Marlene - Saturday before Mother’s Day

     Marlene wasn’t surprised to see Pastor Kurt sitting on the sidewalk with a sign on his truck that read, “Call your mother for Mother’s Day–FREE.” That was the kind of thing he did to make life better for people who lived on the street. A few years back Marlene was sick and had no way to get help. “Call Pastor Kurt,” a friend suggested to her. Most of the homeless had his private cell number. 

      Pastor Kurt had, not only referred her to an agency that provided medical assistance, he also prayed for her. Any time she needed food or clothes, she could go to Pastor Kurt for help. Just knowing that he was there for her gave her a sense of security.

      Apparently, though, Pastor Kurt was not as concerned about his own security as he was about the welfare of others. Why did he choose to set up shop in the worst part of town? she wondered. Of all people, he should know about the bad stuff that went on here.  The man sitting beside Pastor Kurt was talking on the phone; so Marlene walked up to him to say hello.

     “Hi, Marlene,” the pastor responded. “How are you doing today?”

     Shrugging her shoulders, she said, “Okay. Same as usual, I guess.”

     “Have you called your mother for Mother’s Day yet?” the pastor asked.

     “No.” Calling home was hard on her emotions. It was sweet to hear the voices of her mother and two daughters, but knowing that she had let them down pierced her heart.

     “Tomorrow is Mother’s Day, you know. Come on. Get in line to call your mom,” Pastor Kurt urged. 

      “All right,” she agreed and went to stand in back of the line. The thought of waiting in line with all those people made her uneasy. Violence could break out at any moment and she would be right in the middle of it. The frightened woman got out of line and walked up to Pastor Kurt. “I’ve decided to make the call another time, but thanks anyway,” she said.

      The pastor was busy with the next caller, so he merely nodded and waved to her.

      When she was only a few blocks away, thoughts of home began to nag at Marlene. It had been some time since she had made that call. For years she had tried to call every month. With Mother’s Day coming up and all, she really should make that call. Thoughts of the kind of mother she had been to her daughters, though, made her want to forget Mother’s Day forever. Her mind went back and forth. The longing to hear her daughters say, “Mommy,” finally won out, and she headed back to the parking lot.

     The line was longer than ever now but Marlene didn’t have anything better to do, so she took her place behind a myriad of others waiting to call home. As effects of her last fix wore off, Marlene began to reminisce about her childhood.

      By the time Marlene finished her reverie, she was next in line after the person making a call. Pastor Kurt looked up and said, “Oh, hi, Marlene. I’m glad you came back. You’ll really make Mother’s Day for your mom.”

      Marlene didn’t want to get emotional before she even made the call; so she changed the subject. “Pastor Kurt, why are you doing this? Why did you set up in the worst part of the city?”

      Pastor Kurt grinned and shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t know,” he said. “It was God’s idea. You’ll have to ask Him.”

      Fat chance God would give me an answer, Marlene thought.

      When Pastor Kurt handed the phone to Marlene, she heard Brittany’s voice. “Mommy! Mommy! I want to talk to Mommy. Is that you, Mommy?”

      This wasn’t going well. Already Marlene had tears in her eyes. With her daughter’s words tugging at her heart, how could she keep the conversation casual? “Yes, Sweetheart, this is Mommy.”

      “I love you, Mommy.”

      “I love you too.” Words could not express the emotion that seemed to swell up her head to twice its normal size.

       Marlene turned to Pastor Kurt. “How long can I talk?”    “As long as you need to. Talk as long as you want.”

     Marlene heard how Brittany was doing in school and things the children did with Grandma. How she longed to hold both of her children close. Brittany asked, “When are you coming home, Mommy? We miss you and want you here.”

      Although the tears began to flow, Marlene spoke from her heart, “Mommy is coming home soon. I will get some help and come home. Mommy loves you so much.”

      Marlene talked to Ashley and then to her mother. To each of them she promised to come home soon. How this would happen she did not know. In fact, deep down she knew she probably never would go home.

     By the time she finished the call, Marlene was sobbing. She hurriedly gave the phone to Pastor Kurt and started to leave. Grabbing her by the arm, Pastor Kurt said, “Any time, any day you want to call your kids, I want you to look me up and you can use my phone.”  Pastor Kurt paused as he wiped the tears from his eyes. “When you are ready to go home, Marlene, let me know. I will take you home back to your girls.”

      Blinking back the tears, she said, “I might call a lot.”

      “That’s fine as long as your kids get to hear from their mother.  Call every day if you want.”

       Almost in disbelief at the offer, she asked, “You promise?”        

      “I promise,” Pastor Kurt said.

      Too stunned to move, Marlene waited until the next caller was busy on the phone. On impulse, she reached behind her neck to her precious necklace. “Pastor Kurt, this is the most valuable thing I own. It’s my birth stone and someone very special gave it to me years ago. I don’t want to part with it, but calling my kids is the most important thing in the world to me. I’m giving you this necklace to remind you that you promised that I can call my kids any time I want.” Marlene then hugged Pastor Kurt and took off.

      As she walked along the street, Marlene felt of the empty place on her neck. It would serve as a reminder that she needed to find something else to fill the empty space in her life. Could God be the answer? she wondered.