All Beliefs are Welcome Here!
I handed my granddaughter Bekka the toasted marshmallow, then watched as--eyes bright with anticipation--she gingerly pulled away the slightly blackened in spots outer shell.
I couldn't fight the grin of amusement as I watched her pop the gooey treat in her mouth with a sigh of absolute bliss.
Next to my herbal teas and honeycomb straight from our own bee hives, roasted marshmallows were Bekka's favorite treat. She handed me the stick holding the core for further toasting.
As I gazed at my granddaughter, for a split second her mother's face was superimposed over hers and I felt my heart wrench. My mind flashed back--back to the night three years ago when we received the heart breaking news...
Bekka had been six then, and her older brother, Brandon, had been ten. They had been spending the summer with us. My husband and I were sitting in the living room, idly chatting and having some tea.
The two kids were in the small room at the foot of the stairs, which we had set up as a little play room for them, playing a board game. It was the weekend, so they had been allowed to stay up a little later than usual.
All at once the front doorbell rang. I looked at the clock on the mantel and then at Marcus, my husband. "Now I wonder who that could be? It is nearly ten, not the time most of our usual visitors come by."
Marcus looked at me with one of his little grins. "Well sweetheart, we aren't going to find out sitting here. Let's go see who it is. I just hope it isn't Howard with news that Cara's cancer has returned. You know she has not been well these past three or four weeks."
Cara and Howard Mason's farm, which lay about eight miles from our own, were our closest neighbors.
I stood and then held out my hand to Marcus, my heart heavy. Cara and I had been friends for many years, and I often made little tonics and teas to help ease the pain.
As Marcus and I walked towards the door, we had no idea that our world was about to be shattered.
The minute I saw the police officer standing there, his hat in his hand, an uncomfortable look on his face, I knew something was terribly wrong.
As the man began speaking, I reached out and grabbed my husband's hand, for I had just gotten a brief vision of my daughter's face, pale and covered in blood.
A chill of foreboding washed over me, my seeings only occurred when something very bad had occurred--or was about to occur in the very near future.
I only prayed that this one was one of the times it would be a future see and not a past one.
As the officer began speaking, that slender thread of hope vanished. Kasha, our beloved daughter--our only child--was dead. She had been slain along with her husband by a drunk driver when he ran a stop light. They had both been killed instantly.
Our first warning that those grim tidings had been received by ears other than those of myself and my husband's came within seconds of the officer finishing speaking.
Bekka came flying out of the playroom, screaming hysterically. "You're lying! You're lying! Mom and Dad can't be dead!'
She ran straight at the officer and began pummeling and kicking at him, her face awash with tears as she continued to say those words over and over.
My husband and I both turned our heads to where Brandon stood in the doorway of the playroom, his eyes blank, his face emotionless, still as a statue.
I looked at my husband, we both knew the signs. We had to get rid of the officer quickly--before Brandon came out of his shock.
Brandon had fallen out of his crib when he was about two and a half. He had landed on his head, which had resulted in a slight mental instability in later years.
Although normally like any other young boy when he was calm, if he experienced any extreme emotion, he froze, just as he was now, and then erupted into violence.
I stepped forward and gently pulled Bekka away. I gave my husband a small nod towards Brandon, then flicked my eyes towards the police officer.
I knew he got my message when he reached up and rubbed at his right eye. Reaching up, I rubbed my left eye, letting him know I knew he understood my message.
Marcus and I had been childhood playmates, and later sweethearts. We had worked out the little message system when we were young and often used it in the same classroom.
I could not help it, for just a moment a small smile of secret satisfaction touched my mouth, despite the sadness of my thoughts.
In all the years that Marcus and I had attended the same classes, the teachers had not once stumbled onto our secret code.
Confident that Marcus would deal with both the officer and Brandon I reached down and took Bekka's hand. She was still weeping heavily as I led her towards the kitchen.
As I walked away, I knew deep down the pain that my dear husband must be feeling at what he was about to do. I heard the front door close just as Bekka and I walked through the doorway into the kitchen.
I heard the jingle of my husbands key ring and knew that he was unlocking the tall cabinet that stood in one corner of the front room. That cabinet held the syringes and sedatives we used on the rare occasions that Brandon became violent.
It was only later that Marcus told me what occurred after Bekka and I left the room.
Marcus' eyes had glazed over with tears at what he knew he was about to do. Grimly he had drawn up the dosage, then replaced the vial and turned to walk over to his grandson. He had been within about ten paces of his grandson when Brandon had erupted.
His pupils extended in his blank eyes, his mouth open in a screech of rage, Brandon had attacked his grandfather. He had hit him with enough force to send him to the floor--and to send the syringe of sedative out of reach.
I was trying to get Bekka calmed down when I heard the scream. Telling Bekka to stay in the kitchen, I rushed towards the front room.
I took the situation in at a glance. Grabbing up the syringe, I walked up and plunged it into the side of my grandson's neck.
Seconds later he toppled from where he had his grandfather pinned to the floor, trying to choke him. Even though Brandon was only ten, when he suffered the rage that usually resulted from that odd frozen state, he was extremely strong.
Marcus got shakily to his feet, rubbing his throat. He looked from his grandson to me, his eyes holding a soul deep pain.
Then we both turned as we caught a slight movement from the kitchen doorway. Bekka stood there, her wide eyes focused on her brother where he lay on the floor.
Lifting her eyes to us, her voice came in a bare whisper of sound. "Is my bro-bro dead too?" Then she broke down as she came up to Marcus and I, throwing her arms around our legs, sobbing harshly.
With breaking hearts, Marcus and I stood there beside the still body of our grandson, hugging our weeping granddaughter. Locking eyes, we both knew, without speaking, what we needed to do.
The children's only surviving relatives, save for us, was an aunt and uncle on their father's side. Marcus and I had both been present the only time that the middle aged couple had ever visited the children.
The couple had been cold and reserved during the entire visit, which had lasted less than two hours. That type of environment was not what these precious children needed.
CONTINUED IN SECTION 2