Mattie lay bent on the shower floor. Her left leg, twisted beneath her, had gone mercifully numb. She tried to call for help but the loud TV drowned out her cries. Her husband of seventy two years slept on the couch.
As she lay there, the memory of her son saying,
“Mom, you’re too weak to take a shower by yourself now,” played over and over in her mind.
Interspersed were random recollections of her far away grandchildren, her close by but rarely visiting daughter, and her daughter-in-law. Elizabeth took care of her now despite the years when Mattie had done all she could to make life miserable for Elizabeth’s unforgivable offense of taking away her son.
Mattie began to pray for rescue but faded out, only to be woken a moment later by the slow but steady drip of the faucet she’d turned off just before she fell. The sound of it kept cadence with her heart. The initial rush of adrenaline now eased off and despite the pain she lay in relative peace, lulled by the sound of the water; countless scenes of Elizabeth helping her occupied her mind.
Upstairs, Elizabeth tossed and turned, feeling an unnamed tension,
I’m so tired. Why can’t I sleep?
Then, a faint moan rose from the first floor apartment below. She paused, waiting to see if she heard it again.
Yes – there it was!
“Did you hear that?” she asked Peter.
Bleary eyed and stumbling, they rushed downstairs to investigate. Running past Papa on the couch, they found her in the tiny bathroom stall; crumpled and naked.
Peter squeezed his brawny frame into the stall on one side of Mattie while Elizabeth removed the shower chair and tucked herself in on the other. Peter tenderly picked up his naked mother while scolding her for putting herself in such danger. Elizabeth supported Mattie from the other side.
The emotional strain of holding his mother like a baby was apparent on Peter’s face. Elizabeth’s heart hammered with a strong urge to protect him from his mother’s stubborn ways. The years Mattie had tried to divide Peter’s loyalties left Elizabeth conflicted in the moment.
The next twenty minutes seemed like hours as they struggled to get her to bed while she protested the incompletion of her long-loved late night shower routine. One hundred pounds of skin and bones and pure, stiff will finally gave in to reality and Mattie stopped resisting the help she so desperately needed.
Finally in her bed, they assessed her for injury. Mattie’s expressed verbal and legal will was to never be taken to the hospital. With no obvious injuries, they reluctantly succumbed to her resolution but gave the pain medicine prescribed by her doctor.
As they did, she began to recite their names slowly, syllable by syllable,
“Peter … Jason …Chaney, my…son. Elizabeth …Anne…Chaney, my…daughter. Thank you Jesus for my children who take care of me.”
As Mattie slowly, but very clearly, recited the words, twenty eight years of friction played through Elizabeth’s mind; years of always feeling like the enemy her mother-in-law wanted to defeat. Always feeling like the other in the room; never a part of the family; many times wishing she wasn’t.
Daughter? You’ve treated me more like an enemy combatant.
Like water torture, scenes of hostility, manipulation and deceit dripped onto Elizabeth’s spirit; more akin to acid rain than life giving water. Memories of years of stress on her marriage and her family came to her mind; a faucet that would not close.
Then, Mattie recited her name again,
“Elizabeth…Anne… Chaney, my…daughter. Thank you Jesus for my daughter.”
She knows my middle name? She’s never said it and I don’t remember telling her.
Mattie said it one more time,
“Elizabeth… Ann… Chaney, my…daughter.”
Only this time it was as if they were whispered from the throne of Heaven; her Father’s words.
Elisabeth’s defenses crumbled and the tears came. As she leaned over to hug Mattie, they fell onto her face and Mattie smiled as she drifted off to sleep, still repeating their names.
For Elizabeth, small drips of cleansing tears turned into a torrent of forgiveness that washed away the bitter stains of all the years.
The next morning, things were as they’d always been. Mattie was not only unharmed but was back to her usual ways and looking for her usual target: Elizabeth.
But, when the door opened, Elizabeth entered the room; clean, washed by a drip that became a flood.
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