In Ramah, Lamentation

The man is in a crowd of people, and he is given a locker room key. The number on the key is 1065. He enters a locker room—it is the old Carroll High School JV locker room. He walks through the locker room and cannot find his locker. He goes through the freshman locker room. Same result. He goes to the varsity locker room. Same result.

He wanders out to the football fields. There are hundreds of people wandering around. Kids are playing football. Parents are on the track. Others are walking around with keys in their hands. Some have clearly found their lockers, but he has not found his.

Toward the end of the JV field, he can see a line of people. He goes down to the line of people. It is like a giant water slide, and people are grabbing inner tubes and heading down a water slide surrounded by grass. The man joins the line. When it is his turn, he grabs a tube and starts down the chute. Suddenly, he is alone. He passes over water areas and comments aloud that they are good spots for canoeing and he has gone on tougher canoe trips. Then he hits grass spots where almost no water flows, but the downhill slope and the moisture of the grass keep him sliding. And suddenly, he lands in an open field.

Next to the field is a large cathedral. Organ music is coming from it, and the man believes it is a Catholic cathedral, though he sees no crosses. He enters, and there are people in the pews. But the front of the cathedral is not elevated, has no altar, no cross, no place to speak, and he can discern no organ from whence the music is coming. Instead, the front of the Church has towering oak panels with heavily decorated metal handles. High up on each oak panel is a number, and he notices that the numbers are in the thousands. He remembers his locker key and pulls it out. Sure enough, to the right is a panel with 1065 on it.

He notices that other people are drifting up to the panels. They, too, have keys. They use their keys to open the panels, and when they do, the panels slide open, and a veil drops in the doorway obscuring the views. He hears crying and laughing from beyond the doorways, and he is confused.

Suddenly, a dark-haired woman is at his side. She is dressed in white. She hands him white clothes. There are three sets of clothes. One set is for Lauren, and when he looks up, she is sitting on a ledge over the oak panel. He tosses her clothes up to her, and quickly she tosses them back, saying with irritation, “They’re too small.” The other set of clothes is small. It is for Lindsay, who is suddenly with him also.

He asks the woman with him, “What is on the other side of each door?”

She says, “This is a special place. It is for people who have lost children. It is for people to know that their children are okay.”

He steps forward with the key, and the woman says, “You will have only ten minutes to spend with your child.”

The man thinks this is odd because they have not lost a child following birth. He opens the door and steps in. Lindsay and the woman come in with him, and the veil drops behind him.

The room is like a clean-swept garage, and at the end of it is a tiny gold casket. He opens the casket, and inside is a baby boy, wiggling and crying. He picks him up, and Lindsay asks, “Who’s that, Dad?”

And instantly, he knows who the boy is. Tears fill his eyes, and he begins to weep almost uncontrollably. He says, “This is your little brother, but not Graham. You didn’t know him. His name is Gregory. He was born between you and Graham. He died before you could meet him.”

The man holds the baby up, curious, because he has no memory of the baby’s features. The baby is naked, but he soothes when the man holds him. The baby has chubby cheeks, light hair, and blue eyes. He is clearly related to Graham and Grant, but he is forced to exclaim, “Amazing. He looks like me.”

He kisses the boy and continues to weep. He sits on a bench, and beside him is a box full of clothes. The woman says, “These were his clothes?”

The man looks in and recognizes hand-me-downs that had originally belonged to Grant, and he says, “Yes. We buried them with him because we wanted him to feel warm and not lonely.” And even as he says it, he thinks it is ridiculous, since a dead body does not feel.

He hands the baby to Lindsay, who promptly drops him. The man tells her, “You can’t drop your brother.” The baby cries, and the man picks him up, but he is not afraid, nor is he upset with her, because he realizes that the baby is dead and cannot be hurt. The man kisses the boy’s cheeks over and over, and he says several times, “Only ten minutes?”

And the woman only nods.

At the end of ten minutes, the dream ends, and the man is suddenly awake with tears pouring down his cheeks. It is 3:30 am; he is so stunned and emotional that he cannot sleep. Lauren hears him, awakens, wraps an arm around him, and pulls him close. She strokes his chest for at least half an hour before he can settle down to rest.

It has been fifteen months since the miscarriage, a year since his father’s death, and three months since Graham’s birth.

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