Paul tossed and turned in his bed. “Oh I wish it were morning, I wish it were morning, I wish it were morning,” he thought to himself.
Paul was very excited. The next morning would be the beginning of the Butler Summer Family Picnic and Paul was very anxious for it to begin.
Paul’s family had two very special holidays they celebrated each year. They were the Butler Summer Family Picnic and Christmas.
Those two holidays were so special to Paul because those were the two days each year that he got to see his Grandpa Butler and all of his Grandpa’s sixty-eight descendants. Paul was very, very excited.
But somewhere between the ‘I wish it was mornings’ and the actual morning, Paul managed to fall asleep and the next thing he knew he heard his mother calling to him that it was time to get up.
Paul rolled over and pulled his pillow over his head. “Maybe if I don’t answer, she’ll let me sleep just a little bit longer,” he thought to himself.
Paul’s mother knocked on his door and then entered his room when he didn’t answer. “Paul Jeffrey, aren’t you going to get up? I thought you were anxious for Summer Family Picnic?” she said.
Paul jumped up like a shot from his BB gun. “Summer Family Picnic! Yes!” he shouted. Paul got dressed and was downstairs shortly after his mother had arrived there.
“Well, I thought perhaps you’d decided you didn’t care about Summer Family Picnic this year,” Paul’s mother teased as she pushed his breakfast plate over toward him. “It won’t be long before your grandparents and everyone else will start arriving. We’ve got to get going soon.”
Paul ate his breakfast quickly, almost swallowing it whole. Then he put his plate and cup in the sink as his mom had taught him to do. Next he knelt on the wooden bar stool at the counter, his elbows resting on the counter-top between his mother’s family-famous, flaky-crusted apple pies and her mince meat pies. Paul loved his mother’s apple pies but privately referred to her mince meat pies as ‘yucky.’
Paul had helped his father the night before to lay out some of the things they would want that day for their traditional outdoor family activities. Since Paul and his family lived in sunny Northern California, the Butler summer picnics included a lot of great outdoor activities, both family created and City Park equipped, complete with swimming pool.
“Here, you can help me with these grain sacks for the sack races,” Paul’s father said as he handed Paul a big bundle of grain sacks. “Make sure you get them into piles by size, ok?”
“Sure Pop,” Paul answered. “We don’t want Diana getting a Grandpa-size bag again, do we?”
They both laughed as they remembered how funny Paul’s little cousin Diana had looked trying to roll down the top of the big grain sack so that she could see over the top to take part in the grain-sack races.
“And, Son, this year I hope you’ll remember to put your brain into action before you put your body into gear,” Paul’s father coaxed him but this time putting his hands over his mouth, holding back laughing out loud.
“Oh yes Pop, I plan to,” Paul had answered. “Last summer’s Butler Family Picnic wasn’t much fun at all, not for me any way.”
“Well, thank God everything turned out all right in the end,” his father had said. “And I know getting your nose bit certainly wasn’t something you intended to have happen.”
“No Pop, it wasn’t, it certainly wasn’t,” Paul had agreed emphatically.
As he carefully laid out the grain sacks, Paul thought back to the incident to which his father had referred. One of Paul’s cousins had told him about a new gas-powered model plane which his parents had bought him.
“It’s on the backseat of our car and you can be the first one here to try it,” Paul’s cousin, Sam, told him.
That was all it took! The two boys raced for Sam’s family’s car. Neither of them stopped to think that besides the model airplane in the backseat of the car, in the front seat of the car was Sam’s big hairy dog, Ralph, who was so hairy that he could hardly see since the hair covered each eyeball.
Paul had beaten Sam to the car and flung open the rear door and was immediately attacked by Ralph, who had bitten Paul right on the nose.
“If I’d only thought to let Sam open the door, then Ralph wouldn’t have been so startled and nobody would have been bitten,” thought Paul.
Paul was very fortunate that three of his uncles were doctors and so he had immediate help. The youngest of the three doctors, who was also Paul Jeffrey, grabbed Paul up in his arms and ran with him to the fire station which was right next to the Palo Alto City Park where the family was gathered.
Someone had already alerted the fireman that an injured boy and his doctor uncle were on their way, so when they got there, the firemen had lots of medical materials ready for them. “There you are, doc,” the fireman had told Uncle Paul.
“Thanks,” Uncle Paul had told them. He had cleaned young Paul’s injury carefully, given him a shot of Penicillin, and sewn his nose back on.
