Three days ago I was whole. Three days ago I had a normal life like everyone else on my street. Three days ago all I wanted was a bag of pretzels and a jar of dip to stave off my growing cravings. Three days ago – I made a choice that changed my life forever.
The grocery store was two blocks from my house but I decided to drive as it was getting too dark to safely walk and not trip on the cracks in the sidewalk. My shopping would take only moments since my bulging stomach was already dictating what I would purchase.
“Hey Karen…you’re working an evening shift?”
The petite clerk looked up from her display of Spiderman cereal. For a second, I almost changed my mind from onion dip to the sugary breakfast treat.
“Paul called off …so here I am.” Karen hunched her narrow shoulders and moved to the register. We went to the same church together and loved to chat whenever we could. “How’s the new one doing?” She nodded to my expanding middle.
At eight months, I loved feeling that sweet movement reassuring me of a new life – one Doug and I had prayed for well over two years. I smiled. “She’s terrific.” I patted the bulge beneath my oversized sweatshirt. “Or he’s terrific…either will do.” The snack aisle called to me so I headed to the far side of the store.
The screaming jarred me from my reverie causing me to drop the jar I was cradling in my hands. I jumped back from the shattering glass and turned towards the front of the store. A bolt of sound followed by a flash forced me to cower behind the meat case. From my crouching position, I could barely make out two men moving in the front of the store. Dear Lord, what is going on? Is Karen alright? Breathe…please breathe. Was there a robbery? My legs began to cramp reminding me of the position I was in and my condition.
After a few moments, I felt ridiculous hiding as I was. I pulled myself to my feet and willed my knees to stop shaking. Thank goodness no one else was in the store to witness my silly behavior. Go find Karen. I obeyed the small still voice in my head and moved slowly toward the front still not seeing any other customers besides myself. A box of cereal in the middle of the floor almost caused me to trip. Karen’s neat display lay scattered in front of me.
”Karen…are you alright? I heard something.” I edged closer to the counter expecting to find Karen right where I had left her minutes before…or was it hours…?
When I get to this part of the story - the picture blurs – sometimes I start to cry and can’t stop. Doug says eventually I’ll be able to remember it all without getting so emotional - I’m not so sure.
All I really remember is when I woke up in the hospital. I felt where my baby should be and found nothing. A hand gripped my own – Doug’s – he stroked my tears and immediately tried to reassure me through my sobs.
“She’s okay…the baby’s doing okay.” Tears streamed down his cheeks as he praised God for my life.
“Karen?” He shut his eyes and turned his head away. I wasn’t ready for a full explanation…the details hurt too much and he knew I would need time. “Can I hold her?” Within seconds, Doug placed our new little girl into my waiting arms. She looked deep into my eyes as if she had been waiting for me to say hello.
“We ought to name her, honey…she’s been here a few days and I think she might be tired of being called Baby Smith.” I looked back down at the new life and nodded. She needed a name and once again I followed God’ soft, still voice.
My Karen roams the streets of our little town with me, shopping in all the local stores and helping me select food for the week. Whenever we enter the little grocery store on the corner, she points to the framed picture hanging above the first cashier’s counter. I can’t help but tell her over and over about the brave young woman who shares not only her name but also a home in heaven.
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