Project Sunlight Chapter 7

We’re at the halfway point, yay!

Drinking Game

 

  • The word “bitter” is used
  • Every time I bang my head against the book in frustration
  • Jenny and Carol behave in a way that is not age appropriate (99% of all SDA authors can not write believable children.)
  • The Book goes on and on for pages about Bible Study
  • Sybil acts like a Bible Worker/Sabbath School teacher
  • Sybil does something creepy
  •  One of the characters indicates that they are “crazy” for reading the bible/praying/going to church/whatever normal thing lots of mainstream Christians do
  • Bill acts like an emotionally abusive husband
  • Sybil acts afraid of her husband

 

The Rebel’s attack was more cruel than I could have anticipated. My heart is too heavy to record my observations of the following scene

(In Sunlight’s living room. Everything is in a state of confusion, with Sunlight weeping, Jim sitting with his head in his hands, and Carol, white and silent, in chair (sic) by herself.)

Having the main event happen offscreen and taking a good few paragraphs to get around to telling us what happened is probably supposed to build up suspense. It doesn’t. It just makes me bored and annoyed. I’d much rather have had Jared record the scene as it happened.

Jim: We have to pull ourselves together, Meg, and do whatever it is people do at such times. Do you want a funeral, or just something quick and quiet?

Whatever it is people do at such times? Has no one the author loved ever died? Also, I love how Jim just asks Meg straight up, without voicing his own opinion. I’m not going to say that Jim shouldn’t be talking about pulling themselves together. People react to grief in different ways. Perhaps Jim’s way of dealing with this is to get down to business. However, I hate that it is the man who is the one thinking about the details and the woman who just sits there crying and can’t think. It’s so stereotypically “women are emotional and men are not.”

Carol comes over and tells Meg not to cry. “You still have me,” she says.

Instead of telling Carol that she is glad for this, at least, Meg responds with asking Carol to tell her again, carefully, what happened. Because Little Carol hasn’t been traumatized enough by being asked to repeat it over and over to police officers and EMS workers.

Carol: It was just like I said, mommy. We got off the school bus at the corner, and Jen ran out to cross the street. She must not have looked, and there was a car turning onto our street. I heard the brakes squeal and Jen scream, then she was lying in the street and people were all around. A policeman brought me here and called Daddy. That’s all. She can’t be dead, mom. Are they sure? I made the policeman wait while I picked up her books and stuff ’cause I thought she’d be home later. Jen’s fussy about having her homework done, and she’d hate having her books get wet.

Yes, it’s true. My favorite character in the story is dead. Poor little Jenny, who had to look out for Carol and grow up a little too quickly. The one who asked questions and sounded more than a little skeptical. Rest in peace, sweet girl.

Jim reassures Carol that she did everything right, and that it’s ok for mommy and daddy to cry right now. They decide to leave Carol with Bill and Sybil, so they can go to the hospital and “take care of things.” Which probably would have realistically been done a while go, but nevermind.When they tell Sybil that Jen has been killed in an accident, Sybil takes Carol in right away.

Jim tells Sybil that they are having a small, private service the day after tomorrow. Well, that was quick. Doesn’t it usually take, like, a week to organize these things? At the very least?

A month has passed

Wait, what? A time skip, now? Things just got interesting! I wanted to see this private little service you arranged! What memories of Jen do people share? How is Carol really coping with this? Does she think the accident was somehow her fault? Does Jim regret those times he blew off their visitation weekends? Does he finally cry? This was our chance, admittedly too late, to learn more about who Jen was as a person. But since the author doesn’t care about that, we’re not expected to, either.

Jared tells us that Jenny’s school mates no longer whisper nervously about the tragedy. Life goes on. Well, yes, life goes on, but her classmates wouldn’t be done thinking about her after a month.

It’s been easier for Jim because he was used to living without the child

Seriously? That is not how this works. That’s not how any of this works. If anything, this might make it harder for Jim. At least Meg got to spend lots of time with Jen before she died.

Meg has cut herself off from her friends and is isolating herself. Unfortunately, Jared and Sybil have decided that a month is enough time, and Meg needs to be getting on with things. Sybil is now in Meg’s kitchen, guilting her.

Sybil:….You can’t go on like this, shutting yourself away from everyone. It’s no good for Carol. She looks terrible.

Earlier, Jared has told us that Carol has become “dark and introspective, with dark circles beneath her great brown eyes.”

Well, yeah, of course. She was there when it happened. I’m 21 20 years older than Carol and *I* don’t think I would be able to handle my sibling getting killed right in front of me. Carol is six. Seven. Either a lot of time passed off screen, or the author can’t keep track of how old her characters were.

Of course Carol’s not going to handle this situation well. But no, Carol isn’t suffering because she saw it happen and has lots of emotions about it. It’s all because Meg hasn’t been spending enough time with her.

Sybil continues: I know it must be agony, and especially so because you and Jen were closer, living here without Jim.

It’s true that, after a divorce, the eldest child often becomes dad’s semi replacement. We saw this happen with Jenny in the first chapter, where she is responsible for babysitting her younger sister and cooking dinner.

