Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Widow's Prayer
By: Cherie Bernatt

Worry twisted Mariel’s face and pinched her eyebrows close together as she studied her son’s letters. She printed the war emails as soon as she received them, knowing full well she would want a piece of her son with her wherever she went, not just when she sat down to the computer. She unfolded the newest letter from its home tucked deep inside her purse and re-read it for the umpteenth time.


Nothing much new here. Some of the other EOD (explosive ordinance disposal) guys went to the Afghan Bazaar with me. I attached a picture for you. It’s the only fun thing to do here, too bad it’s only once a week.

We have a convoy mission tomorrow. Dangerous stuff; pray for us.

Love and miss you,

That was eight days ago. She hadn’t heard from him since.

Mariel sat anxiously looking out the window at the pouring rain. Grey clouds blocked out any ounce of sun that tried to get through and the water poured down in torrents as she prayed for her only son. “Dear God, don’t take him away too. Please.”

She had already lost her husband a year earlier, and the thought of being alone, with no one to care for, all but killed her. Her chest tightened as moisture pooled in her eyes.“Let me know what’s going on, Lord.”

Through the fog an Air Force car pulled alongside the curb and stopped. A young officer stepped out, carefully avoiding the deep puddles as he headed towards Marie’s front door.

“Oh no,” her stomach twisted in knots. Panic coursed through her veins and she was at the door before he had time to ring the bell.

The rain poured over his shoulders and she ushered him into the front hall, all the while searching his face for answers. Was Matthew okay? Was he injured? Dead?

“Ma’am.” He took his wheel cap off and stared at the floor, apparently working up enough courage to say whatever was coming next.

Mariel was afraid she already knew the answer, but she had to ask. “What’s the matter Officer?”

Mariel’s stomach churned as she waited for the answer. The perfectly pressed officer stood with wheel cap in hand clearly afraid to make eye contact with her.

“I’m afraid we have bad news about Matthew, Ma’am.”

She knew then that her Matthew was dead; the officer didn’t have to say anymore. The look on his face told her everything, but she refused to believe it. “No, God. Don’t let it be.”

“No,” she shook her head.

“No.” Tears filled her eyes and her legs gave out. She fell to her knees and sobbed as the officer bent over her and offered what little comfort he could.

Mariel never forgot that day. For years after, as she said her prayers it replayed in her mind with painful accuracy bringing back fresh waves of loneliness until she was on her knees in tears once again.

The years passed and Mariel slowly acclimated to the empty house, the empty bedroom, the lonely holidays, and the unfulfilled desire to care for her child. Slowly she filled her time with things other than her son and his life.

Oftentimes, those who sympathized related her loss to their own feelings of emptiness as kids left to college or got married and moved away. Few understood the permanency of her empty nest though. But Mariel smiled as best she could, and accepted their kindness.

She still prayed for her son everyday, but her prayers changed. “Keep him safe. Let me see him when I get there,” she begged.

At 84 years old, Mariel lay shriveled and lonely on her deathbed, aged and riddled by cancer. She passed on, praying that God would once again let her see her little boy.

As this world grew cold and dim, warmth and peace surrounded her as God welcomed her home, to a place that was so unlike her lonely empty house. Her new home was filled with those she loved and said “good-bye” to long ago; her parents, her husband, and many others.

As she crossed the threshold of her new home, Matthew stood there, in bright white, arms outstretched.

“Welcome home, Mom.” His smile grabbed hold of her and she ran to him in her new perfected body. Mariel hugged him tight as tears of joy spilled over her. Her son was back in her arms, and her house would never be empty again.

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