Friday, March 9, 2012
Fiction Friday, ONE MORE TIME, Chapter 40C
Everyone followed Aaron as he trotted back into the house.
“Hello, Ima, did you rest all right?”
“Rested,” Mehida breathed. “Grandchildren, please?”
Emma lifted Aaron up onto the edge of the bed, Ebenezer lifted Tabitha, and Abner climbed up over the end of the bed.
When all three were seated by her, Mehida smiled. “My eyes are dim and I can’t see you,” she said, pausing often for breaths of air, “but I know you’re here. I have—something for — you. Small — wisdom. Remember — even when — you — argue, — your mama — still loves — you. Even — if she — yells — at you.” She shut her eyes for a moment, then opened them. “Pots — honey — shelf. — Remember — I love you.”
“I love honey, Grandmother. I love you, too,” Tabitha said. After she laid her head briefly on her grandmother’s chest, she held her arms out to her father to help her to the floor.
“Me, too, Grandmother. I love you, too,” Abner said. “Thank you for the honey, and for the wisdom. Mama never yells at me, though.”
Mehida’s old cackle was faint, but it was there. “She will,” Mehida breathed in shallow gasps with her eyes shut.
“Me, too,” Aaron said. He patted her face. “Me, too.” He leaned forward until his nose nearly touched hers.
“You, too.” Mehida opened her eyes a crack.
“Ima, thank you for the bag of shekels. We found it. You kept my cup, and my tunic, and my Yippy.”
“Yes. Good. You found — it.”
“You hid it well, but yes, my Ebenezer found it.” “Yours — with — blessing."
“Ima, I love you so much. I wish I could make all these years up to you.”
“You have. ... Tired. – Time – to go. They – wait.”
“Who, Ima?” Emma had tears rolling down her face again, but her voice sounded calm. “Who waits?”
“Abba – children – Adonai.” Mehida’s voice was so soft they could scarcely hear her.
“Say shalom to Abba for me, Mama, and tell him I miss him. I’ll miss you, too, Ima.”
“I’ll – wait – for –you.” One more tear rolled down her cheek, and she sighed as she left them.
Joel and Abidon stepped forward. Joel held his hand in front of Mehida’s nose, listened to her chest, and turned to look at Emma in sympathy. “She is gone,” he murmured.
Emma bent to kiss her mother’s cheek. Slowly, she turned away, keening softly. One after another, each of the children kissed Mehida, too. Abner climbed onto the stool by himself, and their father lifted Tabitha and Aaron.
Ebenezer gazed down at Mehida’s still form and whispered softly. “You were one fine old woman, Mehida. I misjudged you.” Then he, too, left the house.
“I’ll go into Nain and buy the spices,” Ebenezer said. “I should return by nightfall.” He reached into the bag of money and brought out a half-dozen coins. “Is there anything else we need?”
“Thank you, no, Ebenezer. We will be here, and a meal will await your return,” Abidon said.
Emma felt washed out. She had cried so much that her eyes burned, and she felt drained of emotion. The children hadn’t seen death up close before, and this grandmother they barely knew didn’t evoke the emotion as perhaps one they might have known for a long time would have. Even so, Abner and Tabitha seemed uncomfortable with the death inside the house, but they said nothing. Little Aaron, however, wasn’t so reserved. He tugged at his mother’s sleeve.
“Gamma sleep?” he asked.
“No, Aaron, grandmother won’t wake up any more. She went away.”
“She died and went to see Abba.” Aaron looked off in the direction his Abba had gone. “No, Aaron. Not your Abba, my Abba.”
Aaron looked confused. “Ima’s Abba?”
“Yes, Aaron. I used to be a little girl, and I had a Ima and an Abba like you do. Your grandmother was my Ima. My Abba died a long time ago.” Aaron’s eyes widened. She hadn’t cried in front of him before, and it must have seemed strange to him.
When Ebenezer returned in the afternoon, several people came with him, some vendors who knew Mehida, some others who had known Emma for years, people to play the flute and wailers, who began their cries as soon as they arrived. Emma served food to the group. She had expected people to return with Ebenezer, since this had been her family’s home for generations.
After they ate the women helped Emma anoint Mehida’s body and wrap it in a shroud. Emma showed them where the burial tomb was, about 500 cubits from the house in a hillside, and the men rolled the boulder away from the entrance. Solemnly, they carried her body in procession to the hillside cave which served as a tomb and laid her body on an empty shelf, the wailers in full volume. The men rolled the large stone back across the entrance to the cave. After the village people left, they rolled up in their cloaks wherever there was an empty spot.
Despite her exhaustion, Emma couldn’t sleep. Memories flooded her mind, some happy, some sad.
She remembered the first time her father had scolded her, and she remembered crying because he had never scolded her before. But when she had sassed her mother, her Abba scolded her fiercely. She remembered the birth of yet one more child, a boy, who died the day following his birth. There were so many memories that finally they faded one into the other, and she fell asleep.
The next morning, Joel and Abidon bid their farewells and took their leave. Emma had offered to pay them for their time and troubles, but they insisted Mehida’s friendship was pay enough. Ebenezer and Mehida packed up as many of the items as they could and loaded them with the chickens into the donkey cart, tying the goats to the back of the cart.
Emma turned and looked once more into the house, sighed, and turned to her family. “Let’s go,” she said. “It’s a long way back to Tyre.”