Power of Prayer, Chapter Six: Justice and Mercy
Harsh knocks roused the old woman from a desperate, feverish sleep. Wrapping a pale blue cotton robe around her naked body she crept down the stair case, eyes still bleary. She rubbed at her face and opened her door. Daylight poured in and she squeezed her eyes shut against the brilliance. When her vision cleared she saw the young bread woman from yesterday standing on the porch. A long black skirt brushed the ground and a thin pastel tank top hung down to her hips. Tears drizzled across her cheeks in a slow parade.
"Did you pray for him to die?" she croaked, her voice again too loud. Perhaps she assumed the old woman hard of hearing.
"I prayed for justice and mercy, child," the old woman rasped as her mind still struggled to fully wake.
"He died last night. He died right there in his bed, in his sleep." Another tear and a harsh sniffle.
"And death is never just or merciful?" the old woman asked, her eyes settling on the young woman, no longer bleary, mind now sharp.
"Not when it's a child, no," the young woman said, wiping her cheeks with the back of her hand.
"The boy is not the only person in the story, girl. We don't live in a vacuum. There's the mother to consider, the father, the siblings. The Doctors and care-workers, and their other patients. When you mend a hole in a sweater or sock you don't attach the mend to only one thread, but to all the threads. And so it is with prayer. The spirit doesn't consider the boy. The spirit considers all the ripples that come from the boy."
The young woman let her grief drip down her cheeks.
"I am an old woman and the lesson never gets easier to learn, child."
"Will you pray for me?" she asked. "That I will understand the point of Ben dying?"
"No," the old woman shook her head. "It doesn't work that way, prayer. But I will pray for you, and for justice, and for mercy."