Tale of a Persian Heart
Outside cold winds swirled about me as dainty snowflakes fell softly on my face, blending with tears. The clinking noise of the large metal key entering the lock echoed throughout the frozen empty courtyard. I hesitantly pushed open the beautifully ornate metal door and stepped into Maman’s world, tracing the blue mosaic patterns with my feet, until I reached the central fountain. In mid December the fountain was dry and I missed the peaceful sounds of trickling waters. There were no pomegranates hanging from the trees, nor the intoxicating smells of exotic flowers, nor the aroma of hot tea on the stove, nor the sense of life emanating from Maman’s courtyard.
Though this had been her home for many decades, Maman (Persian for mother) was gone now. My husband Ali and I came here every summer to visit his beloved mother, nine siblings and their many children and grandchildren! Maman’s family was a joyous family because joy radiated from her heart to all around her. But this time, in the middle of winter, we had come for a different purpose, to say goodbye.
Gazing down at the small brass key that Maman had given me during our last summer visit, I could hear her soft voice.“When I am gone, I have a special gift for you, Karina.”
Her brown eyes were always sparkling and radiant with love.Two decades ago it was not easy for her to embrace the American Christian girl who had captured her son’s heart when he was already promised to one from his homeland as was customary.
Maman took my hand and reaching into her own pocket produced the brass key. “Come, follow me Karina. ” We descended to the basement, stopping at the portrait of prophet Mohammad on the wall. As she removed the portrait, a loose stone was revealed.
“This is where you will find your gift, Karina. Don’t forget…it is very important to me.”
“Yes, Maman, I will remember, but that will be many years from now. Ali and I and the children will have many wonderful summer vacations to share with you. I love you, Maman.” We embraced and kissed each other on both cheeks.
I remember that beautiful summer day so vividly. As she had thousands of times before, Maman served hot tea in the courtyard by the fountain of trickling waters, her chador swirling about in a happy dance for she always loved to be surrounded by family. A Persian carpet was our “picnic table”, adorned with candies and fruits, and yes, pomegranates just picked from the trees! Many times aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, and many smiling children sat in a circle on the carpet enjoying life. But sometimes in the early morning when it was just me and Maman, she would touch the small cross hanging from my neck and inquire, “ Would you tell me about your Jesus?”
Sharing the gospel stories of Jesus and His great message of salvation, Maman listened intently, nodding her head. At times I observed her misty eyes or a few teardrops splashing onto her cheeks, sensing her heart had been touched. But to renounce Islam was apostasy in her country, even punishable by death.
“Thank you, Karina, I liked your story today. Will you tell me more later?”
“Yes, as many as you like!”
Standing in front of the portrait I took a deep breath, wondering what Maman thought was so important for me to have and why I should wait until she was gone. Removing the portrait, I tugged at the loose stone in the wall until it released, revealing a small wooden box.
Replacing the stone and the portrait, I returned to the courtyard. I wanted to sit by the fountain and close my eyes and remember the warm summer sun, hear the trickling waters and smell the fragrance of Maman’s flowers, and remember her sparkling eyes. I sat down, slowly opening the box…there lay a beautiful gold wall cross and written on a small piece of paper were the words “I am with Him.”
Maman had understood. Her heart had been changed and she wanted me to know. Snow was released from the sky again, mingling with my tears. This was no longer Maman’s world, she lived in another mansion.
“ In My Father’s house there are many mansions…I go to prepare
a place for you.” John 14:2 (King James)
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