Right out Loud

 Wireless. August, 2011.

Desperation and Wireless Communication

I was only five the day my mother and I encountered the raving man downtown. He ambled towards us, sneakers soft-shoeing along the sidewalk, howling in indignation.

He walked alone.

“Mommy,” I piped, “Who’s he talking to?”

Mom shushed me.

He continued along towards us. Suddenly one alert index finger jabbed upward. Then his voice dropped to a mutteringly quiet monotone.

“Mommy, why is he poking holes in the sky?”

Mom grabbed my arm  and hustled me into a jewelry store,  where we pretended to admire some glittering thing twinkling at us from black velvet in the thick glass case.

He’d wandered another block down the street before my mother loosened her grip on my arm and we returned to the sidewalk. 

I forgot about the man, his angry voice, the poking and calming, for a long, long time.

Then came that night, nearly five years ago. When the phone summoned me from sleep I thought of my daughter, four days past due with my first grandchild, and leapt to wide-awake. But it was Rich, who later would marry me, on the phone.

“Sean’s been in an accident. I’m driving to Loma Linda.”

“What kind of accident?”

“He crashed his motorcycle.”

I pushed aside my eager thoughts of a new grandbaby arriving and considered his firstborn son, twenty-five, about to conclude eight years of service as a U.S. Marine. I’d met him once.

Crashed? Hurt? I blinked.

“I need to focus on my driving,” Rich said. “I’ll call when I know more.”

Two hours later he called me back. “It’s bad,” he told me. “He’s in surgery.”

After we hung up I pulled open the sliding glass door that led to my deck. It was late on a moonless Sunday, darkness ushering cool after a hot summer day.

I realized, after a few minutes, that I was pacing in circles, praying out loud. I’d skipped the praise, the thanksgiving, and gone straight to intercession. I walked and I prayed, begging loud and hearty.

I felt God with me. And when Rich called me again, in the newborn hours of Monday morning, to sob out the news that his son had died, I returned to my deck and I prayed out loud some more, anguish ripping from a place I didn’t even know was in me.

And then I thought of that long-ago sidewalk encounter. I wondered what within that man had driven him to a place like the one I now found myself in, walking in circles and lifting my cry.

I jabbed a finger into the air as I prayed.

It poked a little hole in the sky and peace poured down.

18 Therefore the LORD longs to be gracious to you,
And therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you.
For the LORD is a God of justice;
How blessed are all those who long for Him.  19 O people in Zion, inhabitant in Jerusalem, you will weep no longer. He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry; when He hears it, He will answer you.
Isaiah 30:18-19 (NASB)


  1. Wireless Communication, indeed: "He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry; when He hears it, He will answer you."

    Your story is so sad, and yet God hears those cries and sees those fingers poking holes in the sky. He has ways of answering that sometimes surprise us. May His grace and love bring healing to your family's heart over this tragic loss of Rich's son. I can't even imagine what that must be like.


  2. Linda,
    Thank you for your kind words.

    Even after all this time (it'll be five years next month), it's new every morning. I guess that explains why His mercies are new every morning.

  3. Such a hard, sad story. But told so beautifully, with a wonderful connection to a long-ago memory. Thank you for this beautiful writing, Sheila. Prayers for Rich (and for you and all who loved Sean) as this anniversary looms. It changes over time, this grief we carry, but it never leaves. A hole is a hole, even when grace and peace flood in.

  4. Thank you, Diana, for your kind words and especially for your prayers.

  5. It is extreemly difficult to loose a child before their time! The shock is almost unbearable except for the grace of God which as you remind us is new every morning. My prayer is for the young mother and child that they can find happiness and love!

  6. I'm pleased to report that Sean's widow found a fine young man and the two of them have brought us a beautiful granddaughter.

  7. oh, my friend, you write golden. this, my favorite part: I jabbed a finger into the air as I prayed.

    It poked a little hole in the sky and peace poured down.

  8. Yup!! 🙂

  9. Um…the "yup!" was in response to Rich's comment.

    Emily, thank you for your kind words.