The Man He Used to Be, ch. 13

by: Marty Chrisman

Daisy ran into the waiting room where Bo was anxiously pacing the floor. Crying heavily, she threw herself into her cousin’s arms. Jesse followed close behind, his own eyes rimmed with red and wet with tears.

“Shhh………it’s okay.” Bo said soothingly, trying to smile encouragingly through his own tears. “It’s okay. The doctors got his heart going again just after I called y’all. Luke’s not dead, not yet anyway.”

“Thank the lord.” Jesse said, slumping down in a chair. “Did the doctor say anything else?”

“Just the same ole sh……” Bo caught himself before he said what he had started to say “uh….stuff. That he can’t make any guarantees and that if it happens again, he don’t think they’ll be able to get him back.” Bo helped Daisy to sit down next to Jessie on the battered plastic sofa. They were all stressed out and worried out of their minds. But as long as Luke was alive, they would continue their lonely vigil and keep on praying.

Daisy waited in the waiting room still too upset to see Luke in the intensive care unit, while Bo and Jesse went back to see Luke. Because of the recent developments, the doctor had bent his own rules and allowed both of them to go in at the same time.

Luke was deathly pale and showed no response when Jesse took his hand. “Come on, boy…” he said quietly “You gotta fight and keep fighting so you can come back home where you belong.”

“You can’t give up, cuz.” Bo said “Not now…..not yet.”

*   *   *   *

            The swirling mist cleared and Luke could see Bo and Jesse beside his bed. And strangely enough, he could see himself lying there hooked up to all those machines. He wondered why he didn’t feel any pain, from the way his body looked it seemed like he should.

            “You can feel their love. They don’t want to let you go.” Said a soft quiet voice from behind him, a voice that sent chills down his spine. Slowly Luke turned around and saw Kelly standing there, bathed by a white light and wearing a flowing powder blue gown. She looked like an angel and suddenly Luke realized that’s just what she was.

            “Am I dead?” Luke asked softly, unable to take his eyes off of her face

            “No, not exactly.” Kelly told him “Your mind still hasn’t decided which way to go That’s why they sent me to you.”

“Why?”

“Because you have to go back. It’s not your time yet to leave them.”

“What if I want to stay here with you?”

Kelly walked towards him and gently ran her fingertips down his cheek, smiling sadly. “You can’t……no matter how much we both wish you could. I’ll be waiting and someday we will be together again….just not right now.” She gently kissed him, then turned and disappeared into the mist. A soundless scream ripped from Luke’s throat as the mist closed around him and he felt himself falling, falling as if from the top of a very high mountain.

*   *   *   * 

“Mr Duke,” one of the nurses who had come into the room said in a startled voice “Could you talk to your nephew again?”

“Luke, its Uncle Jessie. Can you hear me?” Jesse said, leaning down and speaking directly into Luke’s ear “Bo and me is right here with you. You’re safe now and you’re not alone.”

“I think he might be able to hear you!” the nurse exclaimed in an excited voice. “Look at the monitors. Whenever you talk to him, his heart rate goes down.” She checked the machines, adjusting some dials and making some notes. “I’m going to get the doctor; he may be starting to respond.”

“Luke, if you can hear us, just hang on” Bo said, bending down and talking into Luke’s ear just as Jesse had done “Don’t let go, hang on.”

The doctor came into the room and ushered the Dukes into the hallway so that he could examine Luke. It was several long agonizing minutes before he finally came out of the room. Looking at the anxious worried faces of Jesse and Bo, he said somberly “I’m not exactly sure how to explain it but he seems to be coming around. He trying to breathe on his own and he’s starting to show some signs of trying to come out of the coma.”

“Thank god…” Jesse said, his eyes filling with tears but this time they were tears of happiness. Bo went back in with Luke, while Jesse went out to the waiting room to tell Daisy the first good news they’d had about Luke in days.

Over the next few days, Luke was removed from the respirator and was breathing on his own again. He was still in a coma but was slowly starting to show signs of responding to his surroundings. Sometimes Jesse felt a twitching in Luke’s hand when Jesse talked to him and he knew that at some level Luke knew Jesse was there. The bruises and swelling on his face had almost gone away and he looked more like himself everyday. (Except for the broken nose which was heavily taped so it would heal properly)

The cuts and burns on his chest were healing nicely, although he would have some slight scaring as a permanent reminder of what had happened to him. But no matter how much he was coaxed, he just wouldn’t open his eyes.

The Dukes were dividing their time between home and the hospital. Bo was by Luke’s side almost constantly, only leaving when Jesse forced him to. Somehow, it seemed almost fitting that Bo was the only one there when there was a dramatic change in Luke’s condition.

Daisy and Jesse had gone home to get some rest and change clothes when Bo called them from the hospital. Daisy answered the phone.

“Duke farm, this is Daisy speaking.”

“Daisy, its Bo.” Her younger cousin said in an excited voice “You and Uncle Jesse need to get back here as soon as you can. I got somebody here that’s awful anxious to see you.”

“Uncle Jesse!” Daisy yelled “Luke’s awake!” So excited that she hung the phone without telling Bo goodbye, her and Jesse both ran outside and climbed into DixieThey arrived back at the hospital in record time. When they walked into Luke’s room, Luke looked them and smiled a weak smile but a smile nevertheless.

“It’s about time you woke up.” Jesse said gruffly “You had us all pretty scared.”

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to….” Luke said his voice barely above a whisper.

“It doesn’t matter, sugar. You’re awake now and that’s all that matters.” Daisy said, carefully giving her older cousin a big kiss. Although most of the machines and monitors had been removed, he still had an IV in his right arm and a couple of leads pasted to his chest, still monitoring his vital signs.

They visited for awhile but Jesse could tell that Luke was getting tired and needed some rest. He gently suggested that they leave and come back later that evening.

“I need to talk to you for minute, Jessie.” Luke said as they prepared to leave “Alone.”

“We’ll go get some coffee.” Daisy said, giving Luke a goodbye kiss before leaving the room with Bo.

As the door closed behind them,  Jesse looked at his oldest nephew wondering what was on his mind. Bo had told Luke how they had found him and about rescuing him but Luke had no memory of most of the incident, including a lot of  what had happened to him during the days he had been held captive. The doctor assured Jesse that was normal that the mind often develops a form of amnesia that prevents someone from remembering a traumatic injury. He said it was doubtful if Luke would ever remember what had happened to him entirely. But he had remembered enough to tell them about Christy’s involvement in Kelly’s death.

“Jesse, something happened…..” Luke said quietly, his eyes searching his Uncle’s face “I ain’t sure if it was a dream or if it was real.”

“What happened?’

“I saw Kelly……” Luke whispered, saying the last thing that Jesse had expected him to say “She told me……I had to come back that I couldn’t stay with her…..she said it wasn’t my time yet”

“Do you believe it was real?” Jesse said in a quiet voice, gently taking Luke’s hand.

“I don’t know…….I could feel her, Jesse” Luke said, a hint of tears shining in his eyes  “I touched her and she kissed me goodbye….”

“I think that just proves that she’s up there watching out over you.” Jesse said in a soothing voice. Jesse believed in miracles and in angels. A deeply religious man, Jesse had seen things in his lifetime that couldn’t be explained any other way, so he was able to accept Luke’s vision without question. Satisfied with Jesse’s explanation, Luke’s eyes closed and he drifted off to sleep.

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