It is predicted to be 105 degrees today. That is hot enough to melt eyebrows off of one's face. I had planned to take Asherel and some friends kayaking, but we think even that would be dangerous in this weather. Instead, we will all huddle around the AC vents and pray the electricity doesn't give out.
As I drove out to visit Comer yesterday, the little gas station on the corner from him was cordoned off with police tape. Police vans and cars were all over the lot. I entered Comer's Senior Home, and the manager was at the door, telling one resident not to go out.
"I am locking us in," she told the resident.
"Why?" asked the women with a walker.
"Because there was a shooting down the street and we don't want him coming in here."
I scurried inside. Between the deadly heat and deadly criminals, life felt very precarious. I went to Comer's room to find him looking almost perky, compared with the past two days.
"You look better," I said, gratefully.
"Not really," he said, "I wanted to find you those two short stories I wrote, but I couldn't get off this recliner!"
"Well maybe you can direct me where to search."
First he had me check all the drawers in the secretary. Next he directed me to his dresser. As I closed the last drawer, the stories still unfound, he sighed.
"I know they are here...I do so want you to read them."
I noticed a briefcase beside the dresser.
"Could they be in there?" I asked.
"Could be," he said hopefully.
I brought him the briefcase and he popped it open.
"Well lookee here! Here they are!"
He pulled them out and handed them to me. They were short stories he had written many years ago, after the war.
"I think you will find them very interesting," he said.
"Would you like me to read them to you?" I asked.
"That would be nice," he said.
I read him the stories. They were not at all what I expected. There was such depth of sadness and despair in them, that I could not believe they had come from this man I had come to know as so full of life, of joy.
I won't tell you the stories. YOu will have to read the book about Comer when I finish it to get them. But I will tell you my reaction.
"Comer!" I cried,"THIS is how you would sum up your life!?"
"Back then," he said.
"Yes...even now. But it isn't so much how I would summarize my life. It is what I wish I could take back."
I won't tell you all the discussion- but I asked him later, "But what is something you are glad that you did? Proud that you accomplished?"
"I was always proud of my charity work," he said. Then he told me a story of collecting money from his community for the poor. He recalled a scene of bringing milk and groceries to a poor young woman and her baby. As he told me the story, he began to weep and then said, "I can still picture that baby drinking the milk...."
My eyes welled too. I was trying so hard to conjure joyful memories for Comer in these hard days of ebbing life. Instead, I seemed to be bringing grief.
"There were folks all around that family...and no one helped them," he said, his voice rising in anger.
We moved on to happier topics, and I can't recall what else we discussed, but when it was time for me to go, he was smiling again.
I scurried to my car, on the lookout for gun toting robbers. The sun was merciless, throwing molten daggers into my skin. I got in the car, locked the doors, and blasted the AC. AS I drove, I thought about a community, so locked in on its own needs that we sit right next door to babies without milk and don't even know it. REACH OUT, I prayed, EVERYONE, PLEASE REACH OUT.
Isaiah 26:16-18 (NIV)
Lord, they came to you in their distress; when you disciplined them, they could barely whisper a prayer.  As a pregnant woman about to give birth writhes and cries out in her pain, so were we in your presence, Lord.  We were with child, we writhed in labor, but we gave birth to wind. We have not brought salvation to the earth, and the people of the world have not come to life.
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