Mom was wearing her long soft pink nightgown with colorful little jewels making the shape of three butterflies on the front. She wore dark gray pajama pants, fuzzy tan slippers, and had her red blanket with white snowflakes draped around her shoulders. Her head was covered with a scarf since she no longer had any hair. Her bright green eyes were permeated with fear and sadness. She sat in the big blue arm chair in the living room as Bill packed the car full of the things they’d need on their trip. I knelt down in front of her, put her delicate hands in mine, and told her not to worry. “This is not the end, Momma. I love you.” I gave her a long but gentle hug. I helped Bill load her into the passenger’s seat. Mom looked at all of us, all five of her children: Krystal 21, Myself 18, Hope 10, Hannah 9, & Josiah 5, as we stood with the rest of the Exodus House members waving goodbye. A tear streamed down her face as Bill pulled the car out of the driveway. It never occurred to me that would be the last time I saw her.
“They just pronounced her dead.” Krystal’s hand was shaking me awake. “Do not cry. Wake everyone and tell them to meet downstairs in the living room. Don’t tell the kids.”
Shock. That’s all I felt as I peeled the blankets off my body and made eye contact with my cousin, Shaina, across the dark room. Her eyes reflected the same shock and horror. She was already sitting up and tossing her legs over the top bunk. She woke her mother who was sleeping just beneath her.
It was an eerie walk down the cold creaky stairs. I felt vomit rising inside me.
“Dead?! I don’t believe it.” I imagined my mother’s body, lifeless. The tears welled up behind my eyes. “Stay strong.” I said to myself. “Do not cry, Kayla! You were told not to cry.”
One by one we filtered through the dark kitchen into the living room which was lit with only one small table lamp. Krystal was pacing back and forth and praying in tongues. My sister was left in charge as the elder of the house while our leaders, Bill and my mother, went on a trip to South Carolina to believe for and witness a healing miracle of God. That miracle, it seemed, had not taken place.
Once we were all present, Krystal gave us the news. “They just pronounced Mom dead.” We all searched one another’s faces to know how we should be feeling. This group was made up of family and close friends, disciples of Mom and Bill. “Bill is driving home now.” Krystal informed us. “He’s given strict instruction not to doubt. He says ‘Do not let tears stain your cheeks. Stand strong in faith and unity for God’s work is not done. Pray. Stay together. Stay alert for the enemy will surely try to strike with thoughts of doubt.'”
Krystal assured him we were believing with him before she hung up the phone. We instinctively formed a circle in our living room. Our knees resting on the hideous pink carpet that had been donated to us out of charity to help keep the old house warmer in the winter. We joined hands and began to pray.
For hours and hours we were relentless. In the wee hours of the morning, Hope came down the stairs. The look on her face when she saw us all on our knees proved she felt the perilous energy in the house. We immediately sent her back to bed per instruction.
Bill didn’t return until after noon that day. The whole house was awake and dressed awaiting his arrival, even the children. He walked up onto the porch, Bible in hand and smile on his face. He looked invigorated, excited even… Not like someone whose wife had just died.
“Where’s mom?” Hope asked.
“She was pronounced dead.”
Hope fell to the ground, gripping her stomach in agony, desperately reaching for air.
“Why are you having so much trouble breathing?” Bill asked with a grin.
The next several hours he explained to us what God had spoken to him. God did not heal her because he had a better plan, a plan to raise my mom from the dead and shake the world with this miracle and his almighty power. “This is merely a test of faith.”