This wonderful, tearful telling is a true story. I know, for I’m the Paula, Cora is talking too.
To hear Cora tell it, and she should know since this is her story, “It all started when I watched my missionary friend Paula pick up “Stern’s Complete Jewish Bible” and sigh, “I wish I had that.” I watched her place the longed for text back on the book table before worship began.
As I turned toward her, I looked at the Bible and nodded. I understood what she meant, for my husband, Greg had died eight years earlier and hardly a day went by without me silently sighing…I wish I had… However, I’d promised myself that I would not utter these words aloud for I knew the effect they would have upon my daughter, Debbie who’d lost her dad at an age when girls need them most. I kept my secret pledge. By now, I had trained myself to stop my thoughts before I finished them. Yet as I looked at the Bible, Paula’s desire mixed my own unmet yearning to see, speak with, or experience my husband’s loving care and concern for me once more.
As we took the seats her husband, Ron had saved for us, my friend turned to me and asked, “How’s your vertigo?”
“You call your doctor on Monday!” she insisted as others greeted us and the seats filled up.
Our worship leader came forward. All of us who believe in Adonai and His Messiah, Yeshua - Jesus Christ stood sang several other worship songs and ended with the best song of all the Shema. Then the sermon began. While everyone focused on the message, I found that I could not shake off my friends’ comment, not the one about seeing the doctor for she had been telling me that for weeks. No the comment I could not shake was her “I wish” statement. As I sat in our congregation of worshipers, I felt all alone and my heart turned towards Greg. As I did, I understood all that she meant and at a gut reaching level, I understood more, much, much more. Somehow, my unspoken need and my friends wish melded together.
When the service ended, I nodded in the direction of the bookable. “It’s only twenty dollars.”
“Money’s tight.” We headed to the room where our potluck lunch was being put out.
Before, I could respond to her, several women rushed by admonishing, “Hurry up! We have to get everything for the Oneg before the line forms!”
We hurried our pace and soon both of us were busy making sure everyone who came received a blessing with their plate of food.
I am certain Paula thought no more about her remark until the next Shabbat when I raced in, and unobserved bought the Bible, she’d looked at the week before. As I handed it to her I smiled. “I got this for you.”
Unwrapping the treasured tome, she clutched it to her chest and mumbled, “You shouldn’t have,” which everyone knows is Jewish shorthand for ‘thank you.’
“Oh yes I should!” I exclaimed. Certain my friend had seen the look of joy on my face, I continued, “You’ll never understand what a blessing it is for me to give this too you!”
Looking at me intentally, she said, just as I hoped she would, “Tell me.”
“Let’s get lunch,” I suggested and she agreed.
Neither of us ever hurried through the line as quickly as we did on that day, nor are we known to be women who excluded others from our conversation. However, this was an unusual discussion and although I am not certain why it seems that no one else sat by us, but I might be wrong. All I know is that from the first word it seemed as if we were alone. That is except for Adonai our God, and His Messiah, Yeshua who I believed had engineered the whole thing.
Well, if you have ever witnessed a Jewish woman trying to act nonchalant and failing miserably, that is the picture of Paula as she played with her salad while she waited pensively.
I must have grinned from ear to ear, as I began, “I knew I was to give you this Bible. I’d bought several of them sometime ago. So last week after I left, I went home intending to take one off my bookshelf and wrap it up to give you today. I’d been cleaning house the week before and when I went to the bookshelf where I kept them, I discovered they were gone. Baffled I began to search for them. I knew there were several and thought, they should be easy to spot, for I have always kept books with the same title together. However, that was not the case with these! At least that’s what I’ve decided to assume for I never found them!” I exclaimed with rapturous elation.
“Did you buy this today?” she asked. It was then that I realized she’d noticed the gift was covered in plastic as the publisher might have done instead of gift-wrapping as I would have if I had brought one from home as I had originally intended.
“Yes!” I exclaimed but as I did, I watched Paula’s joy morph into silent reproach. Brushing aside her unvoiced concern I continued, “I tore threw the book shelves and then went room by room in search of them. They never showed up! But I refused to give up!”
By now, I could see that my friend was as anxious as I’d been. Unable to build the suspense any longer, I smiled broadly, “I opened the door to my downstairs hall closet and began to pull everything out as I thought, why, would these Bibles be in here.
“That’s a very good question,” my friend eagerly agreed.
“That’s what I was wondering while I pulled out everything. I’d never put any books in the closet where we hag our coats. I keep a few boxes of holiday decorations in the closet and take them out annually to decorate for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, and other special days. The other boxes I’ve stored there, boxes filled with items I never look at like the topper to our wedding cake, and photos of our honeymoon. Pushing though my desire to turn away from these pieces of a joy-filled life, I promised myself, I will live for today. But your need for that Bible caused me to override everything else and I pulled everything out. At the very back nestled under the stairway was a lone plastic box with a cornflower blue lid sitting on top of some board games my daughter and I haven’t played in years. I had never seen it before. Even before I touched it, I knew there was something special inside from Greg for his favorite color was blue, and not just any blue, but the exact cornflower blue of the lid. Since the back of the closet is wedged under the steep incline of the stairs, I got on my knees and inched my way along until I could get to the box and wrestle the lid off. I knew it was from Greg and hurried as fast as I could. However, when the lid lifted easily I feared I was wrong, and whatever this was, it was not from Greg, and would not fulfill my secret longing! Greg had always been a stickler for making certain that everything was packed away securely, as in airtight. Besides, I berated myself; he wouldn’t hide something away for me to find later for he died suddenly of a massive heart attack! However, as I pulled at one corner of the lid, it lifted effortlessly to reveal his journal! As I stared and the cornflower blue leather with our names embossed in gold, I remembered the times I had hounded him to record the dates of all our adventures. When he responded he was to busy, I would tell myself to do it, but I put it off and then he died. The idea of looking at the pictures became more than I could bear. Yet as I read his journal and forced myself to drink in each picture he had included I felt more than blessed, I felt and still feel loved.”
“But,” my friend sputtered, “aren’t you angry that you didn’t have it until now!”
“No,” I smiled, “Greg left this for me to find when I needed it most.”
“You needed it now?” Paula asked.
“Yes,” I smiled, “I did, and I didn’t even know it until I called Debbie who said she’d be right over, and I began to cry uncontrollably. When she arrived, we unpacked everything he had placed so lovingly in the box for us to find. That evening I shared everything. Even the things I had promised myself I would never share. Once all my tears were spent, my daughter understood her father and our love better than before and the vertigo was gone but this blessing is as new this Shabbat as it was last week, and I know it will last forever!”