The Little Country Church In The Woods
I don't remember much about Calhoun. It is a small town in Louisiana. We lived in a shotgun house in the country. The house from what I can remember, had three large rooms. A living room, kitchen, and bedroom. The bathroom... I don't remember a bathroom. But I do remember taking baths in a large wash tub. Mom would heat water on the stove. Thank goodness I was the only child...
The toilet on the other hand... Was what we called an Outhouse. I really don't want to talk about that stinky thing. I hated it. "Thank you Lord for indoor plumbing." After dad passed away, we moved to New Jersey.Ten years later I lost my mom. When it rains it pours. I was placed in a foster home until I turned seventeen.
I met, and married a man I met in high school. His name was Matthew Donnelly. We were married for twelve years. Until he was killed last year. Matthew worked off shore on an oil rig. He was killed instantly, when a machine fell from a lift, and landed on him. He, and mom were my only family in Jersey. I had buried mom next to her only sister. She wanted it that way. Matthew, and I never had children so I decided to move back to Louisiana.To live out my days where my roots were.
I was diagnosed with heart disease a few months ago. So not knowing how long I had to live. I thought it would be nice to be lay to rest with my dad, and grandparents. I had never returned to Calhoun all that time. But when my mom passed away. I went through her things. I found out my grandparents, and my dad are buried in Salem Cemetery. "Yeah! sounds creepy. huh. "
I found an apartment right outside Calhoun. It was run down, but it was OK for now. A little paint, and new curtains should brighten it up a bit. I settled in, and decided to pick up a few groceries. The market was a little small, and doesn`t really have much to choose from. But that was OK, I didn`t feel like driving any further to County Market. I finished my shopping, and was putting them in the car when this little old lady walked up to me.
" Hi!" She smiled." Your new around here aren`t you? Whats your name ?" She asked sweetly.
" Mary, Mary Donnelly," I told her.
She stared at me. Her eyes were outlining my face. Then she said, " you look familiar to me. Do you have family here?"
" I used to," I told her. Their name was Harper."
" Harper!" She squeaked." I knew the Harpers. Harvey, and Sarah."
" Yes!" I replied. They were my grandparents. You knew them you say?"
" Of course," The old lady laughed." Sarah was my dear friend. Your grandpa was a wonderful Carpenter. He practically rebuilt the church."
" What church?" I ask her.
" New Hope," she smiled." Over on Harper Road. The town, and the church named it after him In memory of his dedication to restoring the old church. Your grandpa would never accept money. He would always say... Just working for the lord. He never charged us for the debt he paid. Why would I charge him for mine?"
I started laughing." Sounds like grandpa was a wonderful man."
" Oh! He was," the old lady smiled. "Your grandmother, bless her soul. Made the finest jellies, and jams this side of the Ouachita."
The Ouachita River run to I don't know, and from who knows where? It is one of the largest rivers in Louisiana.
The old lady grabbed my hand, and ask. " Why don't you come to church Sunday? I promise you will have a wonderful time, and an experience you`ll never forget. " She laughed.
" Maybe I will," I told her.
" Good!" She kissed my cheek, and whispered," I`ll see you there."
Now, what I did`nt`t know was.. Calhoun was a small little town, with a population of three hundred or so. But the majority of them attended church at New Hope. Salem Cemetery sat right behind it. About two or three feet. If you stood at the back door, you could jump off the step right into a plot. Thats how close it was. It seems grandpa added Sunday school rooms onto the church. The cemetery was well over populated. Some head stones, what you could read dated back to the eighteenth century. I decided to go check out this cemetery, and pay my respects to my family.
I pulled up to the church. It was really small, and the paint was starting to peel off. I started looking around,and noticed a sign hanging over the front door. It read... "Sinners welcome! Please Come In." I thought, " What a cute little saying." I also noticed the door to the church was`nt`t locked. " Thats strange," I thought.." Who would leave a church door unlocked." I opened the door, and went inside. It was beautiful. The pews were made of maple. At the alter were the most beautiful flower arrangements I`ve ever seen. There was a large wooden cross behind the pulpit. It was magnificent. I continued to look around. Then I suddenly noticed another sign hanging on the exit door. In this case that would be the back door. The sign read... " This Way Please! " Like the sign on the front door. they puzzled me....
