We lived in Finland, in a small village, safe from harm. Nothing marred our happiness, except that scattered about the town were signs that read, “Bomb the Americans.” The anti-American sentiment made us a little uneasy, but it didn’t seem to have much to do with us personally.
It was a warm spring day. I walked home from town where I had been on some fun errand, shopping or something. I was dressed in what I thought was a wonderful outfit: a white eyelet skirt and a turquoise blouse. These items were borrowed from Meg. Growing up, all my best outfits were borrowed from Meg. I wore what I thought were red shoes. (Later I was to discover I was wrong about the shoes.)
As I approached our house, the kids ran out to join me. We walked along the cobblestone street together. (Their ages were about the time of 1985, so Pack was about 2, Henry 5, Saul 9 or 10, Myra 10 or 11.) There was a storm cloud growing ahead of us. I pointed to it, and told the kids, “Look! I’ll bet there’s some thunder in that cloud!” We were all excited, because the cloud was thick, black and low in the sky, and it hovered over our house. (After I woke up I realized that the cloud was only outside our door. The rest of the neighborhood was bathed in sunshine.) The cloud was black and furry, like black dryer lint, with tendrils hanging down, extremely ominous.
We rushed through the wind and the rain and made it into the house safely. I took off my shoes, and was surprised to see that I was wearing white shoes, not red. Then I noticed that the family’s shoes were outside on the doorstep: Jim’s tall brown boots, and each child’s shoes were lined up in a row. I didn’t want them to get wet or blow away, so I opened the door to bring them inside. Henry squeezed past me and ran out into the storm.
“Where’s he going?” I cried out. Saul told me, “He forgot something in the shed.”
I looked out to see Henry struggling to walk in the strong wind. He was wearing his ET shirt and no pants, no shoes. He looked so small and vulnerable.
“Henry!” I screamed. “Come back! Come back!” He didn’t turn around, just called something over his shoulder that I couldn’t hear. He made it to the shed and disappeared inside.
I told the family that I had to go after Henry. He was not safe in the shed; it could blow over any minute. I ran out the door. The wind was so strong I could barely stand up, but I made it to the shed. I grabbed Henry and we fought our way back to the house. It seemed to take forever.
Once inside I hugged Henry so hard, and I cried and cried. “Henry, why did you do that? Don’t you understand, you could have been hurt or even killed? The wind is blowing things around so fast, you could have been hit!”
I took his face in my hands. He had terror in his eyes and he was crying uncontrollably. I held him and rocked him in my arms.
Then he disappeared. Instead of Henry, my arms held a thick, battered old paperback book with a torn cover. It looked like it had been left out in the rain.
I woke up.
I immediately recognized the book I was holding. It was The Last Enchantment by Mary Stewart. It is the story of King Arthur, and was a favorite of my mother’s.
For several days the dream haunted me. I couldn’t figure it out. I told my family about it, but kept feeling puzzled and uneasy. Finally, one evening I got up from my chair and went to the bookshelf to find that book. I knew right where it was, my hand went right to it, which is no small thing because we display hundreds and hundreds of books. I thought it was a silly thing to do, as though the book would be able to shed any light on my dream.
I opened the book and read the author’s dedication:
“To the one who was dead and is alive again, who was lost and is found.”
I was not puzzled by my dream any longer. The Prodigal Son was a central theme in our last days with Henry. He had come home to us a few weeks before he died, and set about to change his life for the better, to square his debts and make things right with Courtney. He returned from the far country. Because of that, we have hung the Rembrandt painting, "The Prodigal Son" over our fireplace.
And now, God is so kind to give us this message, in the language of that wonderful story.