Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Singing (10/31/05)
TITLE: Ruth's Song
By Rachel White
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Despite the ache in his bones caused by the chilled autumn breeze, Henry Eiler sat on his front porch, absentmindedly fondling the button that had fallen off of his aged gray sweater. That sweater was the last one Ruth had made for him, before arthritis had made knitting too painful for her. Henry cringed at the memory of her knotted fingers, of how much trouble they had caused his dear, sweet wife. He looked down at the button with disdain, how could such a small thing bring so much sorrow?
It had fallen off earlier that morning while he was getting ready to head over to Ed Hinkley’s house for a game of checkers. “I’ll just have Ruthie sew that back on before I go,” he said to himself. The realization of what he just said made him stop dead in his tracks and run his hands through his sparse hair. A sigh of despair escaped his quivering lips. "Ruth can’t sew on my button," he thought "She’s been dead for five years." He lost her all over again in that moment. He just couldn’t muster up the strength to meet Ed today.
Now here he was on his front porch, his mind replaying the last few months of Ruth’s life- it was like a movie that kept rewinding itself. He saw her lying in the hospital, being eaten alive by cancer. Only a few wisps of white hair remained on her head, her once beautifully bright eyes were dulled by pain and medication. The blue of her veins showed through her papery skin. To see a woman so full of life that close to death was more than he could bear. "Lord, help! It hurts so badly!"
A sound from within the house brought Henry’s mind back to the present. Henry strained his failing ears to hear. It sounded like Kate singing. Kate, who came to clean for him once a week, had arrived earlier, but Henry hardly noticed. The song sounded familiar, but he couldn’t hear well enough to figure out what it was. As Kate moved into the living room, her voice could be heard clearly through the cracked window. The housekeeper was singing an old hymn as she went about her work.
“Ruth’s song,” Henry whispered.
Henry could picture Ruth in their kitchen, singing that very same song of Gods great comfort and love as she scrubbed up the dinner dishes. It was her favorite hymn. As he listened to the voice drifting through the window, his memories floated with it to the happier times he and Ruth had spent together. He remembered carrying her over the threshold of their house when they were newly married, and the failed attempt at the same after they renewed their vows. It warmed his heart to reflect on the sweet smell of her perfume, the way she looked at him, the way her lip twitched when she was angry, and all of the other little things he loved about her. A smile spread across the old man’s face. Slowly, the old wounds were cleansed and resealed, fading gently into a scar. Oh, he still missed her, but he and Ruth were blessed with sixty good years together, and he knew he would see her again one day soon. And this time, it would be forever.
Once again he looked down at the button in his hands. It no longer held sorrow, but the promise of a song of comfort. He sat for a few more moments worshiping silently while Kate continued to sing to her God, then decided it was about time he grabbed his hat and got to playing checkers with Ed.
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