Aged Henry Lassiter knows well the temporal nature of life because his has ended.
In that moment between life and death, a time when the mind struggles to maintain contact with the physical world as forces from the spiritual realm tug, Henry sees clearly the reason for the overwhelming desire to reach back through the veil - to hold onto the world he's known for seventy-six years-Josephine; his sweet Jojo.
In seemingly the blink of an eye, Henry and Jojo play together as children in the old neighborhood, move beyond the years of prepubescent games to teenage courtship and then to the stormy years of young marriage.
As the arc of life tilts to the downhill side, problems of a different sort test them. It's in these times that the rhythm of life leads to the ultimate dance - of love.
A short story from our Candlelight line.
I can’t breathe!
Why can’t I inhale?
My face, I can’t feel my face!
I know my hands are there, just as they have been for seventy-six years. My senses tell me so. But where are they?
I see light—abundant light, yet I turn my hands this way and that and see nothing. The light flows over me liked warmed satin. Neither shadows nor objects are visible as far as the light shines.
This…Light…striates and flexes; there is comfort in it. I’m becoming aware that I stand witness to the length and breadth of infinity and know, I just somehow know, when the light fades, I’ll see universal truths reserved until this moment. I’m entwined in the past, yet long to embrace the future. This awareness is simply instilled.
The draw is powerful. But another force of equal power tugs.
Again, it occurs to me that no breath enters my lungs.
Now I remember. It was a tumor, I think.
Knowing this answers nothing, just a reason for more questions. How is it I can contemplate these things, if in such pain?
Where is the pain?
Could it be powerful drugs?
I feel no discomforts, nothing but—but a tingling joy.
Bolting upright—at least it feels I have done so; it occurs to me that joy and Josephine are synonymous, inseparable; one cannot exist without the other.
My Jojo—memories flood in and burn white-hot. Desire fuels a fire as an accelerant tossed upon a flame.
We’ve become separated. I cannot see or call to her.
I want to shout her name but I have no voice.
My soundless distress has been heard. The Light wrinkles and I look down upon the saddened face of my Jojo, framed in lustrous silver hair holding the hand of a pathetically drawn man with tubes and wires splaying from his upper torso to points surrounding a hospital bed.
Suddenly, I feel warmth sliding across my palm—the palm of a hand I still cannot see. It’s Jojo.
I watch. She closes her eyes, saying something I cannot hear, then sways to and fro. It’s rhythmic, like a dance.
Fearful this connection will be broken if I move, even twitch; I’ll be jettisoned from this place to… Heaven only knows where.
I long to hear the music and for that I cry tears I cannot see or feel.
My intention hardens.
I’ll not move, not even blink, for eternity if necessary. I refuse to sever this thread that keeps me bound.
I’ll be patient and wait for the day I can again hear the music.
* * *
“Doggone it, Henry! That hurt. Why did you punch my arm?”
“I wanted to buy you a present for your tenth birthday,” Henry said as he ran by. Now, I suppose a love tap will have to do.”
Jojo’s face flushed crimson. “You idiot! You’re crazy and you’re mean, too!”
She fumed, but then a smile crept through her hardened laser-like stare. Henry had remembered her birthday. Even her father had to be reminded. Her smile piqued as she skipped toward her house on the corner.
Midblock, she hesitated to scowl at Henry Lassiter, who then sat on his front porch out of the hot summer sun. He attempted nonchalance. It didn’t work. He flashed a toothy grin.
She pressed her lips into an angry line, casting an evil eye meant just for him.
All the windows across the front of the Lassiter home were open, catching the barest breeze as snappy ragtime music from the radio inside carried past curtains that lazily waved to the street.
“You know, a birthday wish doesn’t have to hurt,” she called out from the sidewalk.
Henry jumped to his feet and trotted to her. “How about a dance instead?” He attempted a few Charleston moves, stumbling and falling on his butt.
Jojo laughed. “I don’t know which hurts worse, my stomach from laughter or my arm.” She skipped on.
“Someday I’ll be a great dancer,” he shouted above her laughter. “Ya hear me Josephine Bates…a great dancer.”