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Wrestling with God

Stories

Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak.

Genesis 32:24 (NRSCVE)

Below is a short story I wrote and attempted to sell on Amazon. To be entirely honest, that may have been a little presumptuous of me. I have neither the time nor ability for promotion. Also, not a lot of people know about me as a writer.

So I am putting the whole story up here online for free as penance for my hubris. 😉 Any advice you might have for me regarding how to write this better or adjust the plot or tinker with the dialogue, I would appreciate it.

The story follows three people – David, Hannah and Abigail. Each chapter contains a conversation between one of these characters and God.

Please know that I do not presume to know how God would actually talk in each of these situations. I wrote it in an attempt to explore my own thoughts and feelings when it comes to my own relationship with him.

I hope you enjoy it, and if you do, please consider sharing it.

Chapter 1 – The Timid Wrestler

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On their first date, David was like a stone. He was nervous, you had to give him that. Five years of the book “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” will do that to a man. 

Hannah knew pretty quickly he was not her type. Through high school and college the guys she dated fit nicely into the wild, stupid, and fun categories. David mostly sat quietly, and when he spoke, it revolved around some topic in the Bible. She was fine with religion, but goodness, not that much.

Still, she went on a couple more dates with him. She’d been with enough guys to know first impressions are not everything. And after another and then another, his steady and attentive eyes, his soft voice, and yes, even his listening silence began to wear her down. It didn’t hurt that he would open the car door for her which, according to her mother, she should have taken offense at. “Like you can’t open your own damn door!” her mother would say, mumbling something after that about the patriarchy while sipping her Merlot.

Before long, Hannah found herself telling him way too much. Bit by bit, she wondered if wild, stupid and fun were really what she wanted.

But to be fair, there was something wild about David, and it was his faith. The guy went entirely beyond the boundaries of a normal, private interest in God to an almost fanatical obsession with him. He believed the whole Catholic thing: church every Sunday, refusing to hold her hand, saying “Let’s pray about this” whenever she told him about some knot in her life and referring to Mary as “Our Lady”. The only other time she heard that was when friend Alejandra was making fun of her grandparents.

Whether she wanted it or not, though, his faith began igniting her own. She remembered going to Mass when she slept over at Alejandra’s home in elementary school. Sure, she wasn’t crazy about religion, but her memories were warm ones – the light coming through the stained glass, the smell of the incense, the congregation singing and chanting like one great being. When she visited again with David, it all came flooding back.

A year later, he did what she somehow could never imagine happening. He proposed to her. Hannah was never one to see beyond the current week, and here was her boyfriend asking her if she could see herself spending the rest of her life with him!

She knew, theoretically that this had to happen. This relationship was going somewhere or it wasn’t. It certainly was not fair to string him along if she could not stomach joining him where he was. But was she ready for this? Could she say to him, “Your people will be my people, your God will be my God”? David’s smile faded a bit when she didn’t say yes but didn’t say no. 

She knew she had to talk to someone first. So on a bright spring afternoon, she sat on a bench at Wiggin Park and waited for him. They would sort this out one on one.

When he came, he stood standing in the sun for a moment. 

“Hello Hannah,” he said.

“Hello, God,” said Hannah.

God took a seat beside her.

“This must be important. Usually we only talk at my place.”

“It is.” Hannah took a deep breath, collecting her thoughts. “I don’t know if I should marry David.”

“Why is that?”

“Why is that?” thought Hannah. “Because I’m a disaster.” An abusive father, alcoholic mother, narcissistic boyfriends and depression tends to accomplish that.

But she simply said meekly, “I’m not his type.”

“I don’t think he agrees with you.” 

“I know…. But he doesn’t know me.”

“Are you sure about that? Hours of late night conversations didn’t get the message across?”

Hannah looked down at a flower pushing its way through cracks in the cement at her feet. 

“He’s kind and quiet. He has so much more in common with other girls at his parish. I can’t talk to him about…. God stuff! Goodness, anything but that.”

She quickly realized who she was saying this to. “I mean, I love church. I love being back. But my brain doesn’t work the way his does. That’s not me.”

God gave her a puzzled look. “It sounds like you’ve made up your mind. Why did you ask me here?”