Sybil is still talking:

But we have to go on, Meg, no matter how much we hurt. For Carol’s sake you must smile again and have your friends in. She misses Michael. That was a pretty tough experience for a 7 year old, and I fear she dwells on it too much.

Um, what? She’s 7 and witnessed a traumatic event. It’s going to take longer than a month for her to stop “dwelling on it.” These people are human, right?

Sybil tries to share a Bible verse, but Meg is having none of that nonsense.

Sunlight: I don’t want to hear it, Sybil. Where was our loving, compassionate God when Jen got off that bus?

Right there, watching. Observing the Prime Directive.

Sybil: The same place he was when his own son hung on the cross, Meg.

Right there, watching. Observing the Prime Directive.

There is a world of difference between these 2 events. Jen is really and truly dead. She’s gone. She’s not coming back. God knew that Jesus was just going to come back to life in 3 days. Jesus’ death wasn’t permanent, and his Father knew that.

Sybil says that, if God didn’t even escape the tragedy of sin, how can we expect to?

Sunlight: I don’t want any part of a conflict in which innocent children get caught up in warfare.

Go Meg! I love how Meg is talking sense here, and Sybil is basically trying to convince her to see things backward.

This is not how you comfort a woman who has lost her child.  This is how you alienate said woman and make her angry. This is a manual for how not to do things.

Sybil: I doubt God wants any part of it either. He didn’t create little children to die, but to laugh and play and bring joy to their parents. but as long as the devil has freedom on the planet, I fear innocent children will die. If we trust Christ, as these people did who pleased him so much when he was here, then Jen’s death doesn’t have to be a tragedy.

If God doesn’t want any part in the deaths of innocent children, he has had plenty of time to step in and stop it. Really there was no reason to let sin continue this long. Surely the angels of heaven and the aliens from other planets or whatever are all convinced, by now, that sin is a terrible horrible bad thing. But, like the author, God is dragging out the plot of his cosmic novel way longer than it needs to be.

God is absolutely at fault here.

Little children were created to “laugh, play, and bring joy to their parents.” Not to, I dunno, be their own person. Like, seriously.

Also, what the fuck? If Meg continues to trust Christ, Jen’s death doesn’t have to be a tragedy…

The death of a 10 year old is always a tragedy.  Whether Meg decides to trust Christ or not won’t change that. A tragedy is a tragedy is a tragedy dammit! Can good things come out of tragedy? Yes. Is that ever something you should tell a grieving mother? Why don’t you try it and come back and tell me how it went?

No, don’t go try it. That’s a terrible idea.

Sunlight(Sharply): Well, it’s a tragedy for me. I appreciate your concern, Sybil…. come visit if you like, but don’t talk to me about God.

You tell her, Meg!

Sybil: If that’s how you want it, Meg, but I think you need God more now than ever before.

Look, if a grieving parent wants to draw comfort from their religion, I won’t argue. But if you try to tell a grieving mother that she needs God, who could have saved their child and didn’t, then you are an asshole.

That night, Carol comes into Meg’s bedroom.

Carol: I can’t sleep, mom. It’s so lonely in there without Jen. Whenever I look at her empty bed I feel all sick inside, and when I’m dropping off to sleep I see her lying in the street with dirty snow in her hair and on her blue Jacket. And I see her hand, mom, holding that new pen daddy gave her for her birthday. Her hand was ok, and I was sure she was all right. But I could never look at the other side of her where the car hit, because I was afraid to see her face, like maybe her face wouldn’t be ok. Oh mom, it was awful.

(Carol crawls onto Meg’s bed, sobbing. They hold each other, crying softly.)

This feels realistic to me. Carol is reliving the event over and over in her mind.

(The pen geek in me is wondering what pen Jim gave Jen. Was it a disposable ballpoint with purple ink, or a nice Lamy safari?)

Really, Carol should probably see someone about this. I know Meg can’t afford a child psychologist, but even if all Meg can do is get Carol to talk to a local pastor who specializes in grief counseling, that would be something. With how religious Meg has been getting, I do wonder why she and Sybil have never discussed attending an actual church. Especially since Meg has already resolved to follow Jesus. Even if she hasn’t found the truth about the Sabbath yet (spoiler alert, Michael has) she and Sybil, and possible Michael, should’ve been church shopping by now.

And I do know of some churches who would bend over backward to help little Carol work out her grief over the accident. I give Christians a lot of shit, but even I know that decent Christians exist and are out there.

Carol: Where is she now, mom?

Meg: In heaven, running around playing with all the other children who died too young.

No, I’m sorry, that’s not what Meg says. Meg has yet to study the state of the dead, so I’m surprised she doesn’t bring up the possibility that Jen is in Heaven, being taken care of by grandma, who died when Carol was 2.*

No, Meg’s response is:

Sunlight: In a vault, waiting for springtime when the ground will be thawed so she can be buried. You know. I told you that.

Ugh. Why? Even among non Christians, the idea of heaven is so popular that it would make more sense for Meg to say something like, “Jen’s body is in a big freezer waiting to be buried. But her soul is in heaven, happy and free.”

