Although Darcy didn’t have a boyfriend, she wasn’t about to sit around pouting about that fact on Valentine’s Day. She had invited her single girlfriends over to her house to eat snacks and watch a romantic comedy. It wouldn’t be as romantic as a date with a cute boy, but it was the best she could do.
Darcy filled a red paper plate with candy hearts and chocolate-dipped strawberries that her mom had helped her prepare for the party. Squeezing between two girls on the sofa, she put her feet up on the ottoman and pushed Play on the remote control. As the previews played, Darcy thought about how happy she was to have made the decision to invite friends to her house tonight. Her church friends were getting together at Becca’s house, but that would be a different kind of party. They had continued to drink even after learning about the horrible tragedy that had happened to her sister, but Darcy never wanted to touch alcohol again.
A phone rang in another part of the house, and Darcy heard her mother answer it. Soon, her mom rushed into the room and tapped Darcy on the shoulder, motioning for her to come into the next room.
Darcy followed her mom into her dad’s office. Darcy’s father, who was sitting at his desk paying bills online, swiveled in his chair to join the conversation. “What’s going on?”
Her mom’s forehead was creased with worry lines. Darcy had seen that expression on her mom only one other time—the day she found out Audrey was pregnant. A lump formed in Darcy’s throat.
“I have some bad news. We need to pray.”
Darcy’s mouth went dry and her fingers trembled. Audrey was working at her nanny job. Darcy panicked at the thought that something may have happened to her sister or the baby. “Is it Audrey?”
“No, Audrey is fine. But Pastor Mitchel was in a car crash.”
Darcy and her dad simultaneously gasped in horror.
“He’s at the hospital in a coma. Apparently, he hit his head pretty hard.” Her mom brought her fist to her mouth, stifling a soft cry. “They’re not sure if he’s going to make it.”
Darcy’s heart sank, and she was at a loss for words. She thought about what an amazing role model Pastor Mitchel had been for all the teenagers at their church. Then she thought about how most of the youth group was partying at that very moment, ignoring his warnings about teenage drinking, while he lay in a coma.
“Darcy, are you okay?”
She tried to process the situation. “I’ll be okay.” An idea formed in her mind. She would gather the youth group kids together to pray. It was something Audrey would do. Darcy needed to stop relying on her sister to be the leader. It was time for her to step up. “I know what I need to do.” Then she told her parents her idea.
Audrey drove straight to the hospital as soon as she could get away from her job. The mother of the children she babysat for arrived home from work moments after Audrey received Darcy’s text that Pastor Mitchel was in the hospital. Darcy had sent out a group text to all of the youth group kids, asking them to meet in the emergency room. Only family members were allowed to visit him, but the kids could still gather to pray.
Audrey rushed into the ER waiting area and found Darcy, Jake, Becca, and Gavin in a quiet corner, seated in a circle on the floor. They were holding hands and had their heads bowed in prayer. Audrey squeezed in between Darcy and Becca, sitting cross-legged with her back against a wall for support. Sitting on the floor was not an easy thing to do these days with her belly the size of a basketball. But she wouldn’t miss joining this prayer circle for anything. She closed her eyes.
Darcy prayed, “Dear heavenly Father, please save Pastor Mitchel. Heal his brain and wake him up from the coma. We need him. He’s taught us so much, and we still have so much more to learn. And Mrs. Mitchel needs him. They make such a cute couple. We know you can do anything, Father. Please let him walk out of this hospital completely healed.”
Kids took turns praying as they felt led. Despite the dire situation, Audrey’s heart soared. The same kids who had meant to spend the night consuming profuse amounts of alcohol were instead pouring their hearts out to their Savior. And she was so proud of Darcy for organizing the prayer meeting.
A long silence followed Becca’s turn, signaling closure to their prayer time. Audrey peeked open her eyes just enough to take inventory of all those present. Jake was the only person not to have prayed. She waited a moment, and just when she was about to close in prayer, Jake finally spoke.
“Dear Lord.” His voice cracked. “Pastor Mitchel doesn’t deserve this. He’s a good guy.” An awkward silence followed while Jake tried to compose himself enough to continue. Audrey peeked around. Becca put her arm around Jake. Tears were breaking free from his eyes, despite his obvious attempt to hold them back. “Don’t take him, God. You don’t need him up there.” He coughed. “We need him down here. Amen.”
Everyone stood up and hugged. Except for Audrey. She remained in prayer, thanking God for this circle of friends she had the privilege of growing up with. She silently prayed that they would stay close forever. She also prayed that her friends would listen to Pastor Mitchel’s advice and stop partying so much. She shuddered at the thought of gathering at the hospital to mourn the loss of a friend after a drunk-driving accident.
Darcy sat next to Audrey, wrapping her arm around her shoulders. In the comfort of her little sister, Audrey bawled like a baby. She had become close to Pastor Mitchel over the last several months. He called to check in with her regularly to ask how she was doing, often times on Sunday nights—her former T-time. He mostly just listened to Audrey vent, offering advice only when she asked for it. She told him about how the pregnancy was taking over her body in weird and frightening ways—without going into too much detail. She talked about the flashbacks that kept her awake at night. She even told him about her feelings for Trevor. She couldn’t imagine Pastor Mitchel being ripped from her life right now. She laid her head on Darcy’s shoulder. “He can’t die, Darcy. He just can’t.” Her body shook with grief and fear.
Darcy stumbled over words, struggling to express encouragement that he would survive. But she came up short. She couldn’t promise that. She sighed. “Trust in the Lord, right?”
A smile tugged at Audrey’s lips. “Definitely.”
The group stayed at the hospital for quite some time, reminiscing about the years gone by with Pastor Mitchel as their leader. A mingling of laughter and tears filled their time until late into the night when cell phones began to ring with parents beckoning their teens to come home. Audrey hated to leave, but she was hopeful that God would answer their prayers.
As she climbed into bed late that night, her body ached. Six months into the pregnancy, the baby was growing like crazy, making her feel heavy and fatigued on a normal day. This day had been downright exhausting. She was relieved to finally lie down, but her enormous belly made it difficult to get comfortable. She rolled onto her side and tucked pillows behind her back, between her knees, and under her belly for support. Once settled into her cocoon, she grabbed her phone off of her nightstand to check the Hope Church Facebook page for updates on Pastor Mitchel. A post from Maggie Mitchel popped up—a selfie of her and Pastor Mitchel at a restaurant, their heads tipped together, smiles lighting up their faces. The caption read, “Hard to believe that a few hours ago we were celebrating Valentine’s Day at our favorite Italian restaurant, and now he is in the ICU. Please pray.”
Dozens of people had already liked the post and left comments. Most people promised to pray; some quoted Bible verses. Audrey decided to write some words of encouragement but was unsure what she could say that hadn’t already been said. Nothing profound came to mind. She rubbed her eyes; they burned from all the tears she’d shed. After much deliberation, she conceded to borrow advice from Pastor Mitchel himself. She typed Trust in the Lord with all your heart.
Instantly, someone liked her comment. Her heart warmed with all the love people were showing Pastor Mitchel. With all of Hope Church praying, he would definitely pull through. Curious, she checked who had reacted to her comment. Her eyes lit up at the sight of the name. Trevor Hayes.
Read a chapter a day from Bittersweet Goodbye right here on this blog, beginning September 1st, 2019.