The deep stillness of night settled over the home. Everyone slept peacefully in their beds….everyone except her son.
For countless nights, he tossed and turned in fretful fits. Sleep did not come and give him relief from the constant pain and itch that covered his little body. His tiny form from head to feet, covered in eczema. Burning and itching, he dug his hands into his face, trying to get some relief. Even now, peace evaded him. She watched him twitch and squirm.
This night as she had done for so many nights before, she stretched her arm out from the warm covers and began to bounce his pram. Up and down, in a constant motion that seemed to bring a measure of tiny relief to him. Although her shoulder ached constantly and she herself could not really fall into a deep sleep, she would do it all night long if necessary. The gentle motion seemed to bring a measure of comfort. Lying in the dark, she nursed a spark of hope. It was an inexplicable feeling, deep in her heart, that she clung to during those long nights.
Farming in the early 1940s was hard work. There was always work to do and with 4 young children, she was run off her feet most days. They kept a small farm with a few chickens, a vegetable patch, some pigs and cows. In addition to running her own house, she worked as an occasional cook in the logging camps and did housecleaning for people. They paid her in small amounts of canning, food, knitted socks and occasionally some money. Medicine was expensive and every time they had a few dollars, it went to the doctors' bills.
Not that the doctors had been much use to them.
“So sorry ma’am, “ they shook their heads, “but there’s really nothing else we can try. The disease has no cure and he doesn’t seem to respond to any of the creams. Try to keep any infection from setting into the open wounds and maybe he will grow out of it.”
At this point, they would look away from her and their voices took on that detached, uncomfortable tone they used when what they really meant to say was “if he grows up.”
It was hard to keep him comfortable - poor little thing. In the winter, he would cry if she tried to put on warm clothing to take him outside because it made his little body heat up and increased the itching. She kept the house as cool as she dared, with the other little ones wearing extra clothes to keep them from getting sick. She hoped he wouldn’t get pneumonia.
Summer was no better because then there was no relief from the heat. He just dug into his little face with his hands, trying to find some comfort.
And always when it was time for sleep, she rocked the pram. She prayed. She hoped. The spark, as elusive as ever, hovering just beyond her reach.
Taking him with her to cleaning jobs was necessary. She didn't trust anyone else to mind him as close as she did and he was never a bother. Today, in the cool spring sun, he poked around the sparse garden just outside the window. She worried, as she often did, about the possible infection from the dirt, but since for a moment he seemed to be engrossed in something other than his constant burning itch, she left him alone. From behind her, she half-listened to the neighbour filling her in on the local news as she scrubbed the clothes against the washboard. Her shoulders, as always, aching with the strain.
“So, they say she has the power of healing, leastways, that's the rumours going 'round.”
Her head jerked around as the words seemed to jump out at her from the blandness of the woman’s ongoing news.
“What? Who did you say this was? The power to heal?” She could hardly contain the words as they fell out of her mouth. The spark flared.
“Why yes, this new woman who moved into the farm north of town. I heard from folks around the church that she was able to offer the gift of hands-on healing. Course, we haven’t had a real case of anyone with anything real severe around here. Just some colds and some sprained bones. Nothing that wouldn’t fix itself over time anyway but just the same, you never do know.”
Her heart beat rapidly with those final words, “you never do know…” and she felt the spark leap.
She didn’t tell anyone where she was going when she packed him into the old car. Small towns always know when someone new moves in, so she knew where she was headed. But she didn’t know what to expect when she got there.
The farm was set up on a rocky hill. The car strained to climb the hill and she kept her eyes on the road, hoping the ruts wouldn’t puncture a tire, not when she was so close.
She could feel it as soon as the small cabin came into sight. Something different about it. A feeling nudged to the surface, from somewhere deep in her heart. The door opened, spilling warm light onto their feet from a cozy room. Gentle eyes, that did not look away, met her own. A hopeful spark. Faith in something greater than what the world offered. It was all she had left to give.
The deep stillness of night settled over the home. Every resident slept peacefully in their beds...everyone except his mother. This night, as in all the nights since the stroke, she tossed and turned in fretful fits. Sleep did not bring relief from the constant pain in her joints and shoulder. Arthritis gripped her frail form causing an ache that was always creeping around the edges of her subconscious, no matter that she was heavily sedated.
He stretched his arm out from the warm blanket the nurses had given him and began to stroke her forehead. Gentle brushes, in a constant motion that seemed to bring a measure of comfort. He would do it all night long if necessary.
Tears burned in his eyes as he sat in the dark cold of that November night and stroked his mother’s forehead. A feeling nudged to the surface, from somewhere deep in his heart. A spark of thoughts formed into a memory of a house on a hill, with a fire that spilled light onto a floor woven with cracks. There had been a gentle heat that pulsed through his body. It was all so distant and hovered on the edge of that feeling, was it real or a dream?
He prayed for some comfort for her, for relief from the pain that dug into her features and gripped her fists. From somewhere deep in his chest, a gentle warmth spread down his arm and through to his hand. As it left his fingertips, to his mother’s forehead, the spark that flared between them grew brighter. The lines of pain around her eyes relaxed. Hands crippled by pain fell open in peace. Her breathing, not so ragged, grew slower. A hopeful spark. Faith in something greater than what the world offered. It was all he had left to give.