Sunday, September 21, 2014

The light in the upstairs hall

Vern and Edith Benson's only son, second-grader Bobby, was everyone's friend. Never one to whine or complain, he usually thought about others more than himself. "Gee, Mom, you sure look pretty in that dress," he often said. Or "this meatloaf is really yummy!" Down in the basement workshop, his Dad was teaching him to use power tools safely, and he made simple birdhouses -- as gifts, of course. He was very obedient. When crossing the road on his walk to school, he always looked both ways. But one morning, two weeks before Christmas, that wasn't enough.

Just as he got to the middle of the road, a car appeared out of nowhere. He had no time to run. It ran over him. He died instantly.

Vern and Edith's anguish turned to anger when they learned the car was driven by a 15-year-old boy with no license. They called their lawyer and demanded, "we want that kid tried as an adult, so he can spend the rest of his life in prison!" Edith went to bed and refused to get up. She lay there almost a week, in misery. Vern tried to encourage her, but he had no answer to her question: if there is a God, how could he let Bobby die? What happened next is hard to believe, but true.

Late one night, Vern noticed a light under the bedroom door. He told Edith he must have left the hall light on, and went to turn it off. But the hall light was turned off. The light came from everywhere, and it was almost blindingly bright. As Vern stood in the brilliance, he felt in his heart that his son never died. Bobby was needed by God to do very important work. He was sure of it. When he walked back into the bedroom, Edith was shocked. Vern's face was glowing with light! He told her what he learned, and she shouted, "that's the first thing I've heard all week that makes any sense." Then she paused. "It's true Bobby no longer needs us, Vern, but there is someone who does. He's locked up in the county jail, and unless we help, he won't get any Christmas presents this year."

So they scoured the house for small gifts, and wrapped them up. The next morning at the jail they met Ed, the teenager who killed their son.  They learned he had no Dad and was being raised by his Mom, who worked two jobs and was seldom home. He often skipped school, and had poor grades. When his Mom came home that morning and went to sleep before her next job, he took the car keys out of her purse and went for a joy ride. He never intended to hurt anyone. He was sorry.

After seeing the light, Verne and Edith knew what they had to do. First, they dropped all charges against Ed, provided he agreed to come to their house every afternoon to do his homework. They tutored him when he needed help, and let him sit in Bobby's chair at the dinner table to enjoy a good supper. After his grades began to improve, Vern took him downstairs to the shop and taught him how to make birdhouses, as gifts. Eventually they made beautiful furniture together. Vern and Edith helped his Mom pay off a few debts, and when she could, she joined them for supper with Ed. In the glow of forgiveness and love, Ed's attitude improved. Vern and Edith were in the audience when he graduated from high school on his way to college. As valedictorian, he made a few remarks from the stage. He thanked his Mom for working two jobs, and looking at Vern and Edith with tears in his eyes, he said, "Gee, Edith, you sure look pretty in that dress." Everyone laughed, but Edith knew it was no joke.
(As remembered from a long-ago Guidesposts Magazine)

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