me. ”Thank you.”
“You are welcome, child. Now come, there is something I want to show you.”
I get up to follow Him. He waves a dismissal to the— thing— beside him, who walks away a couple steps. Then he stands still and his wings (I think I count four) start to whirl around him like a horizontal propeller; then he streaks away in a flash of light. So that’s what those things were. I turn back to Jesus.
“You fell,” He explains. “Your neck twisted when you hit your head on a rock.”
“So I’m dead?” I ask. Hope jumps in my chest as I anticipate joining this fantastic world. I look around, above, beneath. I can see miles in each direction, and everywhere there is something new. Everything is so bright that I don’t know how my eyes can stand this, but I guess I am no longer cumbered by my body’s dim eyeballs. “I get to come home— to heaven? Is it all like this?”
“Even better,” He says. The joy seems to radiate off Him, but I feel a change happen in the air. One of duty, struggle, and the greater good. I can feel my expression drop as He communicates to my spirit.
“You want me to go back.” I state. I don’t want to object, but a little bit, I do. I want to stay.
“It is your choice, child. Your fall could kill you, but it hasn’t yet. You can still fight.”
“Why are You giving me this choice, Jesus?”
“Because I can still use you, but you must be willing.”
“Oh.” I want to be useful, I suppose, but I want to stay, more. His face smoothes as he watches me come to realization: I want others to come too. “All right. If that is what You want from me, Jesus.”
“It will be a hard recovery. That is why I wanted to show you something.”
Our surroundings change in an instant. We are in the kitchen, and I see Mom making supper and folding laundry at the same time, with papers stacked on the island. Then I see my dad, and my brothers, and my sister. Then come my friends, with their struggles and secrets. I nod at Jesus and say, “You’re right. I can help them more yet.”
“They will help you as well; a lot, in the time to come. But I want to show you more.”
We whisk away and are surrounded by bookshelves. Around a corner, I see a little girl following a frazzled looking librarian. Then we are in a city bus, and I see a girl with pink streaks in her hair slam her book shut and groan in disgust, ignoring the others around her. The scenes begin to flash by faster: a kitchen where a young mother is homeschooling her children, a quiet bedroom where a little boy has a flashlight on under the covers, a lonely old woman dusting her bookshelves while her tea cools. Then we are back to the field.
I hear someone calling my name. There, by the line of pine trees, I see Mom coming, in her camo jacket and hot pink rubber boots, with a bucket of chicken feed. She must have seen my body, because she drops the bucket and starts to run over, calling my name again.
“I will see you soon, child,” Jesus says, knowing my decision.
Tears prick my eyes. “I can’t wait.”
“Until then, I will always be with you.” He nods, and I am back on the ground. Back in my body.
I can’t move. My body is so heavy. The snow is cold. Mom reaches me. I can’t answer her; my lips will not move, nor will my lungs put in enough effort to force air past my voice box. My neck feels like it got folded in half.
More people come soon. I get lifted into an ambulance, I think.
When I wake up later, my whole family is around me. They look exhausted, but they all crowd around as soon as I open my eyes. I blink a few times as they come into focus. All the beautiful colours are gone. “My head hurts,” I manage to mumble. It is throbbing, and the light is going to sear my eyeballs. Mom and Dad both give watery smiles and squeeze my hand.
They tell me later that I broke something in my back. They don’t know yet if I’ll be able to walk again. It’s hard to bear, but harder yet when everyone is quiet and I’m supposed to be sleeping. I think about cooking and cleaning from a wheelchair; I think about not getting to take solitary walks in the snow, praying and singing while the ice crackles beneath me and the birds sing above; I think about cheering for baseball games I won’t get to play; I think about using the lift to get up the steps at church. Will the men put a ramp to the stage so I can still play piano?
I think about marriage one day. Who will want a wife like me?
But what are those things? Yes, they are all good, and I might not be able to do them in the same way as before. But I will do the best I can, and if there are things I can’t do, I will simply do something else.
The people that Jesus showed me flick through my head. I can see their faces. I can help them without walking. I can still write. I can give them stories filled with excitement, passion, and truth.
So I will write.