Chapter 7 - I Choose L.O.V.E. (Part 2)
If you haven't read I Choose L.O.V.E. part 1 (Chapter 6) read it first HERE.
Isabella stood in the kitchen of their small apartment, cutting up a red apple into slices while talking to Nathan. The juice from the apple squirted onto the dark granite countertop. Silver appliances trimmed in black shined in the background and sunflowers places in vases throughout the kitchen added just the right amount of color. The sound of chimes alerted her of a cell phone ringing. She grabbed her purse off of the counter and sifted through it until she found it.
“Hi Kristina! Yeah, sure. I can come over in about an hour. Is that alright? Okay, see ya then.” She hung up the phone and looked at Nathan.
“That was Kristina. I’m really worried about her,” she said, sitting down at the table. “It’s been over a year since Jayden’s death, and she doesn’t seem to be getting any better.”
“Everyone moves through grief at difference paces though, Isabella,” Nathan said, trying to reassure her.
“True, but this has taken her to a dark place. She just sits at her house all alone, rocking in that chair. She won’t go anywhere or do anything.”
“Well, why don’t you go over there and talk to her?”
“I am. That’s what she called for. She just asked me to come over. Maybe that’s a good sign. My mom and I have both tried to reach out to her several times, but she hasn’t wanted to talk to anyone.”
“Well, don’t give up on her. Take Michael’s Magic Box with you. Maybe he will send her a message that will help.”
“I won’t ever give up on her. I’ll try that. Thanks, Hun,” she said as she gave him a kiss on the cheek.
“Sure,” he replied, taking one of the slices of apple for himself.
Knock. Knock. Knock.
Isabella stood at Kristina’s front door for the longest time before she answered. She was mortified by what she saw when the door opened. Kristina’s eyes had dark circles around them, and she had lost more weight since the last time she saw her. Isabella could see it in her face.
Kristina was dressed in an oversized gray T-shirt and blue sweat pants. Her hair was pulled back in a pony tail.
“Hi,” Isabella said as she opened the door.
“Hi,” Kristina replied, seeming uninterested in engaging with her.
“How are you?”
She left Isabella standing at the door. Her side of the conversation seemed limited to one-or two-word responses.
“I’m worried about you, Kristina,” Isabella said, setting Michael’s Magic Box down on the table.
“No, you’re not.”
Isabella looked around at the messy house. Dishes were piled up in the sink. Clothes were strewn everywhere on the furniture. The floor needed to be vacuumed.
“Well, what do you want me to say, Isabella? No, I’m not okay!” she said loudly. “My son died! What do you expect?”
Isabella didn’t respond. Instead, she just stood there and let Kristina continue to vent her feelings.
“Do you know what it’s like to wake up every day with a dark cloud surrounding your life? Do you know what it feels like knowing that you have to live the rest of your life without your child? Do you know what it’s like to lose a part of you? No! You don’t! So stop trying to make it better for me. You can’t fix it this time, Isabella!” she said, breaking down in tears.
“No, you’re right,” Isabella said apologetically. “I don’t know what that feels like. I’m sorry.”
Kristina let out a sigh. “No, I’m sorry,” she said, giving her a hug. “I just miss him so much.”
“I know,” Isabella said, comforting her.
“My heart can’t take it much longer. I still cry every single night. Each morning when I wake up, for a couple of seconds I forget about the sorrow and the emptiness I feel inside, but once I become conscious of being awake, my heart feels heavy again. It’s hard waking up every day feeling as if nothing’s right in the world anymore.”
Just then Michael’s Magic Box began to shimmer. Isabella walked over to the table where it was sitting and brought it back down by Kristina. Upon opening it they heard:
Just the other night
I thought I heard you cry
Asking me to come
And hold you in my arms
I can hear your prayers
Your burdens I will bear
But first I need your hand
Then forever can begin
“He’s giving you a message on behalf of Jayden,” Isabella said with a smile.
“You think so?” Kristina said, looking at her with tears in her eyes.
“Yes, I know so. You’ve let Jayden’s death take you into the abyss of darkness, Kristina. Jayden wouldn’t want that. He chose love, remember. He would want you to do the same."
“I don’t even know what that means anymore.”
“I know this is hard for you to hear,” Isabella stated, “but you have to accept that Jayden is gone. You’re trying to hold on to him, to keep him alive, but it’s keeping you from moving forward with your own life.”
After a long silence, Kristina spoke. “I’m afraid.”
“What are you afraid of?”
