91 Fugitives

February 20, 2029, Cave Basecamp, Jordan

 

The caves Tony and Sterling find for us in the Abarim Mountain Range of Jordan come with an amazing morning view. Our mountain is just west of Mount Nebo where Abraham first looked out over the land promised to his descendants. The guys considered setting up on Mount Nebo itself, but were worried about the tourists who come to see Abraham’s view. Instead, they set us up a few mountains over. Our view has a panorama of the Holy Land and a bit of the valley of the River Jordan. On a clear day, Jericho and Jerusalem can be seen through binoculars.

Though our mountain doesn’t have any historical significance, it has better caverns for our discretionary living needs. The hikers don’t come on our south side of the mountain because of the smooth rock surface. The many trails on our side do invite recreational terrain vehicles, but this works in our favor. It keeps us from drawing attention to ourselves with our many trips to the city. In the quiet evenings, we enjoy peaceful candlelit dinners while watching the sunset over the plains.

Most mornings, I can be found on the deck enjoying a cup of coffee. I denied myself caffeine during my SEAL days, but now it’s a daily obsession. I like to sit out on our ‘rock deck’ and watch the sunrise over the small villages that line the base of the mountain. I watch its rays spread from one row of houses to the next, announcing a new day has begun. Earth is full of beautiful scenes just as glorious as this one, yet most people never see them. They prefer to invest their money into the perfect home or the perfect car instead of the perfect adventure. Nothing was more important to me on Earth than the thrill of the next adventure. I can’t imagine a better purpose for money than for taking its owner to explore his world.

The money I earned over the years was sent to a bank account. All I ever saw of it was a piece of paper telling me it was there. I just accepted this as truth. I never held the money in my hands, and I certainly never let it have a hold over me. I didn’t own a home because I stayed on the road. I set a goal at age ten to see as many of the world’s great views as possible. In the end, the career that provided the travel I craved also cost me my life—and I wouldn’t change a thing. I got through my entire list of ‘things to do’ by age thirty. Although living in a cave wasn’t on my list, it has its own special charm and I am grateful for the experience.

Our new cave home came with ten open areas we now use as rooms. After we cleared out the dust, cobwebs, and loose rocks, we installed laminated floor tiles, hung overhead lighting, and painted the interior rocks ivory. The walls on the valley side were thin enough for us to carve out “windows” by drilling through the thin layers of dirt and rocks.

The girls gave the place a homey feel by hanging long drapes to serve the rooms as doors, and shorter ones to serve the windows as camouflage. One side blends in with the rocky exterior and keeps us from being discovered. The other side brightens the modern furniture and keeps us from being downhearted. When we open the windows at night, the curtains dance in the cool breeze that flows continuously from the mountain top.

Seiko says the lower mountains of Jordan hold steady temperatures. She believes our cave varies from forty to seventy-five degrees fahrenheit over a year. We stored warm and cool clothing just in case the climate changes unexpectedly. On our scouting trips, we found two nearby streams that provide us with a constant source of clean water. The two streams eventually converge and drop into a secluded spot which now serves us as a waterfall shower.

The Warrior team doesn’t need bathrooms for waste as our bodies absorb and use everything we ingest, but we designated two small caves as restrooms should Janet and any future guests need them.

As I stir my coffee, I think back over the rough places where I laid my head during my military years. Compared to most of them, this cave is a luxury resort. It’s equipped with seven years of survival staples as well as the things Millennials prize: top-of-the-line appliances and amenities, unique location with a view, and the latest technological toys.

We purchased four large solar-hybrid generators—two will act as backups and two already running our daily operations. Two generators supply enough power to run our two refrigerators, large freezers, dual ovens, microwaves, computers, and lighting. Other trips to the city brought us furniture, desks, screens, bedding, survival equipment, clothing, and every type of electronics imaginable. We have enough renewable power to support twenty people for seven years.

