Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: JOIE DE VIVRE (delight in being alive) (08/18/16)
TITLE: The Woman in the Second Row
By Holly Westefeld
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"Hi, Lily. Come in."
Lucky bounces between us like a pinball.
"I was just about to sit down to a bowl of chicken soup. Would you like some?"
Her eyebrows twitch, but her smile never wavers. "The cantata is tonight, Peggy, remember?"
"Oh goodness!" I wave my hand at my attire. "I can't go like this. Maybe next time."
"Our church has a "come as you are" policy. You're fine, but you might want boots instead of slippers. And we do have a few minutes, if you want to change."
"I'll need to turn off the soup, let Lucky out ... Lucky, let's go out..."
I adjust the crockpot and head for the bedroom. It would be rude to wear all black, but anything festive would feel like a betrayal of Vance's memory. Okay, so it would be more a betrayal of my grieving. Vance loved Christmas, so being festive would honor his memory, but I'm not sure if I am ready to loosen my grip on grief, especially with the recent blow of the kids absconding with my car after the macular degeneration diagnosis. Stalling as long as plausible, I return to the living room a few minutes later in tan slacks and a red silk blouse.
"I just need to let Lucky in, and I'll be ready."
Before I can grab the towel by the door, Lucky plants perfect muddy paw prints on my knees. Lucky, indeed! My perfect out. "Oh dear! I think this just wasn't meant to be. We'd be late by the time I can change again."
"Don't worry. Louis already went over to save us seats."
The choir is already in place by the time we slip in to our seats near the front. They stand, and as the first joyous strains envelop me, I reach for the tissues. Lily squeezes my shoulder. Vance would have loved this. Well, I would have, too, a year ago, before the love and joy of my life... I work to compose myself.
The drama unfolds between the songs, a story about a family's struggles, but they are actors, parroting something written by someone with an imagination. None of the performers, my children's and grandchildren's ages, can have any clue what it's like to grieve for your husband of fifty years, or to lose vision. Lily, as kind and compassionate as she has been, still has Louis sitting beside her, and her car keys in her purse. I am actually the only widow, (I hate that word), at the small church we raised our kids in, and again, while solicitous, no one really understands.
The choir rises for their next number, and I scan their faces to see if struggle is etched there, but find none. Perhaps it is just the lighting, but there is a woman near the end of the second row whose face seems to glow with joy. My view of her is mostly obstructed by a heavyset woman in the first row, but she does not seem to have a book, or to be looking on with the person next to her. I guess I would be happy, too, if my memory had ever been that sharp.
The drama, of course, has a happy ending. The choir has one more piece before I can go home and bury my face in Lucky's soft coat. The exuberant strains of "Joy to the World" knock the wind out of me. Vance's favorite hymn. He insisted it be sung at his funeral. He wouldn't call it a Christmas carol, because it speaks more of Jesus' second coming than his first, and "reminds us of our true source of hope and joy." My joy has hibernated for seven months, and Jesus wants me to allow Him to awaken it.
The final notes fade, the main lights come up, and the spotlights go off. I find the woman in the second row, and her effervescence definitely had nothing to do with the lighting. She leans down to pick up something. I am stunned to see it is a white cane, with which she deftly navigates from the choir loft. I nudge Lily and point. "I need to meet her!"
"I know," she responds, with a twinkle in her eyes.
"Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. Matthew 5:14-16 KJV
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