Up till this point, Hannah was mildly shocked. This conversation was not playing out the way she had anticipated. “Did I think he’d be like my dad? ‘What the fuck, Hannah! Why are you so stupid? Marry the damn guy!’ or “Good God girl, I could have told you he was too good for you.’” She didn’t know how to respond to him and wondered why he wasn’t laying into her.

“I don’t know,” Hannah replied. “I guess I wanted to know what you thought.”

God  looked pensively out at the trees in front of them. “If you want to know what I think, I think you are afraid to be happy.”

Ah! Here it comes. Something to argue about! Hannah knew where to go from here.

“Of course I want to be happy! Why would you say that?”

Still looking out, God, as calm as her obstinately quiet boyfriend, spoke again. 

“Things are going well with him?”

“Yes.”

“Yet you don’t think you should marry him.”

“Well… yes.”

He looked at Hannah. “It sounds like you are afraid to be happy. Being with David would make you happy, and I don’t think you know what to do with that. Life is normal with him, but your life has never been normal. It’s like walking upside down for years and somebody turns you right side up. It feels both strange and good at the same time.”

He looked more intently at her. “Do you want to be happy?”

“Of course I do. But it’s more complicated than that.”

“How?”

Images flashed in her mind. Her dad standing over her with his belt. Her smoking marijuana with friends in her car on a school day. Yelling. A fist against her face. Unable to lift herself away from the gravity of her own bed.

“He doesn’t know me,” she said softly.

“But you’ve told him, haven’t you? About your life?”

“No… I mean, yes, I’ve told him. But… he’s never had to deal with me every day, leaving a mess around the house or sleeping in when I have to go to work. He doesn’t know what it’s like living with someone like me.”

Hannah looked sullen at her flower again. 

“He wants to marry a train wreck,” she said with a sigh.

The two sat there in silence for a few minutes. This truth sunk deep into her. She had been pushing it away for a long time – years maybe. But here, she let herself feel the weight of it, and it pulled her underneath like an anchor.

God spoke. “Me dear, you love David. And what David has done in asking you to marry him despite everything means he loves you, too. Love, if it is real, is always a risk.”

“It’s too much to ask of him,” she said. “We’ll live together and then, sooner or later, he’ll see what he’s gotten himself into, and he’ll leave. That’s how it always is.”

“You might be right,” said God.

Hannah looked up at him, surprised and a little relieved. “So you agree! I shouldn’t go through with it.”

“No, I don’t agree.”

“But this could end horribly!”

“Of course it can.”

“So tell him to pull back! Or tell me to say ‘no’ to him!”

“No.”

“Why?!”

“Because I’m the one who brought you two together!” God said exasperated.

“What?!”

God took a moment and then began. “After you went on that first date, did you want to continue seeing him?”

She squinted and thought back, “Well, no, I didn’t.”

“So why did you?”

Her mind wandered back. When they first met, he was almost shaking. She tried to make conversation, but it went nowhere. He barely let anything out. She remembered saying goodbye thinking she’d never see him again. But later that night….

“I felt like I’d marry him.”

“And what did he tell you recently about that first date?”

“He told me that even though I didn’t seem like his type, something in him told him to keep going.”

Every time she had these fears, that little feeling, that tiny tug inside her would pull her back. Was it doing the same to him? “One more date,” she would think. “One more conversation,” until it snowballed to this.

“Maybe you are right,” said God. “Maybe everything will crash and burn. Or maybe this will change you and him for the better. Maybe you will learn to love theology more and he’ll learn to lighten up. You think you have nothing to offer him, but if that were the case, he wouldn’t want to be with you.”

This thought, like a warm compression, started in her chest and began spreading to the rest of her body, melting her. “He loves me.” This wouldn’t work. But it could, but it wouldn’t, but she wanted it to – more than anything.

“I’m so scared. I’m so scared it won’t work.”

God took her hands in his own. “I’m trying to give you a gift, Hannah. Please, take it.”

Images flashed again in her mind. Coming home to David after work. Children running in the yard. Eating Thanksgiving turkey at his mom’s place. Holding his wrinkled hand while watching the grandkids. David…. David….

