I Have Not Arrived

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI have not arrived

For the journey has just begun.

Oft I am weak and weary,

In the shadows, am undone.

–     –     –

I am a work in progress

The destination still in play.

Regret and disappointment

Often mar the traveled way.

–     –     –

Perfection far exceeds me

Far down the path it dwells.

Never grasping, always reaching,

All ‘round the shadow swells.

–     –     –

But in the distant twilight

Hanging in the shady nether,

A lamp is waiting yonder,

Reaching out beyond the tether.

–     –     –

Birds of carrion hover ‘round me,

At my heels, nip fear and galling.

Stumbling forward, I blunder onward,

All the while, the Master’s calling.

–     –     –

Words of comfort Jesus whispers,

In my ear, throughout the day.

“Stand thou fast and do not falter,

Darkness ends, for dawn holds sway.”

–     –     –

“Out of sorrow, hope is springing,

From your weakness, strength abounds.

Ever press you forth to journey,

Each step moves t’ward holy ground.”

–     –     –

“Soon the trials of life be over.

Then the day will e’er be won.

Rest awaits you ‘round the corner,

But for now, keep moving on.”

–     –     –

I strain to see the far illumine

I can almost hear them sing

Crying out in joyful tribute,

“Holy, holy is the King.”

–     –     –

Rest awaits me ‘round the corner,

So for now, I am revived.

I am a work in progress,

For I have not arrived.

~ Susan

 

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The Fate of the Epic Hero

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Like a true journey of discovery, we do not know what is around the next bend. Often our way is obscured from view. All we can do is simply take the next step, in hope, in faith, that with the following forward thrust, all will be well. Yet we should not neglect the journey, for our quest is not only about the destination. What happens along the road could make all the difference. It may shape the future of more than ourselves.

In many works of literature, we see the importance of the journey. This trek into the unknown is a metaphor for self-discovery.

It is the fate of the Epic Hero.

What defines an epic hero is that he must leave home, travel into the unknown, descend into darkness (death), be transformed (reborn), and ultimately return home a different man. A good example of an epic hero is Bilbo Baggins in J.R.R. Tolkien’s, The Hobbit.

Bilbo is the reluctant adventurer, forced upon a journey in which he must face many hardships. As he enters into the Mines of Moria, and then again, into the evil forest of Mirkwood, he descends into darkness, and in the depths of his fearsome trial, he finds his true self. Something inside of him has changed. He is now (reborn) an authentic hero; he fulfills his quest, survives battle, and returns home a different person than when he left (There and Back Again).

Throughout THE STONE OF EBENEZER, we experience the journey as we look with different eyes.

We follow the young Hebrew, Nagad, as he fights for his nation. We trek after the Philistines as we see a vision of their quest. And we follow the Seat of Yahweh, the Ark of the Covenant as it, too, is forced to wander.

In each case, something important is about to happen. The journey for each ripples through the saga to impact the destiny of those that will shortly follow. Come along on this epic quest as our hero journeys toward self-discovery and, ultimately, helps decide the fate of a nation.

~                  ~                  ~

Nagad watched as a third of the army turned and marched slowly away, their backs to their destination. Another path would have to be forged through the wilderness, another trek over the mountains. Their journey would be more difficult, their fate a different path than the remaining host. Fortunately, the priests with their sacred burden had made it beyond the flood before the torrent raged. The seat of God would continue on as planned. And the host of men would follow, a holy battalion on its way to its own destiny, unknowing the distant course that would be their doom.

Nagad glanced over at Orach, “Will the others make it in time?”

“They will find their own path and they will come when they come.”

“Those hills are difficult. It will be a challenge for so many to travel the mountain path. I am glad we are on this side of the stream. I do not envy their journey. I will not feel at ease ‘til we get to Eben-Ezer. I fear our delay will have dire consequences.”

“It is the journey, Na’ar, that is important. For with each step we are a little closer to finding ourselves. When we arrive, it is over and self-discovery is at an end. Yes, Na’ar, it is the journey that is important. Which path we are given is up to God.” (Pg. 30)

~ Susan51JU0NxzPNL

Read the exciting first book in the Trilogy of Kings Saga, THE STONE OF EBENEZER.

