The blowing of trumpets seemed to echo in my skull-louder than what seemed possible. I was witnessing a truly remarkable celebration. Why couldn’t this creation of my mind be real?
“He’s dreaming again.”
“How can you tell?”
“Because he’s waving his arms around like he’s making a damn presidential speech or something!”
Brayce made the comment. He was my Joker.
All three boys got a small chuckle out of what he said. Even though my eyes remained closed I could tell where each of them stood in relation to my bed. They had become my three young men. I loved them so much. And I would miss them dearly. The thought of which made me want to cry so I kept my eyes closed and pretended to still be asleep.
Truthfully, I was grateful to hear them laugh-even if it was at my expense-as it made this ending tolerable. All night I had been slipping in and out of consciousness, I could tell that the time had come.
Accepting that the moment of my departure was surely near I tried to talk myself into a state of surrender. Silently, in my mind, I told myself, “You have fought the good fight, you have finished the race. In spite of countless failures, you always kept the faith. Be proud of the legacy you leave behind. And remember, lives that inspire never expire.”
Despite repeating these thoughts of encouragement to myself, I still wondered, “Was it really worth it?”
I was scared. Questions about what happens next haunted me. Doubt flooded my mind. Lost in my own thoughts, I heard the boys continue to talk to one another.
“When you guys were kids did dad ask you that question all the time?”
“You mean, ‘THE’ question?” Brayce replied.
“He sure did!” Jett tried to laugh, though the sadness could be heard through his nervous giggle. Jett was my Believer.
That fact made my heart grow just a little more in that moment. The question they were referring to was, “Who’s going to change the future?” To which I had trained all three of them to respond, “We Will!”
It was a very cute thing to do with them when they were all young. Little did they know that I truly did believe we would change the world one day. Unfortunately, that day never came.
After the fire, I was trained to keep my ambitions and dreams a secret. I created that stupid YouTube video (enter video here when ready) and was promptly told that I was delusional. So, I took my medicine and focused on being a good father and a wonderful councilor to my three boys. I cannot say that I have any regrets. I just wish I could have left this world knowing that their future was brighter than the reality they are stuck in.
“Did you ever wonder why he asked us that? … Was he serious?? … Do you really think he thought we would???” Taylor was my Thinker; always asking questions. Often, he was the little horn in my side that kept me on my toes for he religiously would dissect every word that escaped my mouth.
The room went quiet.
As I again began to feel bad for myself, a comment from one of my boys broke the silence.
“Did you ever wonder….”
“What if…we believed him?”
The question I heard shocked me.
The memories that began flooding my brain created an emotional earthquake in my mind, jolting me out of my slumber.
That question was the same exact one that I had presented to my fictional self in one of the ‘lessons’ in the book.
I had finished writing that book years ago. I called it, “The Little Book That Could Spark a Regeneration.”
Knowing that the title sounded delusional, I entrusted a final copy of it with one of my best friends in the world. This friend was the most genuine, kind, and caring person I ever knew; selfless in every way imaginable. I could always count on this person to comfort me wherever I was at, without judgement. This person never questioned my sanity and was there for me always. When I was done writing that book, I left it with him-with instructions to give it to my sons if something were to ever happen to me.
How had I forgotten about it?
Then it hit me, “I was not strong enough to use the book…but maybe THEY would?”
Energized by the idea, a subtle ray of hope sparked inside of me. I slowly opened my eyes.
On my bedside, the digital clock made me aware that I had not yet left this life: 9:11 A.M: April 15th, 2040.
“How fitting,” I thought to myself. I had imagined this day in so many ways, but yet never pictured it like this; I guess that is what living in fear will do to a person.
Full of ambition and the desire to create a better world, I poured my heart and soul into writing that book. Even the music I referenced was meant to inspire an unknown audience of future believers.
Thinking about all of it, the question that haunted me relentlessly back then hit me like a bolt of lightning; “Am I crazy?”
However, at this moment, when the threat of public ridicule is replaced by the realization of impending death, allowing myself to dive into a world of delusions seemed like common sense: Why Not?
“Maybe my attempt to change things will not be lost? Maybe Y-O-U will deliver my ideas to the world?? Maybe you can save them???”