“I don’t want him to fade away. I don’t want to forget the way he used to make faces at me to get me to laugh. I don’t want to forget how he used to hug me every night at bedtime and say, ‘I love you so much mommy.’ I don’t want to forget the way he smelled, the way he looked, the sound of his voice. I don’t want him to fade away, Isabella.”
Now Isabella was the one crying. “I can’t pretend that I know what you’re going through because I’m not a mother yet and I haven’t lost a child, but I do know that love is the answer.”
“Stop with the talk about love, Isabella!” Kristina demanded. “How can I possibly choose love right now?”
“How can you not, Kristina?” Isabella countered back. “You’re afraid of Jayden fading away, but what you don’t realize is that if you don’t allow yourself to feel love, that’s exactly what will happen. Jayden is in a place now where only love exists, so if you continue living with a closed heart, you won’t be able to feel him. Is that what you want?”
“No, of course not.” Kristina knew she was speaking the truth. Wiping her eyes, she said, “I never thought of it that way.”
“Jayden wanted to help the world choose love, remember! And you, his mother, aren’t doing that!”
“That’s because I don’t know how,” she said weakly.
“Take Jayden’s hand like Michael just said in that message. You can do that by going to the cemetery tomorrow morning, early. Sit there by yourself and talk to him. You will get the answer you need.”
“Okay, that’s a good idea,” Kristina said appreciatively.
“I’m going to leave Michael’s Magic Box here for you tonight, just in case he wants to give you another message. And take it to the cemetery tomorrow. I’ll get it from you later. You need it more than I do right now.”
“Thank you, Isabella, for everything,” Kristina replied, giving her a hug.
“You’re welcome, Sis.”
Later that evening, Kristina placed Michael’s Magic Box on the dresser next to her as she climbed into bed. As usual, her mind drifted right to Jayden. Thinking of what Isabella said, she whispered, “How do I begin to choose love?” Michael’s Magic Box started to shimmer. She reached over and opened the box and let its message play:
Mahatma Ghandi said, ‘The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.’ Tonight be strong.
“Forgive Jayden’s father. Pffft. Never! That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard,” Kristina uttered, setting the box back down in disgust.
She closed her eyes and said a prayer. “Why did you have to go Jayden? Help me understand.” Tears fell as she cried herself to sleep.
The next morning Kristina called Isabella before she went to the cemetery.
“Hi” Isabella answered, pouring herself a cup of coffee.
Isabella could sense an angry tone in Kristina’s voice. “Did you get a message last night?” she inquired.
“Yeah, but it wasn’t a very good one,” Kristina replied, sounding unappreciative of its contents.
“Why? What did the message say?”
“Basically…to forgive Jayden’s father.”
“Really?” Isabella asked, trying to sound supportive.
“I can’t forgive Jayden’s father!” Kristina said vehemently. “That would be like a slap in Jayden’s face.”
Isabella sipped her coffee then set the cup down. “Kristina, have you ever heard the phrase, ‘Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die'?”
Kristina didn’t respond.
“Your resentment isn’t hurting Jayden’s father; it’s hurting you,” Isabella said as she sat down at her table.
“I know, but I could never bring myself to feel anything positive toward him. I won’t do that!” she stated with passion.
“You don’t have to. Nobody is asking you to do that. That’s not what forgiveness is about. Forgiveness means letting go of resentment. You think you’re punishing him with your hatred, but you’re not. Do you think he cares if you resent him? Do you think he cares how you feel? Do you think he has thought about your feelings for one minute?
“No, I suppose not.”
“That’s right! The only person you’re punishing by holding on to your resentment is you,” Isabella said matter-of-factly.
“So what should I do?”
“Go spend some time with Jayden. You’ll get some answers,” Isabella encouraged.
“Okay, I’m going to go now. Talk to you later,” Kristina said before hanging up the phone.
Kristina parked her green Toyota car on the side of the road next to the cemetery. She got out and walked slowly to Jayden’s grave, feeling her sadness grow more intense the closer she got.
She knelt down and gently started clearing away the grass that covered his head stone. As she brushed it off, she discovered a piece of paper sitting nestled underneath the grass. It was a poem. She read it out loud:
I heard your tearful prayers last night
About why I had to go
So I asked God if I could share
A secret that I know
The secret is that I live on
And I can hear your prayer
Be strong and move ahead with life
Assured that I am there
Kristina looked all around to see if anyone was there, but she was alone. How did this note get on Jayden’s grave? she thought.