We set up a large eat-in kitchen, a dining room that seats twenty, an electronics room and communication center, a large communal room with a wall-sized multimedia screen, five bedrooms, and the group’s favorite room—the game room. We have darts, a pool table, a ping pong table, shuffleboard, and a small kitchenette for snacks and drinks. In addition to its fun appeal, the room is also our favorite because of the large open wall we carved out. The constant breeze keeps the shell chimes ringing. The whole scene reminds us of the beach—especially me.

The cave we set up for storage is a five-minute walk north. It’s larger than our ten rooms put together, but it’s just one large, dry area we organized into sections. Sterling and Seiko put their analytical brains together to figure out what we should store, and how much of it to store.

They decided on enough food and other supplies to sustain twenty people for seven years. Over the time of the Tribulation, it’s likely that refugees will find us. Jordan is ninety percent Muslim and ten percent protestant Christian. It’s likely the Christians will be driven from their homeland after Anna pits the two religions against each other. If they flee, it will either be to the deserts or to these mountains. We will be ready.

On the back side of the storage cave we installed camouflaged garage doors to give us easy access to our four Hummers, eight motorcycles, and small Kubota tractor and plow. We purchased vehicles built to handle extreme terrain. We have no idea what the future holds for Earth, but we want to be prepared for every possible scenario. For now, the roads to the cave are easy to navigate. We took a week to even out some rocky edges with our tractor and another week to soften some dangerous curves with our plow. Our main goal is to stay safely out of sight unless we are given an assignment by Almighty.

Seiko made the financing of our supplies and furnishings possible by hacking into the purchasing computers of one of the Middle East’s largest companies. She issued us credit cards with no spending limits, classified us as employees, and picked random names and titles for us. She also created travel documents, driver’s licenses, passports, and identity numbers typically issued by the Jordanian government. So far, so good.

As I stand on our rock deck, I feel the rush of the morning breeze on my skin and watch as it bends the plants in a systematic pattern on its way to the valley. The entire scene is worthy of a three-dimensional documentary. While I am caught up in the beauty of the early morning, Tova sneaks up and hugs me from behind. I turn and hug her as well. “Good morning, Sunshine. What are your plans for the day?”

Tova shrugs. “Mostly I’ll be helping Seiko mess up Wikipedia entries to make ‘the things we know to be true top the world’s search engines.’” Tova does her air quotes. She often uses them when she discusses Seiko’s plans. “Mainly, she has me recording acts of censorship by the big search engine companies so we can ‘be prepared to arm the people with the truth.’” She winks at me as she uses the air quotes once again. “Then, we are organizing the supplies brought up last evening.

“In the afternoon, I’m helping mom set up the Medical Clinic. At her suggestion, I’ve begun taking online courses on performing surgery and directing other medical procedures. She’s adamant someone on the team be trained in medicine. You and I have these wonderful bodies incapable of being injured or becoming ill, but there’s a good chance when the people begin to flee to the mountains to escape persecution, their bodies might need our care. As odd as it sounds, I just added six blood types and a cooler to our supply list.”

Everything Tova just shared makes me happy. “I love having your mom here. She’s seen it all. I wouldn’t have thought to assemble a medical clinic. She’s a great addition to the team. I know she’ll be glad when the controversy surrounding the Religion Roundtable is cleared up and she can stop living like a criminal on the run. We’ll all have to keep an eye on her health though. The water and air will probably be poisoned at some point and both might affect her.”

Tova relaxes her arms from the hug we were sharing. “She talks about that as well. We stored bottled water for seven years in case something happens to our natural springs. The cave’s air filter system will be completed before winter sets in. We can do a good job of keeping our breathing air pure within the cave by sealing the doors and windows. I know what you mean about Mom. I keep telling her to take it easy because she’s still walking around in an ‘old model chassis.’ She doesn’t seem to like hearing that.” Tova laughs and it lights me up inside.

After I take my last sip of coffee, I decide to broach a topic with Tova that has been on my mind since we moved in. “When are you going to have the conversation with your mom about your suicide and your life in Heaven? Time is short. Don’t you think you should tell her what you know?”

