The woman nursed her father selflessly while he was dying. His death was a slow and gradual process at first, but then, after the diagnosis, it seemed to gather momentum. It’s strange how the body gives up and disease accelerates after a deadline is pronounced.
She had largely been on her own. She had seen it as her responsibility. She would take care of her father because it was her duty to do so, and certainly her sister was not going to help. Not after all she had done on her, not after how she had treated her. So she locked her out. Out of her life, out of her father’s life and consequently out of any right to comment how she did things.
She had stayed away from the father during the illness and only on the last day, when she had been told that that was it, did she come to the house to see him. The Sister hauled herself with all the strength she could muster, into the bedroom of her dying father. She hated the separation of death, the finality of it all and every step she took closer to the bed of her father reminded her of her dear mother’s death years before. She felt alienated by her big sister, the Carer, who had always been so close to her dad, so capable and good to everyone. She felt so unworthy to be there. She longed to be close to her sister, but their past and a million and one other reasons kept them apart.
The father lay dying on his bed, weakened from the disease, longing for a drink and for rest. It would soon be over. He awoke to find his estranged daughter on the left hand side of his bed, with the Carer on the right. The Carer felt the need to introduce her, partly as a barb, partly because she was the one in control. The father rued the relationship rift between the two daughters. They were on either side of his bed, feet away but worlds apart from each other.
The father asked them to bring a Bible and read him a passage. It was on the right hand side of his bed, in the top drawer. The Carer opened it and turned to the start of the Bible. The father could only manage so many words with his ailing strength, so he gave no indication as to what to read. The Carer was a believer, but she struggled with her feelings and felt awkward with her sister. She squinted to read the print without her reading glasses, so she asked her sister to read. It had been many years since the Sister had held the Book in her hands, and took it and opened it, her hands shaking with emotion, her voice broken. She was well out of her depth.
“What shall I read?”
“Just start at the beginning.”
She did. She read the story of Creation, slowly and thoughtfully. The words and pictures were coming back to her. The light and darkness, sun and water, vegetation, stars, seasons, animals and man and woman and rest. Then chapter two, the up close version – the introduction of man’s relationships with work, the world, and finally woman. Into chapter three, the old man listened, his breathing more shallow by the minute, holding her hand as she read and clutching his other daughter’s hand on the right side. The fateful conversation with the serpent, the lies and deceit and the introduction of sin and shame. She could relate to this bit. They hid themselves from each other and then from God, but God came walking, seeking.
At verse ten, he expired.
The sisters glanced at each other. Somewhere deep down in their souls, there was a sense that they had shared in an experience that would stay with them for the rest of their lives. Somehow, through the pages of Scripture, there was a witness of the Spirit and the unforgiveness and hurt in the Carer’s heart was both melted and healed, while the anger and the frustration and lostness on the other side of the bed dissolved in tears. The seeking and reconciling God of grace had asked the question again and the old man’s prayer was answered as he closed his eyes for the last time. They met at the end of the bed and held each other for the longest of moments. ‘I’m so sorry’ they blurted out simultaneously. ‘So sorry.’
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