Naomi glanced out the window as one black buggy followed
another along the lane leading away from her house. Rain
streaked the glass and distorted the shapes of the wheels
and the horsesĂ˘â‚¬â„˘ heads. One part of her felt nothing as she
watched them leave, another part felt as gray as the sky, a
third part began to count the buggies as if she were a child
again and learning her numbers.
Seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven.
Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“IĂ˘â‚¬â„˘ve made some tea for you and I.Ă˘â‚¬Âť A young woman in a dark
dress and dark bonnet stood at her side.
Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“Danke. I donĂ˘â‚¬â„˘t know if I can drink, Rebecca.Ă˘â‚¬Âť
Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“Of course you can drink.Ă˘â‚¬Âť The young woman took NaomiĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s hand
gently but with a measure of strength. Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“Come sit by the fire.Ă˘â‚¬Âť
Naomi took a chair on one side of the woodstove and Rebecca
took a chair on the other side. The stove had a glass pane
that allowed them to see the yellow flames curling up and
over the wood. Nearby a box of split logs stood ready to
feed the fire. A small table between them held a teapot,
cups, and a plate of biscuits. Naomi gazed at the fire but
made no effort to pour herself any tea so Rebecca did it for
her, handing her a cup and offering the plate of biscuits.
Naomi took the cup but shook her head at the plate. Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“I canĂ˘â‚¬â„˘t.Ă˘â‚¬Âť
Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“I canĂ˘â‚¬â„˘t, Rebecca.Ă˘â‚¬Âť
Rebecca put the plate down on the table and returned to her
chair, curling her fingers around her own cup of tea.
Neither of them spoke. When the fire began to turn into red
coals Rebecca got up and placed several more pieces of wood
inside the stove, closing the door tightly. Flames leaped up
orange and white.
Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“Two weeks before Thanksgiving.Ă˘â‚¬Âť Naomi had not taken a sip
from her teacup. Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“What kind of Thanksgiving will it be? What
kind of Christmas?Ă˘â‚¬Âť
Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“The church will be at your side. IĂ˘â‚¬â„˘ll be there. You wonĂ˘â‚¬â„˘t
Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“My family is gone.Ă˘â‚¬Âť
Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“Luke is with you.Ă˘â‚¬Âť
Naomi lifted her head sharply and stared at her friend.
Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“Luke? Luke is with me? Luke is catatonic. Who knows but God
where Luke is?Ă˘â‚¬Âť
Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“He will not be that way forever.Ă˘â‚¬Âť
Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“He wonĂ˘â‚¬â„˘t? How do you know that? The doctors say the odds in
his favor are less than twenty per cent.Ă˘â‚¬Âť
Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“I am praying. The whole community is praying.Ă˘â‚¬Âť
Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“Yes? And praying for the drunk who drove into our buggy too.Ă˘â‚¬Âť
Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“Of course, Naomi,Ă˘â‚¬Âť Rebecca said quietly. Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“It is our way.Ă˘â‚¬Âť
Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“He kills my father and mother and sister and leaves Luke
half dead in the ditch. Drives away. DoesnĂ˘â‚¬â„˘t even call 911.
For all we know my sister or mother could have been saved.Ă˘â‚¬Âť
Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“Hush. I know.Ă˘â‚¬Âť
Naomi had been looking for an argument for days and had
finally found it. Her eyes blazed black fire. Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“You know? But
all you can think of to do is pray for the murderer?Ă˘â‚¬Âť
Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“What else should I do? Throw his children under a
PercheronĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s hooves so there can be even more death and
Naomi gazed at the flames. Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“He will have a fine
Thanksgiving. Sit down to a fine meal at Christmas. All the
chairs at his table will be occupied. His whole family will
break bread with him.Ă˘â‚¬Âť
Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“It does no good to dwell on such things. God has a plan.Ă˘â‚¬Âť
Naomi snapped up her head and her eyes flared. Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“A plan? This
is his plan? To snatch away my family in a heartbeat and
leave me alone and broken?Ă˘â‚¬Âť
Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“You are not alone. I will help you. Your husbandĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s family
will help you.Ă˘â‚¬Âť
NaomiĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s eyes returned to the fire. Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“I have no husband.Ă˘â‚¬Âť
Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“We will take you in.Ă˘â‚¬Âť
Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“I do not wish to be taken in. I am staying in this house. I
am going to die in this house.Ă˘â‚¬Âť
Rebecca raised her eyebrows. Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“This big farm? You are going
to run it on your own?Ă˘â‚¬Âť
Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“Yes. I have two hands and a strong back.Ă˘â‚¬Âť
Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“You cannot undertake such a thing. Especially once Luke
returns from the hospital and you have to care for him.Ă˘â‚¬Âť
Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“I can do it.Ă˘â‚¬Âť
Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“It is too much.Ă˘â‚¬Âť
Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“I am going to do it. The church can help me or not help me.
