When you want your little ones to fall fast asleep, do you read them a story or play them some lullaby songs?
I’m curious how many parents still do that. I hope bedtime stories and lullabies aren’t a bygone era. I’d like to believe those time-tested sleeping remedies are still being used in homes all across the world. And it’s not just because I write bedtime stories and lullaby songs either. I also remember how much I enjoyed hearing the old classic stories and music when I was a little whippersnapper.
When I got up this morning, I realized I had dreamed about some of the things I’ve written lately, and I grabbed a cup of coffee, slipped down to my desk, and began to type out a short story based on the lyrics to one of my songs “Fall Fast Asleep”. I’d like to share it with you if you don’t mind. Here goes…
Kato cruised Clear Creek in his canoe. His mind was filled with ideas and dreams. He didn’t look back. What was behind was gone. He didn’t even want the memories. So he pointed his bow toward the horizon above the tall pines and rowed toward the future.
“Freedom is ahead,” he thought to himself. “With freedom I can try out my ideas and chase my dreams…and maybe even sleep well again.”
Yes, Kato had not slept well in months. Even when he could remember the soft sounds of his mama’s voice reading his favorite stories or singing lullaby songs, he just couldn’t fall fast asleep. His eyes just wouldn’t close. There were too many dangers in his life.
Kato was much stronger than other ten year old boys. He could work all day on a couple of bowls of potato soup and a cup of cold coffee. That was all the food he got each day from the slavers. But he stayed strong in his mind, and that helped him stay strong in his body. He knew one day he’d find a way out.
That day was this day. The night guard had fallen asleep in his chair by the front door to the cabins, and Kato slipped out the back window. He made his way through the dark forest to the creek. That’s where he had hidden his hand-carved canoe under deadwood logs. With the silence of a butterfly he had slipped the canoe, and its one small oar, into the creek. Then he made himself as flat and still as possible, and let the currents of the creek sweep him away.
Safely out of anyone’s view, Kato sat up and paddled with all his might . And, as the sun rose above the treetops, so did the hope in his heart.
Sunbeams darted through the tree limbs like tiny elves so Kato decided to drift downstream in the shade. He leaned back on his elbows and took a deep, long breath of fresh morning air. Ah…the scents of the forest, the dampness of the dew, and the smoke from someone’s fire…way better than the sweaty cabins he’d suffered in for two years.
Then, like his canoe, Kato’s thoughts drifted. Gently they floated further back to a better time. A time when he lived with his parents, his sister, and his brother in a much happier cabin. He could almost smell a big, black pot of beans his mama cooked in the fireplace. Mm…mm…and some fried potatoes…and cornbread baked in bacon grease. Man, that was livin’. He couldn’t wait to get back there.
Kato remembered his poppa reading out of a worn out hand-me-down Bible. One of his favorite verses was about hope. Hmm…how did that go? It was something like “I get up before sunrise and cry for help…I hope in your word, God”. He knew he didn’t remember it the same way poppa read it, but he was sure it went something like that.
Hope. Couldn’t ever let that die. Poppa said hope is always near because God is always near…near as your very next breath. Kato heard himself breathe. That meant God must be very close. That must mean freedom was very close.
Then he heard dogs barking somewhere in the distance. Oh no. The slavers must be chasing him after all. Kato jumped up, grabbed his oar, and started paddling with all his strength. Luckily the current was faster in this part of the creek, so his canoe felt like a motorboat. In fact, he was suddenly aware of more rocks and more waves. Uh-oh…there were some rapids not too far ahead.
Imagine how you’d feel if you were in a little homemade canoe crashing through rough water filled with big, jagged rocks. Kato wasn’t sure his little boat could take the beating of the waves. But he was sure it was certain doom if it hit any of those rocks.
Suddenly Kato couldn’t hear the dogs or smell the air or remember the past. He could only hear the pounding of his heart. He could only smell the water splashing in his face. And he could only think about staying alive. He frantically slapped his oar in the water…first on the left side…then on the right. Then, he used the oar to keep from hitting a rock. Then, he smacked the oar back in the water…again on the left, then on the right, then back and forth and back and forth, and…pow!
Kato didn’t see the limb hanging low above the water, and it smacked him right in the shoulder and knocked him out of his canoe. The water splashed over him. He swallowed a big mouthful of it, but he managed to somehow keep his head above water. He caught a quick glimpse of his canoe just as it slammed into a big rock in the middle of the creek. It broke into pieces and floated away downstream ahead of him.
The waves of rushing water were getting even bigger. The noise drowned out everything else. And Kato’s arms began to feel like lead weights.
“Not…sure…how much longer…I can swim,” he thought. “I’ll never see you again mama and poppa. I’m sorry I wasn’t stronger.”
All at once, it felt like the whole world fell out from under him. Kato kept paddling his arms, but there didn’t seem to be any water to swim in. Without knowing, he had tumbled over a waterfall. It was only two or three seconds, but everything went into slow motion. Kato could see a deep pool of clear water below as he fell, and he hoped he wouldn’t hit a rock.
With a splash and a plunk, Kato hit the pool and sank deep into the sparkling, clear water. He opened his eyes and saw the image of his mama’s face floating in the millions of bubbles. He reached for her and started to call out to her, but his mouth filled up with water. For some reason he wasn’t scared. In fact, he felt very calm. He remembered another Bible verse his poppa read that said, “be still and know that I am God“.
Kato relaxed and fell into a deep, restful sleep. All the bright and beautiful colors of the world danced before his eyes like carnival characters. He wasn’t thinking of where he’d been, and he wasn’t afraid of where he was going. He just knew somehow it was all going to be alright.
The next time he opened his eyes, Kato was sure he was in Heaven. Before he could even see he could smell cornbread. It smelled just like mama’s. He opened his mouth to ask where he was, and a soft finger touched his lips. Then a face stooped over in front of him. He still couldn’t see very well, but it looked a little like a woman’s face. She must be an angel to welcome him into Heaven.
“Where am I?” Kato gurgled.
“Shh…lie still, Kato,” the voice answered. “You’re safe now. Your mama’s here, and you’re gonna be just fine.”
“Mama? Mom!” Kato blurted out. “Is it really you?”
“Yes, dear. You’re home. And we’re gonna make sure you stay.”
“But how did I get here?” Kato asked. “I thought I drowned.”
“No sweetie. Your poppa found you by the creek. You nearly drowned, but he found you in time. See…we never gave up on finding you, and we knew if there was ever any way for you to make it home, it would be on Clear Creek. So your poppa was there almost every day watchin’ for you.”
It was a miracle…plain and simple. Yep, it must have been a miracle. Whatever it was, Kato was thrilled to be home. And in that moment the still, small voice of God rose up in his mind saying…
“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
As Kato heard those words in his heart, his mama hugged him close against her breast and sang…
In Faith, Hope, and Love…