“Our Heavenly Father, kind and good,
We thank Thee for our daily food.
We thank Thee for Thy love and care.
Be with us Lord, and hear our prayer.
The grace done I unfold my hands and dig into the beef casserole.
“This is mighty good casserole, Maria,” I say to the empty chair to my right, “I must thank Millie when I bring her back her dish. You remember Millie don’t you? The two of you used to chat up a storm.”
My daughter, Nellie, worries that I still talk to her mother. Honestly, it just wouldn’t be natural for a man not to talk to his own wife. Just because Maria’s been in heaven for several years now, doesn’t make a difference.
“Papa, you know Mama isn’t there, don’t you?” She will say.
“Don’t you worry none about me pumpkin,” I tell her, “they’ve got good hearing in heaven. She can hear me just fine.”
Then she looks at me all concerned and pats me on the arm. Good grief. Why must she make a habit of worrying over me? Nellie keeps going on about some old-folks home, Sunny Meadows, Sunny Fields, or something like that. I’m not an old folk; I’m only sixty-nine. No need to be hasty. Besides I don’t know what I would do without my sermons.
“I’ve finished my sermon for Sunday. It’s a bit of a comfort piece. There have been terrible happenings in town. Murder. Can you imagine that? In our little town it just doesn’t seem possible. I must admit Maria, I feel shaky at the thought. Just a few days ago, Finn, from the bakery, remember him? He was killed. I won’t tell you how; it was terrible. The poor boy, he didn’t deserve it. Remember the strawberry scones he made? Do you remember how we used to have them on Sunday mornings? I’ve still been having one every Sunday. This is going to be the first Sunday that I’ve gone without one. It’s not a very important thing really, but it makes my old heart ache. The only thing a person can do is trust in God. The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away. All this death makes me sad though. People shouldn’t die so young.”
I finished eating, piled the silverware and my empty milk glass on top of the plate, and carried it to the sink. I turned on the faucet and scrubbed at the plate with a sponge. Maria’s mother gave us the sponge; Maria was so pleased with it because it was a good, long-lasting sort from Europe. I thought it was a ridiculous amount of excitement over a sponge. Both women are in heaven now, but their sponge lives on. It's funny how such unimportant things can hold so much significance. Like Finn’s strawberry scones. I sigh as I put the dried items into their proper places.
“Honestly, Maria, what is the world coming to?”
The doorbell rings, must be Millie come to get her dish back. She shouldn’t be wandering around this late, not with a killer roaming our streets.
I open the door.
O death, where is thy sting? O grave where is thy victory? (1 Corinthians 15:55)
Maria, darling, I believe I have met the devil.
Bible quote found at: http://www.bibleinsong.com/Promises/Troubles_life/Death/Death.htm