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A Youngster’s Comforting Vision of His Pappy

Her young son was nervous about his chest X-ray, but a surprise visit allayed his fears.

An artist's rendering of a smiling boy undergoing an X-ray

Jack, my young son, held my hand tightly as we walked up to the hospital entrance. “This won’t take long at all, sweetie,” I said. “The doctor just needs to take a picture of your chest. Then we’ll go meet Grandma and Nathan, and you can tell your brother all about it.”

Jack never liked going to the doctor, but because of his asthma my husband and I weren’t taking any chances. He had quite a wheeze and only a chest X-ray could assure us he didn’t have pneumonia.

We pushed through the doors into a long corridor that led to the X-ray rooms. Immediately my mind flew back to my last visit in these very halls, when my father was being treated for gastric cancer. It wasn’t yet a month since Dad had died.

I gave Jack’s hand a squeeze. My son couldn’t know it, but today Mommy wanted to be here even less than he did. These hospital walls just reminded me of the good-bye I never wanted to hear.

“This is where they took care of Pap,” Jack said, looking around at the sterile hallway.

“Yes, you’re right,” I said.

“Pap is with Jesus now,” Jack said.

“Yes, he is,” I said. “That’s a wonderful place to be.” Even if I wish he could be with Jack and me. Here. Now. But that wasn’t to be. This good-bye was forever.

In the waiting room, Jack pressed close to me. “There’s nothing to be scared of,” I assured him. “The doctor is going to take a picture of you with a special camera. You’ll have to stand real still like a statue.”

“Do I have to smile?” Jack asked, his face drawn with worry. I assured him he didn’t have to smile. I didn’t think he could have smiled if he tried.

The nurse called our name and I took Jack into the exam room. The friendly technician let me hold his hand as she lowered the camera to his height. “Now, hold very still,” she said. “We want to get a good picture of you.”

Jack stood in place. “Okay,” the technician said. “Ready or not–”

Jack suddenly twisted around to me. “Mommy!” he whispered. “I have to tell you something important.”

“Let the lady take your picture and then you can tell me,” I said.

Jack shook his head. “No, Mommy! I have to tell you now.”

I turned helplessly to the technician. “I’ll just be a second,” I said, and kneeled down to Jack’s level. “What is it?”

“Pappy’s here,” Jack said. “Look.” Jack pointed across the room. “He’s waving to me. Don’t you see him, Mommy? He’s waving.”

I didn’t know what to say. No, Jack, I thought. We had to say good-bye to him….

But Jack was insistent. “He looks like a bright light. His feet are not even touching the floor!” Jack broke into a grin and waved his hand as hard as he could. “Hi, Pap!” he said. “They’re going to take my picture. Now I’m not even scared anymore!”

I couldn’t see Jack’s vision, but the absolute trust on my son’s face was more than enough to make me believe. I waved too. Why not? Dad hadn’t gone away forever. Even if I couldn’t see him now, I would again someday.

Jack turned back to me. “I can’t wait to tell Nathan!” he said.

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“Okay,” I said to the technician. “I guess he’s ready.” His confidence high, Jack stood perfectly still for his X-ray. Results showed he did not have pneumonia. Nathan and my mother met us in the hospital lobby. Jack told them all about seeing his Pap.

They weren’t sure quite what to make of Jack’s story. But I did. Jack trusts that Pap is here with us even though he can’t see him. I didn’t have that trust. Not until that day.

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