A nation falters, an enemy approaching; can one man overcome his past to lead his people back to God?

“An amazing, vivid account of biblical events is historically accurate where God’s judgments, treacherous journeys, blood battles and even romance come alive to the reader in this skillfully written epic story.” −Rev. Judith Wiegman

Grand Prize Winner in the New Look Writing Contest January 2015.

A Three-fold Struggle: Symbolic Significance in a Story

In literature, a motif is a recurring element that has symbolic significance in a story. Through its repetition, a motif can help produce other narrative aspects such as theme or mood. In THE STONE OF EBENEZER, we see Nature coping with the same 51JU0NxzPNLcrisis that our main character must face—it represents the contrast between the world God created and the world marred by man.

~          ~          ~

As they journeyed through the mountain pass, the cavalcade crested yet another hill. Below lay a lush valley full of orchards. The sweet fragrance of apple blossoms rose to meet them. A gentle breeze lifted pale pink petals into the air, twirling blossoms around the party, teasing the men until the flowers showered down like snow upon the mountain.

Now that is a pretty sight, thought Nagad as he took in a deep breath, savoring the smell of peace and beauty. And he wondered at the contrast between this loveliness and the horror of battle. How could the two reside in the same realm? Truly, Yahweh had created the world in beauty. Man it was who marred the land with war, tearing the very foundation of the earth asunder with the rampage of contention and rage. Yet the quest toward battle continued ever onward against the backdrop of God’s landscape. (pg. 23-34)

~          ~          ~

One of the main themes that runs through THE STONE OF EBENEZER is Revenge vs Forgiveness. The narrative speaks to the motives that drive what one does in order to come to terms with loss and trauma. Battle is used as a metaphor for personal struggle.

~          ~          ~

Dominating the landscape, across the undulating ground, Nagad beheld various shades of yellow and crimson, short-lived flowers of summer, fluttering in the soft morning breeze. The smell of spring, of the uncertain glory, hung in the air, a variant wave of freshness faintly perceived, coming with the distant scent of apples wafting up from the golden blooms of the crown daisy. Breathing in the smell of the field, the green lap of the vernal season beckoned from sleep and issued forth a flood of memories of youth and peaceful times, of white linen robes and youthful love, and the soft laughter of a virgin.

Transfixed by the flowery field, by the scarlet crowfoot residing close to the ground, each with a single stem that terminated in one ruby flower, and the gilded display of the crown daisy towering over the crimson carpet, Nagad thought: how like a flower we are. We come forth and then we are cut down and fade; as a shadow we do flee, lost in the dark of night, and continue not. Of neither do we make much account, for neither can bear our confidence, for all wither and are gone.

“At the end of day, we shall be lifted up,” Nagad spoke under his breath as he raised his sword before his face. “Though the way be long and hard, we will endure.”

Tiphcar, as he displayed his blade before the readied troops, exclaimed in a loud voice, “New is the dawn before us! Now is the hour that the Lord will be glorified! If God be for us, who can stand against us!”

And there, between Mizpah and Shen, the Philistines came rushing toward them in great number, hastening unto their own fate. The vision of the heavily armored and highly trained Philistines moving forward in tight formation sent fear into the hearts of the Hebrew lines. Yet, through the knee-high stems of the crown daisy, trudging through the bushy display of glorious yellow heads, the Israelites marched onward, increasing their pace until they surged forth in swiftness of speed.

Across the expanse they sprung, as lodestones drawn by an unseen attraction, which urged them onward. Colliding, the opposing lines recoiled, the violent concussion of the forceful impact sending men back a step in a carom of clashing colors. Trampled underfoot by the myriad of sandaled feet, by the forward thrust of the rushing troops, the scarlet flowers were soon crushed and covered in the crimson stream of life’s hemal nectar. As a wave strikes a boat amidships, the soldiers dashed against each other dealing deadly blow upon deadly blow. In contention they strove to obtain what the other possessed, but which only one could hold. (pg. 255-256)

~          ~          ~

In this scene, flowers are used to illustrate the drama of the battlefield, foreshadowing what is to come for the men fighting upon plain. Another motif is weather—the weather of the world—literally and figuratively—reflects the action and tension within the story. As nations erupt, so too, the sky ruptures in conflict.

