Jason shook his head, then looked at his sisters. Their Mom had just told them that Uncle Mark was not doing well. He had cancer. His younger sister, Loretta, smiled and said, “Well, he’s in good hands. Jesus is watching over him.”
Patrice stepped back, shook her head, tears in her eyes she spoke her dismay and anger, “He’s got cancer. Jesus didn’t stop him from getting it. If the doctors can’t cure it then no one can.” Sobbing, she headed to her room.
Jason looked at his younger sister, saying, “I wish I could believe like you do. But I think Patrice is right. I only wish I could go fishing with him one more time.”
Loretta nodded. “Sure you will.”
Jason nodded and retreated to his room. He sat down at his desk and looked out the window. From his window he could see the condo’s swimming pool and, off in the distance, the elementary school he attended as a child; beyond that, the town’s ball park, the mall, the Firethorn River and on the other side of it, the college. Somehow it all looked wrong. A sort of bleak fog had spread over the town. Then he realized it was raining. The gray sky had lowered, making everything seem dreary, and the fog was tiny droplets of rain. He watched the rain for a bit and then wrote an email to his uncle.
Uncle Mark and Aunt Zoe lived near Lynchburg, which was about two hours away. There were lots of “fishing holes” near their house and Uncle Mark would take him fishing. As he thought about those fishing trips Jason remembered that they started shortly after his Dad had deserted them for, as Aunt Zoe had said, “that floozy.” He had realized, some time ago, that Mark and Zoe were doing what they could to help his Mom. Uncle Mark and Aunt Zoe did not have any children and they usually joined Jason’s family in celebrating the holidays together. So, of all their Aunts and Uncles, Mark and Zoe were their favorites.
Three days later he received a reply. Uncle Mark told him that, unless the doctors strapped him to the bed, they’d go fishing again.
He did go fishing with Uncle Mark again. They went to Lynchburg for Labor Day Weekend. He and Uncle Mark spent all day fishing. Three weeks later the news came that the cancer was spreading. They made plans to visit in early October.
Then, on the last day of September, Jason got a phone call from his Uncle Mark. “I’ll be by to pick you up at 4:55 AM. Get your fishing gear ready.” He quickly put the gear together and, at exactly 4:55 the doorbell rang. They headed out to a rather large lake, not one of their normal fishing spots. Uncle Mark shared much with Jason. They talked about school, girls, even God. Every time Uncle Mark shared his faith with Jason it seemed real. This time it was tangible. They fished all day, catching some very nice trout, perch and bass. The sunset was marvelous, spreading colors of red, pink, orange across the whole sky. Looking at the fish they had caught, Jason said, “This has been the best fishing trip.” As the sun set, Jason realized that his Uncle looked different. He had little balls of light all over him, glowing with colors Jason had never seen before. Uncle Mark looked up at the sky and said, “See, you will never be alone.” Jason looked up. There was no Moon, the sky was dark with blazing balls of twinkling light. The balls, or stars, looked exactly like the balls of light on his Uncle. Jason looked back at Uncle Mark. But the man was not there. He was alone in the middle of an unfamiliar lake with the sky full of stars. He looked up again. In the middle of the sky he saw a new group of stars light up. The shape of the group looked familiar. In amazement he realized that they were in the same configuration as the balls of light he had seen on his Uncle Mark. Suddenly, the whole world turned perpendicular. The boat was floating on the water; however the water was both perpendicular to the sky and parallel to it. Up was still up. Down was still down. However, up and down were also left and right. The stars were sort of beside him, he could see across them. He could see that people were everywhere, like stars. Trillions and trillions of glowing stars that were, but were not, people. Through all of it was a sort of light that felt like love. He blinked. He was back in the boat. He looked around, off to his left he could see what appeared to be the shore. He picked up the oars and began to row.
Then he woke up. It was 5:00 AM.
His Mom showed him the death certificate. His Uncle Mark had died at 4:55 AM. Jason, awestruck, laughed. He died when the doorbell rang. Then Uncle Mark took Jason on their best fishing trip.