I kiss Marcel gently. I am so proud of him. He has been working so hard to keep us physically and spiritually safe for all these years. “We have finally received our reward, my love,” I whisper softly, careful not to wake him up. And look at my baby girls. They look so beautiful sleeping peacefully like this. I love them more than my own life. Knowing now that nothing can harm them gives me such inner peace. Nothing makes me happier than to know that my daughters will grow up in a perfect world where they will always be safe and well. Thank you, Jehovah. I love you so much for giving my family the chance to enjoy real life: a life without anxiety, sorrow, or pain. My only concern is that they grow to love you as much as I do, Father. Please help us make sure their love for you keeps growing every day for eternity. I kiss them on their cheek and slowly crawl my way out of the tent.
I take a deep breath and exhale: “Aaah, what a beautiful day.” The blue skies, the sweet smell of flowers, the peaceful sound of birds singing. I love spring. It is still early, and it will take a while until my people here wake up. I think I will go for a walk.
I walk into the woods in the direction of the nearby river. When I approach the river bed, I see what seems to be a huge black bear. Hiding behind trees, I move carefully towards it. Once I get closer, I realize. That is Mama Bear and her cubs playing in the water.
“Hello, guys. Remember me?” I ask.
Mama Bear turns around and looks at me. She gets out of the river and shakes the water off. Oh, here she comes. I know we are friends now, but she is still very intimidating. Mama Bear stands up on her hind legs and walks towards me. What is going on? What does she want? Standing up like this, she is immense—almost twice my size. She keeps walking towards me and I take a step back. I shouldn’t run, right? Should I? She takes a step closer and then another. I’m stunned. I brace myself and close my eyes in fear when finally Mama Bear gives me a gentle and very wet hug.
“Aaah,” I sigh in relief. “Don’t scare me like that, Mama.” Of course, Mama Bear would never hurt me. What was I thinking? I hug her back, and she kisses me, licking my face as a friendly dog would. “Ow, okay. Okay. I love you too. Where did you come from, Mama? I wonder if all wild animals are now this friendly. Or did you come from a zoo? Or maybe from a circus, where you got familiar with humans, huh?” She goes back on her paws and starts to push me towards the water. “What is it? What are you trying to say now?” She keeps moving me with her nose. “Are you saying that I need a shower or something?” I check myself and confirm. She is right. I could use a bath, like yesterday. “Okay. All right. I’m going. I’m going,” I comply reluctantly. But the water is so cold. “Ah! It’s freezing!” I cry out after trying it with only the tip of my toe. Mama Bear doesn’t seem to care and keeps pushing. I enter the water very slowly, shaking like a tree in a storm and my teeth begin to chatter uncontrollably like I am having a seizure or something. Wait! What happened? Suddenly the cold is completely gone. “Whoa.” The water actually feels great now. How is that even possible? Did my body just adapt to the water’s temperature? Extraordinary.
Mama Bear, me, and the cubs are having a great time. “But now I have to go, guys. My family will wake up soon, and I want to be back before they do, okay?” Mama Bear roars and dives.
“Sorry. I can’t keep playing. I have to go,” I say, getting out of the water. She emerges swiftly with a giant salmon in her mouth. She then gets out of the water and throws the fish at my feet. “What is this? Is this for me?” She nods and pushes the fish in my direction with her snout. I can’t accept that.” She stands up and roars at me again. “All right. All right. I accept it,” I say. “You’re so kind, Mama. Thank you.” She hugs me and leaves me, going into the forest, followed by her offspring.
“Aaah,” Marcel groans while trying to leave the tent.
“What is it, babe?” I ask.
“I have muscle pain all over my body,” Marcel replies.
“What did you expect after all that hard work yesterday, huh?” I say, kissing him good morning.
“You’re right. I guess even a perfect body would need time to recover and rebuild after that kind of physical exertion,” he says.
“Even Jesus got tired, right?”
