We all thought Lucinda married Garrison Hopper because he was the only boy who ever paid her any attention. We figured Garry married her because, after his wild teenage years, only a girl as desperate as Lucinda would have had anything to do with him. She wanted to be loved by someone…anyone. She needed to prove that she was important enough for someone to love. We thought Garry probably saw her as easy prey.
Regardless of what brought them together, we knew deep down in that place where words are forbidden to go, in that place far beneath the spoken word where only thoughts commune, that life with Garry had taken a heavy toll. She still came to church from time to time, and when she did, she would bring Stephen, their little boy. But she always had bruises, the ones she would explain away as best she could if anyone asked, and sometimes when they didn’t. We tried to make her feel welcome, but the wounds we carved into her as teenagers were carefully guarded in her memory, and they lingered long, went deep, and held fast.
Time had finally matured us into adults who no longer drew confidence from knowing we were part of a group to which certain lesser mortals could not possibly belong. We were settled into life’s steady idle, living on cruise control with families and careers. The thrill of belonging, enjoyed at the expense of one who didn’t, no longer brought us joy. Instead, such feelings brought shame. We had come to love Lucinda and Stephen, and we wanted to make things right, although we never spoke of it. Our guilt was there, though, living in that dark place where words were forbidden to go. But none of us had suffered as Lucinda had, and we were never quite sure how best to express our new-found concern for her. Our empty promises of prayer and offers of financial assistance often sounded demeaning and condescending. So, we felt guilty trying to help and began ignoring her again…same effect, just different reasons.
When Pastor Keller came to Broad River Baptist Church, he met the Hoppers on his first Sunday as our new pastor, and from the moment he first peered into Garrison’s dark, hollow eyes, he recognized an evil that haunted him every time he thought of them. He, like the rest of us, didn’t pay Lucinda too much attention, and none of us ever even bothered with Garry. He had threatened to shoot the late Pastor Simpson, on his first and last visit out to their home, and from then on, no amount of persuading could convince him or any other church member to make a home visit.
In the summer of Pastor Keller’s third year in Broad River, Lucinda came to see him. I never knew what they talked about, but after their meeting, Pastor Keller was convinced that we needed to do something to get her away from Garry. Despite our best efforts, though, she wouldn’t budge. She was afraid to stay with him, and she was more afraid of leaving him. Her refusal to heed the warnings, though, ended in tragedy. One night Garry got drunk and ended up in a fight with Lucinda. We may never know for sure how it happened, but he managed to hit Stephen, their three-year-old son, in the head. He died later that night after having been airlifted to Charlotte.
After that, something died inside Pastor Keller. He had a real struggle getting through the funeral, and it was though a cloud of despair and depression settled in over him and would not move away. We all thought that Stephen’s death affected him so profoundly because Caleb, his son, was about the same age as Stephen. But Janice, his wife, knew better. What none of us realized was that our pastor carried wounds and scars far deeper than any of us could fathom… wounds that God exposed to him through the Hopper family’s tragedy to expose. Janice encouraged him to take a few days off so he could return home to take care of some unfinished business that he and God had to settle. Sometimes God is like that. When he comes to visit, he won’t let a man alone until he sits down and listens. He may let us run loose for a little while, but eventually he will get our attention. That’s what he did with Kenny Keller, and soon after, that’s what he did with all of us at Broad River Baptist Church.
Want to know what happened? Kenny will tell you…in Crickets of the Silver Queen.