Unable to speak, due to the throat cancer that would be my demise, I looked around. Nothing but silence and blank faces filled the room. Perhaps I was delusional, but it appeared that the excitement that flashed in my eyes spoke to them. Were their sleeping minds waking up along with mine?
To be honest, this was all I ever asked for as a father: To inspire my kids to think …. to dream …. to ask themselves- “What If?”
Wondering if this was destiny unfolding, my mind began to remember everything I had written back then. The idea for the word dIverge. Using the word detach. Teaching the world about acceptance, and pride, and fear, and faith, and so many other things I wanted people to appreciate while putting together their ‘Life’s Puzzle.’
Then another thought hit me…. “Was my entire life a test of my ability to be patient?”
Maybe it was meant to be my children, not me?
All of the excitement building up inside me quickly deflated like a balloon….THEY DIDN’T KNOW THE SECRET!!!
Without the secret, it wouldn’t work. The secret would make them read the whole thing over and over again looking for more diamonds in the rough. The secret would make them question everything. The secret would be the showstopper the world needed.
THE SECRET WOULD SOFTEN THEIR HEARTS!!!
Quickly, I sat up. Startling my boys.
Frantically I looked around for something to write with. I was not supposed to get overly excited; as my body could not handle it, but this was too important-I needed them to know. All three of them watched me, not understanding what was happening or what to do. With difficulty I reached over to the bedside drawer and opened it. I found a black sharpie marker, but nothing to write on. Frustrated, I scanned the room.
Above my head, the Saint Francis Prayer was attached to the wall. Excited, I reached up in an attempt to rip it down. Unfortunately, it had been there for years and the tape holding it in place made it impossible to remove.
Exhausted, my head fell to the pillow. With all the intentions of giving up, my eyes once more looked lazily at the bedside table next to me. On it, Billy’s tattered book that had comforted me so gracefully in life laid silently. “I could write the secret to my boys in that,” I thought, “But do I want to deface something so important by writing my gibberish in it?”
Feeling defeated, I heard footsteps entering the room. More of my family had now come to be with the boys and me. Looking around, the seven heads staring back at me were frightening; Why did I have to put them through all of this?
This question made me hate myself as I felt like a monstrous beast preparing to destroy their lives.
Debating my next move, I once again turned my head and stared. The rock that caught my eye was about four inches in diameter, with a smooth white finish. Sitting on top of that sacred book, I could imagine exactly how it felt in the palm of my hand. This seemingly simple rock was given to me a year ago by my brother, John.
When I was struggling to keep it together after my diagnoses, he gave it to me with a simple note attached: “You will forever be our rock.”
Sobbing uncontrollably with feelings of self-pity, I had held that rock for countless hours in search of some inner peace; never truly finding it.
“I will leave my secret there,” I said to myself, “Why Not???”
Tiredly, I reached over and grabbed it.
Becoming more aware of my surroundings, almost as if to chronicle them for my future self’s, I appreciated the sound of rain hitting the windows behind the crowd that stood in front of me… How long had it been raining?
Contemplating this question of mine, I sat up the best I could and prepared myself. With shaking hands, I started to write.
I began getting short of breath and everything started to get blurry. Squinting my eyes, like in a dream, I watched my hands create the final words that this body would ever share with the universe.
When I was finished, I put the message to my chest and looked up to get one final glimpse of this world-my world…My Children.
All eyes in the room were on me. Zeroing in on the targets, I was fittingly reminded… “All along the target was Y-O-U.”
Staring into the sunset of this life, if I could speak, I knew exactly what I wanted to say at this moment: “Do not be scared. You are loved, and you are not alone. Though I may leave you today, please know that the sun will come out tomorrow. Your life is long, and I was always only destined to be with you for a short amount of time. Have faith that one day we will be reunited in the light. I love you…”
Without warning, all strength left my body. My lifeless hands fell to my lap. As they did, slowly-like in a movie, I saw my children look down to see what I had written on the small white rock that rolled onto the bed. The confusion on their faces was a wonderful site to witness as I faded from this life. I had them….
“I am (blank).”
(If we get this published I will fill in the secret…until then……)