“Myron is the tall one, with the red shirt. You’d think with that height he’d want to play basketball but all he’s ever interested in is music. And the little girl in the middle is Myra. She’s such an angel. Smart, too. You know what she always says?…”
Bored with what Myra always says, I close my eyes and let my thoughts wander. I couldn’t care less about Martha’s family. She comes to visit me in the hospital once every week, as part of a Christian ministry. I don’t believe in any of that religious nonsense. But Martha is good for about two hours or so. At least I could have something to distract me from the pain.
I am in constant pain now. It all happened so fast. Bloody discharges four months earlier. Diagnosis – cervical cancer. Late stages. Spreading fast. Radical hysterectomy. Radiation and chemotherapy. Spread to my bladder and rectum. More treatment. And here I am now – cancer spreading to my lungs. Doctors say I have two weeks to live, maybe three. They’re now making me as “comfortable” as possible. What is that? There is no comfort in dying. And there’s no dignity in dying in pain, either.
Martha is still talking happily. “Families. No one should be without one.”
I see a hot, yellow ball of pain forming in the back of my head. It hits me like a giant wave crashing, and then slowly ebbs and throbs.
“Are you okay, hon?” Martha sounded worried. Maybe I groaned. I am surprised by the soft look in her eyes. It’s almost like care or…love?
“Do I look like I’m okay?” I snap at her. I just cannot bear her being so nice to me. “Go away, Martha!”
“But, honey, I’ve only been here less than an hour. I thought I could brush your hair like you wanted.”
“Who cares about hair? Why don’t you go home to your pathetic little family? You’re always talking about them anyway. I’m sick to death of them already.”
Sick to death. Hahaha. That’s funny. I sense rather than hear Martha crying. Great.
“Look. I’ve only got three weeks. There’s no cure for what I have. Why are you here? Go home to your family.”
“My family – they don’t live with me.”
“So, go visit them. Have a nice little family reunion.”
“Oh, I visit them everyday.”
“There you go. Don’t make today an exception.”
“They’re buried in Arlington Cemetery.”
Did she say ‘buried’? As if sensing my silent question, she nods.
“They died in a car accident six months ago.”
My vision blurred and my heart raced. I saw images of things I have tried desperately to forget.
I’m arguing with Peter. He’s telling me to stop drinking, that I have a problem. Christina, my six-year-old daughter, peering from the half-open door. I yell at her to go to her room. Peter runs after Christina. I light a cigarette and black out, drunk. I wake up in an ambulance. What happened? The paramedic looking so sad.
“Your house burned down.”
“My husband...my daughter?”
“There was nothing we could do. They were trapped. I’m so sorry.”
“No, no, no, no! Help them! Save them!”
I feel arms holding me down. I am struggling, fighting.
“Ruth, it’s okay. It’s me, Martha. Is it the pain?”
My vision slowly clears. I have been crying. Martha is embracing me. Yes, it is the pain. But not from cancer.
“I did it. I killed them. My cigarette. Burned the house. Was too drunk. Should have listened to Peter. He was a good man. And my sweet Christina…”
I was babbling and crying like a baby. The tears pouring out in torrents. All three years worth of them. All the pain I never was able to drown no matter how much I drank. Martha went on holding me, comforting me.
“I know. I’ve always known. Let it go. Forgive yourself.”
“I killed my family. There’s no forgiveness for me.”
“Sure there is. Jesus is ready to forgive you, so you can forgive yourself. Jesus loves you. Aren’t you tired of carrying all that guilt and pain? Give it to Jesus. He’s waiting for you.”
And I start calling out to Jesus. My broken body and broken soul all laid bare for the Mender. He will mend my broken family, too. I will have my family reunion. Soon. And with Jesus.
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