August 10, 1998
For more than six years, Bonnie and I helped a single mother raise her two daughters, Sabrina from age 7 on, and Ana from birth on. When Sabrina was 10 or 11, I took her on a weekend camping trip to Bayfield, Wisconsin, a little town on the northern tip of Wisconsin that sticks up into Lake Superior. It was the first weekend in October, and Bayfield was having its annual Apple Festival before it collected all its buoys from the lake and closed the town down for the winter.
I had told a friend at work, Ron, all about the Bayfield Apple Festival, and he had said that he and his girlfriend, Gracie, might join Sabrina and me in Bayfield that weekend, so I had given him directions to the campground where we were going to be staying.
After driving all day to get to the campground, Sabrina and I checked in and got our campsite. When we arrived at our reserved campsite, just a few feet from the lake shore, we set up our tent and took a nap.
A little while later, we were awakened by the sound of a car horn. It was Ron and Gracie, driving up in Ron's van. We greeted them, and while Sabrina had met Ron before, at a campfire at my house, Sabrina and I met Gracie for the first time that afternoon in Bayfield.
It was around 7PM, and none of us had eaten supper yet, so we all drove into town to find a restaurant. We ended up at a pizza place that was owned by a couple that were old friends of Gracie's. After some negotiations, we decided to order a pizza with ham and pepperoni. As we waited for the pizza, we all got to be good friends as talked about all the things we would do that weekend: the big Apple Festival parade, the all-you-can-eat fish boil (and you know how painful THAT can be, we joked), going for a boat ride out into Lake Superior, having campfires at night, shopping at all the Festival booths, plus eating apple pie, apple fritters, apple donuts, caramel apples, apple cookies, and any other food made out of apples that anyone was going to be selling that weekend.
When our pizza arrived, we dug into it and kept talking as we ate. I was the first one to say anything about the pizza. It seemed to me that it had an unusual taste. After I called it to their attention, Sabrina, Ron and Gracie all agreed. We kept eating, trying to figure out if the pizza was spoiled, or if it had some unusual spice in it, or just exactly what was causing it to taste so different. After another minute or so, it dawned on me. "Cocktail Sauce!", I shouted, and the people at the tables around us all turned to look at me. My table mates chewed thoughtfully for a few seconds, and then, one by one, they agreed with my assessment.
It was suddenly obvious to all of us that the pizza place had used shrimp cocktail sauce on our pizza instead of tomato sauce! Now came the hard part: deciding whether or not we should bring it to their attention. After all, Bayfield is on the edge of Lake Superior -- maybe the locals were used to eating a lot of seafood and cocktail sauce, and maybe they liked their pizzas made with cocktail sauce! We laughed and laughed at the possibility that they had made our pizza with cocktail sauce by mistake, or that maybe the owners, Gracie's old friends, had done it to us as a joke.
After a few more minutes, we called our waitress over to the table and told her what we had discovered. She looked perplexed at first, probably thinking that we were trying to trick her. Then she leaned over, picked up a small piece of our pizza and took a bite. As she realized that what we had told her was true, her face turned the color of cocktail sauce and she began apologizing profusely. We laughed and told her that we hadn't been sure whether to complain about it or not. She assured us that no, they didn't normally make their pizzas with cocktail sauce. Then she swooped up the rest of our pizza and told us that she was going to take it in to the cook.
A minute later, she was back, along with the cook and the owners of the place. It turned out that, early that afternoon, the cook had scooped out the last scoop of tomato sauce from the container he kept near where he makes the pizzas. One of the busboys had gone to the storerooom, gotten another container of tomato sauce, and dumped it into the cook's container. No one had noticed that the busboy had gotten a container of shrimp cocktail sauce instead of tomato sauce. Without realizing it, they had been making and serving cocktail sauce pizzas to all their customers for the past five hours, and we had been the first ones to call it to their attention!
They ended up making us another two pizzas for free. And Sabrina talked our waitress into giving us free pop for the rest of our meal, too!
That night, in the pouring rain, Sabrina held an umbrella over me as I got a campfire started. Ron and Gracie joined us again, and we sang songs, listened to taped music, and told stories around the campfire until well after midnight. That weekend, the four of us had a great time, doing all the things we had hoped to do. On the drive home, Sabrina thanked me for giving her such a fun weekend, and told me how much fun she had had with Ron and Gracie. We laughed as we remembered the cocktail sauce pizza, the campfire in the pouring rain, and all the other fun things we had done that weekend.
One week later, Ron went deer hunting. That Sunday night, Gracie went to his apartment while he was still gone, and made him a big welcome-back meal. When he got home, she greeted him at the door, told him about the meal that she had made for him, and then went into the bathroom to clean up. A few minutes later, Ron heard a loud "thud" in the bathroom. He called Gracie, but she didn't answer. He pounded on the door, but she still didn't answer. He ran around to the other bathroom door and walked in to find Gracie, dead on the bathroom floor. An autopsy revealed that she had died from some kind of virus that had attacked her heart.
Three nights later, Sabrina and I went to Gracie's wake. I wasn't sure that it was a good idea for Sabrina to go, since she had never been to one before, but she insisted that she wanted to go, so I took her. As we walked into the funeral home, Ron greeted us and thanked us for showing up. In the corner of my eye, I could see Gracie's open casket several feet away in a side room, but I made no attempt to go into that room, in case Sabrina would be scared to see the dead body. A minute later, Sabrina took my hand and pulled me into that side room. She knew what was in there, and she wanted to see it. We waited for several other people to spend time at the side of the casket, and then we walked up to it together. Sabrina and I stood and looked at Gracie's body, lying in that casket. Displayed on a table nearby, were several photos of Ron, Gracie, Sabrina and me, on our camping trip just ten days earlier.
I looked at Gracie, but I also watched Sabrina carefully, to see her reaction. She studied Gracie's face for a few minutes, with a look of curiosity on her face, then took my hand again and led me away from the casket. As we walked away, she whispered to me, "That doesn't even look like her."
I stopped and looked Sabrina in the eyes. "You're exactly right, honey. It doesn't look like her. That's because it's not her anymore." Sabrina looked confused, so I continued. "Gracie isn't in that body any more. That's why that body doesn't look like Gracie any more. Gracie was just living in that body for awhile while she was here. She was living inside that body when we went camping with her, but she's not in there any more. Her soul is still alive, but her soul doesn't need a body any more. Her soul is free now. It doesn't have to worry about getting sick or getting hurt or even about dying any more. Her soul's not in that body any more -- that's why that body doesn't look like her any more." I stretched my hand out in front of me. "It's like when you wear a glove. When you're wearing a glove, that glove moves around and acts just like it's alive. But, as soon as you take your hand out of that glove, it can't move around by itself because it's just a glove. So, Gracie's soul is like a hand, and Gracie's old body is like a glove. The hand doesn't need the glove anymore."
Sabrina considered what I had said; then her eyes lit up. "So, now Gracie is with God?" I smiled. "That's exactly right."
On the way home, Sabrina and I talked again about all the fun we had had, camping with Ron and Gracie.
Stories By Bob
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