"Take me now, Sonny. Today would have been our fiftieth wedding anniversary if my Walter hadn't died nine months ago."
"But Aunt Bessie, you know I can't take you to the beach. You need your rest and probably the nursing home director won't let you go."
"Oh fiddlesticks." "Tell him whatever you have to. Just grant a sick, old woman one last wish."
Arguing with his stubborn old aunt was nothing unusual for Pastor Delwin. He may have led countless souls to Christ as a gifted preacher, but when it came to persuading his Aunt Bessie about anything, especially her soul, it was a lost cause.
Affectionately called "Sonny" for the son she never had, Delwin was her only living relative. Bessie's late husband, his Uncle Walter, had been her whole life and now she was alone. When he passed away part of Bessie died, too. Unable to live alone, she went into a nursing home, as she recuperated from two major heart attacks.
"Okay," he said, reluctantly.
Wheeling Aunt Bessie to the front desk, he said. "I want to take my aunt out for just a couple of hours."
"All right, just watch her carefully and bring her back before dark," the director said.
Lifting her frail, 98-pound body from the wheelchair into the front seat, Delwin carefully fastened her seat belt and closed the car door, praying silently, "She's all yours, Lord. This trip is against my better judgment, but I'm listening to my heart. I place her in your hands."
As he drove, Bessie retold the familiar story of how she and Walter had rekindled a teenage romance almost 51 years ago at a high school reunion beach party. Six months later they stood in front of the ocean, saying "I do". Each year on their anniversary they would return to the beach.
They had enjoyed a charmed life together. The only thing missing was a common faith. Uncle Walter was a Christian, but Aunt Bessie was not the religious type, although she was a devoted wife. After awhile, Uncle Walter stopped saving her a seat at church.
Smelling the fresh, salty air, they knew the beach was up ahead.
"There's the spot!" exclaimed Aunt Bessie. "It's under that palm tree that we got married."
Delwin drove into the beach parking lot and debated if she should get out. The excitement would be too much for her, he thought.
Instead of insisting they get out of the car, Bessie suddenly became quiet. Her tired, hazel eyes grew serious. She turned to her nephew and asked. "Is it too late?"
"No, the beach doesn't close until dark. But I don't think it would be a good idea for you to get out. Remember your heart."
"Hold on, Sonny. You don't understand. Is it too late for me? I want you to baptize me. I want to go to heaven, but I'm not good enough."
Delwin was stunned! After all these years his obstinate aunt wanted salvation.
"Oh, Aunt Bessie, "No one is good enough," he said, silently thanking God for an open door.
Praying for the right words, he heard himself say, "Let's go down to the beach. I'll carry you."
Carrying her to the shore, he said, "See all those footprints? Imagine they're your sins. Now look at the oncoming wave crashing over them. They're all gone, now, washed away forever. It's the same with our sins. When we accept Jesus, God washes over our sins and carries them out to sea.
Aunt Bessie's eyes melted. "
"Now I understand. That's what I want, Sonny."
Delwin sat her down on a towel, under the same palm tree where she got married, and took her wrinkled 90-year-old hands in his. Trembling, she repeated after him a simple prayer of repentance and salvation, asking Jesus into her heart.
Scooping water into an empty can lying on the sand, Delwin sprinkled it on her white, uncombed hair. "I baptize you in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost," he said.
"I'm ready now, Sonny. Bessie's eyes closed and she peacefully slipped into eternity. She was with Walter, again, on their golden anniversary.
They had kept their yearly date at the beach.
Venice Kichura is a published freelance writer who lives in the North Georgia Mountains where she finds endless inspiration for her articles, short stories and poems.