God can help me or not help me.Ă˘â‚¬Âť
Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“Of course God and the church will help you.Ă˘â‚¬Âť
Naomi had both hands around her cold teacup. She dropped her
head. Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“I am not ungrateful. But I am staying here in this
house. It is my home on earth.Ă˘â‚¬Âť
Rebecca gazed at her and finally nodded. Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“Very well.Ă˘â‚¬Âť She
got to her feet. Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“Bishop Fischer said Luke would be home by
next Wednesday. There is nothing more they can do for him in
town and the care is expensive.Ă˘â‚¬Âť
Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“I know that.Ă˘â‚¬Âť
Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“So I am going upstairs to clean and tidy his room.Ă˘â‚¬Âť
Naomi rubbed her forehead with her hand. Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“I have not touched
it since the accident. I have not even opened the door to
look inside. I have not looked in any of the rooms Ă˘â‚¬â€ś not
mamaĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s or papaĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s, not RuthĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s Ă˘â‚¬â€ś Ă˘â‚¬Âť
Her voice broke, the cup fell from her fingers and shattered
on the hardwood floor, her body began to convulse, and loud
cries came from her throat. Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“Mein Gott, mein Gott, warum
hast du mich verlassen!Ă˘â‚¬Âť
Rebecca rushed over and threw her arms around Naomi. Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“No,
no, he has not forsaken you, he is with you. It is the
valley of the shadow of death but he remains by your side,
he is here.Ă˘â‚¬Âť
Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“I do not feel him,Ă˘â‚¬Âť sobbed Naomi. Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“I do not feel his presence.Ă˘â‚¬Âť
Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“He is with you. He who wept at his friendĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s grave is with you.Ă˘â‚¬Âť
Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“I thought Ă˘â‚¬â€ś I heard his voice at the funeral Ă˘â‚¬â€ś but no, it
was the wind, only the wind Ă˘â‚¬â€ś Ă˘â‚¬Âť
Rebecca rocked her. Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“Hush. You are exhausted, worn out with
grief, you have not slept.Ă˘â‚¬Âť
Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“There was nothing. Only the clouds and the rain and the
wind in the grass. Nothing else. Nothing, Rebecca.Ă˘â‚¬Âť
But Naomi steeled herself and helped her friend Rebecca
clean and tidy the rooms of her parents and sister and Luke.
The next day the families in the Amish community brought
over meals for her to eat as well as jars of preserves of
meat and fruit and vegetables. The day after that Englisch
families did the same thing. Rebecca remained by her side
the entire time, sleeping in a spare room, eventually
bringing over her clothing and settling in, determined that
Naomi should not be alone. Naomi protested the first two
days. After that she did not protest at all. She did not
talk about it but inside, where her pain and grief and
desolation twisted around her soul with sharp spikey thorns
and black vines, the only things that gave her relief were
long bouts of prayer, gold and crimson sunrises, and
RebeccaĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s gentle but strong presence
Bishop Fischer and the pastors hired a driver with a van to
take themselves and Naomi and Rebecca to the hospital and
back. Two doctors spoke with them for half an hour. Nothing
new was said. Naomi sat with her cold weather bonnet on her
head, her hands clasped in the lap of her black dress, eyes
focused on the doctorĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s shoulders.
