Pugwash, Nova Scotia - 1952
The Place of flowing waters
The air in the room was stagnant. Heavy, as if death was smothering invincibility with its engulfing terror. But she wasn’t afraid. Not really. Only she wished this crushing sense of something she couldn’t quite put her finger on would ebb away so that she could breathe normally again. Little Jack was laying his cool little cheek against her hot forehead. She tried whispering his name so he wouldn’t be afraid, but the words stayed caught in her chest, tangled up in the unwinding of life.
The damp breeze found its way to her nostrils and gently stirred the strands of air that lay limply on her pillow. It pushed the rancid smell of illness out, and pulled in fresh scents of the salt mines across the bay, mingled with aromas of a wet spring rain.
“Jack,” she whispered, on a breath borrowed from God. “Go to the table beside my bed. Now open the drawer. Can you bring me that big, black book? There’s a good boy.”
She could hear him rummaging around until he found it and then heard his little feet patter back to her bedside.
He lay it tenderly by her cheek and she turned her head on the pillow so that she could breathe in the old scent of the familiar pages. Pages filled with the words she had written quietly in her heart long ago that had lovingly suistaned her under the pressing grip of suffering. But it was the picture, not the words she desperately needed to remember now. It took some effort to lift the book and lay it across her abdomen. The simple motion rendered her dizzy, and she closed her eyes for moment to still the spinning world. Fumbling with the thin paper, she finally found it - glossy, dog-eared and stuck in the middle of the spine where she had put it years ago. She didn’t need to see it to remember it- she had the image memorized.
The brilliant blue sky, streaked with white summertime clouds. The emerald hillsides dotted in sun splashes and sheep. And children. So many children. Some sitting, some standing, some gathered around His knees. The little boy in red with his hand on His shoulder. The curly headed girl with the hand of blessing on her head. The face of the gentle shepherd, beautiful and ordinary and kind.
But it was not these images that were crowding her heart, filling her chest, rendering her breathless. It was one ...in the far corner of the picture, scarcely noticed. The image of a little lamb caught in the briars.
God, help me to breathe. Help me to pray.
Salty tears found their way down her. She felt Jack’s cheek against her face again.
The suddenly there was release. The pressure subsided. The words came for her. Not the strength to voice with them, but the promise that they would be mediated. There was something she needed to tell the shepherd. Somehow she knew He would hear her – this gentle man cradling the sheep.
Lord, find this lamb. Take him from the briars. He will go astray, Lord. Let him be the one from the ninety and nine that You will not cease to look for.”
Peace, glad peace filled her. Momentarily, it was joined by light. All consuming peace and light.
And she smiled.
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