Tova takes a deep breath, holds it for a few seconds, and then releases it slowly through pursed lips. “It has been on my mind. I would like to have that conversation with her at the same time I have the conversation with the team about my suicide. I’d like to handle all the emotional stuff in a single conversation. What do you think about me addressing the group this evening following dinner? I want to tell everyone about the suicide first. Then, I thought I would tell Mom about Almighty’s plan to save people from the horrible things to come. I think it would be helpful if you guys were there. What do you think?”

“It sounds like the right thing to do. After breakfast, I’ll tell the group we’re meeting after dinner. You have to promise to lean on me if you need any support.” Tova smiles at me. “So, are you hungry?”

“Yes, I am!”

“Good. So, what are you making us?” I laugh when she raises one eyebrow to challenge me.


Janet is thrilled to be living with her daughter for the first time in her life. She finds the experience of sharing a bedroom with her adult child to be surreal—especially since she said her eternal ‘goodbyes’ decades earlier. Today, she’s helping her daughter set up a medical clinic that will be able to offer care for up to six patients. By laying out the hospital cots and booting up the monitoring equipment, she’ll be able to create a thorough medical supply list for the next run to the city.

Her experience in the Peace Corps certainly didn’t qualify her to be a doctor, but at the front line she learned to take out bullets and shrapnel from every limb, from injured soldiers and civilians. She was also trained on how to handle wounds to the chest and to the face. The overwhelmed surgical teams taught her how to open someone up, take out foreign objects, and stitch things back together while avoiding infection.

War is brutal, and people who serve on the front line are never the same again. Initially, she was a little worried about preparing her only daughter for the front line of an impending war, but she senses the tremendous faith in Tova, and believes it will sustain her. After all, someone must lead the medical services and after considering the talents of the team members, she concluded Tova was the one for the job.

After she finishes making the bed, she picks up her journal and heads to her secret writing spot. Soon after she started living in the cave, she discovered a small area between two boulders that offered just enough privacy and shade to give her the perfect writing place. The background sounds of the seasons, as well as animals scurrying about, remind her of the good times in the Peace Corps. Her writing session is the only time of the day when she is completely at peace. As midday approaches, she worries about being a fugitive. By bedtime, she’s dreadfully afraid of being arrested and forced to spend the rest of her life behind bars.

Just as she puts her pen to the paper, her phone rings. The call is from Benjamin. Her face lights up. She misses their conversations.

“Hello, Benny-Boy. How are you and James? You’ve been on my mind.”

“Still as thoughtful as ever, I see. You’ve been on my mind as well. We are doing just fine here in New York. James is very happy I quit my job working with the ‘mean lady.’ Now, I can cook his breakfast and meet him at the bus stop when he comes home from school.”

“He’s a lucky young man to have a dad who will put him first. How is the job search going?”

“Well, interestingly enough, one of the reasons I called was to tell you I’m retiring.”

“Why? Is it because I’m your only work reference and you’re worried what they will think when you tell them I am on the run from the CIA?”

“Of course, not—but, that is both true and hysterical. Don’t you just hate it when you have a good story like that, but can’t pass it along because of the possibility of political backlash?” After he finishes laughing, Benjamin changes directions. “I have a favor to ask of you. Before I do, I need to finish a conversation we started at the Financial Summit. You asked me about the source of disposable cash that provides me with designer suits and expensive eyewear. As I recall, you taunted me about my spending habits the entire time I worked for you.”

Janet catches the laugh in her throat. “I hope you didn’t take any of that personally. I’m a Jewish mother. It’s our job to question the spending habits of others. And, before you tell me about your mystery income, I should warn you I’m still technically the Ambassador to the United Nations. If you are going to inform me you commit cybercrimes on the side, you might want to wait until next month—I should be free to harbor criminals at that time.”

“Ha! Funny! So, are you ready for this?”

“Of course, let’s hear it.”

“I own Dress Me Now.”

