"Ty Duke at your service!" Tyler answered.
"Hello," a nervous voice said, "this is Nikki Drake and I need to talk to you - do you have minute?"
"Sure," Ty cautiously said.
Nikki began, "I am Joseph Drakes older sister," she paused, "he asked me to give you this letter he wrote. I promised him that before I left Forrest Heights, I would give it to you. Is there anyway you could come down to the bus station right now?"
Ty stammered, "Ummm.ahhh, I'm sorry, but who is this again?"
"Nikki Drake, and I am Joseph Drakes sister," the voice on the other end of the phone said. "Joseph was a classmate of yours. He had leukemia and passed away last week. Before he went, he wrote a letter for you, and made me promise to deliver it."
Her voice quieted, and Ty strained to hear.
"I just didn't have the time to stop by your house. I could mail it, but I promised Joseph I'd deliver it to you." This time there was pleading in her voice, "I must head back to college today and my bus leaves in an hour, can you please come?"
Who was Joseph Drake - he could not remember - and because of the urgency in Nikki's voice, he desperately wanted to make the connection. Ty's mind raced, Joseph Drake, Joe Drake, Joe, Joe D! That was it! She must be talking about Jody, as he was known at school. The cool kids at school, including Ty, called him Jody because he was wimpy like a girl and had features that resembled Jody Foster. They got a lot of laughs at Joe's expense.
He must really hate me, probably wants to tell me how mean I was to him, and how miserable I made his life, Ty thought. Probably wishing I'd get leukemia like he had or that I'd get vaporized by aliens or something.
Tyler shifted his weight awkwardly to his other leg, inwardly wishing he'd never answered the phone ten minutes ago, and fretted for something to say.
"I'm really sorry, I didn't know that Jodyummm, I mean Joe, was sick," Ty finally said, and before she could respond, "I can be there in fifteen minutes."
As he entered the bus station, he suddenly got very nervous and sensed that this was going to be one of those defining moments in life that his parents loved to reflect on.
"You must be Tyler Duke," a pretty young woman stated as she extended her hand.
"Uhyes, ahhhand you must be Joe's sister?" as they shook hands.
Nikki nodded yes and thanked him for coming on such short notice.
Looking at the floor and rolling his head to the side, "I am very sorry to hear about Joe. I wish I'd have known he was sick."
Nikki also looked away for an anguished moment, then said, "Thank you. Joseph tried to live his life as normal as possible, but the last couple of years really wore him down. It also was a struggle on his grandparents - who've raised Joseph since he was eight."
Shifting her gaze back to Ty, Nikki gently pulled a white envelope from her duffle bag and handed it to Ty. Reverently she said, "This is for you."
He felt like such a heel, a real scumbag and deserved whatever harsh words Jody - no Joseph! - had for him. Ty nervously examined the envelope. He was grateful the letter was sealed, hoping that meant Nikki had not discovered the cruel person Ty really was. He sheepishly thanked her and slowly turned away from her view to open the letter.
Unfolding the letter he saw that it was dated eight days ago. As he began to read, he drifted into a world far away from Nikki and this bus station:
We hardly know each other, but I want to tell you of a dream I had this morning. It was really more than a dream - I was fully awake and it was so vivid and real. In other dreams, I talked with my parents about being together again and how happy we'd be.
But this morning, I dreamed about the friendship you and I had in the life before this one. In my dream, you and I were inseparable friends. Tyler, you were destined for a humble life, to come to earth, weak and sick, to have difficult circumstances such as losing your parents, and to quietly die at a young age without much notice. I on the other hand, was destined for a life where every want was provided, health was taken for granted, and worldly happiness was promising.
In this previous existence, you were stronger than I - you realized your destiny offered the best circumstances for learning to be humble and to love others - all necessary to be happy and return to our heavenly home. My destiny was paved with many pitfalls of ungratefulness, pride and selfishness - all obstacles to returning home. You convinced the powers of Heaven to swap our worldly destinies, making it probable for me to some day return and be happy, and you promised to be strong and faithful - that you would beat the odds and return home.
I want to thank you for your sacrifice, for gambling your future to secure mine. But I will have endless remorse if you do not one day return to that home where we were once friends. Be strong, be true, and return home.
Your friend always, Joseph"
When he finished the letter he was crying. From somewhere deep inside, came a conviction that Joseph was right, they were once true friends and that he has a heavenly home that he must return to.
In the days that followed, he visited Joseph's grandparents often, and he kept in touch with Nikki. They all became the closest of friends.
And he was right, that day with Nikki, became a defining moment in his life, one that he shared with his children every chance he got.
Copyright © 2007 Michael Ulshafer