“There you are,” he had told Paul when he was finished.
“That should be as good as new in no time. Now you’ve got quite an adventure to tell your grandchildren about this Butler Family Picnic someday. But I’m afraid this picnic isn’t going to be as much fun for you as you had planned. I don’t want you doing any running around, you need to take it easy, stay quiet, and don’t even think about swimming. It’s not going to happen.”
One of Paul’s other uncles had picked Paul up in his arms. “I know you’re too big for this,” Paul’s Uncle Leo said. “But I’m going to carry you anyway. We don’t want you stubbing your toe and falling down and knocking that nose off before it’s had a chance to grow back on.”
Paul’s mind snapped back to the present.
Paul’s dad worked on Saturdays and that Saturday was no exception. His older sister and older brother were off to who-knew-where, doing who-knew-what, leaving only Paul to help his mother.
Paul wasn’t sure what he should be doing though. “What can I do that will help you the most, Mom?” he finally asked.
Paul’s mother gave him a tired smile since she had been up since five in the morning and wiped a strand of blond hair back from her forehead with the back of her right hand.
“Thank you dear, but I think I’ve got everything under control,” she told him. “Why don’t you go outside and play in the backyard until it’s time to go?”
Paul didn’t need a second bit of encouragement. He could always find fun things to do in their backyard.
“Thanks Mom!” he said. “Call me if you think of anything you want me to do to help.”
Paul was very excited because this year he wouldn’t have to just sit in a lawn chair and watch everyone else having fun. This year his nose was fine and he could even go swimming. The closest he had come to having fun the year before was when he had been allowed to hold the controls of Sam’s model plane for just a few minutes and even that hadn’t really been fun because by that time his nose was starting to throb mightily which made him feel sick to his stomach.
Paul ran from the breakfast counter, through the dining room, yanked open the cloth curtain, slipped open the sliding glass doors, and sped out into the backyard.
“Yeow!” yelled Paul. He had caught his left toe on the top step and almost took a header down the steps but managed to catch himself just in time, ending up instead standing on the newly cut grass. “Whew, I thought I’d had it that time,” Paul said to himself.
Paul heard a sputtering sound and looked up to see a bi-plane, a crop-duster entering the sky just above a neighbor’s house.
Suddenly there was an explosion of white-yellow light which made Paul think that the bi-plane had exploded. He felt a moment of horror as he thought of the pilots and what might have happened to them.
The light from the explosion was more intense than one-hundred million stars clumped together all pointing directly at him and more powerful than one-hundred atom bombs all reigning down on Paul who quickly looked downward to shield his young eyes from going blind.
Then he was astonished to feel a bolt of the Light pierce his shoulder blades, pass through his heart, ricochet off the torched grass, and as if it had hands, the bolt of Light grabbed Paul’s head and wrenched it skyward again.
Paul stared in awesome wonder and reverence as he saw huge, billowy, white-silver, shimmering clouds above him, with Christ riding in them, just as he had seen him portrayed in his children’s Bible. Christ’s Hands were cupped under His Heart as if offering His Heart to whoever would accept His Grace.
Christ’s image was the most beautiful sight Paul had ever seen. He instantly knew he would never be able to describe what had happened convincingly enough to anyone. But he had to try.
“Mom, Mom,” yelled Paul as he ran towards the house to find his mother and tell her what he had just seen. He ripped open the sliding glass doors and stopped short in astonishment, not knowing what to say or do.
His mother was there up against the kitchen wall with the black phone receiver buried in her apron, and she was bawling uncontrollably like a baby. Paul had never seen his mother cry before, not even one tear.
“Mom?” he ventured hesitantly.
“Get in the car, your Grandfather is dying,” said Paul’s mother gravelly.
Paul turned and ran as fast as he could and jumped into the backseat of the car.
”What is happening?” thought Paul to himself. He felt consumed by what he had seen and what he was now experiencing.
Paul’s mother opened the garage door, got in the car, and sped off toward her parent’s cottage without uttering another word and absentmindedly left their garage door wide open so preoccupied with the terrible news that her father was dying.
Paul wanted so much to tell her who he had seen, but at the same time he knew that he must not. He was sure his Mom would not hear a word he was saying anyway so consumed by her grief, and he hoped there would be time for that later.
“The best gift I can give my Mom right now is silence,” thought Paul.