Carol: I mean, where is she really? A girl at school told me she’s in heaven, alive and happy, but I thought if that were true you would have told me, and you wouldn’t cry all the time.

I heard this a lot from SDAs growing up, that people didn’t act as though they believed one went to heaven when they died. Why would they mourn,  then, when their child died? they should rejoice that their child got to heaven faster and didn’t have to suffer.

Even if you think your child is in heaven, happy and alive, you would still be sad that she wasn’t with you. Also, Jen probably suffered before she died in that car accident. That’s going to be going through Meg’s mind, too.

Meg tells Carol she doesn’t know the answer to that question. She argues with Carol about whether or not to study it out right then and there. Meg tells Carol that they both have to get up early the next morning. Besides, Meg is angry with God, which causes Carol to flip out.

Carol(her eyes widen with amazement): Angry with God? He didn’t kill Jen, mom. You told us yourself that God is loving and kind.

I can tell you right now that even as a 7 year old I would have known better. 7 year olds are smart. They realize that if God can do anything, then he could’ve stopped Jen’s death.

7 years old is old enough to realize that, if someone witnesses a murder and is capable of stopping it but doesn’t, then, at best, that makes them an  accomplice. That person is still held responsible for the murder.

And if that’s the way the human justice system works, why does it not work the same way with God?

Has the author ever been around actual 7 year olds?

There’s more arguing over whether or not they will have a bible study right now. Finally Carol says

Carol: You go to sleep if you want to, Mom, but I’m going to see if I can figure out where Jen is. How do you spell “death?”

(she gets out of bed and takes Meg’s bible from the bedside stand.)

Sunlight (Sighing and switching on the light): where did you get this stubborn streak of yours? If it were over anything else, I’d tan your fanny. But I guess if you need to know, you need to know. We may not learn a thing, you understand. I fear the world has been haggling over where the dead are for centuries, so it’s expecting quite a bit for you and me to solve the mystery tonight….

This is their cue to start up a bible study on state of the dead, and I wonder if the author didn’t  kill Jen off just to shoehorn in this particular theological discussion.

Meg’s right about one thing, though: people have been haggling over this for centuries because, contrary to SDA opinion, the Bible isn’t clear on what happens after one dies. It’s full of contradictory statements.

Many pages of theology later, you all know the outcome. Meg is convicted on the SDA doctrine of State of the Dead.

Carol gets excited when Meg reads to her about the resurrection of the dead when Jesus comes. Meg tells Carol that only people who loved Jesus get to go to heaven, and I’m thinking, Jen was 10 years old. I know the age of accountability is kind of a gray area, but you’d think God would take circumstances and age into account. I don’t think Meg should automatically expect that Jen wouldn’t be in Heaven if she didn’t love God.

Carol(quietly): Jen loved Him. One night after we got into bed she told me that since she began reading her Bible she could go to sleep better at night. She used to put it under her pillow. Before, she would cry a lot about you and daddy, and she made me swear not to tell, but after she read the Bible, she said the hole in her heart was filling up with Jesus’ love.

This isn’t possible, because we all know Meg was using Jenny’s Bible. Meg had just started sharing the Bible with the kids when Jenny died. Jenny hadn’t really even had a chance to get to know God, let alone love him. We should have been shown that Jenny was, at least beginning to, love God. We should not have Carol telling us this after Jenny has died.

Meg is extremely grateful for Carol telling her this, and rejoices in the fact that she will see Jen again, when the end comes.

At the end of the discussion, Carol asks Meg if she is still mad at God.

Sunlight: No, Button, thanks to you , I guess I have my head on straight.

Learning about State of the Dead and the resurrection has totally changed Meg’s mind. I submit to you that this is not at all realistic, but it’s a trope you see often in SDA fiction. Someone dies, and then the main character learns about the State of the Dead. Afterwards it’s all better. blehc. Humans don’t work this way.

Jared tells us  that he is relieved, because he’s  been worried that the Rebel would try to draw Meg away from God without doubt and bitterness(drink!)

The Prince came  by a few minutes ago, and I started to tell him the good news, but he just smiled at me and said, “I know, Jared, I know.” Sometimes I forget he knows about them all, moment by moment, like they’re engraved on the palms of his hands.

I thought God liked to hear us tell him shit he already knew? Because that’s how he builds relationships with us? I’m so confused.

Also, wow, it only took a month to get over this? Really? wow. that’s… that’s a huge tangled mess that only took like 4 pages to unravel. This whole thing should be ongoing throughout the whole book. It would take years for any semblance of normalcy to come back, if it did at all.

I’d say I am so sick of the time skips, but this book is boring enough with them left in, so, whatever, I guess.

Anyway, that was probably the worst chapter in this whole book. I didn’t think the author could top chapter 6, but she managed. There will be a little bit more about Jenny in chapter 8, and then, for the most part, the storyline gets dropped. But stay tuned; the apocalypse is coming. Eventually. We’ll get there. Soon…..

 

 

*I made that detail up. It doesn’t exist in the text.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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