She kept looking at the flower beneath her. Then she closed her eyes and almost whispering, she spoke:

“Okay.”

Chapter 2 – The Traditional Wrestler

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5 Years Later

God sat in the small side chapel, waiting for David. He finally came awkwardly through the door, his hair disheveled and carrying four books and a notebook under his arm. He smiled briefly at God and took a seat two spaces away from him. 

“It’s good to see you, son,” said God.

“I’m so sorry I’m late! I’m working on a talk for Friday and the time got away from me.”

He set his books down on the ground in front of him. Closing his eyes, he took a deep breath. He then crossed himself and began praying.

“Our Father, who art in Heaven, Hall-“

“David.”

“Hallowed be Thy Name, Thy -“

David, please. Can we just talk?”

David drifted out of his trance and looked up at God.

“Oh… yes. What did you want to talk about?”

God shifted in his chair and looked down at the ground, as though looking somewhere for the right words.

David knew this move. God had something to say, and he was not going to like it. But like the good soldier he was, he would listen and follow the instructions, securing his place in the Kingdom.

God was different this time, though. He looked tired, his face worn. He appeared to be not so much a general calling his troops to battle as an old boxer getting in the ring for one more fight.

He finally began. “Why are you doing this?”

“Doing what?”

“I think you know.”

David’s eyebrows lifted in puzzlement. He shook his head

“Why are you giving a talk this Friday?”

“I have the youth group. I’m speaking on the Prodigal Son.”

“That’s what you are doing. I asked why you are doing it.”

David sat back in his chair and considered his answer.

“It’s a good thing to do. Don’t you want me telling people about Jesus?”

“Of course I do. But there is more than one way to accomplish that. Why did you think leading that group was the way?”

David loved teaching. The kids listened in rapt attention to the pictures he painted with his stories. Parents would compliment him – none more than Beth, the other mom who helped out on Fridays. While they folded chairs and cleaned the room together afterward, she would always say something like, “Gosh, you’re funny!” or “I’ve never thought of that passage that way before!”

“I’m good at it,” David said. “Shouldn’t a person use the gifts God gives them?”

God looked at him directly in mild disbelief. Slow and deliberate, he said,”Yes, a man should use the gifts God gives him.”

David felt reassured. He sat up straight and closed his eyes again, ready to continue his scripted prayer, but God interrupted again.

“How are you and Hannah doing?”

David opened his eyes slightly and looked sideways at God. He measured his words carefully. 

“We are doing well… enough. I mean, however well we can do with her being bipolar. It’s not great, but… I think we’ve sorted things out.”

“What do you mean?”

“I think we’ve settled on… an agreement. Maybe not out loud, but… we let each other be what we are. We do what we need to do to make things work.”

“This agreement, is that what she really wants?”

David looked away at a picture of the Virgin Mary and baby Jesus that was hanging on the wall.

“I don’t know. Maybe not. But it’s how we’re surviving. It’s not easy right now. We weren’t planning for Abigail to come along – not this soon, at least. The breastfeeding isn’t going well and both of them are going crazy. It’s not like I can help them.”

“Why would you say that?”

David looked desperately back at God. “I’ve tried. I try and try. Nothing I say helps. I wake up in the middle of the night to feed Abigail, and Hannah is just as pissed the next day as she would be if I hadn’t. I change the diapers. I do the dishes. It makes no difference.”

“So you run away.”

David grew agitated. He almost got up from his chair but forced himself down. He wasn’t the only person there.

“I did not run,” he said fervently. “I don’t even know what you mean. I haven’t left her. I’m not cheating on her.”

“But that’s exactly what it looks like to me. What is this youth group if not the place you run to to get away from her? And what about Beth?”

David simmered.

“You have no reason to bring her into this.”

“I have every reason. I see how you look at her. I see how the two of you talk. I know the moments you forget you are married, flirting where you can.”

David felt ashamed. He looked down at his hands.

“She’s so happy,” he said gently. “I don’t want an affair. I just wish I could be close to a woman who was happy.”

God moved closer to David. “Every man and woman has a cross to bear, son. This is yours. Bear it in this life, and you will become the saint you’ve always wanted to be. You know it will be to your great good- and her great good – in the next life.”

