"Winter Berries" by Nan Rae All rights reserved
The tropical rain pounded the sixteenth-century church so hard it
was nearly impossible for us to hear one another. My fellow Chiapas
missionaries and I stepped outside, stood under the eaves, and
chatted idly until we noticed a man standing in the cloister garden.
He had no umbrella, no rain gear...My friend Sr. Mari stepped out into
the rain and led him inside. Fluent in Tzeltal, she listened to his story.
His name was Manuel. His wife had just died, and he didn't know what
to do or where to go. Sr. Mari said she would accompany him
to the carpenter's shop and have a casket made.
That evening Sr. Mari and I, accompanied by Fr. Vincent, the pastor,
headed out in the mission's truck to pick up the grieving widower and the
coffin...By now the storm had passed through Ocosingo and was headed
toward Guatemala, but the road was thick with mud as we drove off
beyond the edge of town and past the last few houses and their faint lights.
Manuel told us when to stop. It wasn't just in the middle of nowhere; it was
in the middle of a pitch-black, sloppy, muddy nowhere. We slid the box out
and began our trek to Manuel's house...
After a couple hundred yards Manuel told us to stop. We had arrived. He lived
in the field. His house, made of sugarcane and pine branches woven together,
had no lights, no driveway, no address...
Fr. Vincent and I got down on our knees to shove the box inside the house.
We eased it alongside the body of Manuel's wife, which was lying on the wet
earth in the one-room hut....I can't tell you her name; I never learned it.
With difficulty, Fr. Vincent and I lifted her to place her in the casket...
As the pastor began to slide one end of the coffin lid toward me, a young
boy slipped between us. I hadn't seen him in the semidarkness;
my attention had been upon the dead woman.
The young son was saying good-bye to his mother. He gently straightened
out the woman's hair, wiped the moisture and bits of mud from her face,
and kissed her on the forehead. No one moved as he took a petate - a light
bedroll - and laid it over her in a simple but profound gesture of love and
farewell. Fr. Vincent and I resumed positioning the lid and used rocks
from the field to pound the nails into place...
That evening was a sacred moment for me. That mud floor was holy ground.
Even today I remain touched by the tenderness with which the boy caressed
his mother's face in one last gesture of love. I remain moved by this
young woman's slipping away from this world so quietly.
Since that evening I've been comforted by the thought that although
she was a stranger to even the people who lived in Ocosingo,
she was known and loved by God. Since that evening I have
thought of that bedroll; I have remembered that box...
...Not a sparrow falls from the tree without the Father's knowing it,
Jesus told us. That little sparrow - that wife, that mother, that woman
whose name I never heard - is known and loved by God. He cherishes her.
She is wrapped in a petate of infinite love.
Paul Scanlon, OP
from "Treasures from the Poor in Spirit"
Excerpted from "The Best Catholic Writing, 2004,"
Edited by Brian Doyle
"Just a Thought" by Nan Rae All rights reserved
This morning...the sweetest thing...
I looked out the window and saw a charming bird
taking a shower in one of the trees on the patio.
The sprinklers were on and he was at just the right
distance to catch a perfect spray. Not too strong
and not too soft
... just right.
What fun I had watching him poof out,
shake off and then repeat the process.
The Father's eye is on the sparrow
and I know He watches me (and thee).
Observations by Nan Rae
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God loves each of us as if there were only one of us.