Just then she felt his presence very strongly. Again she looked all around her. No one was in sight but she knew Jayden was with her. She touched the poem to her heart and began to cry. “Jayden, I feel you here with me,” she said speaking out to him. “What do you want me to know?”
Suddenly an image flooded her mind. She saw Jayden standing in heaven receiving the blessings that were so deservedly awaiting him. She saw him surrounded by love and light. She felt an angel with him, instructing him that his mission wasn’t finished, that he was now to complete it from heaven. She saw the angel telling him to continue touching the hearts of those who love him, because it will help them heal.
Then she heard the angel whisper to her, “Jayden’s mission is to help people choose love, and you are part of that mission.”
Kristina relaxed into the grass next to his grave, feeling like she had just been touched by something sacred. It soothed her soul and made her feel connected to Jayden in a way she never had before.
Tears flowed down her cheeks as she spoke to him. “I’ve been holding on to you with every ounce of strength I have in me, Jayden, but I know I have to let you move on to do your work in heaven now.”
After a few moments of stillness, she continued, “All I ask is that you never leave me. I won’t forget you, but please don’t forget me either.” Just then Michael’s Magic Box started to shimmer. She gently opened the box.
I’ll never let you part, for you’re always in my heart.
She knew Michael was speaking on behalf of Jayden.“I’ll never let you part either, Jayden. I promise.” She closed the box and softly whispered, “I choose love.”
When she said those words, an incredible wave of peace came over her. In that moment, she was able to let Jayden move on to eternal life, knowing he would always be with her. She felt the resentment leaving her mind and body and in turn, she freed herself.
Folding the piece of paper with the poem on it, she tucked it safely into her pocket. “Now, forever can begin.”
Knock. Knock. Knock.
Isabella stood at Kristina’s doorway waiting for her to answer.
“Hi, Isabella,” Kristina said with a smile. A welcome sight, Isabella thought.
“Hi. What are you doing?
“Really? What are you writing?”
“I’m writing a children’s book. Actually, it’s a series of books.”
“You are?” Isabella said excitedly.
“Yeah, and guess what the series is called?”
“What?” Isabella said, anticipating her response.
“I Choose L.O.V.E.”
“Aw, that’s so nice,” she said, picking up a manuscript that lay on the table.
“Something’s changed about you, Kristina!”
“Yes, it has.”
“What happened to cause this change?”
“It was my visit to Jayden’s grave,” she said, handing Michael’s Magic Box back to her.
“After that visit, I felt a creative spark light up inside of me and the inspiration hasn’t stopped since. When I got home, I felt an urge to write. I started letting the words flow out of me on to paper and before I knew it, a children’s book had manifested. I’m already on my third book. Each one has a story in it about a child who chose love in some way.”
“Very creative,” Isabella said, praising her. “What a great way to honor Jayden’s memory.”
“Yes, and you were right, Isabella. I had to let go of the need to keep him alive in my mind. Now I feel him alive in my heart.”
Isabella’s eyes opened wide as her eyebrows went up, a smile spreading across her lips. “I have an idea!”
“What?” Kristina asked.
“What if I turned some of your books into short films?”
“Really?” her eyes widened with excitement. “You could do that?”
“Uh, yeah!” Isabella laughed. “I’m a filmmaker.”
Several months later, three of Kristina’s books had been made into films. One morning, Isabella sat talking to Nathan about the films over breakfast.
“They turned out so good, Nathan. I can’t wait for people to see them.”
“You know what? Now I have an idea!” he said, pointing his finger upward.
“What?” Isabella squirmed in her chair wanting to know more.
“Let me see if I can pull it off before I say anything else.” He gave her a kiss and left out the door for work.
“Can I talk to you for a few moments, Tom?” Nathan asked the hospital administrator.
“Sure, come on in, Nathan.”
“I have an idea I’d like to run by you.”
Isabella and Kristina were sitting at the kitchen table, talking and drinking soda when Nathan walked in.
“C’mon. I want to show you both something.”
“Where are we going?” Isabella asked.
“To the hospital,” he said, grabbing his keys.
“What? Why?” Isabella said, sounding nervous.
“You’ll see. No questions,” Nathan replied with a smile.
They parked the car in the hospital parking garage and walked to the door.
“Nathan, please tell us what is going on!” Kristina begged.
“No!” he said, trying to keep the mystery going. “I said no questions. You’ll see in just a moment.”
They entered the elevator and he selected floor 3.
