The I.E.D that killed Private Lykes on an isolated dirt road outside of Fallujah was so powerful that his physical body left this earth as a fine red mist mixed with fire and steel.
The other 6 troops followed him into eternity at the exact same moment.
Different lives…different mists….same color.
They never knew what hit them…but still…..
There was a back-up in the line at Saint Peter’s gate that morning.
There were more everyday…There was also a delay in the phone call to 221 Edgrum Farm Road Bristol, Nebraska.
Private Lykes’ childhood home.
He walked up to his front door 5 minutes after he died.
The door opened for him.
Private Lykes stomped his feet on the Cornhuskers welcome mat. He grinned a little when he saw that he was in clean gear.
All the boys that had reported to the Gate after the blast this morning had no idea what had happened to them.
They had all been upset and angry about not knowing that they had been killed.
There is no truth in the fact that there is no anger, hate, and bitterness in heaven. Especially outside the Gate…
Private Lykes wiped his arm across his face. He could still smell the cordite, steel and blood, although his gear did not show it.
He was grateful though.
Not everyone got an opportunity to say goodbye.
The man that had met them at the gate had taken pity on the small group of Nebraska National Guard troops.
You see…they had just got off the plane outside of Fallujah.They had never fired a shot…never actually set foot on enemy soil.They had been on their way to a staging center when the tiny man with crazy eyes and sweating brow killed them with a mortar shell and a Trac Fone.
None of the troops were over 24 years of age.
Private Lykes was 18….and still a virgin.
He walked into his house. He had just been here 3 weeks ago. His mom would probably think he had either forgotten something or went AWOL before actually getting on that plane.
Private Lykes heard dishes clattering…water running…laughing.
He looked down at his dusty boots.
Maybe his mom wouldn’t freak out if he walked across the carpet.
He moved silently to the kitchen door. He looked in at his parents; their backs were turned to him.
His mother was washing the dishes, his dad was rinsing this time.
Private Lykes smiled to himself, wondering why his dad was in trouble this time…
“Hey” Private Lykes said to his parents backs.
His dad turned first, a look of surprise crossing his face. His mother turned with a more questioning look, guarded….you know how mom’s look at their kids when trying to decipher mischief or mayhem?
“Michael…?” his mom said wiping her hands on his dad’s shirt-sleeve.
His dad pulled his wet arm from his wife’s grasp laughing, saying “Woman…!”
His mom started to ask him “What are you…?”
She stopped when she saw tears in her son’s eyes. His dad looked at him, searching “What’s wrong Mike, did something happen?” “Why aren’t you…?
The Man called Jesus stepped around the corner of the kitchen door.
They both knew The Man.
Jesus placed his hand on Private Lykes shoulder.
Mike’s dad didn’t mind anymore that his wife’s wet hands were digging into his arm now.“No” his mom hissed…”No…No…” she started to cry.
Mike’s dad was pale…quiet.
Jesus squeezed Michael Joseph Lykes Jr’s shoulder and told him “Go say goodbye for now Mike, go say goodbye to your Mom and Dad.”
Mike didn’t look back at Jesus.
He walked to his parents, running the last 3 steps, crashing into their arms.
The arms that held him when he had learned to walk, the arms of the mother that had taught him to dance in the living room so he wouldn’t embarrass himself at the prom. The arms of his hero…his Dad, the dad that had taught him to play football in the cornfield behind the house, the arms that had held him high above the crowd to see their Cornhuskers “Fight Fight Big Red!!” they had all shouted at the tops of their voices…
They all stood there together…trembling, holding on to each other.
Private Lykes’ mother slowly pulled her wet face from her son’s chest. She looked up into his eyes…
”Did he suffer?” she was looking into her sons eyes, but directed her question to The Man.
“No” Christ said.
“Why not ask me…?” Private Lykes’ grinned a little at his mother, acting hurt.
“Because he wouldn’t lie to me” she replied as she wiped her son’s wet eyes, smoothing the tears from his cheek…
She was staring at her hand that was resting over her son’s heart.
Michael’s dad was holding his sons hand as the young soldier began to fade away.“I just wanted to come by….and tell you goodbye mom…..dad”
His dad winked at him, giving his son’s hand a hearty, hearty handshake.
Jesus walked over and put his arm around Michael’s shoulders.
The Man said “He’ll see you on the other side”
“You promise…?” his mother asked the Man, grasping at The Man’s arm.
“I always have” replied the Man, squeezing her hand in his.
“Bye Mom…Bye Dad” Private Lykes said quietly, giving his dad a half-hearted mock salute.
The phone ringing drew the eyes of the parents to it.
The moment interrupted.
They turned back to say goodbye to their son.
He was gone.
There was a glowing new rainbow magnet on the fridge.
Mr. Lykes looked at it closely, giving a small, quick sob.
Mrs. Lykes put her fingers to her lips and asked “What…?”
Afraid to know…almost.
“I Promise…” he replied. “It says…I promise”.