~          ~          ~

Thunder sounded overhead as lightning streaked across the darkening sky. Rain came down in sheets, driven with great force by the west wind, as the thundercloud burst open, the heavens rent, suddenly violent, issuing forth a forcible storm. The silent expanse of nature, whose bowels gave way, ruptured with tumultuous agitation, the dreadful fury of the tempest amid fitful bursts of wind.

The road became impassible as the route quickly turned into a sea of mud. The Ark threatened to topple as the soldiers fought to keep their footing on the slippery roadway. A breach in the lines formed as the company stood leaning into the wind, fixed firm against the storm, yet no progress made toward their destination. Bludgeoned by sound, the roar of the driving rain and wind, accompanied by the crash of thunder, obstructed the exchange of words.

“Sar, dark is coming on fast, and we are surrounded by the tormented terrain,” yelled out Phicol. “We will never reach Ekron by nightfall. The way is too difficult.”

With sound radiating through time, notes rising then lost to decay, Caphtor retorted above the thunder’s bend with dreadful voice uttering violent denunciations, oracles severe, as the storm grew more feral. The internal pressure of nature mounted a crack of thunder as though the fissure of doom rent forth with a terrible fulmination, accompanied by the intense display of light, discharging upon the atmosphere with violent exertion. Unable to control the instinct, soldiers dropped where they were, ducking with arms raised to protect their eyes from the dreadful display.

“Sar,” called out Phicol.

“Fall out,” bellowed Caphtor. “We go no farther; make ready camp.”

Amidst a thicket of storax trees, the company of men set up camp with great difficulty. Tents were torn by the terrible tempest, supplies flung about in harried havoc, the battle for dominance over the tent spike continued into the darkness. The rush of the angry wind continued through the night as the sky flew apart and then collided with a loud explosion that shook the foundations of the earth. (pg. 176-177)

~          ~          ~

It is a three-fold struggle:

The conflict is an immortal struggle—a world ruled by the gods

The Philistine god—Baal vs the Hebrew God—Yahweh

A national struggle

The Philistine nation vs The Israelite nation

A personal struggle

The Philistine soldier Ekwesh vs the Hebrew soldier Nagad

The battle is brutal; the way is tough. We all face battles in this life, whether physical, emotional, or spiritual, and these battles are brutal, even as the conflicts are within THE STONE OF EBENEZER. And like our hero, we must push through the fight. This is the true sense of an epic journey, a journey that leads toward resolution.

May all your trials bring you to a place of peace.

~ Susan

THE STONE OF EBENEZER: The Story Behind the Story

There are some things that should not be forgotten, some truths not forsaken. This is a story torn from the pages of antiquity, in an age where gods ruled the land: two men, two nations, drawn into an immortal struggle.

THE STONE OF EBENEZER is a sweeping saga of loss and revenge that takes place in the days of the last judge of Israel. You will travel from the foothills of Ephraim to the coast of the Great Sea, through a tapestry woven with details.

 

~          ~          ~

There is always more to a story than what is read upon the pages of a book. It is when you understand the experiences and motives of an author that you can truly see the message delivered within the novel.

As you read, ask yourself:

Why did the author choose to write this particular story?

What message is the author attempting to convey?

When you know the answer, a depth of revelation strikes you, a secret insight that you alone share with the writer.

So what led me to write THE STONE OF EBENEZER?

On September 11, 2001, my father was killed by terrorist. The aftermath of this tragedy threw me into a struggle with doubt, grief, and trauma. I sought relief by reading, especially works of Tolkien. His experiences and insight into the subject of death and loss helped me to come to terms with my own journey.

