Tuesday, February 14, 2012

For All the Good These Hands Have Done

Easy, now. Don’t speak too loudly. She’s asleep in the other room, my grandmother. Why? She’s fragile and godly. She healed in her younger days. She and my Papaw had their phone disconnected after about three years. Why? Well, it seemed selfish, but they were along in years.

For as long as anyone can remember, the phone rang and Mamaw and Papaw would dress. Papaw with his leather jacket and western tie and strong and Mamaw in her best dress and hair fixed perfectly. Three in the morning. Within fifteen minutes they were in town at the Calvary Hospital. Mamaw would lay hands. A bad heart, an afflicted leg, migraines. She would take both hands and lay them, wrinkled, tired, and place them on the chest of a friend, the head of a long-time friend. Papaw wasn’t just a bystander.

In his holy name take this from our sister, his voice spread across the hospital. Two or three nurses stopped to make sure all was good. All was good.

But they could not keep it up. Age overtook the compulsion to help their fellow Christians, and the phone was taken out. For a year after, I would still answer the door to a stranger asking for Thomas and Ann. Without time to be invited inside, they would share their stories. A sick child, a church member who had been in a car accident. But heart attacks were the most often in the following year. And then it stopped.

When the visitors stopped coming, Mamaw fell into depression, went bedfast. Her body was unable, but her mind was torn. Papaw took to preaching in their bedroom in his distinct baritone.

Sweet Jesus, take these headaches from my wife, he’d say. No, Lord, not headaches. Just this ache, in Your Son’s holy name, I pray. We pray. Lift her from this, Lord. Take it on your holy shoulders, Lord. We lift it up to you. It is too much for us, but nothing is too strong for You, Lord. Yes, Lord! Yes, Lord! Take this! Get away, you dirty devil. Bring her up out of this bed. Get away you dirty, lying devil. God will strike you down. Strike you down!

She told him to just shut up. Shut up. God wasn’t listening anymore.

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