Dovie touched the apron hem to her eyes and dabbed at gathering tears. She released it and the apron fell again, draping her cotton dress. Taking up the dish towel she wiped the last of the dinner plates. Her eyes were sorrowful. Still they displayed a quiet serenity. Dovie turned from the kitchen sink and tenderly regarded her sister-in-law.
Thelma sat near-motionless at the table. Soft catches in her breathing testified to sobs reluctant to go away. Her eyes were drawn, weary from the work of crying.
A fan in a distant room whirred rhythmically. Dovie lingered, treasuring the stillness here as a sacred thing. She moved slowly to the space behind Thelma’s chair. She rested her hands on the young mother’s shoulders. Dovie’s hands were weathered, not from age but from the Oklahoma field labor of earlier times.
Her lips moved silently in devotion, breathing only an occasional whisper.
Father, your peace.
Your peace, Father.
Her prayer seemed more a statement than a petition. An acknowledgement of nearness.
Thelma sensed the nearness. She let herself begin to settle into it. It was a nearness different than that of her sister-in-law’s gentle presence. She gave herself to it and it remained.
Into many years to come, beginning from this day, Thelma recalled Dovie’s closeness. And her quiet conversations with heaven – times of the presence. She savored the memories of her sister-in-law. She savored, even more, the presence.
Dovie quietly came to me. Within moments of her hands being on my shoulders I felt differently. I was lighter. That awful sorrow, its horrible darkness lifted off me. There was peace. It was real, this feeling. I was calm. A sweetness came to the room. A rich Presence.
(Later. The day of the funeral) Walking to the gravesite I felt I was gliding along. I can’t explain. Like floating just above the ground. I was being carried. It was the same afterward, walking from the burial place. I never knew this kind of presence. And peace.
After a time Clyde and Thelma chose to move again to California. But only following another choice – a significant one each felt they must make.
©Jerry Lout 2015