Through this experience, I began to feel a story growing inside of me.

THE STONE OF EBENEZER—the stone of help—became an outlet for the lessons learned upon this road I was forced to travel.

Yet why this particular story?

I wanted to write about King Saul. The epic struggle between this tyrant king and his man, David, spoke to me. As I was developing the novel, I felt strongly that I needed to build up to the story of Saul, bringing to light the relationship between God and His people so that there would be an understanding of why it was wrong for the Israelites to ask for an earthly king like all the other nations.

The story came, but this nagging image of another character kept taking my attention. I added scenes to the beginning of my book in an attempt to quell the voice of this one leaning heavily against my mind. Then it came to me, as so often thoughts do, in the dark as I lay in my bed: make it its own story.

There was a message that needed to be told, a tale of importance, if not for the reader, for me. For you see, Nagad’s story is my story. His hurts, his thoughts, his struggles: they are all mine. To read this story is to read who I am. It is the journey I have taken.

THE STONE OF EBENEZER is a metaphor of life, my life.51JU0NxzPNL

It may very well be of yours. Whether your struggle is physical, or metaphysical, the battles we face are brutal. Yet, even as we face the trials in our life, there is One who can help us—our Stone of Help.

We have a choice: lean on God, or do it our way.

THE STONE OF EBENEZER is such a tale. As the characters face the struggles in their lives, they also have a choice. But will they choose well?

There is but one way to find out—

THE STONE OF EBENZER, Book 1: Trilogy of Kings Saga

May the Light of God shine upon your path.

~ Susan

Even This Day

I wasn’t going to do this today. I was planning on just getting through the day.

Yet as I distracting myself with the daily routine of living, this verse crossed my mind, “This is the day that the Lord has made, we will rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24

And I said to myself, “Yes, even today.”

Fourteen years ago today, at 9:37 am, my father lost his life. September 11, 2001 was a day of sorrow and terror. Even so, I have found hope. It was not all evil that day, but love and support, hope and encouragement.

Several years ago I wrote an article for the Dalhart Texan. The response I received was overwhelming. In fact, it was this article that inspired me to write my book, SILENT RESOLVE AND THE GOD WHO LET ME DOWN.

And so I thought this day, today, that the Lord has made, I would share it with you.

 

*                   *                   *

“Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life.

Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out

death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all ends.”

J.R.R. Tolkien

 

Thoughts on September 11

            The events of September 11, 2001 mark a change in my life. On that day my precious father, Stanley R. Hall, was ripped from this world as American Airlines flight 77 plummeted into the Pentagon in Washington DC. Numb and dazed we walked those first months. FBI agents, memorials, honors given, all a haze of lost senses. As we traveled by car to Virginia that night, the skies were silent, empty and dark. The amazing thing about the night sky without planes, the stars are more notable. It was as though the magnificence of God’s majesty shined the brighter for the lack of man’s influence upon the heavens. Beyond this world, there lies goodness that cannot be touched by evil.

 

            “The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope    returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty forever beyond its reach.”

                                                                        ~J.R.R. Tolkien

 

September, 11, 2001, a day like any other, began as a beautiful fall day, the air fresh, the sun warm, and the skies clear. As always the children and I began our day with our Bible study. The day’s subject was Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. In discussing the three being placed into the fiery furnace for their unwavering faith in God, I made the cryptic statement that no matter what happens in our life, even when we go through the fiery furnace, still we must follow the Lord. I did not know that at that very moment my own life would be put through the furnace and my words tested. But I think the key is in the word “through”, for we do go through, we do not stay in the furnace. There is an end to our trouble if we stand firm. For even as the three young men stood within the flames of the furnace, they were not alone, but a fourth stood beside them. We are not alone. And so I say “even so” I will serve the Lord.

“For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we may boldly say: ‘The LORD is my helper; I will not fear.What can man do to me?’”

