Not Knowing What Else to Do, by Paula Rose Michelson

Life and what we make it, is influenced by what we aspire to become, or the situations we find ourselves in. Although many might think they had all the options in the world to chose from, as we become immersed in the reality of one choice, others seem to pale by comparison. For some, doing what must be done becomes their life’s work, others chose themselves. Either way, whatever one chooses defines and can sometimes trap them into a life they would have never chosen if they knew what would happen next.

The Text

                Whether it was the responsibility of their mission’s success or Madre Vida’s words that caused Naomi to have a sleepless night, she was not sure. All she knew was when bird song roused her, she stayed in bed, lulled to sleep by the chirping she loved so much. It seemed that only a few moments had passed when she heard someone. It must be Maria, she thought. She glanced out her French doors, and noticed it was still early morning twilight. Perhaps I had a bad dream. She listened intently and heard the sound of distraught wailing. Aware that something was terribly wrong, she jumped out of bed, opened her door, heard the sound of fervent praying, and looked toward Madre Vida’s suite. Maria stood in a pool of light at its entrance.
                Naomi raced down the hall, thought of her adoptive madre’s words to her, and silently prayed, Madre Vida, please do not be— Before she completed her prayer, she remembered herself screaming, “Abuela Sosa, please do not be dead!” She forced her mind back to the present and shuddered. No! she told herself, I cannot let someone I love die again! When she reached Maria, the young woman was wailing as tears streamed down her face. Madre Vida is already dead, Naomi thought. She reached out to Maria. The young woman turned toward her but did not seem to recognize her. Not knowing what else to do, and not able to look inside the suite, Naomi pulled her close. Maria sobbed. “Tía always liked to wrap her neck with as many scarves as possible. She told me it kept the chill from her old bones.” She pointed to the bedpost. “But look what has happened.”
                Naomi forced herself to look into Madre Vida’s room and gasped. Vida’s face was ashen gray and looked more like a death mask than the caring woman Naomi knew her to be. Steeling her resolve, Naomi scanned the ornately carved bedpost and saw where Vida had gotten her scarves caught. “She is dead,” she said gagging on the words as she spoke them. She strangled to death, Naomi silently admitted as tears welled up. Aware that Madre Vida would frown on such behavior, she dashed them away as she told herself, There is much to do before you can grieve.
                She turned toward Maria, steeled her heart for the task ahead, and demanded, “Why are you here this early?”
                Maria gulped back a sob. “It was our secret. Tía did not want me to tell you. She feared you would get up every night to tend her.”
                “Maria, tell me what you are talking about!”
                “She was … I mean … always got cold … at this hour. She wanted a hot water bottle … for her feet. She said it helped to warm her old—”
                “We need to call the doctor! He must come and tend her!”
                “But … she … is dead,” Maria sobbed hysterically.
                “I need to call the doctor now! I do not want her to be attended by strangers.” Naomi took two steps and turned back. Maria stood riveted at the threshold of the suite and continued to look at Madre Vida’s corpse. Her sobs echoed throughout the house.
                “Come with me.” Naomi took her to the kitchen and brewed some chamomile tea. “Drink this. Calm down and tell me why you were in Tía’s room at this hour.”
                “But I already told you,” the young woman wailed as she sniffled and wiped away her tears.
                Blinking back her own, Naomi forced herself to calm down. “I had trouble hearing what you said … tell me again.”
                “Oh, forgive me.” Maria glanced at Naomi for support. Naomi nodded, so Maria continued, “Tía always had me come in at this hour. She said her feet were cold, so I brought her a hot water bottle because she told me she could not sleep when her feet became chilled. It was a little secret between us. She didn’t want you to know. She feared you wouldn’t leave her to do, as she put it, the things of first importance. This time, however, she was as you yourself saw her. I believe she is with the angels now.”
                “Sí … she is gone from us.” Feeling removed, yet overwrought by the situation, Naomi stood and walked to the office. She dialed Dr. Apayo’s number. When he answered she said, “Madre Vida is gone from us … please come.” She returned to the kitchen. Maria was crying while she rung her hands in despair. Not knowing what else to do, Naomi’s training took over and she focused on the young woman’s needs.

Reflective Questions

Other’s needs keep Naomi in the casa in El Barrio. What keeps you where you are?

A pledge becomes Naomi’s life. What pledges have you made?

Helping others causes Naomi to keep her secrets hidden. What are you hiding and why?

1 Corinthians 13: 12, For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known

Until we meet again may you experience Messiahs blessings.

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