When Ed Wingert got to his apartment he pushed the button and listened to the voice mail left by Bee.
“I think she wants to see me,” he sighed. Ed had not allowed himself to care about anybody until now. He had been with women but he would not consider marriage or even a romance with them. Bee was challenging him. It was not because she was the spittin’ image of Audrey. He had always though Audrey was beautiful, although he never fell in love with her. Jack did that. Now he was having feelings about Beatrice which he was not in control of and it sort of scared him. He picked up the phone and called her. After several rings Bee picked up on the other end.
“Hello,” she announced herself.
“Hi,” said Ed. He suddenly was aware that he knew not what to say. She simply said she needed to talk to him. He knew she was troubled over the loss of her sister, and he did not know what he could say to comfort her. A long silent pause was the result of all these thoughts, as she stood completely tongue-tied with her phone to her ear. Finally Ed broke the silence.
“You wanted to talk to me,” he began. “I think I need someone to talk to, myself. I was wondering if you would have dinner with me this evening.”
It was only after he said it that Ed realized what he was saying. He was rather surprised because he had not intended to ask her out for dinner. He was even more surprised when she accepted. There was another thirty seconds of silence and then Ed spoke again.
“Can I pick you up at seven?” he asked. Bee accepted and, upon request, gave him her address. Then they both said goodbye and both simultaneously headed for the shower.
At six-fifty-five, Ed rang the doorbell at Bee’s apartment. After he announced himself over the intercom she unlocked the door and he entered.
This was the first of many dinners they had together. At first they were both self-conscious, so the dialogue was mainly small talk, but as they became more familiar with one another, they began to see that they shared a lot in common.
During dinner one night Ed just blurted something out that he immediately regretted... but not for long.
“You know I saw Jack after the funeral,” he said. “He came to me at my apartment.” Ed looked into Bee’s eyes, trying to ascertain what she was thinking of this wild idea but he didn’t find shock. He found her to be extremely interested. Still he felt he needed to explain. He didn’t want her to think he was crazy.
He explained the whole visit to her. When she didn’t cut him off or act like she was becoming distant to him, he continued. When he finished, she shared news of her visit with Audrey.
“People would probably think we were crazy,” she said. “I am sure she was there that night and I have felt her presence or someone like her ever since. You know, I’ve never been the religious kind, but I am starting to believe that God does exist and he is working in our lives. I think he has brought you to me together. I thank him for that.”
Jack reached across the table and put his hand on hers. His smile said more than any words he may have tried to say. Somehow right now, there were no words except what he was now saying.
“I love you!”
“I love you, too,” Bee answered. “I never thought I would love any man; you have been a source of real comfort,” she continued.
“I guess we have comforted each other,” Jack answered.
The next day, Jack didn’t meet Bee for lunch as usual. He drove out to the prison to see how Joe was doing.
He went through the ritual as usual. He checked his keys and anything metallic in a locker supplied by the prison, walked through the metal detector and then waited until he heard Joe’s name called out over the intercom. Then he got up and walked through the security gates that seemed to take forever to slide open and close behind him. He had, as usual, had a stamp on the back of his hand which only could be seen when he slipped his hand under the black light. Then he saw Joe who was in the general population now. He was sitting on a bench-like chair waiting.
Ed couldn’t help but notice the smile on his face. Ed apologized for not coming back to see him sooner and Joe waved it off.
“I’m always glad to see you,” he said.
During the course of their conversation, Ed asked how he was holding up and Joe surprised him.
“I found Jesus in here,” he said as a matter of fact. “I have made some real friends. You know there are a lot of guys in here who swear they were framed.
Ed chuckled and asked if Joe believed them.
“No,” Joe answered. “There are a lot of guys here like me,” he continued. “They know what they did was wrong and now they simply want to pay their dues. A few of them will probably get paroled. I don’t expect I will. I don’t think I deserve it. But the fact is that no matter where I am, I know for the first time in my life that God really does have a place for me and I am going to live for him. I’ve kinda started a ministry in here. I want to help as many of these guys who will allow me to find where they are in life and build a future, if not in this life then in the next.”
“You’ve come a long way,” praised Ed. “I am glad you have found yourself. I believe in God, too. He has sent an angel to me. She’s loving and never misses a chance to praise me. I think I’m going to ask her to marry me.” He was grinning from ear to ear and Ron smiled broadly.
“That’s great,” he said. “Remember to never stop loving her. Don’t ever make her feel like she’s second best and whatever you do treat her with kindness. I wish I could only do that with Sarah, now.”
The rest of their visit was more small talk and before he knew it Ed felt the hand of a guard on his shoulder telling him his time was up. He said goodbye to his friend and left.