David meditated on these words. He wanted to believe him. He wanted to focus on “your great good,” but his mind kept racing back to “in the next life.”

“In the next life,” which is to say, “not in this one.” The decades would roll on like this: Hannah doing well sometimes and other times slipping down into a hole he couldn’t pull her out of. He would have to be there – the doting husband picking up after her. He would have to carry his weight and hers beside – alone, abandoned, bitter.

He hardened.

He took up his Rosary and began praying again. “Our Father, Who art in Heaven….”

God pleaded. “David… David…”

“Hallowed be Thy Name….”

David…”

Over and over God said his name, but with every repetition, it became quieter and quieter. Finally his voice faded from David’s mind, and he was gone.

Chapter 3 – The Formidable Wrestler

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20 Years Later

Outside the small bakery, a light rain fell on the bare skins and t-shirts of people walking home from work. This was Manila in the wet season, and with it being so humid and hot, the last thing anybody wanted around there was an umbrella. Just some good boots for the mud and the lightest clothing.

Sitting in the bakery by herself, Abigail watched as the young and old made their way through the street. This was her favorite time of day. The work in the “Bahay ng mga Bata” was done, and she could sit quietly to think and pray.

The place she worked at was a house for street children. It was run by a group of Sisters. After college, God had told her in no uncertain terms that she must go to the Philippines and eventually to this place where she thought she might become a Sister herself.

But that was almost five years ago, and no voice had told her to change her vocation since. More than that, God went silent almost immediately after she arrived.

Still, she couldn’t pull herself away from the children. She stayed and worked there, most days looking like the odd one among the consecrated in her tank top and shorts.

She pulled out her Rosary from her pocket and wrapped it around her right hand knuckles. In her mind she spoke to him.

“Thank you for this rain. Thank you for keeping Angelo at the house. We were afraid he’d run away like so many of them do, and we’d never see him again. But he came back. Thank you. Please find him a home.”

She went on, praying for each child at the house, then for each child that was not at the house anymore, then for the children on the streets she had seen that day. She prayed for the Sisters and for her parents.

“Please help mom and dad. You know how hard it’s been. I don’t know what to say to them or what to do, but you do.”

Her mind left these particular things aside and began to settle quietly, like a pond on a windless day. She closed her eyes.

“Why am I here? Is this really what you want?”

She waited to hear something.

“I felt so close to you. Dad would tell me stories about the saints and their great adventures. I thought you were calling me to one, too. But I don’t…. I just don’t feel anything anymore.”

A tear formed in her eye and fell down her cheek. “I’m so alone here. I know I have the Sisters. I have the kids. I’m grateful. But I don’t feel you with me like I used to. I get nothing out of Mass. I feel nothing when I read the Bible. Even now, talking to you, I might as well be talking to a wall.”

This monologue played itself out like this every few months. She kept doing it, half thinking this would be the time God would show up and say something, or give some indication he was around.

“Have you left me? Did I do something wrong? I didn’t come here for the kids. I mean, I love them, but I came here for you.”

She thought back on those stories again. “Abraham did not know where he was going. Jeremiah prophesied to a people that never listened. Job suffered though he was holy.

“Jesus cried, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’”

Her fist tightened. The bands stretched more and more till she thought she would break them. Just as they were about to, she looked again out the window.

She jumped a little when she saw a small girl, no more than five years old, looking up and staring at her through the glass. 

This was not an uncommon occurrence. The locals did not see American women every day, and children especially would think Abigail was a movie star. But this little girl did not look fascinated or gawk as others did. She looked sorrowful and stood there with tender eyes looking up at her.

Abigail remembered she was crying and quickly wiped the tears off her face. The girl looked more intently at her and gave a wide grin.

“Ngiti! Ngiti!” she began to say, tapping on the window. She put her fingers on the side of her mouth, pulling them up in the form of a goofy-looking grin.

Abigail let out a small laugh. She pulled the sides of her mouth up as well into the same grin.

“Ngiti,” Abigail said.

The little girl clapped and nodded vigorously. Just then, her mother came up and began scolding her for bothering the American woman. The girl argued back, but as her mother began walking away, she waved quickly at Abigail and ran off.