                                                                       Hebrews 13:5-6

 

So what then can man do to me? For the keeper of my soul watches me. Though God’s protection is not always for our bodies, it is a constant for our souls. And in the end, it is our final home that is most important. This mortal coil which we cling to so ardently is not what it is all about. Yet when one that is loved is taken, we cannot help but look back at what has been lost. Memories haunt our thoughts, they sneak up and jar us unawares, then the heart ache grabs us and grief spills out as we melt into a puddle of emotion.

Memories, those distant thoughts that bind us to our past, cause so much pain, and comfort. I miss the sound of his footsteps upon the wood floor as he came home each night. I miss the soft creak of the stairs late at night when all others had gone to bed. His sneezing in the morning, the look upon his face as he silently sat and watched as the family gathered. His “how about that” so often said, his meaning clear “I love you.” I miss his resolve to lead a life of integrity, and honor, and steadfastness, his quiet and resolute spirit to follow God where ever He led, to whatever end. There is no question in my mind that on the morning of September 11th that my dear father followed God and entered into his glory.

My father was a patriot. Often a tear could be seen tracing a path down his cheek when the national anthem was played. Forever the flag, those beautiful stars and stripes, will be etched into my mind as a symbol of loss, of freedom, of pride.

 

 Flags flying, bold stripes of red and white,

Brilliant stars of freedom’s might,

Remind us all that freedom is

Bought with a precious price.

 

The terrible acts on September 11th demonstrate to us that freedom is not guaranteed. How fragile we hold it, knowing that its loss is but one generation away. We must never forget all who have sacrificed so much down through the ages, and are those paying for our freedoms still.

Yet when the cost is placed upon your own life, it is hard to bear. As we think upon the evil that runs ramped in this world it is easy to rise up and cry out, “Why God?” just as the prophet Habakkuk did as the Babylonian army marched on Jerusalem in 605BC.

 

 O LORD, how long shall I cry, And You will not hear? Even cry out to You, “Violence!” And You will not save.

You are of purer eyes than to behold evil, And cannot look on wickedness. Why do You look on those who deal treacherously,  And hold Your tongue when the wicked devours A person more righteous than he?”

                                                                                    Habakkuk 1:2; 1:13

 

Yet who can know the mind of God? God created man with free will, but this gift comes with a price. Man often uses his free will to choose evil. As long as we live upon this earth, the free will of man will touch our lives for good or for ill.

So what did God say in reply to the prophet’s question?

 

                     “Look among the nations and watch—Be utterly astounded! For I will work a work in your days Which you would not believe, though it were told you.”

                                                                                    Habakkuk 1:5

 

So I wait on the Lord.

 

  “I will stand my watch And set myself on the rampart, And watch to see what He will say to me, And what I will answer when I am corrected.”

                                                                                    Habakkuk 2:1

 

There is a comfort even in tragedy if one walks according to God’s will. “For the steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord” (Psalm 37:23), therefore each step taken must pass before the sanction of God. With the Lord’s ultimate control, the fabric of His plan is woven, each of His children being a single thread. It is a strange comfort to know that nothing can befall you without God’s approval. “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28) This is not to say that all things are good, but that they work to the good of our future, to fulfill the ultimate good of God’s plan – a plan of Redemption for humanity.

As I stand on the brink of a new day, looking to the east as the golden orb opens her eye above the horizon; I feel her warmth upon my face. Her radiant beams reach out across the skies and chase the dark of night away. So too I stand and wait upon God’s Son as he illuminates my new day with His warmth and love. And so I place my trust in Him, the Keeper of life, the Strength of my soul.

 

“I wish none of this had happened.”

“So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them

to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that

is given us.”

J.R.R. Tolkien

 

Sometimes the path is difficult, and we grow weary and we wish we did not have to face what lies ahead. No one can know our hurts and our sorrows. Yet the Lord knows, for He has walked this path before us. All we must do is follow Him through. Though that path may be slick and we may stumble, the Lord has gone before us and marked the way.

Life continues, the young grow, the seasons pass, yet one is missing. But he waits for me – I will join him in glorious reunion. His life has been a testimony of faith for me to follow. He lived his Silent Resolve. So I face a new day as I “haul up the morning” and though the morning may seem distant I stand firm knowing that the night must always give way to the dawn.