True to his word, Ed did ask Bee to marry him and she said yes. They were married about a month later and about fourteen months after that he came home from work one night to a glowing wife. Bee had an announcement to make. She was with child.
Their little baby girl was born healthy and Ed was feeling better about life than he had ever felt before.
Years flowed by. For Ed and Bee and their daughter, Mary Jane, it seemed to go too fast, at least for Ed and Bee. Mary Jane was the light of their lives.
For Joe things were going well, too, at least as well as you can expect for a man in prison. He had become an influence on the lives of many others who might have been career criminals, but instead found that life had much to offer for those who had faith. He watched many of them as they came up for parole, and he was never lonely because, like Ed, these guys did not forget a friend who supported them. They came back to visit on a regular basis.
Ed’s life was about to take a change. Mary Jane was just seven years old and in school and Bee had taken a job as a library assistant to help keep the finances strong so they would be able to have a college fund set up for their daughter.
She noticed that one case Ed was working on was troubling him, but he wouldn’t talk about it. She never pressed.
Then one day he came home from work with eyes glazed over. He shuffled through the front door and sat down at the kitchen table, saying nothing.
“What’s wrong?” asked Bee.
“I killed a seventeen year old boy today,” he groaned. “I didn’t want to. It was him or me.”
“What happened, Dear?” Bee asked, laying a hand on his shoulder.
“Actually, all I was trying to do was wrestle the gun away from him. He was threatening to kill people. I saw an opportunity and jumped for the gun but he stepped backward and we scuffled over the gun. It went off and he fell to the floor,” Ed cried.
“In the Twenty plus years I’ve been on the force, I had never been forced to cause the death of another,” he said.
“Now he’s dead.” Ed looked into Bee’s eyes as if he were trying to gain some feeling of forgiveness. Actually that was all she had to give him. She knew nothing about the case and she did not understand how any of this happened.
Bee drew him into her arms. Ed said nothing for a long time. Then Mary Jane came into the room. When she saw her father with tears in his eyes, she began to cry.
“What’s wrong, Daddy?” she asked. Ed pulled her to him and kissed her cheek. He didn’t say anything. He didn’t know how to tell his daughter what he had told Bee.
Later that evening he announced that he was retiring from the police force.
“I have enough time to earn a good retirement,” he said. “I think I will try something else.”
Bee didn’t try to change his mind. In truth, she was relieved that he had made that decision. She had always been concerned that he may not come home some evening, leaving her and Mary Jane to live alone. After what had just happened, she was more acutely aware that it could have been him who received that bullet.
The next day, Ed turned in his resignation. Then later he stopped by to visit with Joe.
When Ed told him what had happened Joe gave the same exclamation that he so often used.
“Bummer,” he declared. Ed went on to explain that he had turned in his papers. Joe asked what he was going to do and Ed said that he simply didn’t know
“Look man,” Joe began. “I found comfort in the Lord and my transgressions were a lot worse than yours. Maybe you should look to him, too.”
Ed simply looked at him for a spell. Then he took a deep breath.
“I have prayed everyday that something like that would never happen. I guess he wasn’t listening,” he complained.
“He was listening,” corrected Joe. “You need to keep in mind that everything, both good and bad will work for the good of those who love the Lord. You know what?” he went on. “You should consider becoming a minister. You could use your heartbreak as a tool. You know grief. You know what it does to you. You could help others out of the same pain. It would also help you out of your pain. It worked for me.”
It wasn’t long after that visit that Ed joined a seminary.
The years go by faster than anyone wants them to. Ed did become an ordained minister. He eventually got a job as a prison chaplain. He and Joe were always friends and Bee kept working as a library assistant. Before they knew it Mary Jane had grown up, fallen in love, married, and Ed and Bee were grandparents.
It was about thirty years after Ed graduated from seminary that his faith was put to the greatest test. Bee was diagnosed with cancer and there was no cure. He lost her but he knew she was with God.
It was only seven years after that when Ed got a visitor. He was going over some papers at his desk in the den at home when Arty came for him.
“You’ve done well,” Arty praised. “Now it’s time you come with me.”
“Where too?” asked Ed, though deep down inside he knew.
“We are going to hook up with your wife,” Arty smiled. “You’re going to meet your Master.”
“What about Mary Jane?” Ed asked. Arty simply reassured him that she was taken care of and it was Mary Jane who found Ed slumped over his desk. She had been raised to believe in God, so in spite of her sadness she knew her father was in God’s arms.
Joe, who did spend the rest of his life in prison, got the same visitor. Arty announced that the Master had forgiven all his transgressions and wished his company.
“You are going to see Sarah again,” Arty explained. “She has forgiven you and she really never stopped loving you. She can’t wait to see you.”
Joe was found by a guard and that ended a saga.