So the next day, I was sitting beside her in her room again, trying to figure out why she was suddenly so depressed. Before, she had seemed as though she were a little slow, as though she were just tired. But by then, I was beginning to see that it wasn’t just a passing thing.
Her mom stayed with her that night, to make sure she was okay. I talked with her a little while Phoenix was asleep.
“Why does she knit and crochet all the time?”
Ms. Ryder smiled and set her book down on the couch. “You feeling up to a little walk?”
I shrugged. “I’m fine. Whatever you want.”
So we walked to the lobby and back a few times, not speaking most of the time. But what we did say was important enough.
After a few minutes of quiet, Ms. Ryder broke the silence by saying, “her grandmother taught her how to knit. I taught her how to crochet once when she had the chicken pox. She was bored out of her mind . . . and I felt bad for her. That was about a year ago.”
“And she’s done it since then?”
She nodded. “Yes.” Her lips fell into a sad smile she sighed. “She believes that if she does enough “good” things, like make caps for everyone, God will let her into Heaven.”
At this, I almost choked. “What?” I couldn’t believe what she’d just said. “You mean she thinks she’s going to—“
“She says that she wants to do it for the other kids, but that’s really what its all about. I wish she would listen to me when I try to talk to her about . . .” she trailed off as she stared at the floor as we walked. “There isn’t much I can tell her. Is there?”
I wasn’t sure what to say. So I didn’t reply.
The next day, I was pushing Phoenix’s wheelchair down the hall, a brand new cap of a fiery red, orange, and black pulled down over my bald head. She didn’t say much, only sat in the chair and eyed the open doors we passed.
When we reached the elevator, she huffed. “Middle. You know I’ll get sick on that thing,” she said. “It makes me light-headed.”
“You’ll be fine. Just . . . pretend you’re on a . . . um . . .”
“I’m not pretending anything, Middle.”
“Fine. But you’re still going no matter what you say.”
We made it down to the main floor without incident. Then I headed down the hall.
“Where are we going,” she finally asked.
She didn’t ask again. By the time we got there, her flat-lined lips had turned down in a frown. “Middle.”
“Just wait a second,” I said.
When we got to the double doors with the stained glass, she jerked upright. “No.”
“Yes,” I said, and pushed the chair through the open door. There was no one else there and I pushed the wheelchair to the front of the chapel, positioning it to the right of the wooden cross sitting beneath the spotlight.
Pews lined the room, only one open aisle down the center. The pews were wood too, and I knew they would hurt to sit on. So I sat beneath the cross on the mauve-colored carpet.
Phoenix refused to look at me when I glanced up at her. But I knew I had to say something to her.
But I wasn’t sure what to say.
After sitting beneath the cross for a while, my hands folded and head bowed, I began to sing “Amazing Grace”. I knew it wasn’t the most appropriate song for the moment, but it was the only song I knew by heart.
Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound
that saved a wretch like me . . .
I once was lost but now am found,
was blind, but now, I see.
I didn’t know the next few verses, so I skipped to the end instead.
When we've been here ten thousand years...
bright shining as the sun.
We've no less days to sing God's praise...
then when we've first begun.
And then I was silent.
After a while, there was a sniff from behind me. “Do you think God would do that for me, Middle?” I turned and she was holding her hand out to me, fingers trembling as her shoulders shook with the effort of holding back tears.
“He would do it for anyone, Phoenix.” She reached towards me and I went to sit in the pew I’d placed her wheelchair by.
“Middle,” she said. I took her hand in mine. “Middle, I need God to do that for me. To save me.” Her voice caught on the word “save” and she paused before going on.
“Do you want Him to right now,” I asked before she could speak again.
She nodded and whispered, “yes.”
Phoenix accepted Christ that day. I wanted to scream to the heavens, but couldn’t, unfortunately. For one, when my heart actually got the feeling that everything was going to be okay, I had just taken Phoenix back to her room. For another, her mom was asleep on the couch.
But that didn’t stop me from waking her up and dancing around the room with Phoenix watching us like we were lunatics.