My hand flew to my throat. I could nearly hear the squeal of breaks, the screams of passengers, and the crunch of metal at the collision.
Her voice dropped even lower. “The man next to me was covered in blood. Clearly, he was gravely injured, probably dying. But he focused not on himself, but on me, on the state of my soul. He thrust his Bible into my hands, begging me to read the truth within its pages. His last words have haunted me to this day.”
A truck roared past, whipping up a cloud of dust that irritated my eyes. At least, that’s the excuse I gave myself for the tears in my eyes. Then her words registered on another level. “Wait a minute. Are you talking about the Bible that sat on the mantle? The one with the cracked leather and dark splotches? Those were blood stains?”
“Yes, that’s the Bible he gave me, Emily,” Mom affirmed. “I clutched the Bible and tried to comfort him, tried to stop the blood, but he waved off my feeble attempts and said to me, ‘Norma Jane. Jesus said, “I come not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” He’s calling your name, Norma Jane.’”
My eyes fell on the simple wooden cross, representing a man who gave his last breath to reach another’s lost soul.
“But I never answered Him, Emily.” My mother turned to me, grabbing hold of my hands in a tight grip. “I could feel His tugging on my heart, but I ignored His call. After the accident, I had no heart left for continuing my journey, so I returned home to you and your father. And I tried to be a good person, tried to love you and your father the best way I could. I felt I had to, you see, because I was spared.”
“But you were always distant, so cold in a lot of ways. I knew that you loved me, but I also knew that you weren’t happy, that you would rather be off doing something else. And when Daddy died, you finally did leave.”
Mom squeezed my hands, then let go. “I’m an old woman now. My life hasn’t turned out quite like I expected. I wanted you to understand what happened here, how it changed the course of my life. I thought maybe we could reconnect somehow.”
I sighed in frustration as the old hurts clawed their way to the forefront of my mind. “Changed the course of your life? How, exactly, did it change your life?”
I paced away from her, stopping by the foot of the cross, then whirling around to point an accusing finger at my mom. “Instead of running away with some stranger, you returned to play the martyr with Dad and me. Then you simply disappeared whenever the walls closed in. That about sums it up, right? But then Dad died, and you had a golden opportunity to recapture those ‘lost’ years, didn’t you?” My voice rose to compete with the wind. “Was it worth it, Mom? Didn’t you even read the Bible that man on the bus died to give you?”