It was getting late so I decided to check out the cemetery before it got dark. Then I noticed, the back door was unlocked too. I opened the door, and there it was.. Salem Cemetery. I shut the door, and proceeded to look for my families plots. The first headstone belonged to a woman. Her name was Maybelle Parker. It read born in 1819. Died in 1920. " Wow! " I thought. "She was old. " I finally found my dads plot. I felt uneasy as I approached his grave. I knelt down to clear the twigs, and leaves away from the mound. I began to cry. " Oh daddy. I`m sorry I haven`t visited you all these years, I miss you more than you could ever know. Daddy... " The tears began to really pour now." I have something to tell you."
" I know mom is there with you, and your probably very happy. I`m sure you missed her. I can tell you, she missed you very much. Daddy, Mommy, I cried. I will be joining you soon, I don't have much time left. But please know this. I love you both very much, and I miss you guys like crazy. I have to know, Is Matthew there with you? If he is. Tell him I love him, and miss him too. I have to go daddy. I must visit grandpa, and grandma before it gets dark."
I wondered around the cemetery, and finally found my grandparents graves. I was`nt`t sure what to say to them I did`nt`t really get to know them very well. I paid my respects, and made my way to the back door. As I approached the steps I noticed another sign over the door. It read... No entry! " Whats the deal! " I shouted. I turned the knob, but it wouldn`t open. I was so confused. This was very strange to me. It was almost dark, as I made my way around the church to my car.
I was confused as I drove away. But I had a good feeling about this little country church. I couldn't`t wait till Sunday....
I got the best sleep I`ve had in a long time, I did`nt`t wake up one time last night. Usually my pain kept me up most of the night. But not last night. I slept like a log. I got dressed, and hurried off to church. When I arrived there were cars for miles. I had to walk a half mile to the church. As I started up the steps. The sign was`nt`t over the door anymore. I did`nt`t give it much thought, and went inside. There were a lot of people. They filled the little country church. I searched to find a place to sit. Then I saw the old woman, I met at the market. She waved for me to sit with her. The preacher started his sermon. People were shouting, " Amen! Praise The Lord! "All through the service. I even threw in a few amens myself. Suddenly a man jumped up! Shouting, and speaking in tongues. Then I realized, I too was jumping around. I was shouting, and singing praises to the Lord. I was saved that day. But I was feeling faint. The old woman had me sit beside the back door. She opened the door so I could get some fresh air, and handed me a glass of water...
As I tilted the glass to take a sip, I noticed the sign on that door was also gone. I couldn`t understand how they could be there, and then be gone. Curiously, I ask the old woman about the signs. She looked at me in wonder." What signs dear? "
I looked at her puzzled, " never mind."
I was feeling weak, and out of breath. Suddenly! I grabbed my chest. It was hurting pretty bad. Then everything went blank...
I felt like I was floating. Like a feather floats before it touches the ground. There was`nt`t any light, just calming darkness. There was a sweet scent in the darkness. Nothing like I`ve ever smelled before. Then my eyes opened, and all I could see was white. I could hear singing. Beautiful singing. " Whats going on?" Ithought. Suddenly someone takes my hand. Gently, and lovingly. I looked to wards the touch. It was daddy! Beside him was mom. Then beside her was Matthew, and my grandparents. I was amazed. " Am I in heaven?" I asked them.
They all smiled at me. "Yes! " They answered. "We`ve been waiting for you, Mary. "
"But how did you know? " I ask excited. "You knew about my heart problem? "
"Yes! "Daddy answered. " We left you directions..."
" Directions," I said puzzled." Oh! " I smiled. " The signs. You knew I was going to die Sunday. Right! " I asked.
" No! " Daddy smiled lovingly." God knew you were going to die. He allowed me to leave you the signs."
I saw a single tear fall on daddy's cheek. He held me in his arms, and whispered. " Thank God you went back to the little country church in the woods."