Dress Me Now? As in the app, Dress Me Now?”

“That’s the one. It was Lindsay’s project. She was the one who believed if people had a real-time, three-dimensional image of their bodies as they were dressing, they could always look their best—even as their bodies changed. Her example to me was, ‘no one wants to ask a friend in February if the bikini they are considering for spring break makes them look fat.”

“She was right. It’s a brilliant idea. I use it all the time. I love the ‘Body Reader.’ It’s amazing to see your figure from all angles and be able to try on clothes virtually—whether they are already stored in the company’s records, i.e. your closet or in your shopping cart. I like the feature that recommends the best choices for maintaining the right image for my age and career.

“I read an article about the company in Fortune magazine last year. They say the real money comes from the cut you take from the world’s designers who contribute pieces to your inventory. I read that designers are forced to create their own coding and product lines to fit your specks. If I recall correctly, the company was initially ridiculed for its concept. Now—three years later—fashion designers aren’t considered credible unless their designs are offered on your site. I could go and on, but since this Jewish mother is aware satellite phones charge at a rate of two dollars a minute, I’ll just congratulate you on being the mystery owner everyone wants to identify and interview. Whoa, wait—here I am worrying about your phone bill and you’re a billionaire!”

“Guilty as charged. I can buy all the designer sunglasses and suits I want.”

Janet laughs. “Then why did you put your feet in mud and animal excrement all this time when you could have been putting them in oceans and salt-water pools?”

“Because you and I would drop dead of boredom if that’s all there was to life. Lindsey needed some initial guidance. I set up her business model, website, app, and did most of the web syncing and coding. Someone had to master the 3D image body reader, and I was the only one we could afford at the beginning. After my part was over, I told Lindsey I would like to go back to work with you and help make the documentaries. It was the perfect timing and opportunity.”

“It certainly was. This makes me so happy. You and James are going to have a great life.”

“We would have a great life with or without money. But, as I look back, there have been times when I’ve had money and times when I haven’t. I’d have to say, all in all, it’s better to have it.” Janet laughs. Benjamin goes serious again. “I’m calling for two personal reasons. I’m updating my estate will tomorrow. I’m leaving the company to James and need an Estate Trustee. I would like that to be you. I’ve built in a nice salary for your services. Would you be willing to do it?”

“Yes, absolutely!”

“Thank you. There’s another favor I’d like to ask of you. Would you be willing to be James’ guardian in the case of my death?

“A godmother—to James? I’m giving you an even more enthusiastic yes on that one. I love that kid!”

“Thank you. This really helps with my peace of mind. I’ll get the document signed and mailed to you—well, as soon as you have a mailbox installed outside your cave. Just so I can prepare the packaging properly, is there a preferred wrapping that might discourage the mountain goats from eating what I send you?”

“Oh, ha, ha, ha! We don’t have mountain goats, but even so, please don’t include any of your mother’s desserts. It might take months for the Jordanian postal service to find ‘One Cave Drive.’ It would just end up being ‘stale mail.” She laughs. “Just send the document to my email for electronic signature”

“You got it.”

“We may not have mail delivery, but the cave is actually quite nice. You and I have stayed in worse places when we were with the Peace Corps. At least here we have real beds, not hammocks that spin you onto the ground three times in a night when you try to roll over.” Benjamin goes into a full belly laugh thinking of how many times he has cursed at a hammock in the middle of the night.

Once he stops laughing, Janet can tell from the silence that he has something deeper to discuss. “I sense the tension. What do you need to tell me, Benji?”

“I’ll never know how you can read me over a phone like that, but yes, I have other news. Your attorney, Jim, wants me to convey to you the U.S. Government is offering you a plea deal on the treason charges.”

“Let’s hear it.”

“They want you to resign peacefully from your Ambassador position and agree not to make statements to the Press on what happened at the Religion Roundtable. They want you to honor the oath of Ambassadors to not speak of anything they witnessed inside the U.N. Conference Room or as a member of the U.N. Security Council. They want this story to go away quietly and not be splashed on the covers of newspapers. They especially want you to keep the President out of the storyline. He is dealing with his own challenges right now.