Abigail moved closer to the window to see the girl as long as she could as she ran down the street. When she had disappeared, she pulled back into her chair and took a deep breath.

“Ngiti,” she said to herself. “Smile.”

Her hand loosened, and she felt the crucifix at the end of her Rosary with her fingers. “God, I don’t feel you, but I know you are there. I have what I need. I love you.”

She got up from her table and walked out into the rain.

God, still seated at the table, watched her through the window for as long as he could see her till she disappeared.

“I love you, too.”

Chapter 4 – The Desperate Wrestler

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2 years later

The surprise was that it would all end with a whimper and not a bang. David never had the affair he always thought about with Beth. Nor did he stop being a devoted father to Abigail. But he shut down, like a stomach accustomed to no food after days of fasting. He withered but didn’t feel it. He had long stopped feeling anything.

All that changed when Abigail died, though. Hearing the news of her martyrdom, seeing her body lowered slowly out of the airplane, it overwhelmed him in a tsunami of regret and bitterness. In his silent anguish, his marriage, his job, and even the ministries he’d run to to get away from both weighed on him. He could carry on dutifully, but why now? Abigail was gone. That was the final and defining proof that nothing he had been doing all these years was worth the effort.

When he told Hannah he wanted a divorce, it was the worst possible time. She was a wreck ten times worse than he was over Abigail, but she knew this was coming. He had been retreating for years, keeping to himself and spending more and more time at his computer or away from the house. Even if these warning signs were not there, she would have seen it long before it happened. She knew him better than he knew himself.

David had already broken the news to Hannah that he wanted a divorce when a friend offered them a weekend at his cabin at Donner Lake. David and Hannah pretended to be happy to get a weekend away with each other. Neither was ready to break it to their church friends that it was over. 

Donner seemed like a good idea. It was the coldest winter in forty years, and there was a good chance they could get snowed in. But this almost made it more appealing. David, at least, wanted to get away from anything familiar that reminded him of Abigail. 

In the cabin, across the table from each other, they sat quietly eating dinner. There was only the sound of cutlery hitting the plates.

Hannah put her fork and knife down and looked at him.

“David, please talk to me.”

“About what?” David said, still focused on cutting his chicken.

“How are you doing with all of this? You haven’t said a word since we got the news.”

“What is there to say?”

He kept eating. Hannah was mystified.

“This has to be hard for you. You don’t want to talk about it? How are you feeling? It must be-“

“Must be what?” he retorted. His eyes quivered suddenly, looking at his wife. “Must be sad because my daughter died in a foreign country, and I couldn’t be there with her? Furious with myself because I was the one who, for years, filled her head with stories of saints and martyrs so that she grew up to think it would be a great idea to give up a family, a husband, kids, to live in poverty in a slum in Manila?

“It sucks, Hannah. That’s how it feels. And there’s nothing that talking it out or hand-holding or hugs are going to change about it. My daughter is gone. I will never see her again. That’s it.”

At this, he slammed his utensils on the table.

“I’m going for a walk.”

He pushed himself up from the table, put on his coat, and went to the door. Hannah quickly put her coat on and came after him.

A light flurry fell as David walked step by step into the snow. He made his way down a hill towards the frozen edge of the lake.

Hannah quickly tried to catch up with him.

“David!” she cried. “Don’t do this!”

Each stepped onto the ice and walked out from the shore. “David!”

He abruptly turned around. “What?!”

She came closer, but still a good distance away. “I know you don’t want to hear this. I just… I need you right now. You’re right. Our daughter is gone. And I don’t have anyone who understands like you – like my best friend.”

David paused. In that moment, against the light of the moon, her white hair seemed to glow. She looked beautiful. His instincts told him to speak tenderly to her, to hug her. But it was all too much too late.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “I’m done.” 

She could see, when they first dated, that he loved her. She could see him trying to be a good father and husband all these years. She could see him pulling back bit by bit. And she could see now what his words meant. No pretense. No euphemisms. Just the truth.

She lowered her head and turned around to walk back. But at three paces, the ice beneath her cracked and broke. Her body suddenly slipped into the freezing water, and screaming, she began grasping at the icy floor above her. Her arms and head bobbed up and down, splashing the water as she gasped for air. 

