Harper felt the brush of Graham’s lips on her forehead. He never wanted to wake her before he left for his run, but the soft kiss was his goodbye. Though she never opened her eyes, as a light sleeper, she was fully aware. It was this ritual they did every morning.
And it was every single morning.
Graham was faithful to get his run in, come rain or sunshine, cold or heat. To him, it was a kind of sacrament, not just an exercise routine; but she assumed there had to be some of the endorphin thing happening that made this such a pleasure for him. Harper had never run hard enough nor long enough to verify there ever was such a thing as a runner’s high. That kind of exertion was always just plain work, dull sweaty work. And besides that, she was not exactly a morning person. She hardly felt human till about 8, and then only if she had had some strong coffee. The times she enjoyed exercise was if it happened to be a byproduct of some other singular pleasure, like taking a hike in a beautiful place so you could photograph, or the game and relational aspect of playing something like racquetball or volleyball. Though those sports were long gone since the cross-lateral motion started affecting her knees. For Harper, a walk where you actually needed to get from point A to point B was mostly the exercise she got, with occasional swims thrown in at the club. Walking botanical gardens or the beach with her camera was also exercise, but the pleasure of the moment outweighed any physical benefit she imagined she was receiving.
Graham had always been devoted to physical fitness. Not in a narcissistic way: It was how his mind and body approached living—with vigor and consistency. So, this run accomplished his aerobic goals, but not just that. Over the years, it had become his communion time with God. Alone in the early morning with the steady beat of his shoes on the pavement, he talked to God about things that were going on in his life. He interceded for family and friends and other needs that had made it onto his long prayer list. It was five miles of praying and listening that fueled his relationship with God and his passion for service and evangelism. For years, he had worked in the tech industry; but after a big lay off, he reevaluated what he was doing with his life and felt led to go to work for a non-profit that helped set up tech services, radio, cell phone, Internet access, in underserved regions of the States, and even other places in the world. It was rewarding work, and he had never been happier.
Harper rolled over and snuggled down into the covers to catch some more sleep. She didn’t hear her cell phone ring because it was downstairs in her purse. It was the sharp knock at the door that startled her awake. She jumped up, pulled on her robe, and headed downstairs. Peeking out the peep hole, she saw two police officers, so she quickly opened the door.
“Hello. Can I help you?”
“Are you Harper Carville, ma’am?”
“I am; what’s . . .”
The officer consulted his notes and spoke quickly. “Your husband Graham Carville has been transported by ambulance to St. Mary’s. He apparently collapsed.”
“He what!” The words were hitting her like a slap in the face. “Is he okay?”
“I don’t know ma’am. Witnesses said he lost consciousness briefly, but he was awake when he was transported. He gave us your number and address. We tried your phone but got no answer. You will have to ask your doctor and husband for more information. Do you have a ride to the hospital?”
“Yes, absolutely. I can drive. Thank you so much for telling me.” She thought she could drive, but breathing seemed more of a problem at the moment.
“Good day, Ms. Carville.”
Harper closed the door softly. Stunned. Then the adrenalin kicked in. She ran upstairs, threw on some jeans and a blouse, grabbed her purse and keys and headed out to the hospital.
She wasn’t really sure how she made all the right turns, but she found the place. Her mind was racing, palms sweaty as she ran in the Emergency Room entrance. Her prayers were not very articulate—mostly “Help, Lord” and other groans and utterings she believed only the Spirit could interpret. A blur of words and motion.
Harper opened her eyes suddenly to the same ceiling she had looked at for the last five years. She had been crying in her sleep. Early on, the dream used to play every night as if on a loop. Over and over and over again. All the details of that first day when everything changed were emblazoned in her mind. Over the years, the memory, though still there unfaded, did not plague her in the night as it once did. But here it was again in vivid color. The pain was still there, and she wondered if she would ever be free of it.