The books will be balanced – but not in our time, in God’s time.

 

 “For the vision is yet for an appointed time; But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie. Though it tarries, wait for it; Because it will surely come, It will not tarry.”

Habakkuk 2:3

 

Forever Changed

      As summer closes, and the fresh scent of autumn brushes against the dawn, my thoughts are pulled back to a day the changed everything for me. This week marks the 14th anniversary of September 11. I am often asked to describe what happen to me that day, of how I found out that my family was so personally involved in that tragedy. It has been a long and difficult road, but one I freely share.  Here is the first chapter in the record of my journey. May we never forget.

book cover 1

Episode 1 – Forever Changed

It seemed a thousand years ago

and on the other side of the world.

                                    ~ J. R. R. Tolkien

 

How do I begin? How do I tell the tale of all that has happened? Ten years it has been, as I sit here trying to put down the thoughts and feelings that have occurred since that day. It seems insurmountable to place into words all that has transpired, yet I feel a need to try. So how do I begin?

It is a tale wrought with anguish and woe, and yet, as I look back, as I walked in the dark path of suffering, I see more clearly that it is also a tale that has always been a Pharos that shone upon the way, though I could not see it at the beginning. But it was there, always there summoning me, as a beacon of light piercing the darkness, calling out to me from around the bend. All I needed to do was take a few more steps, and then I would have seen it. That is how it often is when trials come. We are blinded by our sorrow and fear to all that is available to help us. And so it happened.

God let me down. It was a beautiful morning. The sun shone brightly. A faint breeze brushed through leaves painted with gold and red, whispering of autumn. The blush of day was still and silent, as though inhaling a breath and holding onto it, waiting to exhale. Suddenly, the sound of engines roaring broke through the air, growing ever louder. In an instant, no life would be the same; my life would never be the same.

The events of September 11, 2001, mark a change in my life. On that day, my precious father, Stanley R. Hall, was ripped from this world as American Airlines Flight 77 plummeted into the Pentagon in Washington, DC. Numb and dazed, we walked those first months. FBI agents, memorial services, honors given, all a haze of lost senses.

How did we become entangled in this? How did my family get caught up in this conflict? I cannot answer these questions. All I know is that I am forever changed, marked by the wound of that day. I look back at pictures taken before September 11 and think, that was before, when we were innocent, before everything changed. I see myself as a different person than the woman in those photographs. Life is much more serious now. A shadow of mourning hovers over me each day. Living with grief is hard. The moment I realized my father was aboard the plane was like being slapped in the face for no reason. My breath escaped me. My chest constricted, crushing me with the weight of loss. For days, I was unable to swallow, except to swallow the grief.

That morning, I was ignorant of what was happening outside the walls of my bustling household. I was busy preparing for the day. Besides homeschooling my three children, I had just taken on the responsibility of running the children’s program at our church. I had planned to spend that beautiful September morning working at church, preparing the children’s church room. I was in the process of packing the car to make ready for the week’s activities, taking schoolwork for the kids, when the phone rang.

The phone rang. If only I had not picked it up, I could have stayed the sorrow that was to follow. But I did pick it up; ignorant of what lay before me with the words that would soon follow my cheerful hello.

“Where’s Daddy?” my brother asked, urgency in his voice.

Confusion swept over me. My brother was in Rochester, New York. Why was he calling me? My father lived in Virginia. How should I know where he was at that moment?

“Turn on the TV. Don’t you know the world’s coming to an end?” he cried.

He told me he had tried to call our mother, but all the lines were down in Virginia. He couldn’t get through to her.

I reached for the remote and turned on the TV. Horror filled my eyes as the news broadcast the planes flying into the World Trade Center. Then, as the nation let out a collective gasp, the towers collapsed. A cloud of dust and debris filled the city. All those people. Tears streamed from my eyes, yet I had no idea that our family would be pulled so personally into this tragedy. Then word came that the Pentagon had been struck. My father often worked in the Pentagon. My heart paused.