David ran slipping and stumbling towards her. Falling to the ground on his stomach, he reached down into the water to grab her flailing arm.

“I’ve got you! I’ve got you!” he yelled.

She held to his arm as tightly as she could as he tried to pull her up from the water, but the ice underneath him began to crack. He stopped, not knowing what to do. He tried pulling her up again and the ice creaked and cracked a little more. He froze.

At a younger age, even if the two had fallen in, they could have come out easily, but the soaked clothing on Hannah, and the exhaustion of everything held them to the ice. David yelled for help, but a full minute, then two, then three went by with not even a rustling among the trees.

The realization of what all of this meant settled on the two of them. Neither said a word, but David could see the resignation in Hannah’s eyes, then the blank sadness.

David became feverish with rebellion against what was coming. “I’m not letting you go!”

But as the minutes wore on, and as he felt Hannah loosening her grip, bit by bit, he felt the ache of the inevitable.

Memories of the two of them flashed through his mind. Their first date outside Starbucks. The look on her face when he asked her to marry him. Holding her hand at Abigail’s recital. All the moments only the two of them shared. All the looks only the two of them gave each other when they just knew. He was about to lose his best friend having spent years not realizing he even had one. “I am a fool,” he thought.

Back on the shore, God and Abigail stood watching them.

“Why are we here?” Abigail asked.

“I thought this was important for you to see.”

Abigail could not understand the meaning of this. In all the universe and all of eternity, God had decided to bring her here. This was not the everlasting bliss she had imagined on the other side. But she knew there must be a reason he brought her to this moment.

“Are they going to die?” she asked.

“All die. Some die once. Others die forever.”

“Is there anyone that can help them?”

“Yes, but they are all too far away.”

“She’s going to drown! Someone needs to help her!”

“She? My dear, she is not the one in danger. He is.”

It was only recently that Abigail began to see things differently. She had been so used to using her physical eyes and not so accustomed to the new dimension that had opened up to her. But she peered more deeply now into David and Hannah, past their bodies and into their souls. 

She shuttered. Her father was on the brink of something terrible, and they were not alone on the ice. A demon was whispering into David’s ear, at one point telling him to finally be rid of Hannah and at another, telling him he was a horrible man for thinking such things, and then at another telling him he deserved all this, telling him he was losing everything tonight and there was nothing he could do about it. Whichever thoughts stabbed him most, the demon would drill down even more.

“Do you see now?” God said. “Do you see the precarious situation he is in?”

“Yes, Lord. But my mother is in danger, too.”

“Your mother lived a virtuous life. No one saw the depth of the struggle she had simply getting out of bed in the morning, let alone watching after you, but I did. She persevered in raising you, loving you, till she became what she is today: a woman calling her husband back from spiritual suicide. Your mother will die in peace.”

Abigail, seeing her father’s mind get lost in the madness of his thoughts, could hardly look at him. 

“Why is everything so painful?” she cried. “I thought this was Heaven.”

“To be in Heaven is to be fully alive, my love. To be fully alive is to fully love. And to fully love will hurt until all those we love are safe and whole again. Remember, blessed are those who mourn.”

“There must be something we can do!”

“There is, but only if he wants it.”

God took her hand and brought her closer to the edge of the shore.

“Look inside him, Abigail. See the heart that has hardened. He stopped asking for help – he stopped believing – a long time ago.”

The demon whispered a constant string of words and images that passed through David’s mind. He was lost in the avalanche of emotions. “This was the appropriate end,” David thought. His life was a waste. He deserved this. 

His arm began to relax, and his grip began to loosen. There was no strength in him anymore. Every hope, every last drop of faith had emptied out of him. Abigail watched, aghast at what was happening. Her father stood on the cliff – the razor’s edge between Heaven and Hell. She buried her head in God’s chest, knowing there was nothing she could do.

David’s soul tumbled deeper and deeper. The demon kept whispering memories into his mind to seal his despair. He remembered all the times he yelled at Hannah, all the times he grew impatient and proud with her. He remembered all the demands he put on her, knowing full well she could break under their weight.

