The green tiles in the bathroom are slick and shiny. My nose is pressed against the cold floor, which is where I landed when I finally got in here; alone. I haven’t been able to say a word out loud, except “Lord, Lord” since Jack York brought me the news. I had run to his car, flinging my children away from me, while cold dread began to drip in my bones.
“Lord, have mercy on Gould. Have mercy, Lord. He’s awful hurt and he’s suffering. Have mercy; have mercy, Jesus.” It’s the only prayer I can pray and my hankie is wet with the tears I keep wiping off my cheeks. My ears are attuned to the hospital sounds going on in the hallway outside the bathroom door. The nurse’s white shoes squeak their way past my sanctuary, and I’m listening for the sound of my name being called.
Gould’s new job on the road crew was a welcome end to the Depression for our growing family. He went off to work each morning with his face shining and his lips whistling, his lunch pail swinging by his side, happy to have a good job at last.
But now, my insides are drying up with fear. The dozer he’d been driving when it tipped on the edge of the road they were building had crushed him. His foreman had met me at the hospital doors and kept shaking his head, “He couldn’t jump clear, Ms. Muncy. He couldn’t jump clear.” Jack had led me to the doctor who told me it was a bad injury. “His chest is crushed, ma’am. I’m really sorry.”
I had to get away from all of them, and pray. So here I lie, my face down on the tiles, my hands shaking with fear, and my heart crying out to the only One who can help my husband. I can’t think about my seven children…I can’t think about what could happen…I can only cry out my prayer to God, “Have mercy, have mercy.”
My mind fills with my last image of Gould; pale and hurting, his hands grasping mine, and my hands pushing away the dirt from his brows, smoothing the pain lines from around his eyes. I tried to comfort and give strength, but all I really did was weep silent tears at his agony. Once they wheeled him off for surgery, I hurried through the halls looking for peace.
My heart pounds at the memory of his hand pulling from mine when they took him away.
“Have mercy on him, Jesus. Have mercy.”
A knock on the door interrupts my plea. “Ms. Muncy? Are you in there, Darlin’?”
For a second, I don’t want to answer. I don’t want to know. But hope comes to life, and I lift my face from the floor as the door swishes softly open. I keep my eyes on the green tiles as I hear her approach. In my vision, two white shoes stop within inches of my bent knees.
“Ms. Muncy? I’m afraid I’ve got bad news, Darlin’.”
Death slides into her voice, and I smell the grave. My heart pumps fiercely, holding on to Gould and our love and our life with all its power, but separation comes near and slices our ties in two. Just like that…all at once…it’s over.
I lurch forward to the floor again and release a cry of sorrow that I’ve never known was there. My heart seems to stop, for only a moment, and then picks up its life again.
“He went quietly, Ms. Muncy. He was at peace.”
I hear her words and know no answer. My lips press tightly, and my body begins to tremble. I envision Gould’s freed spirit soaring to God’s arms, and I know he’s gone.
The echo of a drop of water calls me back to my body, my pain, my hurt, and my instant loneliness. I feel the hard green floor against my cheek, and the coldness is already familiar. My lips repeat their prayer.
“Have mercy, Jesus. Have mercy, Jesus.” And this time, I plead for me.
The nurse is bending low, her warm hand patting my cold shoulder.
“Ms. Muncy? Let me help you up…”
My eyes focus on a gold cross dangling in mid air from around her neck. The cross swings to and fro, its light reflecting a brilliant ray into my eyes, and I suddenly see my future in its promise.
“Have mercy, Jesus. Have mercy.”
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