Through his company’s headquarters in Virginia, my husband was able to get through to my mother. She told us that my father was safe, for his plane to California had left earlier that morning. That was when fear began to take me. While I calculated events as the newscast pronounced them, I began to realize that the timing of the plane’s takeoff might mean that he was not safe. I held my breath.

Just as my mother was looking up my father’s flight itinerary, the newscast stated that Flight 77 had been the plane that crashed into the Pentagon. My husband repeated my mother’s words as I entered his office to tell him which flight it had been. I heard him say those words, words etched in my memory. “Flight 77.” I took in a breath. I wanted to scream. No. It couldn’t be. God would not let this happen to my father, he was always okay. He was the one who always took care of us. Nothing could happen to him. He would surely call and say, “Guess what happened to me on the way to the airport?”

My husband looked sorrowfully into my eyes and with a broken voice said, “I’m so sorry.” Horror struck, I returned his gaze. My mother hung on the phone. He must have told her that it was my father’s flight that crashed into the Pentagon, but I do not recall what followed. I stood aghast, unbelieving. Then I thought of my mother listening on the other end of the phone. What do I do?

I ran from the room. I did not want my mother to hear me sobbing. My first thought was that life was over. In an instant, the culmination of all my hopes and dreams came crashing down. There was no need to go on. Nothing would be the same. I did not care what happened to me. Death could take me. That would be all right. My heart was hollow, echoing of loss, each breath a struggle, each moment something to endure. What was the point of going on? All was lost. It was over.

Overcome, I collapsed on the floor. My two oldest children, then ten and six, ran over and wrapped their precious little arms around me, the remnant of him. Confused, they held their sobbing mother as I cried, “No, no, no” over and over again.

As I knelt there on the floor, cradling my body within my arms, I told myself, pull it together. You are carrying on for no reason. Daddy is going to call. We don’t even know for sure if he was aboard the plane. Stop crying and stand up. You are getting ahead of yourself. But what if it were true? What if he was dead? It was beyond my comprehension. After a time, I got up. I had to get control of myself. My little ones needed me.

I went to my husband and asked, “What do I do?”

He looked at me and said, “Pack your suitcase.”

Puzzled, I returned his gaze for a moment and then asked, “What do I put in a suitcase?”

I have spent my life traveling, packing many suitcases, but in that moment, I had forgotten. Numb, I turned and went upstairs. Previously, I had purchased a black dress. As of then, I had not had an occasion to wear it. I laid the dress upon the bed next to my suitcase. I refused to pack it. Black dresses were what you wore to funerals. The dress wouldn’t be needed; I knew my father would call. He just couldn’t get through. The phone lines were down. That was all. But the call never came.

My husband was finally able to contact the airlines. The representative confirmed that my father had checked in, but could not establish that he had actually boarded the plane. I knew he had. He would not have checked in and not boarded. Finally, I carefully placed my new black dress inside the suitcase and closed the lid. That was that. This is what it is.

All I could think was get to Mother. She was alone. We were in Texas; she was in Virginia. Never before had I felt so far away. My uncle lived in Maryland, my sister also; only an hour’s drive away from my mother’s house, but Washington, DC was shut down. The Beltway was closed. There was no easy way for anyone to get from Maryland to Virginia. She was all alone. All planes were grounded. There was nothing else to do but drive the long hours to Virginia.

I called my close friend to tell her what had happened and to let her know we were leaving town. Stunned, she asked if she could come over to be with me. I told her no. I was afraid that if she came to comfort me I would fall apart. I had to be strong. I had much to do, and I could not afford to break down. There would be time enough to grieve, but at that moment, I had to get to Virginia.

Hours slipped by. By late afternoon, it was reported that Al-Qaeda, a terrorist group of radical Muslims, claimed responsibility for the attacks. With this added knowledge, we began to prepare for the trip. We needed to get the car in good order. Anesthetized by shock, I dropped my husband off to run an errand, and then I took the car to get the oil changed. As the kids and I waited in the lobby, the news was on the TV, showing us over and over again the unfolding of terror. There was the Pentagon, its walls collapsed and burning. How could my father be in the midst of those flames? I looked away. The shop had a LEGO table set up, so I watched the kids build towers with the blocks as I held my eleven month old in my lap.