“Floor 3? That’s the children’s wing!” Isabella shrieked.
“Yep,” Nathan said in return.
When the elevator door opened, they couldn’t believe their eyes.
Isabella and Kristina gasped in delight as they saw posters of illustrations Kristina had used in her books all over the walls of the hospital. At the top of each poster were the words I Choose L.O.V.E. Drawings of children she had written about in her stories covered the canvases. They were bright, colorful and cheery. Kristina held her hand over her mouth in disbelief as she looked at the beautiful drawings adorning all the walls.
“Let’s go this way,” Nathan motioned to the two of them.
They entered a hallway leading to rooms filled with ill children. As they passed one room, they noticed a father sitting on a chair next to his son, reading one of Kristina’s books to him. “Oh my gosh!” Kristina spoke softly, stopping at the door to observe. The child and father were so caught up in the story that they didn’t even hear her. It was a joyous sight to see the man animated as he pretended to be each character in the book, the boy holding on to his every word with sparkles in his eyes.
“Did you arrange all of this?” Isabella said to Nathan, locking arms with him.
“Yes. I asked the hospital administrator if I could have them brought in here.”
Kristina walked over to him and gave him a hug. “Thank you, Nathan. This means so much to me.”
“You’re welcome. But there’s one more thing I want you to see.”
“There’s more?” Isabella said in delight. They turned the corner and came to a big room where several families were sitting watching a movie. The words I Choose L.O.V.E. flashed on the screen. It was one of the films Isabella had made from Kristina’s books.
The three of them smiled with joy as they observed the families having a great time watching their film. The children were allowed to eat snacks, so they all had popcorn and candy. It was heartwarming to see families laughing and bonding over a movie that had been inspired by Jayden.
Isabella looked at all of it with childlike wonder. It was the most beautiful sight she had ever seen: books, movies and posters that read “I Choose L.O.V.E.” all over the children’s wing, kids being entertained while they were in the hospital, and parents being allowed to spend time with them, all while learning about how to choose love.
Isabella and Nathan started chatting with a nurse in the movie room, so Kristina whispered softly to them, “I’m just going to walk around for a few minutes.”
“Okay,” Isabella nodded.
Kristina wandered back to the room where the father was reading to his son. As she approached the door he looked up at her and said, “Hi.”
“Hi,” she answered.
“Can I help you?”
She paused for a moment, then said, “I was just wondering what you were reading.”
“It’s called Jayden and Jack,” he said holding up the book to show her the cover. “It’s part of a series called I Choose L.O.V.E. Have you heard of it?”
“Yeah, I think I have,” she said, leaning her head onto the side of the door with a smile.
“Do you like the book?” Kristina asked the child.
“Yes!” he replied with a great big smile. “I love it!”
“Why do you love it?” she quizzed him.
“Because it tickles my heart.”
“It tickles your heart? Oh, I love that! ” she said, folding her arms with a smile.
“My favorite person in the story is Jayden,” he said while adjusting the oxygen tube in his nose.
“Yes. He’s brave. I want to be just like him!”
Kristina tried to contain her tears when he said that.
“They are definitely great books to read,” the father said to Kristina. “They have an inspiring story behind them too. I’ve heard the author wrote them after losing her son.”
“Oh?” she said, trying to maintain her composure.
“Do you have any children?” he asked innocently.
Pausing for a moment, she replied, “Yes, I have a son.”
“Where is he?” the boy asked.
Patting her heart with her right hand, she said, “He’s right here.”
Isabella was getting ready for bed later that evening, talking to Nathan about what they had experienced that day in the hospital. Sitting on their four poster queen sized bed rubbing lotion on her arms, she said, "Thank you Nathan for what you did."
"I can't believe what a difference it made for those kids. It brought so much positive energy into the hospital."
"I know. It really did." He said recalling the joy on all the kids faces.
Just then Michael's Magic Box began to shimmer. Nathan opened it and heard an unfamiliar message. It wasn't the voice of Michael this time. He heard only the sound of children playing.
Sounds of children playing
"What do you think that means?" He asked looking at Isabella with a confused look.
"I think he's trying to tell us that Jayden is happily playing in heaven now that he knows his mom is going to be okay." Climbing into bed, she pulled the flowered comforter over her body and let out a sigh of relief.
Looking over at Michael's Magic Box she said, "Thank you for helping Kristina heal Michael. Take care of Jayden up there."
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© 2012, Linda Higgins, All Rights Reserved
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