Sarah stood in front of the dusty old shop in Nazareth and looked again at the chair.
It carried scars of abuse, yet even they didn’t distract from the quality of workmanship or the general condition of the chair. True, it needed repair but every few days she looked at it with longing, hoping one day to save enough to purchase it for her own modest home. As a seamstress, her wages were meager but she managed regularly to deposit a few more coins in the small, clay pot hidden behind her bed.
After several months, Sarah hurried to the shop, counted out her coins to purchase the old chair which was by now covered with dust blown in from the desert sands.
“I don’t know why you’d want this chair in the first place,” commented the shopkeeper. “You can have it for a little less since no one else has ever shown any interest in it and it’s not worth much. I’d guess it’s about 75 years old.”
Dusting it off with the hem of her long robe, Sarah thanked the shopkeeper and tenderly carried the small chair to her home. She kept it next to the open window where she read or often rested after a long day’s work.
Sarah lived alone. Her three grown sons lived in Nazareth but only one came by with any regularity to visit. Ben was the youngest and displayed more interest and affection for his mother than the others.
For the next several years, Sarah suffered declining health and began to require more care. Ben dutifully brought her meals, kept her as comfortable as her bedridden state would permit. Sitting beside her bed in Sarah’s favorite chair, Ben read to her or recounted events of his childhood, stories which made his mother smile in faint remembrance.
One morning, with her breathing more labored than usual and sensing that her time was near, Sarah whispered to Ben that after her death she wanted him to have her favorite chair. Ben held his mother in his arms as she drew her last breath, then laid her back against the pillows, covered her tenderly, then hurried across town to get his two older brothers.
Thomas and Seth helped prepare her for burial and attended the traditional service. Sarah was buried with her fore bearers in the designated spot near their place of worship.
After the burial, the three young men returned to their mother’s home to discuss the disposal of her material possessions. There was a small table, a bed, some urns, several items of clothing, clay pots, and a few items that had been passed on to Sarah from previous generations.
It was these items that Seth and Thomas began arguing over. Each claimed rights to them, each claimed their mother had promised the items to him. Each remained intractable.
Ben remained quiet throughout the afternoon as his brothers’ tempers flared and their voices grew more agitated. Finally, Ben said “I only want something to remember mother by. Just anything will do. I would be just as happy with this old chair, since I often sat in it beside mother’s bed to talk to her during her long illness.”
The older brothers, relieved that at least Ben was out of the equation, reached a compromise and began removing the furniture, clothing and other items from their mother’s home.
Ben took the old chair to his house where he dusted it, tears spilling down his cheeks. He remembered his mother so often sitting in the chair with her sewing on her lap. It was still a good chair and had been crafted by careful and experienced hands. Maybe it wasn’t worth much to someone else, but it held great value to him because it had belonged to his mother.
He turned the chair over to make a minor repair. Hidden in an obscure place behind one of the legs were carved these words: “Carpentry by Jesus of Nazareth.”
Mariane Holbrook is a retired teacher, an author of two books,a musician and artist. She lives with her husband on coastal North Carolina. She maintains a personal website www.marianholbrook.com and welcomes your
Emails at Mariane777@bellsouth.net.
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