I’m currently putting the finishing touches on a 200-page, first-person novel describing how I used faith and humor to survive widowhood, breast cancer and brain surgery.

With July 4th fast approaching, I decided to share part of a vignette regarding my son, Jay, who was seven when his father died. Denny’s funeral was held on July 7, 1983.

The night before the Fourth, Jay sat next to me on our front steps, watching lightning bugs. The cement under our bare feet was still warm from absorbing the day’s sunrays.

We seemed almost hypnotized as we watched dozens of fireflies light up the large, empty field across from our house. They looked like tiny, winged lanterns as they flickered before our eyes.

I draped my arm around Jay’s shoulder and pulled his small body close to mine. I wanted him to stay there forever, under his mother hen’s protective wings.

Suddenly, Jay pulled away and bolted upright.

“Look, Mom!” he exclaimed.

He pointed at the southern sky. Brief flashes of light, like glowing angel halos, illuminated the clouds. It was a breathtaking sight, but no claps of thunder rumbled across the horizon.

Jay immediately wondered why he wasn’t able to hear any thunder.

“That’s heat lightning,” I said.

“Heat lightning?” he echoed, looking puzzled.

“Yeah,” I replied, “but it doesn’t have anything to do with heat.”

I went on to give Jay a brief meteorological lesson. Since I was a mother, I knew absolutely everything. At least, that’s what I kept telling him.

“That lightning is coming from a thunderstorm that’s too far away for us to hear the thunder,” I explained. “Its flashing bolts are simply reflecting off the clouds. That storm could be a hundred miles away.”

Jay slowly nodded his head. He seemed satisfied with my explanation, but I felt something more was going on in his brain that he wasn’t telling me.

As we continued watching the sky, my mind wandered back to my deceased husband. Denny had little enthusiasm for most holidays, but he loved the Fourth of July.

The six Lippincott siblings and their families often spent the July Fourth holiday in Nebraska at their parents’ home on the shore of a man-made lake.

“Uncle Denny” was always in charge as the ‘Supreme Lighter of Fuses.’ While the youngsters enjoyed playing with sparklers and poppers, Denny cheerfully ignited cherry bombs, bottle rockets, and Roman candles.

I was jolted back to reality when Jay suddenly stood up and turned toward me. His blue eyes sparkled with excitement, and he could barely contain himself.

“Dad’s shooting off fireworks in heaven!” he declared in a loud voice.

“He probably is,” was all I could say as my throat tightened.

We sat there for another 20 minutes, watching Denny play in the sky. Finally, it was time to head inside. As I turned to glance at the horizon one last time, a singular thought winged its way through my mind: I sure hope “Dy-no-mite Denny” doesn’t accidentally destroy any of those pearly gates or golden streets tonight.

Leanne Lippincott-Wuerthele, a native of Milton, who has lived in Minnesota and Iowa, has been writing Sunny Side Up for about 40 years. A graduate of Milton Union High School and Milton College, she has written four books. She has two children, three stepchildren, and a blended family that includes 11 grandkids.

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