Paul’s mother pulled in front of her parents’ cottage and jumped out of the car, running as fast as she could towards the cottage with Paul right beside her, his hand clutched tightly in hers.
The front door was wide open, and it looked to Paul as if his relatives were spilling outside of the tiny cottage it was so full of people.
Some of the people spoke as Paul and his mother entered the cottage; others did not. All of them looked as if they were in shock, saddened, not knowing what to do or say. This was not the way they had expected to spend even a part of the Butler Family Picnic.
“Paul, Grandpa is dying,” said one of Paul’s much younger cousins, catching hold of Paul’s arm and leaning on him for comfort. It was obvious the little boy didn’t really understand what was happening but was frightened by the way the grownups in his life were acting.
Paul’s other cousins were just as confused, not knowing if they should talk or not.
Paul knelt down and put his arms around the little boy and hugged him. “It’s okay,” he whispered. “Dying can be a good thing for the person who dies.” Paul was astonished at what he had just said. He wasn’t sure where the words came from but he felt in his heart they were true.
Paul headed straight for his Grandma’s kitchen. Usually the room was filled with delicious chocolate-chip and peanut butter cookie aromas, but not this time.
“Grandma?” said Paul softly. Then again, “Grandma?”
“Honey, go into our bedroom and see your Grandfather,” his grandmother told him, pointing toward their bedroom.
Paul turned quickly in obedience and headed for his grandparent’s bedroom even though he had never been in their bedroom before.
Paul brushed passed many aunts and uncles and inching his way through the narrow doorway and saw his grandfather lying quietly in his bed.
“His right arm looks like there is only bone and vein there,” thought Paul.
He reached out his own right arm and slowly moved his right hand across his grandparent’s white Heirloom bedspread that had a hundred tiny, soft, fluffy, chenille-tuffs like cotton clouds on it.
As his hand lightly skimmed across the tops of them, Paul felt the electricity that had entered his body from Christ’s Light leave his heart, travel over his right shoulder, down his right arm, into his palm and out his fingers as he gently took his grandfather’s bony right hand.
Paul watched in amazement. He could actually see the Light as it traveled up his grandfather’s right arm, into his right shoulder, and into his neck. The old man’s head lifted and his eyes slowly opened. “Paul,” he whispered.
His Grandfather, who for the past three days had not known anyone, not even his beloved wife of over sixty years, nor any of his sixty-eight descendants, and had only talked about darkness and giant bugs, recognized Paul and whispered his name.
It was a Holy moment, there was no other explanation for it.
Paul watched in amazement. One moment his grandpa’s eyes were clear and knowing; the next they sank back into his head. He fell back asleep and died quietly, passing from this world to another shortly afterward.
“He said his name; he whispered Paul; he whispered his name,” the words reverberated around the cottage, passing from one relative to another, till all had heard, not just once, but again and again. “He recognized Paul and said his name.”
“What is happening?” thought Paul. “Why me? Why can’t I tell anyone I saw Jesus?”
Paul’s mother hurried into her parents’ bedroom upon hearing the good news.
She wrapped her arm around Paul and pulled him tightly against her breast. “It’s all right, son” she told him, rocking him gently. “Come on, come with me now, we need to say our goodbyes.”
Paul sat on the top step of his grandparent’s porch, staring up at the sky. Then he bowed his head. “Thank you Lord for letting me see you coming for my Grandpa,” he whispered.
“Thank YOU for letting me see that for those who love YOU, death isn’t something to fear because then we will be with YOU forever.
Thank YOU that my Grandpa is alive and well with YOU now and will never get sick ever again.” Paul sat on the step quietly, still staring up at the sky, going over in his mind the things that had happened that day which was so different from what he had anticipated, different, but strangely wonderful.
“Such a very, very wonderful day,” he thought.
Paul’s father arrived from work and sat down on the step beside him. He put his arm around his son, hugging, and pulling him gently up against his chest.
“What are you doing, son?” he asked.
“I was just talking to God and telling Him how very happy I am that for those who know Him, death simply means going to live with Him forever and ever. I was telling Him how very, very glad I am that we will be with Grandpa again someday for an eternity and Grandpa will never die again.”
“So am I, son,” Paul’s father said hugging Paul tightly. “So very happy for your grandpa and you, my brave son.”
Back Row (left to right): Gladys, Jim, Gay, Leo, Rene, Norman
Front Row (left to right): Patrick, Grandpa Butler, Grandma Butler, Audrey, Elsa