In case you missed Part One of this story, you can find it here: The Bench, Part 1 of 2.
And now for the eagerly awaited conclusion to the story:
I smiled, satisfied that I had answered her questions and fulfilled my duty. I could send her off to her father now and have my bench to myself.
But Jordan wasn’t finished.
“Where are your wings?” she asked.
“In my pocket,” I answered.
“Can I see them?”
“Are Adam and Eve sorry?”
“Yes, and God forgave them.”
“Is Jonah afraid of fish?”
“How old is God?”
“Really, really old.”
“Does He have dreams when He sleeps?”
“Because God doesn’t sleep.”
“God doesn’t sleep?”
“Because He’s busy watching over you.”
“Why does He watch over me?”
“Because God loves you and He wants to keep you safe.”
“Then why did He let my mommy die?”
My mouth, open and ready to fire off another automatic answer, suddenly became very dry.
Jordan looked up to me then, her legs still. Tears began to pool in her little eyes. “I said if God loves me and wants to keep me safe, then why did He let my mommy die?”
She sniffled, then reached into her pocket and pulled out a tissue. She swiped at the tears trickling down her cheeks and waited for an answer. I had none. This was not a child’s question. This was an adult question. Serious stuff.
Why? It was a question I still asked myself, and often. A question I still often asked God, too.
Why does the world have to be so bad? Why do the innocent have to suffer? Why must good people have nothing and bad people have everything and why does it have to be that way? And now I could add another to the list: why would God take a mother away from her little girl?
Because bad things happened in this life, and to everyone. That was the easy answer. The world was a hard place. No one lived happily ever after. And no matter how wise we became, we would always leave with more questions than answers.
But how could I tell Jordan that?
My lips moved, but no words came. I knew this was one of those moments in Jordan’s life where she found herself at a fork in the road. One path led to healing. The other led to bitterness. And whatever I said next may well be the very words that pushed down either the one or the other.
I had gotten into this situation out of the goodness of my heart. I had no ill intentions, only concern. But this, this was too much for me. I couldn’t lie anymore. It was time to tell Jordan the truth. I owed her that much.
“Jordan?” I said.
She sniffled and wiped her nose. “What?”
“I’m not an angel.” I spat the words out as quickly as I could and readied myself for what would happen next. Tears, of course. Maybe a tantrum. Both of which would be completely justified.
But there was only silence. Finally, Jordan said, “I thought maybe you weren’t.”
“You did?” I asked.
She pointed to my hat. “Daddy says God hates the Yankees.”
I chuckled. She managed a weak grin, and then her steadfast countenance crumbled in a fit of tears. I wrapped my arms around her and she huddled into the crook of my shoulder and gently rocked her as she sobbed.
We sat for a long while on the bench, our bench, and looked out over the river. The ducks arrived, and we both took turns tossing bits of bread to them as they quacked and fought for each chunk.
I told Jordan that I didn’t know why God took her mother away, but that He must have had a very good reason, because He always does, and one day she would find out. “In the meantime,” I said, “your mom still loves you and she’s in a good place. The best place.”
When all the bread was gone and the ducks had waddled off, Jordan said it was time for her to be going. She thanked me, gave me another hug, and assured me that she felt better. I knew she didn’t. But I also knew that one day she would. I watched her walk toward the bridge that led across the river and to the soccer field and the houses beyond.
“See ya,” she said from the bridge.
And she was gone.
I remained there for a long while, watching the river flow by. Jordan and I had a lot in common, I decided. Both of us were sitting in a big, dark room full of questions. Right in front of us was a window, and streaming through that window was the light of truth, all the answers to all the questions we could ever ask. But over that window was the shade of time, drawn tight.
As we both grew, learning and living more, that shade would ease up a little here and there and shed some light on the things that bother us so. We both want that shade out of the way. We want to see the whole view from that window, the whole truth. But, you see, if that shade were pulled up all at once, and all the truth shone through in an instant, we would be blinded by the light.
One day, I expect I will see Jordan again. Perhaps along some street paved in gold, beside a crystal sea. She will introduce me to her mother and I will thank her for bringing such a beautiful girl into the world.
And then Jordan and I will sit down on a bench and share all the answers we know, and we will laugh.
To read more from Billy Coffey, please visit him at What I Learned Today