The soulful sound of Nat King Cole singing Oh Holy Night greeted Morgan Thames as she walked into Starbucks. She mumbled under her breath, “It’s too early for Christmas music.” Thanksgiving was still a week away, but fake holly and miniature Christmas trees throughout the store were already bringing joy to the world.
Joy felt like a slap in Morgan’s face. If she were a drinker she would have found a rundown bar with seedy characters in the dark corners. But she was not drinker so dulling her sorrow with large amounts of caffeine had become her chosen alternative. Morgan rolled her eyes when her vanilla latte appeared at the bar with a smiley face in place of the “o” in her name.
The early afternoon would have provided her with an empty café were it not for an elderly woman reading a book and quietly chuckling to herself. Morgan chose a comfortable-looking leather chair away from the white-haired bookworm and sat down with her latte and her thoughts. She stared out the window at a world she recognized but did not know. Clouds slowly rolled by and evaporated as often as the questions she could not find answers to.
Time passed unnoticed until her inner dialogue was broken by a soft voice.
“Is anyone sitting here?”
Morgan looked up to see a young woman looking at her. Spiraled brown hair fell down over her red Christmas sweater. She appeared to be close to Morgan’s age.
Morgan tossed out an, “It’s all yours” and turned to look back out the large window.
Only a couple minutes of silence passed before the soft voice interrupted Morgan’s wandering mind again.
“I don’t mean to sound rude, but are you ok?”
Morgan turned to see that the girl had set down her coffee and was looking at her with hands folded in her lap. Her big brown eyes seemed to be filled with genuine care.
“I’m fine. I just want to be alone right now.”
“No one wants to be alone. They may want to not be disturbed, but not alone. If I’m disturbing you I apologize. You just seem… sad.”
It was true. She didn’t want to be alone. All she wanted was for someone to understand. Her mind began asking different questions. Should I? Something about this girl felt like she was not just trying to be polite.
“Thank you for your concern. I’m just going through some things right now.”
“Would you like to talk about it?”
“You don’t want hear about my problems.”
The woman laughed a little laugh the way people do when they know a secret.
“I would not have asked if I didn’t. I think we, as women, need to stand together. Encourage each other. I am not presuming that I can fix whatever it is you are dealing with, but sometimes it just feels good to know that someone else understands and is on your side.”
Morgan felt a spark of hope inside her for the first time in a long time. She had forgotten how good that felt. Fear tightened her stomach, but that spark had lit something small inside her that she desperately wanted to burn bright again.
Leaning in, Morgan lowered her voice to just above a whisper, “I have been married for 4 years and last year we decided to start trying for a child. A few days ago I had my second miscarriage.”
Shame pulled Morgan’s eyes down to the floor as she finished. Emotions shuffled inside her creating an odd mix of fear, relief, doubt, and anxiety.
“I am so sorry to hear that. Are you going to keep trying?”
Morgan caught movement and looked up to see the woman had leaned in closer. There was no hiding the compassion that filled her eyes. It was different than the pity that she had expected. It was somehow stronger. Morgan felt herself lifted by it.
“I don’t know.”
They sat in silence for a few moments before she continued.
“I am not sure I can take it anymore. It’s not something my husband and I have made common knowledge. People don’t know that their comments are like knives to my heart. ‘You’re almost thirty. When are you gonna start a family?’ Or ‘You and Mike better start getting busy making babies or you’ll be too old to by the time your ready.’ All I can do is laugh and hope they won’t see the pain.”
The woman looked away for the first time. She spoke in almost a whisper.
“I know a lady who, when she was younger, wanted to have a child more than anything. She had three miscarriages. She came so close to not trying again, but there was something inside of her that would not let it go. With each new incident she said the pain of losing her baby was multiplied. When she got pregnant a fourth time she cried for days.”
Morgan felt the warmth of tears filling her eyes. She could not bear the thought of ever having to go through this again.
“Nine months later she gave birth to a beautiful baby girl named Brielle. I have never seen a mother enjoy being a mom more. For as long as I have known her, she has never forgotten how precious a gift Brielle is to her.”
Morgan watched the woman look down and for the first time she saw sadness flash across her face. When she looked up again she realized it was not sadness, but shame.
“You know I have lived such an easy life. I have never had a major disease. I have always had enough money to live comfortably. I sometimes wonder why God has taken it so easy on me.”
“Maybe He just loves you more.”
“It’s funny. I came up with the exact opposite answer. I don’t think God gives people more than they can handle. That could only mean that I am weaker than most. Suffering is a powerful thing. It has the ability to change a person more deeply and lasting than any other thing in life. When God allows suffering to come to people, it means He trusts them. He built in them something strong that I don’t have.”
“Well I wish I could give you mine.”
The woman met Morgan’s eyes without blinking and said, “So do I.” She meant it.
“I know I couldn’t handle it though. God loves us, but He did not make us all the same. The fact that He has allowed you to go through this means that He knows He built in you the strength to never let it crush you. So when it’s all done you will be better and stronger in a way I will never know.”
“Maybe. Or maybe the suffering is trying to tell me that it’s not meant to be.”
The woman smiled at Morgan once more as if she knew something Morgan did not.
“Do you want to be a mother?”
Morgan wiped tears out of her eyes before they could fall to her cheeks.
“Yes. Very much.”
“Then have more faith in that than in the pain.”
“I want to, but it’s hard to have faith when I’ve prayed for a child and every time it gets close enough for me to believe, it’s all taken away from me.”
“Faith is not believing that God will do what you ask. It’s believing that He will do what’s best. I think God wants to give people the things that they ask from Him most of the time. He just wants them to get them His way. He knows that the journey is more important than the gift because it’s the journey that changes us. And if I know anything it’s that God is more concerned about who we are than what we have.”
Tears rolled down Morgan’s cheeks uninterrupted. She didn’t care who saw her anymore. The woman put her hand on Morgan’s shoulder and smiled.
“Don’t give up. Take it from a weakling, you are stronger than that.”
The woman stood up suddenly and said, “I’m sorry but I have to go. I will be praying for you. I hope that someday I will see you again and you will be pushing around triplets.”
Morgan laughed so loudly that the old lady turned around to glare at them.
“I would like that.”
Morgan stood and they shared a brief hug before she watched the woman turn and leave.
As she sat down she realized that she had never even introduced herself. The thought of never knowing the name of the woman who had relit the hope that now burned brightly inside her began to bother her until she saw the cup.
Morgan set her latte down on the small table and reached over to grab the coffee of her angel. She turned it slowly until the name written on the top came into view. Morgan’s eyes began to water again as a smile crept across her face. Written in the same curly handwriting that marked her own cup was the name Brielle.
Copyright © 2011 Adam Drake