Praying Hands, by Eva Schultz

Beth stepped onto her parents’ patio and let the screen door snap behind her. After two days of wake and funeral, she needed a break from the teary memories, the overwhelming sense of “What now?” as her dad and sisters sat poring over old photos of Mom.

And the praying. She was so tired of all the praying. If God hadn’t done anything for Mom, He certainly wasn’t going to do anything for those she left behind. Something in the window of her mom’s gardening shed caught her eye, so she crossed the lawn to look closer. It was a pair of white jewelry display hands, fingers stretched upward, palms jutted toward Heaven. Beth vaguely remembered them from Mom’s foray into craft shows, shortly before the diagnosis. Why Mom had put them up in her shed, she didn’t know – maybe it was meant as a moment of levity in the midst of the grimness of daily life.

Staring up at the hands, Beth remembered a day not long ago. She’d brought Mom home from a doctor’s appointment, and as she helped her get settled on the couch, Mom had smiled up at her. “God’s really been providing for us,” she’d said. “The insurance company hasn’t missed a payment since this all started, and some of the ladies from church have been bringing us casseroles. Oh, and my favorite nurse was on duty today. She knows how to draw blood without it hurting.” She closed her eyes and leaned back. “God is so good.”

Beth had ducked into the kitchen to make tea, not trusting herself to answer. Mom had her bad days, too, days when she cried, days when Beth could understand and share in what she was feeling.

But more often than not, she talked like this, pointing out the bright sides of the whole ordeal. Sometimes Beth couldn’t stand it. Sometimes she wanted to scream, “There’s no cure. We’re losing you. Tell me how any of this is good.”

Once the tea was ready and Beth had calmed herself enough to hide her feelings, she headed back into the living room.

Her mother lay small and sunken on the couch, her palms raised in prayer, her lips moving silently. Her pale face was lit up with a peace that Beth suddenly realized she envied.

It was an image that had never entirely left her, through all the months of struggle that followed, even up through the funeral.

Today, standing here in the yard, she looked up the hands displayed in the window, permanently raised. Unshakeable. Like the steel thread of faith that had held her mother together through it all, showing her a good that sometimes only she could see.

Beth wondered, for the first time, if that peace might be there for her, too, waiting for her to reach for it.

She raised her own hands in prayer for the first time in a long time.

Eva Schultz lives in Aurora, Illinois, where she is a business writer by day and a fiction writer by night. Her work has appeared in Shady Grove Literary, Havok, Flash Fiction Podcast, and Writer’s Digest. She lives with a big orange cat named Gus and enjoys collecting typewriters and painting.

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