“In exchange, they’re offering you the position of International Director of the Red Cross. The U.S. Justice Department will match the salary you were making at the U.N. and give you a $100,000 bonus to cover severance as well as to serve as a sign-on bonus. If you take it, you will be working from the Red Cross International headquarters in Geneva. They have a luxury penthouse on the lake they keep for their Directors. It would be yours at no expense. The rest is standard stuff—the private jet, the expense card with no limit, the free vacations to their resorts, etc. What do you think?”

“It sounds like a good opportunity for me. I’ll take it! Will they also clean up the legal stuff? I want to be assured that there won’t be any charges filed after this deal. I’ll need their word that they will do whatever’s necessary to protect me from any potential lawsuits from nations and private citizens. If either happens, they must agree to cover my legal defense expenses. If this isn’t possible, I am not coming out of hiding.”

“I covered these very things with Jim already. He’s says you’re completely covered. Shall I tell him to draft it?”

“Yes, if Jim Thornton, Esq. thinks the contract covers me properly, please have him draft it. What is the time frame they have in mind?”

“The Red Cross wants you immediately.”

“I’ll sign a contract to be the Director of the Red Cross one week after Jim has the paperwork ready and they have signed. I will only okay my part on-site in Geneva—with the international Press present. I’m going to ask you and Jim to please handle all the details for me. You both have my Power of Attorney, so do as you see fit. I do not want to come in for interviews or contract negotiations. I fear the CIA will set me up and arrest me on the spot. When the time is right, I’ll be there.”

“Will do!”

“Benjamin, one more thing before you go—does James ever ask about me?”

“Of course, he does. Every night before he goes to sleep, he asks me if I’m sure that the mean lady is still living in a ‘far away cave’ with seven ogres and is never coming back.”

“Gee, thanks.” Janet has a smile on her face as she disconnects from the call.


“Your hands are shaking a little. Are you up for this?” I pull Tova’s hands up to kiss them one at a time.

“I’m good. I’m a little worried about saying something that makes it seem as if I’m placing fault on my mother. You and I have made peace on your role in private. She’s going to be sitting right there, in the middle of my friends. Do you think this is the best way?”

“I do. This was always going to be a tough conversation for the two of you. By doing it here with the rest of us in the room, you won’t be alone. Parents may get upset when they think we’re trying to shift blame to them, but in the end all they really want is for their children to be happy. And, you are.”

“Alright then, no more discussion about it, I’m ready.” I hold Tova’s hand as we head back into the Communal Room.

Sterling picks up on the serious look my face and takes a stab at lightening the mood. “Hey guys, you were in there too long to come back without our dessert in your hands. Are we still having chocolate pies at this meeting? I was told that there would be chocolate pies.” Sterling winks at me and I nod back my appreciation.

Tova lets go of my hand and walks to the front of the room. “Actually, Grayson called this meeting for me. I’m ready to talk about my suicide.” Every team member stops what they are doing and settles into a seat. Tova has promised to talk about this for some time now. There’s no doubt suicide intrigues us. There is the question of how people who commit suicide are forgiven and get accepted into Heaven. Personally, I want to know what it was like when Tova spent three days in Hades.

She clears her throat and begins. “For anyone who hasn’t seriously considered it, I know suicide is difficult to understand. People who have seriously considered it see it as an option for stopping some sort of pain—either physical or emotional. Yes, mental pain hurts too. I’m not going to explain all the details of my death, but I am going to share the spiritual journey through which I traveled.

“First, let me say my death was not about being selfish or wanting attention. It wasn’t an accident and it wasn’t done to get back at anyone. I didn’t make my decision to go ahead under the influence of drugs or alcohol. I wasn’t a member of a self-destructive gang, nor did I do it on a dare. In truth, no one knew of my plans.