“Look, Mommy,” they called, “our planes are crashing into the buildings.”

A shock wave ran down my body. But I let them play, aware they were trying to make sense of the senseless, trying to come to terms with what their innocent eyes were forced to witness. Their lives would never be the same. They would have to live in this world, now so touched by hate.

In the stillness that followed September 11, the silent emptiness filled us with the stunned awe of disbelief. How could anyone do such a thing, such a terrible thing? How can we live in a world so full of hate?

So we drove, twenty-three hours stopping only for food and fuel. Twenty-three hours with three children, one of them a baby, cramped for what seemed like endless hours in the backseat. There was not a sound of complaint, not a whimper of discomfort as the hours stretched on through the night and into the opening of the next day. We kept the radio off, shutting our minds from the events that had occurred. The car was silent; the skies were dark, the hours rolled by. I sat stunned in my seat.

My aunt and uncle from Maryland finally made it through DC and stayed with my mother for a few hours until my brother from New York arrived. We finally reached my mother’s house on the afternoon of the twelfth. We came through the door tired and grieved. We fell into waiting arms, clung to one another, and sobbed.

How strange to walk this earth after death had come. I had experienced death before. Working as an oncology nurse, I had often held the hand of cancer patients as they slipped from this world into the next. It always struck me how surreal are the moments after death. How can the world and its people carry on as though nothing had happened? It is like looking through a lens, watching the events of life unfolding, yet without being part of it. In that moment, life stands still for the grieved, yet the rest of the world continues its pace through time uninterrupted. I wanted to shout, “What are you doing? Don’t you know someone has died? How can you go on as though nothing has changed?”

Well-meaning people would tell me, “Don’t worry, everything will be okay.” They would hug me or pat my back as though they could wipe away the sorrow. But how could everything be okay? You cannot fix everything. You cannot undo death. How will this ever be okay?

How do you go back?

“How do you pick up the threads of an old life? How do you go on, when in your heart you begin to understand there ‘is’ no going back? There are some things time cannot mend. Some hurts that go too deep … that have taken hold.” ~ Return of the King

    *     *     *

The story continues in SILENT RESOLVE AND THE GOD WHO LET ME DOWN (a 9/11 story). I hope you will join me in this journey, to see what is was that God revealed to me. May it be a light to you when your way is dark.

~ Susan

I Have Not Arrived

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI have not arrived

For the journey has just begun.

Oft I am weak and weary,

In the shadows, am undone.

–     –     –

I am a work in progress

The destination still in play.

Regret and disappointment

Often mar the traveled way.

–     –     –

Perfection far exceeds me

Far down the path it dwells.

Never grasping, always reaching,

All ‘round the shadow swells.

–     –     –

But in the distant twilight

Hanging in the shady nether,

A lamp is waiting yonder,

Reaching out beyond the tether.

–     –     –

Birds of carrion hover ‘round me,

At my heels, nip fear and galling.

Stumbling forward, I blunder onward,

All the while, the Master’s calling.

–     –     –

Words of comfort Jesus whispers,

In my ear, throughout the day.

“Stand thou fast and do not falter,

Darkness ends, for dawn holds sway.”

–     –     –

“Out of sorrow, hope is springing,

From your weakness, strength abounds.

Ever press you forth to journey,

Each step moves t’ward holy ground.”

–     –     –

“Soon the trials of life be over.

Then the day will e’er be won.

Rest awaits you ‘round the corner,

But for now, keep moving on.”

–     –     –

I strain to see the far illumine

I can almost hear them sing

Crying out in joyful tribute,

“Holy, holy is the King.”

–     –     –

Rest awaits me ‘round the corner,

So for now, I am revived.

I am a work in progress,

For I have not arrived.

~ Susan