Morning broke in quiet gray shadows, threatening rain an iridescent shawl in the dawning light. If one were to die on a day like this, it might be called fitting – the heavens weeping, gowned in mourning clothes.
But such pronouncements might at least require some reflection.
Such was the case with Cynthia and Amelia, her twin. They were born ten minutes apart; and as inseparable as they seemed in the one womb, so too did they appeared inseparable in this one life.
Unmarried and seemingly unaffected by any such need, the two lived peacefully together in the same house in which they were reared for over 60 years. Both knew Cynthia was dying, but neither knew exactly when.
On this particular morning, Amelia brought tea into Cynthia’s bedroom. Cynthia was sitting up in bed wide awake.
“I didn’t know if you’ve be up yet, but I brought tea just in case.” She set the service down at the foot of the bed and opened the curtained window.
Cynthia smiled and then paused as in deep observation as Amelia served the tea. “Do you remember Uncle Frank?”
Amelia settled in a chair adjacent the bed. “Mama’s brother?”
“I loved visiting his farm in the summer. Do you know what I remember most?” Not waiting a response, she continued. “When we attended his funeral and came back to his house. His overalls were still hanging on the mud porch. A red kerchief was poking out the back pocket like petals of an opening flower. I’ve often wondered…”
“If Uncle Frank ever knew that was the last time he’d ever hang those overalls in the mudroom. Did he savor the sights and smells of that room, notice the bloom of the kerchief.”
Their conversations were often like the currents in a slow moving river, ebbing and flowing, lapping at random banks along the way and moving on – as content with the profundity as with the shallow, regardless of what might rise from the depths of either.
“It seems silly, but there are days when it’s easier for me to believe in God than others. What if I’m called home on one of my off days?”
Amelia rose to plump the pillows behind her sister’s shoulders. “I think the Bible’s clear enough that doubt does not imply the absence of faith.”
“I was hoping for pity, not practicality.” She raised her cup. “More tea, please.” Amelia poured and Cynthia continued. “Do you remember Papa reading CS Lewis’ The Magician’s Nephew, when we were younger; and the green rings that would bring Polly and Digory back home from their adventures?”
Amelia nodded. “Papa made us both rings from green pipe cleaners.”
“I kept mine; it’s there in the night stand.” She pointed and Amelia opened the drawer to find it curled in a fuzzy spiral on a silk hanky. “It works, you know.”
And sometimes the current in the river of their conversation would find a cove where it would rest uneasily in the stillness.
“I used it when I ran away from home – to come back.” Amelia handed her the ring. “ Like the Prodigal, I had nothing left and I simply curled it around my finger, just like this.” She held it up and then clutched it to her heart. “I know it sounds mad, but in a moment, like Digory and Polly, I was back home.”
“You tore our hearts out, especially Papa’s.”
Cynthia’s eyes brimmed with tears. “I was twenty-one, wanting to see the world. You don’t think that’s why Papa died, because of me running away?”
“Some did think so, but all of us were relieved to see you back home.
“That’s what I want to see most, you know - the look of relief on Papa’s face when I see him again in heaven. I will, won’t I?”
Amelia turned away, the stillness in their cove suddenly overpowering, the water itself tainted by the bitter roots at its banks. “I…I…”
A sudden look of surprise crossed Cynthia’s face. “Oh my,” she uttered.
Thunder rumbled and it began to rain. Amelia turned back to see her sister take her final breath and the ring fall from her grasp.
The day of a death might be called fitting, a pronouncement made solely by the mortal left behind.
Amelia fought back tears and watched the rain streak the room in gray shadowed rivulets. Tenderly she bent over and clutched the ring into her sister’s hand. “Yes,” she whispered. “Yes,I believe you will.”
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