Jackson sat in the front pew, but today was different. His world had changed. It was not in an instant like most people claim. His world had transitioned over a matter of weeks, months. Now he sat there, unable to recognize the people standing around him. His world now a blur of merged colors and shapes. Jackson could feel their hands. Men and women, young and old. He had never really paid attention to the different ways hands felt. He knew his wife’s touch. Her whole hand pressed firmly on his shoulder. She had a comforting touch that always brought him peace.
He could feel the hand of the pastor. His grip was firm on the base of his neck. It reminded him of his father’s touch when he was a young man. Yet the pastor was his age. One of the older ladies in the church had a hold of his arm. He could feel the loose flesh of her fingers laying on his skin. Jackson imagined that was what his grandmother would feel like now if she were still alive. The pastor’s wife was praying, and many of the voices rose up pleading and agreeing with her. All of them begging God to return Jackson’s site to him.
Jackson caught a whiff of cheap cologne. That was the head deacon, George. He always smelled that way. Jackson thought maybe it was George’s way of avoiding “old man” smell. He turned his head, and the smell of tobacco nearly knocked him over. The smoking saints were all standing to his left. He supposed they grouped together because nobody else could put up with their odor. Jackson could feel the corners of his mouth begin to curl up with his tightening muscles. He bowed his head so others could not see him smiling at his own thoughts. After all, this was a solemn moment.
With his head bowed Jackson joined in the prayer. The lilting voice of Amanda filled his ears. She was a godly young woman whose smile could light up a room. Jackson realized he may never see her smile again, but her voice, he had never noticed how angelic it sounded. Indeed, it was far more uplifting than her bright, happy face. As she begged God to restore his sight, Jackson began to pray himself. “Father, I’m okay, I really am. You know I want to see, but I’m okay if I don’t. I know you have a plan.”
From within his heart, Jackson heard a faint reply. “You will be healed.” Was that his mind, or something else?
“I know, Father. One day, I believe, but I’m okay if it isn’t today. You are showing me so much. I can feel the sunrise and tell by a touch who is standing in front of me. And God, it’s so funny that people think I can’t hear them because I can’t see. I hear so many funny things. I know exactly who is talking. Thank you for that. I have heard so many funny and interesting stories, and some sad. Thank you for bringing these people into my life.”
“You will see, be at peace.”
Jackson was unsure if his mind was speaking or his prayers were bouncing around in his head. The old wooden floorboards began to groan as people attempted to adjust their sore and stiff bodies. Jackson knew the prayer meeting was almost over. “Amen.” said the group. There were many hugs, and Jackson could feel the tears of some of the women against his cheek as they said goodbye.
That night he lay in his bed looking up. The world a dark blur. The sound of his wife’s slow, steady breaths brought reassurance to the chaos that surrounded him. Jackson could hear his children down the hall in their beds. Small snores could be heard from his boy’s rooms. There was a time when Jackson feared the dark. He was afraid of what might appear. Now he feared nothing. The silence of the night was not silent. It was full of life. Crickets chirped just outside the window. An owl sang its ghostly hoot in the distance. God’s creation was all around in the night. He had nothing to fear.
Jackson contemplated what was to come, and he prayed quietly, so as not to wake his wife. “God, whatever your plan is, thank you. I do have one request. If I can just see my children grow into men. They are such precious boys, and I want to see what sort of men they become. Still, who am I? Better men than me never get to see the world or have children. No matter what happens, thank you.”
In his heart, Jackson heard, “Be at peace.”
He smiled, closed his eyes and drifted off to sleep.
The bright morning sun awoke Jackson. He blinked at the morning light. Through the large picture window stood the trees in his backyard. The maple and poplar were green and full of healthy leaves. A bluebird sat on a low branch and appeared to consider Jackson through the window. Then it hit him, he could see! Was it just for today? Was it for always? It didn’t matter, he could see. Jackson started to wake his sleeping wife but stopped.
Jackson slid out of bed and into the shower. He wanted to relish his renewed eyes privately first. Alone in the shower, he looked towards heaven. “Thank you, God. I don’t know why or how, but thank you.”
The familiar inner voice spoke, and this time Jackson knew it was not himself. “Remember what you have seen. Never forget.”
“I will never forget, Father.”