The elevator chimed with its arrival on the first floor. Various smells of freshly baked bread, egg sandwiches, and coffee grounds tickled Tom’s and Lylah’s nose as soon as the double doors split.
They walked slowly, almost at a deadened pace. Neither knew what to say or how to process what the next steps were. In a trance-like manner, both grasped their coffee cups and poured the steaming, black liquid into it’s white confines. Spotting a table in the middle of the cafeteria, Tom pulled out Lylah’s chair before dropping into his own chair. Silence hung like a dark cloud and it showed no signs of lifting. The tragedy stomped out the used to be “normal life.”
Tom coughed into his hand. It evaded the opportunity for conversation, to opening the door of discussing the “options.” He sneaked a peek at Lylah. Her eyes were frozen. Her gaze was fixated on the back wall while her pointer finger swirled the round edge of her cup.
Lylah ripped her stare away from the cafeteria walls to look at Tom. She paused before cautiously asking him the dreaded question. “Tom, I know this may not be the time nor the place, but how can I help you?”
Tom watched as Lylah shifted nervously in her seat. Was he that intimidating? Thoughts swirled around in his head. Trying to claim a thought as logical or sharing his deepest concern was one of the biggest challenges his mind seemed to be working to express. His voice trembled. “I just want her to wake up. What am I going to do without her? Without her I don’t have anyone to turn to, to be with, to love.”
Lylah saw Tom’s face contort as his feelings grew increasingly somber. Tears seemed to be lodged in his throat making it evident to her that voicing his fears was difficult. Lylah cleared her throat. Tom had no one. At least in her own life she was able to depend on God for comfort, for strength, for care. She had a way to share her grief, to hand over the burden of pain. Tom, at least to her knowledge, did not.
Sympathetically, Lylah answered Tom’s question. “She doesn’t have to be the only thing you have, Tom. Do you know what Rose was doing on Sundays? She was at church with me. She was involved in the children’s ministry and women’s ministry. Rose knows Jesus Christ as her personal Savior. She has hope.”
Of course he knew. He just didn’t have the time to engage in “spiritual matters”. It never got him anywhere. He prayed for his mom when he was younger, but that didn’t stop his dad from continuing to verbally abuse her. What kind of God didn’t listen to his pleas but let the hits keep coming? For someone who swears to be all-knowing and loving certainly had a deaf ear when it came to his prayers.
In his opinion, Lylah had no idea what she was believing in. All of it was a lie. Tom replied bitterly. “What you and Rose believe in has no hope. How can you have faith in a God that allows this to happen. Rose is lying on a bed fighting or not fighting for her life. We don’t even know! Yet you sit here ready to talk about God, the very one who allowed this to happen to her. This isn’t a game Lylah. It is real life. Rose is dead and God did nothing to save her.”
His response caused her to straighten. Her posture was rigid. His words were laden with bitterness. Each phrase infused with unbelievable anger.
Lylah’s first thought to respond to Tom’s answer was frustration and irritation, but after looking into his sad eyes compassion flooded her heart. This man was broken, shattered by the trials of life. What he didn’t know is she too had her own heartaches.
“Tom, I understand what it is like to sit in a hospital room and watch as a loved one fights for their life. Four years ago, my brother, Derek, was hit on the side of the road by a drunk driver. I prayed for a miracle. I never knew how horrific the pain could be when I was sitting at the edge of his bed watching his chest rise shakily as he struggled for a breath. I doubted God. I doubted my faith. The choice to hold on to fear, to worry, to anger was way easier than fighting to remind myself of God’s promises and His love. Without Him I was alone; without Him my life would be nothing.”
Tom braced his hands against the metal table and lifted his body off of the chair. He couldn’t handle it. Shaking his head, he managed to utter an apology to Lylah before rushing off to the men’s room.
Lylah slumped in her chair and lifted her eyes to the ceiling. She felt the Lord leading her to share her story, but she wondered if now was the right time to air her “sad tales.”
The mirror reflected hollow eyes painted with dark circles hovering around the lids. Tom noticed the lines drawn on his face from hosting an ever-present scowl. He had been so brash and insensitive to Lylah. He had no clue that she lost her brother in a car accident. Even when she lost someone so dear to her she chose to stay committed to her faith in God. Lylah, unlike him in this moment, was reliving her worst nightmare. How did she trust Him after all that has happened?
Lylah left the cafeteria to head back to Rose’s room. The elevator binged letting Lylah know she reached the third floor. Room 348 held one of the most precious friends Lylah had ever had. She and Rose did everything together. Coffee, shopping, crying, and laughing were all incorporated to building their relationship. Memories flooded in her mind as her hand gripped the chilled, steel handle.
Lylah looked at the bruises covering Rose’s face. They didn’t stifle her beauty in the least.
Lylah gripped Rose’s hand. It was cold and seemingly lifeless. It didn’t stop Lylah from lifting up a prayer asking for a miracle. She feared her heart was destined to be broken once again. Her forehead fell to rest on Rose’s hand.
Lylah’s voice echoed off of the walls in the hospital room as she started her prayer. “Dear God, please help my unbelief. I don’t know why this is happened, but what I do know is that you can save Rose. I pray that your will be done. Whatever your will is, Lord, give both Tom and I your comfort. Tom, doesn’t know you as his personal Savior. Rose would ask every Sunday for us to pray for Tom’s heart to turn to you. Even now, Lord, I ask you to claim Tom’s heart. He needs you not just in this time, but for life. Thank you for your love. Thank you for your promise to never leave us nor forsake us. You are a good, good Father.”
Tom had been standing outside the room when he heard Lylah’s voice through the crack of the doorway. He listened as she prayed. It startled him when she said that Rose prayed for him. His wife had been praying for him to turn back to the Lord. He pushed the door open and stared at Lylah.
He stood with his hands in his pockets. He released a sigh. “Lylah, I want you to tell me about God. Even if Rose doesn’t wake up, I want to know what changed her. Will you please help MY unbelief?
Pulling her head off of Rose’s hand, Lylah wiped away her tears as she emphatically shook her head up and down. “Yes, yes. I will tell you all you wish to know.”
Lylah shared the story of Jesus with Tom, both holding one of Rose’s hands hoping that Rose would wake up at any point.
A loud, piercing beep interrupted their conversation. With a quick pace, Dr. Trey broke through 348 with an EMT and nurses following him. Before Lylah and Tom could figure out what was going on, they were being ushered out by a nurse. Tom shoved the nurse’s hands as he watched the EMT try to revive his wife. Lylah was calling Tom’s name, pulling on his arm, but all he could here was “CLEAR”. Then the shock.
A Writer’s Disclosure: I didn’t feel a distinct pull as to whether or not I should end this positively or negatively, but I decided to leave the ending to the interpretation of the reader. I hope you have enjoyed the Break Free Series. Looking forward to a new one soon! God bless!