‘V was a praying woman, she was always ready to offer a prayer for the sick, those who had trodden the hard path…’
I stared at the words, but they didn’t seem right. They didn’t feel right. They were absent of a great deal of truth. So I started again.
‘V was a good woman. She suffered much, she touched the lives of many. She was selfless in her dedication to her students…’
That didn’t feel right either. It was all true of course, the woman had been a saint, but this was not the entirety of her story. And so again I began.
‘V is dead. She tried to live a selfless life, she tried to love a selfish man, she succeeded at both and died as a result.
You see V, was a praying woman, she believed in the power of prayer, she believed that those words spoken with eyes closed and hands clasped had the power to change the world, and maybe she was right.
Maybe when she had come thin and wraithlike, despite her long days working, when she settled her frail hands into those of her warrior sisters we had asked her what she needed us to pray for she would have told us she was starving because all her money went to booze she didn’t drink.
Maybe when the makeup couldn’t hide the swelling anymore, and she knelt beside her family in Christ, someone had helped her off her knees and granted the shelter she had asked for under the hand of the spirit. If only we had had the strength to be even one finger on that hand, to point to her house, to dial those three numbers when shouts, turned to screams and the sound of broken china.
Maybe when she showed up limping, and testified that God was good for leaving her with the one good kidney, we had stopped in prayer and reflection, and fasted of our apathy. Maybe we would have recalled that blood showed up, even against the mud of tanned work boots. But instead, we sang with her, we made a joyful noise that she had survived our silence this long. We let free the sound of jubilation that our good sister had absolved us of the responsibility of being her keepers.
Maybe when she turned up blind, after months in hospital, even one of us praying at her bed side had looked up when the social worker had asked if we knew how she fell, how a woman scared of heights, crippled and in constant pain had managed to make her way, with no assistance into her husbands new home, to confront his new mistress, who stood screaming behind him as he peered out the shattered window.
Maybe then, on any one of those occasions, maybe if we had taken those words to heart, and been the instrument of salvation, taken the mantle of the army of Christ, and fought for his humble. Maybe we would all still be worthy of our faith. Maybe we would have proved V right, maybe then, we would have given power to the prayers we encouraged her to say for aid in her desperation.’
I wrote the words in anger, not at Heathcliff her husband, her benefactor, her murderer, but at myself his accomplice in silence.