HEART OF THE COUNTRY
By RENE GUTTERIDGE, JOHN WARD, Sarah Mason
Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Copyright © 2011 John Ward
All rights reserved.
It was a strange thing to know that I was to become a memory to them. I kept searching for pain because pain means life. Instead, I smelled Lip Smackers on Olivia's pale-pink lips. I heard Faith's high-pitched giggles that still sounded childish even though she was growing into a young woman. I couldn't move my arms, but against my fingertips, I felt their hair, their shoelaces, their sticky cheeks.
I knew this would break their hearts into thousands of tiny pieces that one lifetime couldn't mend.
I wished that he knew my name. I wanted somebody to know my name. The sirens wailed and screamed and I wondered if I was coming and going out of consciousness or if that's just how sirens sounded from the inside.
Above me, out of a light misty-gray that seemed like steam from a shower, I saw a man's face come into view. His eyes were frantic but gorgeous and blue. Above him I caught my reflection against a long metal strip that ran the length of the ambulance. There was a familiarity to him, but that was true of everyone in Columbus County. If I didn't know you, I knew your mom or your grandpa or your second cousin.
"Blood pressure ..."
The words faded, just like the sirens, and his beautiful eyes retreated to a far place that I longed to reach for. I only saw the girls now, their faces passing by me like living, breathing photographs. And Calvin standing by his horse.
I wanted to be more than a memory. I hated that for the rest of their days they would only be able to touch me in their minds or set their gazes on a tiny glimpse captured by a camera.
A mother's heart cannot let go. Not even to a father who had all the love in the world to offer them. I could never be replaced.
I looked again to that long metal reflection above me. I was covered in blankets. The EMT was covered in blood, and I thought that was strange. Warm and cold sensations drifted through my body, and I searched again for any sign of pain. My face looked distorted against the metal, like in a fun house mirror, except nothing else seemed out of proportion.
"Fourteen minutes out!"
Yes, it was a long way to the hospital when you lived in the country. Only one winding road led through our neck of the woods. Columbus County did not have a well-designed road system. The state was involved in a plan to pave "farm to market" roads, the idea being to improve transportation of tobacco, corn, sweet potatoes, cotton, soybeans, and livestock to places like Whiteville and Tabor City, where the train tracks ran. But instead of designing a modern road system, they paved the old dirt roads that had generally followed horse and carriage paths. They once connected neighboring farms, working around and over the swampy areas, resulting in a system of meandering roads. I could feel the ambulance hugging the curves of the concrete. It was often on these roads where I heard the music play.
I closed my eyes, or maybe they were already closed. I told myself to live, no matter what, to live. And then I felt it, a tiny prick of pain in my heel. (Continues...)
Excerpted from HEART OF THE COUNTRY by RENE GUTTERIDGE, JOHN WARD, Sarah Mason. Copyright © 2011 John Ward. Excerpted by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc..
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