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My bus is stuck in the mud this week. Apathy, the bus driver, doesn’t think we can get out. Wallowing, his companion, is here with him, a distraction, and we aren’t getting much accomplished, paralyzed by the situation. Food and drink have graciously been provided, but the thought of eating brings Nausea to sit beside me. Exhaustion has gotten on recently and urges me to “just sleep it off” until the bus gets going again.

I started riding this bus last October, on a chilly harvesting evening. I was at a meeting when a call buzzed through on my phone. Words I didn’t want to hear echoed in my ear, “He’s down; paramedics are working on him, but it doesn’t look good.”

Fear was my bus driver that first evening. I sat down by Dread and sternly told Despair to sit in the back, away from me. We flew down the roadway too fast, but Anxiety wouldn’t allow us to slow down.

By the time we frantically pulled the bus off the road onto a grassy bank, Darkness had settled over the field and into my heart. A dozen farm trucks formed a circle, all headlights beamed into the center, illuminating my sheet-covered husband, lying next to his combine in the field of soybeans he would never reap.

I’m not sure how long I stayed in the field, surrounded by people and activity. Who were those people? What did they say? What did I say? I don’t remember. Fog swept in and settled over everything. Or was it only over me?

I don’t recall much about the ride home as Fog followed me on, but one thing I clearly remember is Best Friend wasn’t on the bus. Realizing that, Shock and Denial jumped on and held my hands. They became my roommates and stayed at the house for weeks. Fog is still here, but mostly in my head, and he doesn’t allow me to think straight.

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That night as we left the field, Alone insisted on riding and boarded the bus. She was fairly quiet, yet her presence filled the bus. She kept whispering, “I’m here. I’ll stay with you forever.” She has been true to her word. She is always here. To be honest, at times I enjoy her company, and she is exactly who I need. But then, I grow weary of her company, and still, she doesn’t leave. Alone is always here.

I don’t know from day to day who’s going to be on the bus, but Confusion rides regularly and seeks me out. All the bus riders have become my friends. Fellow riders, Loss and Sorrow, always sit with me, sometimes even on my lap. I need these new friends because when I ask my old friends to join me on the bus, Lethargic and Just Can’t often jump up and push them out the door. This confuses my old buddies, and they don’t come around as much anymore.

There are a couple of new kids, Envy and Anger, riding these days. They are bullies and push Kindness away as they sit down. I’m just getting to know them, and I don’t really like them, but sometimes they surprise me and show up when I least expect them.

Recently when Best Friend’s birthday loomed close, Alone and I took the bus to a lakeside bed and breakfast. I asked Respite to join us as I wanted her pampering over the weekend. That first afternoon, things were going well, but after a few boutiques, Ambush surprised me in a shop Best Friend and I had visited on a romantic getaway a few years back. Sadness immediately pushed through the door and boldly told me we should just go home.

I tried to ignore her, but later in the day, Memories and Loneliness joined us at dinnertime, and then, decided to sleep in our room. After one long restless night, everyone, but Respite, caught the bus and we headed home.

I rebounded after a few days, and early one morning, Encouragement sat down beside me. She was delightful, and we were just getting acquainted when Guilt rushed in and took over the conversation. Shaken, Encouragement jumped off the bus without even saying goodbye. At the next stop, Depression kicked the door open, and with darkness in his eyes and a sleeping bag under his arm, camped out under my feet for days.

I’m weary of the bus. How long will I ride?

Apathy and Fear are the regular drivers, but sometimes, and much to my surprise, Grace shows up and takes the wheel. She is kind and good and offers refreshment to all. I relax, roll down the windows, and tell her to drive like the wind. I have come to love Grace so much.

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I’m not sure where they’ve gone, but Excitement and Joy have been away for a long time. I miss them. Grace says they’ll return someday. I hope so. Another rider, Determination, has taken up my cause. I think she feels sorry for me, but I like her anyway. She keeps telling me to look for Finding Purpose when I take a seat. “Sit next to her. She’ll be a good friend. And don’t forget Gratitude. Find her. Gratitude will never let you down.” Oh yes, Gratitude! I know her! I’ve seen her a few times. She always brings Lightheartedness along with her. They are amazing and so easy to be with.

Now that I’ve been a regular bus rider for months, Finding Purpose has noticed me. She offers suggestions and ideas that perk my interest. At her urging, Inspired has enrolled me into a grief writing group, and I’ve taken up my pen again. It’s hard to write about Pain and Grief because they don’t want me to be honest. I’ve learned that honesty isn’t for Everyonethat’s why Everyone doesn’t ride the bus. I’ve engaged Vulnerability and Transparency to help with the writing, and in doing so, Bravery and even Healing have been on the bus recently. They’re so interesting. I want to get to know them better.

After a few months on this journey, amid all the chaos on the bus, I hear something. The voices are faint, but I can almost make out the words. As I strain and look around, I see them walking together down the aisle toward my seat. They catch my eye and keep my gaze. I can’t look away. I watch them approach, and then at last, they are here.

Expectancy climbs over me and sits down by the window, and when I look back to the aisle, I see hermy oldest and dearest friend, Faith.

Faith sits down on the edge of the seat, hugs me close, and cries with me. As she takes Sorrow into her own lap, she whispers softly, “When you’re ready to open the door and walk down the steps, off this bus, I’ll be with you.”

The bus driver hesitates, but I shake my head, and he closes the door and pulls the bus back onto the road. Faith wraps her arm around me and gently begins to talk about her friend, New Meaning. She wipes a tear from my cheek and tenderly says, “She won’t be the same as Best Friend, no one ever will, but she will be good for you, and often brings Strength and Courageous with her.”

I ponder this, and as I do, Hopean old, almost forgotten friendsqueezes in, and cuddles up close.

Originally published on the author’s website

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Connie Gochenaur

Connie is a storyteller and a blogger. Her devotional writing has been featured in The Upper Room, The Perennial Gen and Prodigal, and Just Between Us magazine. She is the women's ministry leader at her local church and an art facilitator for senior citizens at a retirement village. She recently became widowed but was married to her high school sweetheart for over 46 years and is the mother of four grown daughters and Grandma to seven beautiful grandchildren. Connie resides in northern Indiana. 

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