Air gushes into Marie’s lungs, and she breathes in deeply for the first time in months. She exhales fully with no pain. No coughing. Where did the oxygen mask go? A clean fragrance of lavender fills the hospice room as her eyes peep open. She stares at a prism of light slowly dancing across the popcorn ceiling. It stops just above her head where the mesmerizing beam grows until it covers the room.
Warmth fills Marie’s belly and travels through her, consuming her. Her contracted legs straighten, and as she effortlessly points her toes, she giggles like a dreamy girl trying on her first ballet slippers. Swinging her legs over the side of the hospital bed, she sits up with ease. Marie waves a graceful hand through the air as she stretches long, feminine fingers. She flexes her wrist to admire freshly manicured nails, shiny with a hint of pink—just the way she likes them. No, wait. That was when she was young, long before the pull of drugs and prostitution.
Marie runs the back of her hand down her cheek—a cheek that is no longer sagging with the creases of abuse. Her skin is as soft as velvet. She inhales as much air as possible, and like a playful toddler, her cheeks swell like a blowfish. She holds the breath captive as she looks down at her shimmering, pale pink gown. Marie frees the air and it escapes in boisterous laughter. Pure euphoria!
Giggles pour out unbridled as Marie stands. She extends strong arms toward the ceiling. Transparent glass slowly replaces the popcorn plaster. She stretches her neck and arches her back, eyes fixed above. She begins floating upward.
A breeze teases her silky gown against her legs, and it blows around her ankles. Marie wonders how she will pass through, but there is no fear—only fascination. When she is but inches away, the glass ceiling shatters into soft translucent flakes. Marie catches several on her fingertip and looks closer. They are like snowflakes—each one uniquely beautiful. "Diamond flakes," she whispers.
Marie gazes into the expansive sky as she glides upward. The sound of friendly whisperings grows louder and builds into a crescendo of victorious singing. A flute, violin and other stringed instruments join the symphony. One voice reveals itself, echoing loud above the others. "Sweet Nana!" Marie greets her warmly.
Nana beams like an angel. “You finally made it! I told you I would see you just over the horizon.” Nana is young and beautiful—absolute perfection. How is it possible to contain such pure happiness? People are toasting, singing, and dancing as they take turns hugging Marie.
Suddenly, everything is hushed. The sound of footsteps becomes clear. The crowd parts and Marie stands in awe as the epitome of Righteousness approaches, but there is no reproach. Marie feels no fear. No shame. The Creator casts all-seeing, forever-loving eyes upon her. She inhales the fragrance of Love and realizes how it feels to be adored. She falls to her knees in gratitude, but He gently lifts her in one arm as He sweeps the other through the air releasing pastels of yellow, blue, purple, and pink. Marie snuggles against his chest as Comfort fills her. She turns her head to watch the bursting colors twirl and dance—the dance of new beginnings. Her Father looks into Marie’s eyes, smiles and kisses her lightly on the head. He turns and nods lovingly at the crowd. The party erupts with applause as the Artist paints an exquisite sunrise to welcome Marie into her forever.
Hope you enjoyed this sneak peek of Sunlit Shadows, the sequel to Just Over the Horizon.