The tall young man shivered as he stood on the porch of his winter cabin that overlooked Lake Spokane, his coat unbuttoned and its hood pushed back. Tears trickled down his face. He wondered briefly if they would freeze before reaching his chin. But he didn’t care.
‘Stephen’, Keith spoke from the opened door. ‘You can’t stay out here much longer. You’re icing up.’
Stephen stood staring out over the white frosted landscape that gave little hint of where water and land met. Silent sobs racked his body.
‘Getting frost bite won’t bring her back’, Keith persisted.
‘No’, Stephen gulped. ‘But it’s where I want to be. I feel close to her here.’
‘Bethany wouldn’t be standing out here in this weather.’
‘Bethany should have BEEN here,’ Stephen replied coldly.
Standing now beside his grief stricken brother, Keith looked over the familiar scenery before them. Past winters with his father and Stephen played before him like icy shadows skipping over the whiteness. They loved winter, the snow, and their hunting vacations. After their father had died eight years earlier, Keith and Stephen continued their annual trips together for another three years…until they both married. The brothers vacations ceased, but Stephen and Bethany still came every winter. Keith’s wife, Angela, preferred to spend winter in warmer climate so Keith had given his inherited share of the cabin to Stephen and his adventurous wife as a wedding gift.
‘Of all the things we did together: skiing, mountain climbing, shooting trips, scuba diving…’ Stephen swallowed. ‘Who would have predicted a tree would fall on her car while she waited at a stop sign.’
‘Stephen, you’re freezing.’
‘It’s my heart that’s chilled.’
Keith reached for his brother’s arm, guided him out of the bitter wind toward his father’s old rocking chair and made him sit. ‘Snap out of it, Stephen. It’s a relief to see you mourn…heaven knows I thought you would never let yourself grieve, but this is ridiculous. You’re chilled to the bone. I want to take you home alive; not in a coffin after you die from pneumonia.’
‘I’m already dead inside.’
Keith sighed. ‘Well, from the look of those frozen eyebrows and blue lips, it won’t be long before the outside of you will catch up with your inside.’
Stephen continued to stare beyond the porch. ‘I can’t live without her.’ His voice faltered. ‘Why did she have to die?’ With his face contorted, a single sob broke loose.
‘I can’t answer that’.
Silence fell between them, disturbed only by the howl of the wind and Stephen’s sniffles.
Stephen didn’t budge. Melted snow dripped from his hair and mingled with his tears.
‘Do you recall the winter Dad had an encounter with a bear?’ Keith said suddenly.
Stephen turned his head slowly to look at Keith.
Keith laughed. ‘Remember? It was his turn to chop and he whined all the way out to the wood pile.’
‘He was chopping wood for almost fifteen minutes before he realized that a bear had been watching him from just ten feet away’, Stephen added, trying to focus on the memory.
Keith smiled. ‘Yeah, and we watched from the window and laughed when that big old bear chased him all the way back to the cabin’.
‘And none of us could understand why Dad wasn’t attacked’, Stephen finished.
‘We didn’t foresee Dad’s heart attack three years later either. He was fitter than me and you put together.’ Keith brushed ice from his younger brother’s coat. ‘We may never know why these things happen, but God does have everything in His hands.’
‘Are you preaching to me, Big Brother?’
‘Nope, just reminding you of what you already know.’ He paused. ‘Stephen, don’t let your heart stay chilled for long. The whole of you needs to find warmth in those who love you.’ Keith had finally gained Stephen’s attention. ‘Angela and I have been worried about you. Bethany’s parents are hurting too, and from what I understand, you haven’t spoken to them since the funeral. By the look of things, you haven’t done much talking with God either. We can’t bring Bethany back, and no one can help you while your heart is so cold.’
Stephen took a deep breath. ‘I’ll try. But how?’
‘You’re thawing. That’s a start.’
Melted snow began to seep through the front of Stephen’s flannel shirt. He shivered. ‘It is rather chilly out here. Isn’t it?’
Keith grinned. ‘You could also try and enjoy this winter…for Bethany.’
© Chrissy Siggee