116. Amazing Grace

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Albert fussed with the two Championship tickets in his trouser pocket, running them between his thumb and forefinger, as he walked up the short flight of stone steps and pulled open the heavy wooden door. He made his way through the small entryway and came into a room that struck in him a sense of awe.

Albert hadn't been to a church in ages. He wasn't even sure how long it had been. But when he'd attended Sarah's funeral, he had realized that he was going to need to lean on the Lord to make it through. He didn't have any other way to make sense of what had happened. How could someone so young and so beautiful have been taken from his life so soon?

Now, here he was, standing inside First Baptist Church. He had been raised a Baptist, but this church was very different than the one he had attended as a child. The inside was grand, and there were tall arched windows of stained glass on every wall. The light of the early morning illuminated the colored panes, giving each representation of Jesus and Mary an added glow of beauty.

It was a Tuesday, and the pews were empty now. There would be no formal service today. Albert wanted to start small. He wasn't sure he was ready to sit through a crowded mass, but he could come and sit here quietly and pray. He sure felt like he had a lot to pray about. There was so much that had happened in this past year. His life seemed so much different than what it had been just twelve short months ago.

At the front of the church, the choir was practicing. They were in the midst of warming up, and although it was only a rehearsal, they were all wearing their dark purple choir robes, shimmering under the morning rays.

Albert smiled as he remembered taking Sarah to church when she was just a little girl. She had wanted to join the choir and had talked about it at great length, but in the end, she'd been much too shy to join. Albert had tried to persuade her, but she insisted that she couldn't get up and sing in front of all those people. So each time the two of them made it to church, which was seldom to be fair, Sarah would sit quietly in the pew next to him, and watch the members of the choir with an expression of longing on her small face. Albert remembered how much he had wished that he could talk her into it. It was obvious how greatly she wanted to get up there and sing.

Albert headed to the back of the church, his cane echoing as it tapped against the hardwood floor. He slid into a pew, setting his cane on the seat beside him. At first, he just sat there, mindful of the quiet serenity around him.

A few minutes later, Albert bowed his head and began to whisper a prayer. "Sarah, if you can hear me ... I just need to say that I'm sorry. All I ever wanted to do was protect you and keep you safe. And when you got sick, I couldn't do those things."

A sob broke through his voice.

"I really wish I could have been there for you. I wish you were still here with me. I wish you were alive and well, and it makes me crazy that I can't make that happen. I don't know how I'm supposed to keep moving in a world where you aren't here. I know that I have to do that, but I'm really just not sure where to start ..."

Albert reached into his pocket and pulled out the pair of tickets.

"Sarah," he continued. "You always said I was too much of a hermit ... and I needed to get out of the house more often. And I know you wanted me to go to those baseball games with you. Well, here they are ... Championship tickets. But I'm going to give them away ... unless you or the big fella can give me some kind of a sign."

Albert wiped the tears away and stared at the tickets. After a while, he gave a heavy sigh. How stupid of him to expect some sort of divine message of what he should do. Maybe coming here was a mistake. He stepped out of the pew and walked along the side, past the confession booths, toward the side exit.

Built into the wall, there was a "Collection for the Poor" box with a slot at the top.

Albert was going to drop the tickets into that slot, and two lucky people would get to go to the Championship game for free. He came up to the box and raised the tickets toward the slot when ...

A light, shining through stained glass, beamed onto the tickets in brilliant colors.

Albert turned his gaze up to that window. It was a golden cross with green vines twined around it, and the vine in front was shaped like an "S."

Sarah!

Albert began to cry. The tears that fell from him were a mixture of sadness and joy. His heart ached that Sarah was gone, but he was also happy that she might be up there.

Albert looked down at the tickets, and a tear fell from his face and landed in the center of the word "Game" written on the ticket. Just as the tear hit the paper, the choir began to sing.

Albert gasped aloud.


Amazing grace! How sweet the sound

That saved a wretch like me!

I once was lost, but now am found;

Was blind, but now I see.


Albert's tears turned into quiet laughter. He threw his head back, laughing and crying all at once.


'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,

And grace my fears relieved;

How precious did that grace appear

The hour I first believed.


Amazing Grace had been Sarah's favorite hymn. She was up there. And she was still with him. Her spirit would always be with him.

And with that, Albert returned the tickets to his pocket and exited First Baptist, whistling Amazing Grace as he tapped his way home.


Author's Note

I'm not sure when the idea of a divine message came to me, but when it did, I decided it was important to share this message: With faith and hope, overcoming any obstacle is possible.

When bad things happen, all too often, people believe they have no options, and that holds them back. But faith and hope drive healing and change.

In  a sense, this is Albert's revelation and rebirth. And it just goes to prove: You really can teach an old dog new tricks!

I hope you liked this chapter. Four to go.

Best Regards,

Tom

P.S. If you haven't done so already, be sure to check out the "Amazing Grace" music video via the chapter image. It's a beautiful representation of how Albert felt at the end of this chapter.




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