The sun strained to break through the sheer, dingy yellow closed curtains in Alicia’s bedroom. How she hated their drab color and lack of privacy. Her mother had insisted on that style so Alicia would avoid shutting out the daylight when the curtains were closed to guard against the sun’s heat. The thought of her mother sent a fresh flood of tears down her brown cheeks. Alicia buried her head into her pillow and screamed until she felt her lungs burning.

Why had her mother left? She had done everything she could to keep her mother with her. She prayed and pleaded to God. Alicia had held her mother’s hand as the chemotherapy brought wave after wave of nausea across her mother’s stomach and she expelled things neither mother nor daughter wanted to ponder. Night after night, and day after day Alicia had given her heart to her mother, and her God.

Yet, the aggressive stomach cancer stole away Alicia’s mother. The doctors offered no answers other than, “Sorry.” For all of her prayers, and all of the prayers her friends and family claimed to have given, the stomach cancer inside her mother’s body had won. Alicia stared up at the ceiling and scowled, “I thought you were all powerful, but you’re nothing more than a fantasy.” She buried her head into her pillow and wept until it was soaked.

Her aunt and uncle had taken her into their home since her mother’s death. Alicia had requested they take her to her childhood home to mourn, and they were happy to oblige. The couple seemed to know exactly what Alicia needed and left her alone in the empty family house. They promised to return whenever Alicia was ready to be picked up.

Bereft of any more tears, Alicia sat in silence and stared at the muted sunlight filtering through the curtain. She took a long, deep breath. The air around her around her begin to turn cold. It was like an icy touch, and yet it felt so familiar. Soon, the cold enveloped her body, but she did not feel afraid. Her loneliness disappeared, and for a moment she swore she could feel her mother’s arms around her. Alicia closed her eyes and whispered, “Is that you, Mom?”

Not a word was spoken. It seemed as if all sound had disappeared. Alicia felt like she was in a dream, and yet still wide awake in her old room. Alicia had no idea how long she sat there. The freezing air seemed to slowly warm up, and soon she felt empty again. Alicia opened her eyes and looked around the room. She was alone once more, but she no longer felt alone. A sigh escaped her lips and she whispered, “Thanks, Mom.”

Alicia looked up once more at the ceiling, “I’m still mad at you. Why did she have to suffer? Why did you take her away? You know I needed her.” She tossed the bedroom pillow from her hands and it hit against the wall with a soft thud and fell to the floor. Alicia forced herself up and headed down the familiar, empty hallway of their small two bedroom house to the kitchen for some water.

A knock at the door made her jump. “Who can that be?” she asked herself as she put down her empty glass.

Alicia was not in the mood for any visitors and ignored the knock. A second knock seemed to reverberate around the house and Alica nearly knocked over the glass as her hand jerked. She headed to the front door, partly out of fear, and partly out of anger. Alicia swung open the front door. A tan man with black hair and eyes stood over her. She estimated him to be well over six feet tall. Even in his black suit his large biceps and well-developed chest were easily seen underneath the straining silk fabric.

The stranger smiled. He had the whitest, straightest teeth Alicia had ever seen in her life. He stuck out his hand, “I’m Pedro, and I have a message from the Lord.”

Alicia rolled her eyes and answered curtly, “I’m not interested.” She attempted to slam the door, but it would not budge. She grabbed it with both hands, determined to send it crashing into the doorjamb with all her might. Instead, it held as fast as the wall it hung from. The sudden rush of fear was soon replaced by anger and annoyance at the unwelcomed drama.

“Go away!”

Pedro did not flinch.

Alicia slammed the side of her fist against the door. “Why? Why is this happening?”

Pedro’s voice seemed to calm her rage inside her heart, “Because it happens to all of you.”

Alicia buried her head into her hands and started to cry. She felt Pedro’s large arms wrap around her body, but she did not feel afraid. Peace and warmth seemed to surround them as if she was wrapped in a mother bird’s wings. Alicia’s mind knew she should try to break free of the stranger’s embrace, but her broken heart reassured her she was safe.

Pedro released Alicia and stepped inside the house. Alicia turned to say something and the door gently swung shut of its own accord. Pedro sat down in her mother’s worn recliner and pointed to the couch. Alicia wanted to protest, she wanted to run in terror, but she needed to know who this stranger was that caused her such fear and love at the same time.

Pedro began before she had a chance to fully sit down. “I came here with a message. Your father wants you to know that he is watching over you.”

At the sound of “Father,” Alicia slapped the back of the couch. “I have no father, my dad left me when I was a baby.”

“Not that father, child, your real Father.”

Pedro’s dark eyes felt as though they could penetrate right through her. “Who are you?”

Pedro’s laugh seemed to brighten the room, “I told you, a messenger from God.”

Alicia had seen too much to dismiss him as a nutcase. Still, she was not sure she could trust him. “Who was that in my room?”

Pedro’s face relaxed, love filled his eyes and he reached over and took her hand. Electricity gently flowed up her arm. “You know who that was. She wanted to say goodbye.”

Alicia pulled her hand away and crossed her arms. “Why did she have to die? Why did she have to suffer.”

Pedro shrugged and pointed towards the ceiling.

Alicia blurted out, “What kind of message is that?”  

“I’m not here to talk about your mother, I’m here to talk about you. I know you feel alone, He knows you feel alone. Don’t believe the lie that death is a part of life, it was never supposed to be this way. Let yourself be sad. Let yourself be angry if it helps you, but don’t let your grief take you over. God is listening and wants to comfort you.”

Alicia stood and began to pace. She turned and flailed her arms as she spoke, “What about my mother? Is she with, Him? Is she safe, happy, is she glad God tore her away from her daughter?”

Pedro leaned forward, rested his elbows on his knees and looked down at the floor. “Where your mother is,” he sat up and looked her in the eye, “Time is different there. You two are apart now, but you’re together where she is. Time is not linear as it is here.”

Alicia sighed and dropped down on the couch. Her fist punched the cushion next to her. “Well, time is “linear” here, whatever that means. I need my mother.”

Pedro stood and peered down at Alicia. “Your aunt and uncle will care for you, but you must not blame them for your mother’s death.”

Alicia stood and looked up into Pedro’s dark eyes. “That’s silly, I would never blame them for mom’s death.”

Pedro nodded, “Yes, but you’re directing your anger towards them. They’re hurting too, don’t forget that.”

Alicia closed her eyes and buried her head into Pedro’s strong chest and wrapped her arms around him. The smell of roses and lilies filled her nostrils. She felt his strong arms wrap around her once more. “I wish you could stay.”

“The Father’s spirit is with you, in your heart, but I will not be far away.”

Alicia breathed in Pedro’s pleasant fragrance once more. “Do you promise?”

Nobody answered, and Alicia opened her eyes. She found herself standing alone in the middle of the family room clutching her mother’s favorite pillow. Alicia dropped the pillow and flung open the front door. Up the dusty road at the top of the hill, the silhouette of a large man slowly walked towards its crest. Tears began to form in Alicia’s eyes, it had all been an illusion. Perhaps she was losing her mind.

As if the distant stranger heard her, he turned around and waved. A familiar voice traveled across the gentle breeze, “I’m not far away.”

Alicia wiped the tear trailing down her cheek. She walked back into the house and called her aunt to come and pick her up.

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