Sunday, May 20, 2012
Timed Writing: 5/16/2012
Time: 10 minutes
Prompt: "... he should die by his own hands."
Source: 1 x 2 x 2 + 1 x 1 = Astoria by Washington Irving
When my brother told me that he should die by his own hands one day, I replied that I would find a means of preventing it. He chuckled through his tears and said that there was no hurry -- that he had no intention of dying soon.
We were standing beside our mother's grave when he spoke those grim words, and so great and painful had been the final years of her life, that she had begged for assistance in ending it. I wept for her misery and cried to God to forgive her that sinful desire, and to grant her the clarity of mind to repent and embrace the cup that He had chosen for her. Beyond that, there was little to be done.
Henry, my brother, was older than I, and prided himself on his wisdom in the ways of the world, as well as on his capacity for what he regarded as free and unhindered thought. A sophisticated mind he possessed, no doubt, but one encumbered weightily with excessive confidence in Man and too little regard for the powers and laws of the Creator. He would have done any good or ill within his power to aid our mother, and it was only by my constant vigilance that they were both prevented from condemning themselves to the fires of hell -- the one by the sin of suicide and the other by that of murder. In the final months, I was forced to live day and night in our mother's chamber and to lock it when ever I left, lest Henry creep in with some deadly draught that he would name mercy.
He did try, on multiple occasions, while I was present, to offer our mother potions of his own invention. But mother, upon looking at my face, would be forced to acknowledge the righteousness of my glower and refuse the odious glass. That was earlier though -- when she still clung to glimmerings of reason amidst the encroaching shadow of her disease. Later, when she was beyond the point of rational decision, Henry would have slipped a tablet into her slack mouth or smothered her with a cushion had I not maintained my constant vigil. Indeed, I was not entirely equal to the task, being slim of build and hardly a physical match for my brother. I was thus compelled to enlist the help of certain men who, for a price, were only too happy to guard my mother's wellbeing. Their price being high, I exhausted the majority of our mother's small fortune in the final year of her life. But I am satisfied that it was money well spent; by its power in this secular world was her soul protected for passage to the spiritual realm.
Poor Henry. He was wracked with grief and misplaced guilt when finally she passed. The grief was right and natural, but the guilt was for having failed to satisfy our mother's unholy request. And when, at her grave side, he spoke so rashly of his own ultimate end, I knew that these powerful emotions were influencing his words. Still, they persisted to weigh heavily on my soul and in the years following, it became ever clearer to me what I should do if ever he became ill.
Fates would need interfere in my plans though, for I was the one to fall prey to the forces of disease. A tumor grows within me for which no physician can offer ought. I know full well that it is within the power of God on high to remove this affliction from me. But now I understand that it came to me when it did, so that I would be allowed to suffer here, on Earth, some of the penance that is my due for the sin that I have since committed, and of which I have now repented and been absolved, even though its incumbent civil penalty has yet to be paid.
The method by which my offense was committed matters little, now that it is done and soon to be redressed. Yet, lest any should, in the future, doubt my sanity and the reasons for which I acted, I will provide a brief account.
Following pronouncements on my condition by two independent doctors of the medical arts, I passed some days in prayer and meditation. I was at peace with all men and felt naught to hinder my exit except for that one statement spoken so many years before by my dear Henry. I could not bear to pass on to the next realm without first having dissuaded him from ever damning himself through the act of suicide. The doubt that assailed me, day on day and night on night, was that even should I succeed in obtaining a satisfactory promise from him prior to my own death, later, when he was suffering in mortal agonies at some distant day, he might recant and take relief through a death by his own hands. This I could not bear.
At the time of our next meeting therefore, I prepared the bread and soup of our childhood, such as I often provided when he joined me to sup. When we had finished, and he was in a second cup of his ale (a vice that I can neither absolutely condemn nor condone), I told him of my disease. He looked stricken, genuinely with grief, and he bade me accompany him on the following day to visit his physician, a man of great repute. I assured him that I was prepared to embrace the cup that God had given me and that I was eager to meet my Creator and Savior. Henry was kind. He suppressed the usual sarcasm with which he was wont to meet such expressions and instead he raised handkerchief to eyes and wiped away tears. Then he began to cough.
The venom was slow to act, and I had poured only a minimally sufficient dose into his tankard. Still, its effect was certain. For some minutes, Henry staggered about the room and made as though to clear an obstruction from his larynx. A deep ruddiness enveloped his features and he clutched at his throat. Soon he could not draw breath even to cough and he collapsed into his chair. A sustained spasm took his entire body and then his plethoric mask relaxed to complete pallor. The rigidity of his body melted, as though he slept, and only his eyes retained the least hint of life.
I knelt beside Henry's chair and took his right hand in both of mine. We prayed, he and I. He with his heart and I with my voice, as his soul ascended, free of the sin that he had openly contemplated for so many years. I prayed both for him and for myself. I acknowledged the egregiousness of my crime, called myself a murderer before my God and Maker, and gave myself to His mercy. And in those moments, while the life drained from the body of my dear brother, I received that greatest gift of all -- the forgiveness of sins and the renewed welcome to the arms of my Lord and Savior.
So here I sit, on my last morning, content with the sentence that has been passed and ready to accept, a few months earlier than nature would have ordained, the conclusion of my earthly life. I go now to join those that I have loved best throughout my life: my God, my mother, and my dear, redeemed brother.
(about my timed writing exercises)
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