Leading Jenna Home
“Jamie, I’m scared.” My little sister clutched my hand.
“Don’t worry, love. I’ll be right here beside you, every step of the way.”
“Promise?” Her big eyes pleaded. “Scout’s honor.” I smiled gently, and she relaxed a bit, took another few steps. We were almost to the entrance of the beautiful bridge.
“Look, Jenna, can you see the far shore?”
Jenna peered into the grey-blue mist, nervous and uncertain. “It does look a tiny bit brighter over there,” she said bravely.
“You’ll love it! I’ve heard it’s beautiful. And the air – you’ll be able to breathe, and run, and play.”
Jenna and I used to sit in the window of her sickroom, watching healthy children tossing balls, hiding and seeking, squealing happily. Once I carried her to a flower-filled meadow where she was enchanted by soft clouds that looked like fluffy white sheep. Jenna laughed with delight, but then her laugh turned into a choking cough and I had to rush her back to safety. Still, she always remembered the meadow.
“Are there flowers over there?”
“More than you could possibly count.”
“Every color you can imagine. Plus colors that never existed before!”
“Are there clouds?”
“In all shapes and sizes. Sheep of course, but also owls and kittens and even an occasional mongoose.”
By now she had one foot on the bridge. She laughed easily, no cough. A look of amazement crossed her face.
“I can breathe, Jamie. I can breathe!”
I gazed intently at my dear little sister, committing her to memory. Her cheeks were full of color, her eyes sparkling. She was no longer afraid and she was no longer sick. For the first time in her four-and-a-half years, she was strong and sure of herself. I held back the avalanche of tears waiting behind my reassuring smile.
“Tell Mom and Dad I said hello,” I called to her as she let go of my hand and skipped across the bridge, more alive in death than she had ever been in life. She turned, blew me a kiss, and then she was gone.