Hailey Becker was all of 79 years old. She lived with her doting, younger husband for the better part of her life, and they had two wonderful grown daughters who lived nearby. They were one of those families you couldn’t help but like. Hailey was the best cook this side of paradise, and Charlie could be anybody’s uncle—even the mothers-in-law who gossip too much. Charlie knew how to be polite and caring, and a pot of coffee was always brewing whenever I stopped by.
So when we heard about an upcoming surprise trip, everybody wanted to know the details. However, Charlie could keep a secret like no one, and Hailey—well, I’m not sure she knew all the details.
A few weeks later, Hailey called me. “You must come by and see my new suitcase,” she said. “When we went to Cuba, our suitcases were too small for all the stuff we bought. We had to ship the vases back, and I worried for weeks when they didn’t arrive.”
I stopped in to see her bright pink new suitcase. What did her hubby think about the pink luggage? Knowing Charlie, he would say it was perfect.
“I wanted to be able to find my suitcase amongst the hundreds of others. You know, they all look the same when they pull them off the boat.”
I remembered when I went on a cruise and came home with somebody else’s luggage. And I didn’t even notice it wasn’t my bag until I opened it and found high heels stashed inside.
I laughed. “Sounds like a good strategy,” although I couldn’t imagine Hailey being like me and coming home with anybody else’s luggage.
Several months went by, and Hailey talked about the upcoming trip on several occasions. I heard through the grapevine that her suitcase was packed. One day she said to me, “You know, I keep telling Charlie he needs to pack his bag. Mine is ready, but he hasn’t even started packing his. We sure don’t want to miss the boat. What can I do to get him to pack his clothes?”
“You know how men are,” I said. “They can pack in three minutes.”
Hailey’s eyes twinkled. “Not me. I like to be ready at a moment’s notice. Unexpected things can come up, and it would be dreadful to miss the boat because I packed too late.”
I smiled. “Charlie won’t let you down. He’ll be at your side when you are ready to board that ship. I promise you.”
Soon signs revealed the trip was imminent. I heard that the suitcase was right beside Hailey’s bed, where she now spent most of her days. She was ready whenever the moment arrived.
Then I received word that they were on the way to the departure gate. Charlie reassured me he had her ticket in hand and her belongings were in the pink suitcase. He would make sure she was comfortable as she stood at the gate. I couldn’t wait to say goodbye to my friend.
When I arrived, Hailey’s bubbly personality enveloped me. She pointed to her bags, “I’m ready,” she exclaimed, “but I still don’t understand why Charlie hasn’t packed very much.” After a few minutes, she added, “I’m not going to worry about him. If he wants to wear the same clothes every day, that’s his choice.”
“He’ll be fine,” I assured my friend.
“When are we leaving?” Hailey asked Charlie several times as I sat beside her. “I don’t want to miss the trip.”
Charlie took her hand in his and locked onto her pleading eyes. “I promise, you won’t miss it.”
I stopped by the departure gate several times until she made the trip to Glory. I heard her leaving was peaceful. And I also heard that she didn’t need the suitcase she had meticulously packed.
I thought about all the things I’ve packed away, not only in my house but in my heart. Then I remind myself, it’s an all-expense paid, one-way trip, and we don’t need anything except our passport.
“She wasn’t one minute late,” Charlie reassured me, “and the smile on her face lifted my sorrowful heart.”
Who greeted her when she arrived? I’m sure it was a glorious reunion of friends, family, and Bible heroes. When it’s my turn, I know Hailey will be there to meet me.
Hailey Becker is not just my friend. She’s everybody’s friend. She is all those we’ve loved and said goodbye to too soon. And even though I know I won’t need a suitcase, like Hailey, I want to be ready at a moment’s notice. I find comfort knowing that my bag is packed—a bag filled by my Savior with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. I must remember to refill it from God’s Holy Book each day, so I’m always ready should my name be called.
I imagine Hailey received so many gifts upon arrival that she was glad she didn’t bring that earthly pink suitcase. While we try to fill our lives with worldly wealth, the wealth in Glory will far surpass anything we could conjure up here. Indeed, I suppose all the pink suitcases in the world could not contain the treasures awaiting when we arrive.
I’ve also heard that I won’t need a winter coat or even any clothes. By all accounts, the weather is perfect, the land exquisite, the joy unspeakable, the citizens glorious, and the price exceptional—by that, I mean, it’s free to pass holders—bought and paid for a long time ago by Jesus Christ. Every day I make sure I’ve packed my pass. The truth is, it’s so big, so heavy, and so heavenly, no pink suitcase could ever contain it. And only Jesus Christ could carry it.
Second Place Flash Fiction/Short Story
Florida Christian Writers Conference 2021