“Part of my reasoning to end my life was that I couldn’t see any purpose in my future. I was a Jewish girl raised in a Catholic home—which confused me spiritually and kept me from having any spiritual grounding. Religious confusion was one reason I didn’t fit in with the people around me. I couldn’t find a destiny or a purpose for my life, and I didn’t have any special talents that made me stand out. I was pretty sure my dad didn’t even know I existed. My mom was off being a superstar for the world. I wanted to be with her, but at the same time I knew that my unplanned birth could destroy her career.

“I want to stop here to say, ‘I love you, Mom.’ I’m so glad you were brave enough to go do the things you were meant to do. You’ve changed the world through your work with the Peace Corps as well as with the United Nations.” Janet smiles, but we can all see the tears making their way down her cheeks.

“When I turned sixteen, I began to believe my life would never be special. My grandparents were very kind to me, but they were raising me ‘old school’— to the point I was being teased for my clothes and for the rules I had to follow. I found the pills I used for my death at a train station a year earlier. The station’s office was closed, the platform was deserted, so I took the pills home and kept them hidden in one of my drawers. I don’t know why I kept them, I just did.

“I didn’t know much about opioids, but had heard they could make you feel detached from reality if you took enough of them. Three weeks after Grayson left Israel, I was having an especially challenging evening. I felt abandoned by the one person I thought really cared about me. I was in terrible emotional pain. I pulled out the bottle of pills and spread them out on my bedspread. I counted them and put them into little piles. At first, I thought I would just take one.

“After considering the outcome of taking one or just a few pills and being caught with an illegal prescription, I decided to swallow all of them. I believed in an afterlife, and I wanted to go there. I knew that Almighty loved me and I knew he could stop the pain. I said a prayer asking for forgiveness for what I was about to do. I drank some water, swallowed the bottle of pills, and sat down on my bed with my arms wrapped around my stuffed camel. At first, I thought the nausea was going to make me vomit the poison out of my body. Instead, I got drowsy. I put my head onto my pillow and went to sleep thinking I would wake up in Heaven. Instead, I found myself in Hades.”

All of us shift uncomfortably in our seats. We all know how dreadful Hades has become in the hands of Lucifer. It was initially only a place of isolation made for the fallen angels. Once Lucifer inserted sin into mankind, Almighty had to isolate the unrepentant souls there as well. This is when Lucifer saw her chance to flip the odds in the Great Game. She set out to exploit Almighty’s compassion for people by opening the heat chambers of Earth’s core, flooding Hades, and making it unbearable for humans. Lucifer knew Almighty would have to practice great restraint when he saw His beloved children being kept in torturous conditions beyond His control.

“She went on to create levels in Hades so she could control a game between man’s remorse and Almighty’s compassion. She used the levels as a punishment and ran all of Hades contrary to the norms of fairness and decency. Her entire plan was to tempt Almighty to engage with her, rescue man, and make her the victor of the Great Game.

“When I opened my eyes, the first thing I saw was a hideous demon. She shoved me down onto the ground and told me I was only staying for three days and that I should stay out of her way.

“Hades was indescribably horrid. I was isolated in total darkness. Other humans were there too, but they moved around me in the dark and I could never see how close or how far away they were. Few things are as unnerving as feeling an unseen force breathing down your back when you are completely vulnerable in the dark.

“Hades is very quiet. Even whispering can allow demons and reprobate humans to find—and prey upon—you. Out of fear, I slept in fetal position around of clump of brimstone. When a new day began—at least when the Lead Demon told us a new day had begun—the lid to Earth’s center core was lifted and the flames burned high. This increased the heat to an even more miserable level, but it also gave us a little light to look around. Almost everyone came out of their hiding places to stretch after hours of being afraid to move.

“After about twenty minutes, the core’s lid was closed, and we were plunged back into complete darkness. Sadly, the temporary light allowed the demons to map us out in the dark. I learned quickly to move to a new hiding place as soon as the core closed us back into the darkness.