“He did, indeed,” Marcel replies. “By the way. What is this great smell?” he asks.
“Fried fish,” I answer.
“Fish? Where did you get it?” Marcel asks.
“It’s a funny story. Remember the bear family?” I say.
“Mommy, mommy,” Sarah and Naomi shout, coming out of the tent.
“When I woke up, you were not there, mommy. What did you go?” Sarah asks.
“Oh, my darling. Mommy woke very early today and went for a walk. And do you know who I met in the forest?”
“Who?” the girls ask.
“Mama Bear and her babies.”
“Really? Where? I want to see them too,” they exclaim.
“We will look for them later, okay?”
“Okay,” they agree.
“And, look. Look what Mama Bear gave me. Breakfast!” I proclaim.
“The bear gave you the fish?” Marcel asks.
“Yes. It was amazing. She caught the fish and practically forced me to take it.”
“Yup. You should have seen it. It was almost like we could understand each other. It was crazy. And…”
“Mommy, mommy. I am hungry!” Naomi says, looking at the various tasty things on the picnic towel on the floor.
“Okay, sweetie. Let me show you what we have here today,” I say. “Some fried fish, wild berries, mint tea, and, surprise, surprise…”
“What, mommy? Naomi asks.
“Peanut butter!” I announce.
“Yeee,” they shout.
“You have prepared quite a feast here, babe. Thank you,” Marcel says.
“Thanks, love,” I say.
“Okay. Let’s eat, then. Right girls?”
“Yes. But first, we pray, right daddy?” the twins ask simultaneously.
“That’s right, sweethearts. Let’s say a prayer.”
During our breakfast, Caleb came by to deliver a message from the elders. The family heads had been invited for a brief session at the Tent of Meetings. We all got excited about it. Many wondered what would happen now. And I wonder if maybe this meeting had been called to address some of our questions.
I enter the Tent of Meeting with eager anticipation.
“Thank you, brothers. Thank you for coming,” Tony says. “It seems that we are all here. So, I think we can start,” he continues. “Yesterday, we were able to pick up the brothers’ radio broadcast. It was a great feeling to hear the familiar voices of our dear brothers again. They transmitted the same instructions throughout the day. They gave coordinates to a meeting place where everyone in the region should go. We will be uniting with the brothers and sisters of our circuit there. What exciting news, don’t you think?”
We all applaud in agreement. We haven’t had any conventions for many years. We are indeed longing to see everyone once again.
“Great!” Tony continues. “Let us get ready and get moving. We will leave in approximately two hours, okay?” he asks.
“Tony?” I ask.
“Yes, Marcel,” he replies.
“What about our homes? When will we be able to go back?”
“That is a good question, Marcel,” Tony says. “I would like to know too if my place survived Armageddon. I think we will know that soon enough. We will probably get more answers to our questions in the meeting place the brothers ask us to go.”
“I don’t care about my lousy apartment, to be completely honest,” one of the brothers says. “But, I would not mind getting some clean clothing there. Can we do that first?”
“Yes. I could check if my fish is still alive,” another brother says.
“Your fish? Really?” they ask.
“What?” he replies.
All of a sudden, everyone starts speaking at the same time. There are ‘sighs‘ and ‘cries’ and agitation until Tony interrupts, saying: “Brothers, Brothers. Please.” The commotion fades away. “For now, let us just follow the instructions, okay?” he continues. “I’m sure that all our needs and questions will be attended to as soon as we get to the meeting place.”
“Where are we going exactly?” someone asks.
“That is the good news. The meeting place is not too far from here—just a few hours walking. Brother Jacob here is going to lead the way,” Tony says. “Any more questions?” he asks.
All hands go up.
“Great,” Tony says. “Keep note of them, so we can ask the brothers taking the lead once we get there,” he says with a grin. “Thank you again, brothers. Time to break camp. Let us meet the rest of the family.”