WEB EXCLUSIVE: Homecoming
Remembering Miriam Martinby Robert Martin
Miriam opened her eyes and knew that her friend was right there with her, beside her bed. Over the past couple of months, she knew he was always there, but somehow, now, he seemed so much more present than ever before. She looked at him and felt the warmth of his smile.
"Good morning," he said. "Welcome to a new day. Have you slept well?"
"It seems that's all I can do anymore. The pain can be pretty bad, but sleep seems to help. And I feel so tired all the time." She sighed. "I am ready for this to be over so I can go home. Do you know how long I have to wait?"
He smiled warmly. "It's not time yet. They're still things that need to be done. After that, I promise, I will take you home. Didn't I promise that?"
She chuckled quietly, "Yes, you're right. I've never known you to break a promise."
She smiled quietly at her friend and looked around the room. Not a whole lot had changed from the day before. The same people were there and, as usual, they seemed to be walking around on eggshells.
"I wish they wouldn't worry so much," she confided. "Don't they know that you’re here with me?"
"Sure. But sometimes my friendship doesn't always bring confidence to others.
"By the way, your oldest son is here."
He gentle touched her arm and pointed across to her son. She turned her head and looked at her son for the first time with her new eyes. He seemed alone and quiet. In a room full of people, somehow he still managed to be lonely. Of course, this was expected. After all, in some ways, he was just like her. She remembered being the quiet one, not putting herself forward, wanting to stay in the background, helping quietly.
She reached over and laid a hand on her son's arm. He raised his head and looked at her. There was a deep pain behind his eyes and it was obvious there was a heavy burden on his soul. She gently touched his hand and smiled.
"Come here, my son. Please know that I love you."
He smiled shyly and moved closer. "Did you need something, Mom?"
"Actually," she smiled, "I think you're the one who needs something. Come here and give me a kiss."
"You want a kiss?"
For some reason, that brightened his face by a magnitude of ten. He leaned over and gave her a gentle kiss on the lips and whispered, "I love you, Mom."
She smiled back. "And I love you, too, son. Please don't let your pain bring you down. You have a full life ahead of you. Keep your eyes open. My friend here has some interesting ideas. If you listen to him, fascinating things will happen."
Her son nodded and smiled at her. As he gazed into her eyes, she saw the pain ease and some of the burden lift.
"I have that affect on people, when they let me," grinned the close friend. "I did that for you, too, remember?"
He patted her hand and stroked her hair. "Please, rest now. There's more to do before we can leave. You'll need your strength."
She nodded and lay back again, closing her eyes. Somehow, the pain didn't seem as bad when her friend was holding her hand. She slipped into quiet sleep, knowing that he would be there again when she woke up.
The next day was much the same, although she felt wearier. Each day seemed to take more of her strength. But somehow she knew she had enough to do what needed to be done. She watched as her close friend moved among the other people in the room, talking quietly to one person, gently touching another. And where ever he went, it seemed that spirits lightened just a little. It was so nice to know that he was watching out for these people she loved, just as she asked him to. When they left for home, she knew that her friend would be back to help them out further.
That night, she awoke from a doze with her friend standing beside her bed. He was still smiling, but it was a sad smile.
"What's wrong?" she asked.
'Your family has something to say. It's something that they need to say, but maybe not as much for you as for them. What they say may hurt you. Please forgive them now, okay?"
"Of course! They are my family."
Her beloved husband came into the room, followed by her sons, a daughter-in-law, a daughter, and a son-in-law.
"Oh, it's so good to see you all at once. You realize that, of all the things I've ever had, you are my most precious treasure." She smiled hugely at them all.
When they spoke, though, she saw that what the were going to say was not what they wanted to say.
"Mom, we don't want you to feel like you need to stay here for us anymore," her daughter spoke quietly. "You have done a wonderful job in taking care of us.Your work is finished. You can go home now, whenever you want to. Don't stay for us, okay?"
Somewhat hurt, she asked, “"Why are you saying this? Do you not want me around?" But as she said this, she knew this wasn’t true. She saw that they really did want her to stay, but they recognized that she could not stay. Her home was calling her and she needed to answer that call. They were saying their good-byes, while they could.