“The rest of the day was spent wallowing in self-pity and facing the pure hopelessness of my situation. I cried a lot but had to muffle any sound that a demon could hear. Some of Lucifer’s most evil demons stopped by throughout the day to taunt us. They couldn’t see in the dark either, so they felt their way around. We were all playing the most desperate game of hide-and-seek. If the demons found you, they would rip off your clothes so everyone could see your nakedness during the next flame rising. They would spit on you and poke you with their pitchforks until they drew blood. They were hopeless and miserable. We were their only entertainment.

“The stench of the place burned in my nose and the broadcast screams rang in my ears. In the evenings, the demons played another evil game with the humans. The floor we sat upon would drop out from underneath us. We had the terrifying experience of falling to the core of the Earth without being able to see the bottom.

“Oddly, the temperatures also dropped. We went from burning to freezing in a matter of seconds. Once we crashed to the bottom of the pit, a blinding light was shone on us. We could barely adjust our eyes to see but could hear the tens of thousands of demons who surrounded us. They laughed as they threw bugs, worms, and snakes through the steel bars into our pit. The bugs would sting us, and the snakes would bite. For them, it was an orgy of passions and pleasure as they watched us squirm in pain. The scene is too horrible to describe. I can tell you, through it all, no one cares about you and no consoles you.

“Man needs to know this horrible place exists so he can escape it. Almighty made Hades as a place of solitude for Lucifer and her fallen angels. It was Lucifer who made Hell. Unfortunately, men who are unrepentant end up there because sin cannot exist in the presence of Almighty. Man can be distracted by many things, but he must not be indifferent about his soul. His eternity is at risk.

“Eventually we were sprayed down with freezing water, which pushed the bugs and snakes off the flooring and back out to the demons—I assume so they could be readied for the next round. We were lifted up to where we began and would sit in the dark heat, hoping for a bit of sleep before the entire cycle began again.

“I was released from the torture after three days. My name was called, and I was taken to meet my guardian angel. He escorted me to the gates of Heaven. I was told to walk in alone. The fanfare for the arrival of a suicide soul is a bit subdued. I felt shame when I was shown the great plans Almighty once had for my life. The ones I ruined. Almighty views suicide as a lack of faith. He promised to walk with us through the difficult times. It is in the difficult times that we are molded into something valuable and amazing. When we commit suicide, we interrupt His plans and we commit the worst kind of murder—premeditated and self-inflicted. Thankfully, He forgives.

“I know each of us has a difficult story of being separated from the ones we love. I don’t want to imply that mine is worse than yours—nor do I want to imply that I didn’t deserve what happened to me. This was something I wanted to share with you.” As Tova walks to her seat, the group rises to applaud her bravery. I put out my arms to her and hug her tightly. I see Janet crying. I walk over to try and consul her. “Janet, everything is going to be just fine. You’ll see. Are you upset over what your daughter was put through before she moved from Hades to Heaven?”

She looks at me with tear-filled eyes. “No, it’s not about Tova’s relationship with the Creator—it’s about my lack of one. What am I missing? How do I get accepted into this? I want the peace. I want the hope. Most of all, I want the assurance my life has a purpose and a happily-ever-after ending.”

“Janet, there’s nothing special or magical about us or anyone else who is accepted into Almighty’s family. This is about having a ‘child-like’ faith: Knowing that you were designed with a purpose, recognizing a price was paid for your redemption, and accepting Almighty. There’s nothing else you need to do. He made the way. He also began a conversation with you in the womb—and I know you’ve heard him. He has always been right there waiting for you. He will fill you with a joy so deep that the rest of your days will be filled with hope and assurance.”

She hugs me a second time. “Thank you. I will think on all of this.” Liam puts on music in the Game Room. The place comes alive with dancing and laughter. Kimmy and Seiko pass out chocolate pies. We stay up all night playing games until the sunlight signals a new day has begun. Only Janet had to get some rest. After she fell asleep on the sofa, I covered her with a blanket and the rest of us kept the party going.

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Triple Digit TOC by K.M. Sheridan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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