(This is the serial telling of the novel Hello, My Name is Phillip, published January 2021. Available here. You are invited to share these chapters with as many as you can. The word needs your help getting out there, because, “every kid deserves safe adults”.)
I buried my head into Grandma Faith’s lap and sobbed. I couldn’t stop the tears from coming. It was so sad. She had been reading the story The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe to me and the great Lion Aslan had just been killed by the wicked people. I really, really liked him.
“There, there, there,” patting me on the shoulder, arms around me, cooing into my ear, “Honey, this is not the end. Every story has hard things that happen in it, even our lives. But this is not where the story ends.” Skye was nuzzling me. He licked my ears and buried his nose under my face against grandma’s lap. His licking made me laugh. And I looked up, tears still streaming down my cheeks. “Ah, Phillip. Really. Trust me honey. The story has some surprises yet.”
“Remember when I did the same, mom?” It was the lady. She stood leaning against the arched entrance to the living room where we sat on the brown sofa. She was smiling across at us, like she was thinking of sometime in the past. She had noticed where we were in the book held in Grandma’s hands and then guessed what had happened.
“I certainly do,” Grandma chuckled, her crinkled face lit up and her eyes were dancing with joy. “You were a bit older than Phillip when I was reading that to you, but you were so distraught we needed to stay up and finish that night.”
The lady laughed. I still could not take in the changes around the white house. Laughter? “I remember that. And then I wanted to start the next book in the series that night for the ending was exciting and I wanted to hear the next adventure.”
“There is nothing quite like a good story, is there?” Grandma observed. “I love how these stories connect us to our lives. There is such a thing in life as experiencing things that are “out of this world,” and within our lives too there are situations filled with challenge and pain, but that God is in the middle of all of those. God is really at work. We can trust the character and mercy of the One in whom we too can bury our faces, hold tight to his mane, and experience the sweetness of his breath.”
“You are right there, mom.” the lady responded. “I am rediscovering that. Did I tell you what happened the night Phillip ran away?”
“Yes.” Grandma replied, thoughtfully, her eyes crinkling with joy. “I remember hanging up the phone, turning to your dad and saying, ‘Our prayers have been heard.’ We joined hands and prayed right then thanking Jesus for showing up to you in such a real way. We had been praying for you for such a long time. You’ve been through some real challenges in this life, Dorothy.”
I tugged on Grandma’s sleeve and she looked down and laughed, “Right, Phillip. Dorothy, could we continue this conversation after Phillip and I read to the end of the story so that he does not need to stop in the middle of tragedy?”
“That’s fine. In fact, I think I will just sit here and listen in. It’s one of my favorite parts.”
And she sat down on the floor, next to us, and Skye put his paws on her leg and his head in her lap and she started to stroke him. Then Grandma began to read, “Chapter 15: Deeper Magic from Before the Dawn of Time.”
It was really scary at first as all the creatures rushed past the two girls, Lucy and Susan, hiding in the bushes, but then the story got better. Tiny servants of Aslan, the mice, had come to untie him. And then as the sun crested the horizon, the table cracked in two and the great Lion was raised from the dead! In the story Death itself began to work backward. When that happened, I gasped. I was so happy. The lady had tears streaming down her cheeks! And Grandma’s voice cracked with emotion as she read how the girls encountered the living Lion.
Grandma stopped reading for a moment and took a Kleenex from the side table. She was crying. The lady was crying too. I was so happy that Aslan had defeated death just like Jesus. And then the pieces fell into place. Aslan was like Jesus. He showed up to encourage and lead the children. Like Miss Jeanne said all the time, “The Lord Jesus laid down his life for you and for me, and then defeated death. We now can live lives free from death and sin, all the bad stuff on the inside and outside.” Just like he showed up in my life. A warmth came over me from head to feet. I was enveloped in a feeling of deep, deep joy, blue everywhere, yellow sunlight, a mountain stream cascading down a slope. Joy. Beauty. I loved this story.
Grandma started reading again and we finished the book that night. After she read the last words and closed the cover, I threw my arms around her. She laughed and gathered me up into hers as well. “Thank you, Phillip. Thank you for letting me read you that story. It is one of my favorites.” Then she said to the lady, “So, do you and Michael have the series?” The woman shook her head. “You know how he is, mom. He doesn’t really put much stock in what he calls fables and children’s stories.”
“Ah, yes, I remember that about him from years back. It always brought concern to my heart for you in marrying him, but I knew you had decided, and God had His plans and look at the gift we have because of it!” And with that she hugged me again.
Gift? I was a gift to Grandma? I thought of the presents under the tree and how much joy I had in the idea of opening them—well, some of them. I didn’t much care for underwear and socks, but there were always some good ones. Like the games. I loved the year I got my Lincoln Logs. I played with them all through the afternoon until the man with the car got mad because I didn’t want to come eat and came over and tore apart everything I had made and yanked me to my feet. Once he let me go, I had run upstairs to my closet with Skye and didn’t come to eat anyway. The lady had been so mad at him. But it was before she knew how to stand up, and so they had eaten, and she had checked on me later and then I came down and ate.
Gift. I was a gift. A good present, not like underwear, but something that was a joy in life. A blessing. Something that had value and was good.
I hugged Grandma back.
“Come on, tiger,” she said, “I’ll help you with your bath.”
I loved the feel of water and loved taking baths. I love feeling clean and that feeling that comes in the warm water with the soap on my skin. I love that slippery feeling. That night I splashed some, and Grandma laughed, and we played with the ducky that I had in the bathtub, the boat, the sponges shaped like fish. As I stood up in the bathtub and I started to put my wet leg over the side and down onto the floor, Grandma stopped me gently.
“Here, let me show you another way to do that so that the floor stays dry. Instead of putting the wet leg all the way down onto the floor, rest your foot here, on the side of the bathtub. Dry the foot and leg all off along with your hair and upper part of your body. Now, put that dry foot onto the floor, and bring up the other wet foot to the side of the tub, dry the rest of you, then step down all dry onto the floor.”
A fun feeling flushed through me at her teaching me like that. I felt special.
All dried off, Grandma helped me into my pajamas. I brushed my teeth, she flossed them, and then we went to my bedroom with the happy walls, and she tucked me into bed.
She leaned over me and prayed, “Jesus, thank you for rescuing Phillip from darkness and bringing him into the light of his gifts of music, of you, of hope, of pictures, of beauty. Thank you that Phillip is a light to my life and Grandpa Harlie’s. And Lord, we are grateful for Him. Guard him as he rests. Give him joy. Protect his soul with your mighty angels. And help him discover how to form words with his mouth as I know he can think them in his head. I entrust him to You, Lord. In Your Name, Amen.”
She knows I have words. People just keep surprising me. I hugged her goodnight. And, with that, I closed my eyes, Skye snuggled up next to me, my hand resting on his collar.