When that was exhausted, the demon whispered memories of Abigail – him carrying her up the stairs to bed, her learning to ride her bike, her telling him she wanted to go to Manila, him sending her off at the airport, and then seeing her body at the funeral.

Almost delirious, he whispered. “Oh Abby…” he said, “Oh Abby…. pray for me.”

Pray for me. The words were barely audible, but Abigail heard them, as loud as a bolt of lightning hitting a tree next to her. She looked quickly at David, and then up at God. God slowly nodded to her.

She stood up straight and wrapped her Rosary around her fist so tight it seemed like it would almost break. She began to walk towards the demon. The spirit stood up with vicious malice in his eyes and gnashing his teeth. He ran at her across the ice, but with one enormous right hook she sent him flying, skidding across the ice flat on his stomach.

She walked up to the spirit and planted her boot stiff and iron hard on his head. Leaning down to him, she screamed.

“Leave!”

The demon turned into a wisp of air and disappeared into the night.

Abigail walked over to David and touched his shoulder. He looked up and saw what he could barely believe: his daughter standing over him, smiling, and alive. He thought he had somehow died or that she might be a ghost or that he was delirious, but she reached down to her mother who had passed out and pulled her up out of the icy water.

Together, they carried her to the shore, and when they were safe there, Abigail vanished.

Chapter 5 – The Triumphant Wrestler

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1 Thousand Years Later

David and Hannah woke up under what looked like a magnificent cherry blossom tree. It’s pink leaves hung delicately on branches that stretched over them.

They had different memories of how they had gotten there. Hannah remembered lying on the hospital bed, looking up into David’s face years after that night on the ice. She remembered his face racked with worry. 

David, for his part, remembered falling to the ground in his home, gasping and pounding on his chest.

Both remembered fierce, fiery pain, like lightning shooting through every inch of their veins. It lasted for what felt like an eternity, and yet there was serenity in the experience. They knew it would end some day and end forever. And so it did.

They got up slowly, groggy from what felt like a long night’s sleep. David looked around him. The grass was a brilliant green and soft beneath him. A stream trickled by with what looked like golden koi fish dancing and darting about. Over the whole place and within himself was a profound stillness. 

Hannah noticed him first and stared at him as he looked around dumbfounded. It was as though she had never seen him before this moment, and yet everything about him was as familiar as the two of them sitting on the porch sipping lemonade like they used to do in the summers after Abigail died.

When David saw Hannah, she startled him. Her face glowed, and she was in a magnificent white dress with what looked like strings of diamonds winding their way through the fabric, glittering in the sun. 

Yet there was more to them. He did not know how, but he realized as he looked closer that each little string were days, months, and seasons Hannah had fought through her depression. The darkest moments shone the brightest.

“Is this where everything has been going all these years?” he said.

He gripped his arms, and shaking his head he looked pleadingly at Hannah. “I’m so sorry… I’m so sorry…”

Hannah came closer and took his hands. “I don’t think this is a place for crying.”

She stood up and looked down her dress as she stretched it out in the sun.

She looked up again at David and smiled at him. “I think you had something to do with this.”

Both of them noticed, in that moment, a light coming towards them through the trees.

“Who is that?” asked David.

“I don’t know. It must be someone important. Maybe the Blessed Mother!”

The figure came closer and closer, and as she pulled back a branch of a tree, David and Hannah saw it was their daughter. She got on her knees and the three of them hugged each other, grasping tightly. 

Abigail spoke. “God wants to talk to you. He sent me here to bring you to him.”

The three got up and walked through the woods to a clearing where tall, old stones stood vertical towards the sky in a circle. In the center of the circle, God stood, brilliant and arrayed in white.

He looked on them like a father seeing his children for the first time in years – finally home. His heart was bursting with relief at seeing them there, walking towards him. He ran to them and held Hannah and David tightly to himself. When he finally loosened, David spoke.

“I am so ashamed, I -“

“Enough,” God said. “The time for being ashamed is over. The time for being sorrowful is over.”

“I feel like I’ve been wrestling with you all my life.”

“You have,” God said. “And you have won.”

THE END

©2020 Catholic Anonymous

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