Another Silent Night
September had never liked flying, but in her job, flying was a necessity. She never boarded a plane without being fortified with Valium or vodka. But not both at the same time. She had to keep her wits about her to deal with all the pressure. At first, the pressure had been exciting. Now it was a heavy burden. It kept her wondering when some young person would try to take her place at the helm of the company.
During the climb to the top, she had fantasized about the power and prestige. However, power and prestige didn’t bring the security she had sought. Then September 11, 2001, shattered the frail illusion of security she had built around herself.
Since then, she had been able to arrange her schedule where she could drive to out-of-town meetings, unable to face the thought of getting on one of those monsters that she had watched plunge into the heart of the World Trade Center in New York. It was unusual for September to watch television at that time of the morning, but for some reason, she had switched on the set just before the second tower was hit. She had not watched television for a month after that, and she even stopped looking at the paper until those pictures were no longer on the front page. Every time she signed a document, her name reminded her of the horror she had witnessed. Fear held her in a stranglehold. That is just what these evildoers, as President Bush called them, wanted. To paralyze the people of the United States with fear and a feeling of vulnerability. And September had fallen into their trap. She couldn’t get out no matter how hard she tried.
By the third week, she had her assistant get a stamp made of her signature. He used it on all except the highest security documents. That way, she didn’t see her name, but it didn’t help. It was getting harder and harder to maintain the facade of being totally in control when she couldn’t control her fear.
Now it was Christmas Eve. She was the only person in the office. Everyone else was off all day or had left at noon. That’s when John, her assistant, left. But before he went out the door, he invited her to attend a Christmas Eve service at his church with his family. She had told him that she would come if she finished what she was doing. He probably knew it was just an excuse, and she was sure he didn’t expect to see her there. He was just being nice.
John had taken the call from her brother letting her know that all of the family would be together in Minnesota for Christmas. It probably would be the last Christmas they would be able to spend with her beloved grandmother. Ordinarily, September would have booked her flight that day, but not this year. She made some kind of lame excuse and convinced herself she was doing the right thing.
September hadn’t been to church since she had moved to California as Vice President of Marketing. For several years before that, she had attended only when she was visiting some member of her very religious family. She didn’t have anything against religious fanatics. She just wasn’t one of them, even though she had grown up in church. She had even accepted Jesus into her heart when she was nine years old. She had prayed and read her Bible until she started college. But with working her way through college and maintaining a four point average, she was too busy. Now all those experiences were dim memories that busyness suppressed.
As September watched the sunset over the ocean from her penthouse office suite, loneliness dropped over her like a heavy mantle. Her gaze was drawn to a large church nestled among the high rise buildings. Its stone masonry was awash with light, and a twinkling star sent its beacon from high atop the bell tower. She could see the bells moving, but the sound was unable to penetrate her insulated world.
A forgotten longing from deep within exerted a magnetic force pulling her toward the church. People were streaming in the wide-open doors. Suddenly, September decided she had done enough for one day. Picking up a Gucci handbag and slipping into a Chanel coat, she stepped into the private elevator that took her to the glass enclosed lobby. The security guard/doorman asked if she would like him to bring her car from the garage.
“No. I think I’ll walk.” September ignored his raised eyebrows. So what if she was doing something completely out of character. After all, it was Christmas Eve. At the door, she turned around. “When do you get off, Harold?”
“Oh, I’ll be home by midnight, Miss Jones.”
“Good. I wouldn’t want you to miss seeing your children open their presents.” With a smile, September left the baffled man behind.
Once inside the now-closed door of the church, September slipped into the back pew, which was empty. She was glad. She really didn’t want to talk to anyone. Of course, she didn’t know what she did want, but it was not making idle conversation with perfect strangers.
I’m not a stranger, September. That long ago voice whispered in her spirit. How could she have forgotten the peace it brought?
Oh, Lord, her heart cried out. Tears pooled in her eyes, and she blinked to make them go away.
One lone drop slipped out of the corner of her eye, and September reached for a tissue in her bag. How long it had been since she had needed one for tears? She usually used them to help repair her nearly flawless makeup. After she dabbed the teardrop away, another soon followed. While a Christmas Eve service continued around her, September and her Lord became reacquainted. She felt no condemnation for her wandering, just a loving Father accepting His prodigal daughter home. And for the first time in a very long time, September repented, truly repented.
How could she have been so stupid? To think that she could make it on her own. Hadn’t her heavenly Father given her all the talents that had taken her to the top of her profession? Shouldn’t she have been using those talents the way He wanted her to instead of building a fortress for herself? A fortress that so easily shattered.
September slipped out of the service during the closing prayer. She didn’t have any more answers about the world situation than when she had entered, but she knew Who she trusted to take care of her. Pulling a tiny cell phone from her purse, she called an airline. Was it too late to get a plane to Minneapolis?
By the time she reached her car in the parking garage below her building, September had also called her brother telling him to meet her at the airport in four hours. She had just enough time to get to her penthouse apartment and throw some things into a bag. She was going home for Christmas secure in the fact that she knew where her security came from. Wouldn’t they all be excited? Especially her grandmother who had prayed for her all these years.
And excitement bubbled up inside her like an artesian spring in the mountains.
© 2001, Lena Nelson Dooley
I don't know how many of you are aware that I have a BlogTalk radio show on the Along Came a Writer BlogTalk Radio Network.
My show is "The Lena Nelson Dooley Show." On December 19, Lynne Gentry and I presented an old-time type of Christmas radio drama. It is available as a Free podcast on iTunes. Or you can to to the Along Came a Writer site and listen. Here is the link:
I hope you enjoy the show.