Well, hello there. Back in the day, the Stoics were a bunch of philosophers who believed in suffering in silence. They were, you might say, not big on Emotional Intelligence. Or, you could say, they were idiots. Either way, Gary Clark is a wise man indeed, because he knows both the value of a good …
Well, hello there. Back in the day, the Stoics were a bunch of philosophers who believed in suffering in silence. They were, you might say, not big on Emotional Intelligence. Or, you could say, they were idiots.
Either way, Gary Clark is a wise man indeed, because he knows both the value of a good tale well told and the emotional richness of life’s more poignant moments. If I had a hat – and my stylist will tell you it’s badly needed – I’d doff it to him now.
The Last Dance
Cody stood at the altar, holding Jolene’s right hand in his. Her tiny hand felt small and damp and cold. He smiled and winked at her and then raised his left hand and sandwiched the delicate hand between his thick, calloused hands.
“I do,” Jolene whispered, smiling up into his brown eyes.
Cody gently placed his rough hand against Jolene’s face and wiped a tear off her cheek with his thumb. Then he pressed his hands together, tightening his grip on her hand.
“And do you Cody James Dillon take…” Cody fell deaf to what the priest was saying as he jerked his head toward his mother.
She sat in the front pew next to his father, the place of honor he’d ushered them to before the ceremony began. She held a handkerchief over her mouth, muffling the uncontrollable wave of coughing that consumed her and left her struggling for her next breath. She leaned forward and inhaled slowly in a soft crowing sound to get her next breath.
Still holding Jolene’s hand between his, Cody turned and stepped toward his mother. His father frowned shook his head slowly, side to side.
“Cody?” the priest said, touching him on the shoulder.
“I do,” Cody mumbled, still looking toward his mother.
Seeing the shock on his face, his mother quickly gathered the handkerchief and closed her hand around it. She forced a smile as she struggled to stifle another wave of coughing.
The familiar site of fresh blood staining the handkerchief pulled his mind away from what should have been the happiest day of his life. She had assured Cody just weeks before that the radiation treatments were shrinking the cancer in her lungs and she would soon be in full remission. Cody knew that was all a lie but he didn’t question her.
“Cody?” the priest said softly.
Cody turned, took the ring from his best man and looked down into Jolene’s deep blue eyes. He took a deep breath and slid the ring on her finger. “With this ring, I thee wed,” he said. Then he raised her veil, wrapped his strong arms around her and kissed her.
Jolene felt every part of Cody’s body tremble as he held her tightly and dried his eyes on her shoulder.
He raised his head and smiled at her. “I love you,” he whispered.
“I now pronounce you husband and wife,” the priest said. “You may kiss your bride, again.”
The congregation laughed.
Cody gripped Jolene’s tightly as they walked down the steps from the altar. He stopped and kissed his mother on the cheek and then escorted Jolene to the church’s banquet hall for the reception.
Jolene danced with her father. It was their favorite song since Jolene was a little girl – Daddy’s Hands. She held onto her father until he danced her over to Cody. Cody shook his hand, took Jolene in his arms and danced away. Jolene looked over her shoulder and saw her father standing at the edge of the dance floor. She winked at him and waved. Then she looked up at Cody and smiled, resting the side of her face against his chest.
When the song ended, Cody walked to his parents table and held his hand out to his mother. His father shook his head. “Have another dance with Jolene. Your mother’s too tired.”
Cody reached out to his mother again. She took his hand and stood. “Can I have this dance?” he said.
The DJ changed from DADDY’S HANDS to Anne Murray’s, COULD I HAVE THIS DANCE.
Cody waltzed slowly so his mother wouldn’t become winded and start coughing again. Then she rested her head against his thick chest and began to talk.
“When you were a baby and got restless and fussy, I would put on this record and dance with you. Dancing soothed you, relaxed you and helped you sleep. That’s why I love this song. Even after you went to sleep I would hold you, and dance with you and sing to you. I knew then that you would be my partner for the rest of my life.” She stifled a cough into his coat.
“You ok?” Cody said, leaning back and looking into her face.
“I’m fine, honey. Just keep dancing,” she said.
“I know you’re sick, mom. I heard you and dad talking the other day.”
“You forget what you heard, Cody. No matter what happens, I will always be here. All you have to do is look. You’ll find me.”
Cody leaned his head down and kissed her on top of the head. “There’s other treatments, mom. I swear it’s not too late.”
“Now stop that,” she said. Take me back to my table and get this party started,” she said, hugging him tightly.
Cody walked her back to the table in the corner, pulled out her chair and kissed her on the cheek. “Thanks dad,” he said, shaking his father’s hand.
Cody waved at the DJ and called, “Let’s Party!”
The music blasted from the amplifiers and a hundred young couples cheered and ran for the dance floor.
Exhausted from the dance, she crossed her arms on the table, lay her head down and closed her eyes.
He reached and took her hand. “You ok?” he said.
“I’m just tired,” she said. Then she took a deep breath and let it out slowly.
For the first time in two years, she felt like she could take in as deep a breath as she wanted. She sighed deeply and felt the cool air lift her out of her diseased body. Her soul floated above the chair and then, arms outstretched, she sailed slowly toward the center of the dance floor. She watched Cody and Jolene dancing and laughing with their friends. She felt warm and comfortable in all the love and friendship that moved around the dance floor.
Then the ceiling opened and a bright light shined down from heaven.