Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: INDEFATIGABLE (02/11/16)
- TITLE: Now Walking and Leaping and Praising God.
By Danielle King
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A regular black and white picture framed by a border of hollyhock, lupine and poppy; the conventional pre-war cottage garden.
Milly slid the picture back into the drawer. The good Lord gives and He takes away. An indulgent peak down memory lane, yet as always, marred by the memory of mother’s cruel finger-pointing in the churchyard. “He takes my perfect daughter and leaves me with her that’s lame.”
Hard years followed. Each Christmas morning before Milly and her brothers were allowed to open gifts, they were made to walk three miles to visit Lizzy’s grave. No mean feat for a girl blessed with deformity.
But blessed Milly was, as a fiery spirit of endurance and resolution had birthed from those cruel words at the graveside.
The day she came home to find mother, head inside the gas oven, her third failed suicide bid, was the day mother was committed to the County Lunatic Asylum, railing at her daughter for allowing it to happen.
But Milly was resilient. Empowered by a rapidly spiralling whirlwind of vigour and vim, Milly would become second best to no-one.
Then along came Henry. A dapper young chap, and considering himself a catch for any lady, he found something surprisingly appealing about the mill lass wearing the large surgical boot. He sensed neither self-pity nor defeatism. He saw only two sparkling blue eyes brim-full of mischievous defiance.
Now Henry’s reputation with the ladies went before him. And Milly had heard. Ever resourceful, on their first date she carried a brick inside her coat-pocket… just in case. When Henry learned of this near brush with brick experience, it immediately enhanced her charm.
Now it was assumed that owing to the mal-alignment of Milly’s hip, she would be unable to bear children. Therefore, according to village soothsayers, the poor kid would never marry.
On the day the newly-weds stepped outside the Mission Hall as Mr Mrs Henry Asquith, the tears of the doubters over-spilled with joy.
Time passed, and though Henry and his bride were blissfully happy together, Milly was unfulfilled. Secretly, her heart ached for a baby to love. Channelling her interminable energy into housework, digging the garden and stealing the neighbour’s children, simply was not enough.
Milly shared the matter with no-one, but spoke only with God.
When Milly announced her pregnancy to Henry, the poor delicate thing turned ashen. “But how did it happen Milly?”
“Well how do you think, Henry?” Nothing more was said.
Six years and two healthy babies later, Henry and Milly were blessed indeed. Now regular attenders at the Mission Hall, it was suggested that Milly should ‘go out’ for healing. Milly declined. “God has given abundantly more than I could ever dream of.”
“But where’s your faith Milly?”
Eventually, Milly succumbed to pressure from the elders and dutifully hobbled to the front for the laying on of hands. There was much anticipation within the church family as her two wide-eyed sons looked on.
Someone yelled. “Look, the leg’s moving.” There was such an emotional frenzy as people rose from their seats, praising God loudly. Eventually, Milly was helped to her feet.
And nothing had changed.
“Mummy, why couldn’t Jesus mend you?” Milly scooped up her tearful son.
“Simon, it’s because mummy was not broken!”
Time passed. Sadly, Henry became terminally ill with cancer and was nursed at home by Milly until the day he died.
Soon afterwards Milly contracted cancer, refused treatment and told no-one. Now a grandmother, for two years she focused all her energy on the grandchildren. Ever busy, knitting jumpers, planning little surprises, though the spinal deformity was becoming progressively worse.
Inevitably, the day came when she took to her bed. Milly had become too weak to stand and finally confessed to her concerned family that she’d been withholding the truth.
That same day I saw the light fading in those old blue eyes. Insisting on staying over, I sat at the bedside, and as always Milly rattled on, recounting the boundless love and blessings that God had showered upon her life.
Until, mid-sentence she gasped. And my incredible, inspirational and God-sent mum-in-law was gone.
I glanced out of the window at a stunning full moon. I’ll swear I saw an ugly black boot hurtling towards earth.
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