In a secret place
[Looking through some old files, I found this short piece, written almost two years ago during the Midwest Writers Workshop. The writing prompt was “write about a secret.” Just thought I’d share.]
I squint in the harsh light, sweat beading on my forehead, running down my face, trickling between the tears. A small gold box is all that remains. My husband lays his Live Strong bracelet on the box with my mom’s remains. Cancer won. Dammit, cancer won again. My family — small, just my dad, my sister and our husbands and kids — shuffles, shifts, awkward in the silence. My brother-in-law leads the prayer; we recite the 23rd Psalm, her favorite, in a lopsided circle of sweaty hands. He praises God for the woman she was, for staying close to us in our pain.
I couldn’t bring myself to say ‘amen.’
I return home, wrapping up leftover casseroles, coffee cakes, ham loaves. People come and go. The cards are covered with crosses, doves, wispy watercolor wishes. Friends, people from all over, offer to pray. I know them from church, from my mom’s church, from people who read my blog and devotions. They send prayers, they give me devotional books, they record CDs of songs for me about the God of hope. The king of kings. The provider. The creator. The healer.
‘Really?’ I wonder. Healer?
I am an elder of a charismatic, spirit-filled church. We believe God cares about every detail, every sparrow. So I requested prayer, at every opportunity, for my little bald-baby-bird mother. I made her renew her Barnes and Noble Member card for another year. I even paid for it. And, of course, we all wore the Live Strong bracelets.
Most of them broke before she did.
When I was in public, I could ‘toe the party line.’ Prayer changes things. Absolutely.
Yet, alone, a child still inside, I clung tenaciously to my dirty little secret. I knew God would not heal my mommy.
A year later, I’m still right. She’s still gone. And I wonder, how do I get back? Can I relearn belief? Can the faithless regain faith? Enough of Him remains in me that, even now, I hear His whisper. Yes. Come back. Share your pain with me.
So I do, in secret.