My mother passed away after a long hospital stay in 2005. I’d moved her to Joplin, MO, after dad died, so I could take care of her. During the five years she lived there, she asked me to write a poem for her. She was a very religious person, so I geared the poem towards her beliefs. After she passed, I felt the poem was incomplete, so I wrote a short story to both complete it, and honor her. The following is what I wrote. A dear friend of mine once told me, we come in as children, and we leave the same way, hence, the picture
The carpenter wandered into Joplin one cold February evening. He knew not his purpose, only that this was the place he should be. He had heard a voice telling him to come here, that his journey was coming to an end.
Can it be true? he thought. Will I now be able to rest, to see the Lord my God? I have searched for that which will allow me to forgive myself. Now, after all these centuries, will I be able to go home to be with Jesus, the Son of God?
Doubts assailed him. He fought them off as best he could, knowing they were the Devil’s work. But they persisted and his hopelessness grew. He put his toolbox down, sat on a corner and watched cars zip by, wondering if any of the occupants of the vehicles felt as he felt. He hoped not. He had had hopes of going home before, but his doubts always kept him from truly believing in his own forgiveness.
He watched as a crow landed on a light pole across the street. Don’t I know you? said the woodworker to the crow. The bird tilted his head as if to say, Yes, we have met many times before.
The crow started hopping along the pole. Back and forth he went, all the while looking at the carpenter, and making cawing sounds. The old man knew not what to make of the bird’s behavior. Maybe this crow has some strange disease, he thought. Still the black bird continued its antics. It would stop every so often and look, head cocked, at the carpenter for a minute, and then start hopping again.
The old man stood, feeling the pain of years past, picked up his tool box, and walked across the street to be nearer to the crow. The bird stopped its antics and watched the carpenter in silence. As the old man got closer to the light pole, the crow started flapping its wings and cawing. When the old man was standing under the street light, the crow flew east, to the next light pole, and repeated his strange dance.
Could it be that this odd bird wishes me to follow him? thought the carpenter. So walk to the next light pole he did, all the while watching the crow dance and caw. When he got there, the bird flew to a barren tree. That must be what he wants, but where is he leading me? the old man thought again. Okay, bird, lead and I will follow, he said to the crow in a voice heard only by the wind.
So the old man followed the crow as the bird made its way from tree to pole to tree. On they went like that for many blocks until the crow flew up and landed on a window ledge on the third floor of Freeman hospital. The bird pecked on the glass and looked at the carpenter.
By now, the old man had become accustomed to the antics of the bird. He knew that he was to go to the room the bird was pecking at.
The carpenter entered the building and walked up the stairs to the third floor. There, he proceeded down the hall to a room where the door was partially ajar. He pushed the door open, walked into the room and found an old woman lying on a bed.
She had an oxygen tube attached to her nose, as well as an intravenous needle in her arm. The woman had her eyes closed and was saying the Hail Mary over and over again in a barely audible voice.
The old man walked to her bedside and took her hand in his. He took out a rosary he carried in his pocket and wrapped it around her wrist. The woman opened her eyes and looked at the man. She smiled, and said, “Is it time to go now?”
“Yes,” said the carpenter. “The Lord is waiting for you.”
“Is it a long journey?” she asked him.
“Yes, very long,” said the carpenter, in reply.
“Will you walk with me, and help guide me?” asked the woman.
The carpenter thought back on the long years he had spent wandering the earth in search of his own forgiveness. Watching the dying woman smile and pray, he knew that this was his time to finally forgive himself. He knew it was time to go home.
The old man looked deep into the woman’s eyes and said, “Maybe it is you who can help guide me.”
“Then let us guide each other, for we are both old, and if the journey is long, we will have each other to lean on,” the woman replied.
“Yes, that is as it should be,” said the carpenter. “Come, then, join me and let us start our journey.”
The son walked into the room, finding his mother lying on the bed, and knew she had passed away.
He looked down on her, with tears in his eyes, as the nurses arrived and pulled the needle from her arm and disconnected the oxygen tube.
“Goodbye, mother,” he said. “May your soul now rest in peace.” He kissed her forehead one last time and left the room to call the rest of the family to tell them of her passing.
“Where did this rosary come from?” asked one of the nurses. “I don’t remember it being around her wrist before.”
The other nurse said, “Maybe her son put it there before he left. Leave it , it must have meant something to both of them.”
Outside the window, the crow gave one last caw and flew away.