Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Hope (05/04/06)
TITLE: A Mother's Tears
By Marita Vandertogt
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Her hat is black. It’s old black, like she feels, like her hair, too deep to be real, with a shine that comes from not washing it enough. She sits in the polished pew and holds a Bible in her hand, her fingers tight around the black cover. An organ pipes The Old Rugged Cross and Marion sits, waiting again. The podium fills up with a man in a dark suit and fine wispy white hair pulled across a shiny forehead. He thumps a fist on the lecturn to draw attention, and clears his throat. The congregation stops whispering, talking, and the room becomes silent..
“Today,” says Reverend Spangler, “we will discuss the Kingdom of Heaven.” His cheeks get redder and his voice starts to raise a pitch. “The Kingdom of Heaven is…” His voice drones on in Marion’s head. “I know what it isn’t,” she thinks to herself, the bitter thoughts starting again, and she knows, once again, she’ll struggle with his words. She comes every Sunday, hoping someday she’ll be able to understand. But every Sunday she fights the words Brother Spangler speaks from the pulpit. She lowers her head and opens the Bible slowly, turning to a finely decorated page that has Deaths swirled across the top in fine gold letters. “Momma,” a little voice behind her speaks the word in a broken, two syllable attempt. Mom-ma, like a baby doll, and fills her head with memories again..
“The Kingdom of Heaven isn’t a good time either, waiting to happen.” The voice from the pulpit continues. “And it isn’t . . ..” The congregation hold their gaze, like they do every Sunday when Brother Spangler pulls out everything he knows about the Kingdom of Heaven. But Marion has her own ideas. She shifts around, uncomfortable in the pew. Her body is older now, older than it was when she walked up and down the sidewalks, his little hand in hers asking the names of everything he saw. “Caterpillar” Marion said to the prickly creature that walked across his shoe and made him laugh. So many years ago. Marion keeps coming to church. Maybe there’s an answer for her why God took baby Jessie so many years ago, after a disease that kept him pale, and unable to play. She still screams the why in her head, though it happened more than 30 years ago. Why, she screams today, through the stained glass window toward the darkening sky.
Rain starts to hit the roof of the small chapel, pounding harder with Marion’s thoughts. Brother Spangler is still speaking, but she can’t hear the words. She watches drops of rain from a leaking ceiling, hit Jessie’s ink scrolled name on the page of her opened book, smearing the letters in a blue black blur.
“Trying to take his memory from me now too?” Marion looks up at the ceiling, her anger building against this God of love. “You’ll never rip him from my heart,” she challenges. The rain eventually stops, but the dripping continues, this time coming from her eyes.
“Prepare your souls to live with Him, the way we were created to live. In glory, a final resting place, a final peace.” Brother Spangler wraps up his sermon, his voice growing softer, taking effect in the quiet room. A small ray of light comes through the window, and spreads itself across the page, shining on the wet letters and into Marion’s eyes. The form of a cross, rough in its blur black haze, lay across the page, formed out of the wet ink of Jessie’s name. Marion thinks of another mother who watched her own son die at the foot of a cross, and probably asked the same questions. She closes the book, and looks up at Reverend Spangler, who was moving away from the pulpit. “The Kingdom of Heaven is a place that demands a mother’s tears,” she says to the now empty pulpit, a look of understanding forming in her eyes. “But it also dries them with the courage of another mother’s love.”
Marion gets up from the pew, walks down the aisle and out of the church, into the fresh air.
“It’s okay now,” she whispers towards the clouds, a small smile on her face. “Hold him tight, until I get there. And by the way, thank you.”
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