The same cascade of rain which felt so comforting in the night felt more like teardrops in the morning light. Words said. Decisions made. Somewhere along the way this strong, show-me, fiercely independent girl returned to a tenderness and a vulnerability that now brought stained cheeks and silent lips.
The text came. Was I coming?
I couldn't. I couldn't say goodbye... even if it was only a partial goodbye. One of those goodbyes you say in stages... sometimes never knowing when the last one is upon you... just knowing that the road is leading that direction. I texted back that I couldn't do it. I watched tail lights glow in the rain and slowly pull away... out of sight.
The buzz of the text came again. One word... an unfinished thought. I asked to know the rest.
Nothing. As minute built upon minute my heart quickened. My stomach knotted. What if something happened? A truck. A trailer. Wet, narrow, tightly curved roads. My fingers stumbled, "Are you ok?" The ticking of the clock brought no reply. I called. I texted. I called again. No answers.
"Boys, we need to go check. Get in the car."
Which way? Too many choices. I drove them each. Looking down muddy banks and grassy ditches. Nothing. "Boys, they must have gone on. They must be ok. I can't find them."
"Mama, did you try to go the other way?"
No. Not the intersection I warned him about. No.
I turned around and headed that way.
As a truck approached it flashed its lights. No.
The phone was still silent.
I neared the intersection. Cars were lined up. Stopped. And I saw the lights. I saw wheels in the air. Emergency vehicles every where. No. Not them. NOT them. Lord, not that kind of goodbye.
I pulled down into the ditch and threw the transmission in park.
"Mama... is it? Is it them?"
I grabbed my little one from his carseat. I couldn't look my big guy in the eyes. "I don't know, son. Stay right behind me. Let's go."
The clay slipped wet under my shoes. I kicked them off my feet and ran. I ran past cars and trucks trying not to fall down the bank. I couldn't cover the distance fast enough. Rain and tears mingled until I could hardly see. The ambulances and fire trucks blocked the other vehicle from view. No.
Knowing eyes caught mine as I ran and an emergency worker came to us. His gaze locked on mine. I can't even remember if he was a police officer or a rescue worker. "Ma'am. They're ok. Tell me who you are looking for."
I couldn't say it. I could scarcely breathe.
"Ma'am... I promise they're going to be ok. Who are you looking for?"
The names left my lips like the voice wasn't my own. He smiled. "It's not them. It's ok."
But they haven't answered. Had there been another call? No.
No other dispatches.
We walked slowly back through the mud. The farm boys we ran past before asked if they could help. What could anyone do? Lord, just let them be ok.
I reached the car and the phone buzzed. "We r good. Left the phone in the truck. We r very wet."
Tears of fear became tears of joy. "They're ok."
There are goodbyes... and then there are goodbyes. "Lord, thank you... that it wasn't that kind of goodbye."
I washed the red clay from my feet. It streamed like a dirty summer creek in the sink.
Even if the words weren't what either of us wanted them to be... it was so very good to hear his voice... so very good... and to know those tail lights were still traveling away in the rain.
From a tender heart,