"See? This is for them, more than it is for you," her friend whispered.
“"Yes, I see that." Turning back to her family, she said, "Thank you so much for your consideration. I feel happy knowing that you don’t need me so much any more."
Her son choked a moment, "You done good, Mom. We're taken care of and we'll make it through. We have each other."
"I know," she smiled, "I pray that you will remember that always. But also know that you can ask my friend here for help, too, if you need it. After all, he's your friend, too."
"Good-bye, Mom," and her children kissed her.
"Good-bye, my darling," and her husband kissed her.
With that, they quietly left her alone in the room with her closest friend.
"I wish they didn't have to do that” she said quietly, "but I see that they had to." Turning to her friend again, she asked, “'Is that it? Do we leave now?"
Almost sadly, he said, "Not yet. There’s one more thing that needs to happen. After that, we can go home."
"Oh, good," she sighed. 'Much as I love my family, I'm ready to leave. This pain is difficult to live with.'
He laid a hand in hers and she felt the scar in his palm. "I know. I’ve felt pain, too, in my life. Sleep now."
Another day passed of people visiting, coming in and going out. Many people stopped to talk to her, to tell her all the wonderful things she did for them. With each one she smiled, she laughed, she cried, she sighed, and she remembered along with them all those wonderful memories. She would miss them when she left for home, but, while she could, she enjoyed the stories and spoke encouragement into their lives. Her friend was there the whole time, speaking words of comfort as well.
There was a disturbance across the room. The friend smiled warmly and said, "Get ready. Here he comes."
She looked up and saw the man that she had least expected to see walk in the room. He was a big man and a proud man, not one to admit to weakness or dependence on anyone else.
Even now, he walked in with confidence, but she wasn't sure if it was true confidence or simply something portrayed out of habit.
"Oh, it's so wonderful to see you! I'm so glad you could make it! I couldn’t leave for home without saying good-bye to you first!" With that she opened her arms to him and smiled hugely as this big, macho man bent over and gave her a kiss. They chatted quietly, two people alone in a crowd, sharing a moment that neither of them expected. After a while, he got up and left but the smile stayed on her face.
"Was that it? Was that the last thing I was waiting for?"
"I think so," said her friend, "Sometimes things don't always go they way I expect them. My father knows more about some of these things than I do. Why don't you get some rest now. I think we'll be leaving on our trip home, soon, and you’ll need your energy."
Some hours later, she awoke with a sense of great anticipation. She sat up and looked around. Her husband was by the bed, his head bowed and his eyes brimming with tears. He was whispering, over and over, "I love you.' She reached out and stroked his hair, brushed the tears away, and whispered back, "I love you, too. I'll miss you. But I know that you'll come home to me some day, yourself. I'll be waiting for you when you get there."
With that, she stood up and walked over to the door. It opened and her friend peeked in.
"Are you ready?" he asked.
She looked around the room, at the man sitting beside the empty bed, and the items of memory scattered around the room. Things would not be the same here with her gone. But, in many ways, that would be a good thing. People would take what she taught them and learn to use it in many exciting ways that she could never imagine.
She had done her work well, so well that they no longer needed her to be present in order for the work to get done. Others would carry on. Even her husband would build upon what they started together and go on to do many amazing and wonderful things. And her children, such blessings to her while she was with them, would take those blessings and give them to others. Yes, it was time to go. She would see them all again back home, but for now, they needed to stay here, aliens in this strange land.
With a sigh, she turned to Jesus, her best friend, took his hand and said, "Lead me home."
“After she gave birth to Sonia, Miriam had two other sons, Robert and Jeffrey. Together, with her husband Bob, she lived for 64 years. She walked faithfully with God to the end of her days. And then she was gone because God took her home.” (Genesis 5:21-24, paraphrased.)
Dedicated to the memory of Miriam Meyers Martin and to all who have had a loved one return home.
Robert is Miriam's son. Miram served on the board of The Mennonite.
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