Catatonic stupor. Deficit of motor activity. Such activity
may in fact be reduced to zero. Luke will avoid bathing. He
will avoid caring for his hair or nails. He will not make
eye contact. Sometimes mute. Sometimes rigid. Sometimes
flexibility that is out of the ordinary. No attempt to
socialize. Extreme negativity. May refuse food and drink Ă˘â‚¬â€ś
if this occurs he will have to return to a hospital setting
to be tube fed. Benzodiazepine medication must be
administered regularly. Excellent chance he will respond to
the BZD regimen. The exact causes of catatonia are unknown.
In his case we speculate head trauma from the accident. Keep
his room dimly lit and peaceful. DonĂ˘â‚¬â„˘t be discouraged.
Patients suffering from catatonia often respond swiftly to
medication. A family setting is a positive setting and may
help him on the road to recovery. Keep in touch.
Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“Here you are, Luke.Ă˘â‚¬Âť
Naomi stood with her brother outside the door to their home.
The bishop and pastors and Rebecca were behind them.
Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“Can I help you to your room?Ă˘â‚¬Âť
Luke did not respond. His pale blue eyes were far away from
her. She took his hand. It was like holding a rock. Slowly
she tugged him up the steps to the porch and drew him into
the house. Slowly she coaxed him up the staircase to his
bedroom. His eyes did not even flicker when he saw his bed
and books. He had always loved to read since he was a boy
but now he showed no interest in the three or four dozen
volumes or anything else in his room.
Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“Would you like to lie down, Luke? Are you tired? Perhaps a
nap would help you feel better.Ă˘â‚¬Âť
Luke made no move towards his bed. He remained at his
sisterĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s side, silent and rigid as stone.
Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“How about your chair? The one you like to sit in when you
Luke did not respond.
Rebecca was at the door. Naomi turned to her. Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“Will you help
me get him into his chair? I want to prepare a hot lunch for
him and it would be better if he were sitting up.Ă˘â‚¬Âť
Together they led Luke to the burgundy armchair with its
large armrests and large soft seat and back. Getting him to
bend his knees and lower himself into it was an almost
impossible task for he would not cooperate. Finally Rebecca
placed her hands on his chest and pushed him and he fell
back, his knees flexing despite himself and his condition.
There he sat like the statue of a man on a throne.
Her eyes dark and large Naomi looked at him. Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“I am going to
fix your favorite chicken soup, Luke. The one with the
dumplings. All right?Ă˘â‚¬Âť
Luke stared straight ahead.
Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“Will you sit with him, Rebecca?Ă˘â‚¬Âť she asked.
Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“I shall bring soup and some of Mrs. YoderĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s sourdough rye
for you as well as him.Ă˘â‚¬Âť
Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“Danke.Ă˘â‚¬Âť Rebecca smiled. Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“I should like that. Hot food
cheers me up.Ă˘â‚¬Âť
The bishop and pastors were in the hall outside the room.
Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“Daughter, let us pray for you,Ă˘â‚¬Âť Bishop Fischer said.
Naomi bowed her head. The men had already removed their
broad-brimmed black hats when they entered the house.
The bishop prayed in High German. He asked that God bless
the home and all who dwelt in it. He asked that Luke be
healed and speak and laugh as he had done so easily less
than two weeks before. He asked that Naomi be touched in a
very special way. All the pastors prayed. Then Bishop
Fischer concluded with a plea, his voice rising, his tone
Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“Mein Gott, wir brauchen einen Ihrer Wunder.Ă˘â‚¬Âť
My God, we need one of your miracles.
Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“No matter what it looks like,Ă˘â‚¬Âť whispered Naomi, Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“no matter
how it comes, no matter how strange or unusual it appears.
Even if I donĂ˘â‚¬â„˘t recognize it. Even if I donĂ˘â‚¬â„˘t believe it.
Come, Lord Jesus. Come to us in whatever manner you wish.
Please. I cry out to you. Amen.Ă˘â‚¬Âť
The bishop had heard her words. His eyes met hers as she
raised her head.
Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“Amen,Ă˘â‚¬Âť he repeated. He and the pastors left, the harnesses
on their horses jingling as the buggies pulled away from the