“A Moments Wrest”, Chapter 13: Walk On
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13 Walk On
Lora Barrat’s confession caught Wesley off guard. He was so focused on the obvious, his missed the most pressing need altogether. Along with his surprise was a little professional embarrassment.
I don’t understand”, Wesley replied. “Is there something wrong with Mr. Barrat?” He didn’t want to ask, but the words tumbled out before he connected the dots on his own.
“Gregg is probably the most consistent and trustworthy man I know”, Lora said. “He is loyal to the final bell. But he is also a very private man. It has taken me 46 years, but I am certain when I say something is bothering him. He does not express his emotions in a demonstrative way, but I can read them all the same.”
“My husband has always been evenly tempered”, she continued, “but I have observed he has also become an angry man recently. And, it is leaking out a little more each day. His stoic personality is cracking. This has been building for some time now, but Oren’s accident was the final push. And I’m not sure how I can help him, if at all.”
Wesley sat down in the pew opposite the centre aisle. He felt the weight of Lora’s concern. He had known Gregg Barrat for as long as he was alive, and could not recall one memory when Mr. Barrat was not calm and collected. He seemed to take everything in stride, noticeably in difficult times. He often became the proverbial calm in the eye of whatever storm moved in.
The issue grew in priority with the increase of new white buckets littering the sanctuary over the course of several Sundays. During the meeting there were strong opinions shared about how to tackle the issue. Some wanted an inexpensive patch, while others pushed for a full replacement.
The discussion became quite heated until Gregg took to the microphone and somehow disarmed the meeting. Wesley was as impressed as he was grateful for Gregg Barrat that night.
The news his admirable strength was crumbling concerned Wesley.
But without talking with Gregg himself, he wasn’t sure how he could help either. However, a few things started to make sense. The last several weeks the Barrats were not at church, which was understandable considering the accident. But he did notice from Gregg, a gradual disconnect from church life long before it happened.
Wesley began his pastoral ministry at Crossway just over three years, but he came with some tenure. He was experienced enough to anticipate a drop in volunteer commitment from parishioners at three key life stages: weddings, having kids, and retirement. Those pivotal moments in life affected people’s schedules more than anything else. With Gregg, Wesley just assumed he was adjusting to retirement.
Wesley now realized there was a heaviness to Gregg he had not picked up on. On top of this, Gregg was well experienced at keeping it to himself. So in the light of what Lora had just told him in the last few moments, these little clues were falling into place. What wasn’t clear though, was the reason behind the weight Gregg was carrying. What happened?
“Well”, Wesley offered, “at least we know where to ask for help.”
They bowed their heads.
Oren found himself on his back looking up into the strange sky. He had no idea how long he had been there, or how long his eyes were open. His gaze was stuck on the tops of the trees that stretched into the blue canvass overhead. They waved ever so slightly against a breeze that Oren could only hope was actually there. It was peaceful. And quiet.
A small bird flew overhead almost near the tree tops. Oren’s blurred attention was tuned by the wushing sound of it’s wings against the air, even long after it flew out of view. It’s rhythm reverberated around him. He then remembered why he was on the ground.
He sat straight up and called Jesse’s name. He tried to pull himself up using the stump beside him, but he was still lightheaded. He paused there, hunched over the smooth surface of the wood. He took a deep breath.
He managed to push himself to a stand and wobbled a bit to the right. Fighting to stay on his feet, Oren looked around the campsite turning backwards. Everything was gone except the two stumps they had been sitting on, and the circle of large stones between them. All there remained from the fire was a pile of ashes, nothing else. Jesse and his backpack were gone.
He crouched forward and put his hand over the ashes. There was no warmth to them at all, as if the fire had been out for days. This doesn’t make any sense! He looked up again to the sky, which was the same dark blue it had been on the beach. As best as he could tell, no time had passed while he was out.
Even the warmth on the back of the tree that led him here was gone. He looked back in the direction of the site, and leaned up against the tree facing the fire pit.
As he tilted his head back, it hit something odd. He spun around and looked.
Hanging from a short, broken branch stub, were his missing sandals.
...to be continued