The Flowers Fade

by Debra Dian

Photo by Tom Swinnen on Pexels.com

Gladys pulled back the white linen curtain and opened the window to breathe in the fresh morning breeze while brushing her hair. Golden rays of sunlight sparkled upon the glass-covered, embroidered scripture art that had been passed down from her great grandmother.

The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.” Isaiah 40:8

The embroidered Bible verse adorned with flowers around the corners reminded her of the wildflowers she had been given several days ago–now dried and discarded. A sudden sense of uncleanness invaded her soul. She pushed back the dark feelings with busyness, bathing and preparing for the day.

It was graduation day for Gladys. She and several friends from high school, class of 1917, had made a pact that they would not marry until they had graduated from college. Now they would be rewarded recognition for being the first women to graduate from Fairmount College. So Gladys commanded all her attention to this grand day. The graduation party to be hosted by her future mother-n-law, the event of the year it seemed to Mildred Greyson, was only second in importance to her son’s wedding just a few months away. Mrs. Greyson, proud of her family heritage and her husband’s accomplishments in banking could feel at ease at an impromptu lunch with the President, but she was as down to earth as any of the local farmer’s wives.

Gladys and her friends had decided the celebration would not be traditional cake and punch. Instead they rented the Uptown Soda Fountain and served ice cream and root beer to their guests.

“My feet are aching,” whispered Gladys to her friend, Ethel, who stood next to her in the reception line.

“Didn’t I tell you to wear those new shoes to church a few times to break them in” Ethel softly scolded.

Ethel and Gladys had been best friends since they could remember. They had grown up in the same neighborhood, with their backyards adjacent to each other. Often they played outside together, studied together during the school year and attended church together. Occasional disagreements, usually sparked by envy, didn’t keep them apart for long.

Gladys squeezed Ethel’s hand in agreement, “You’re always right. Good idea you had to put out a collection jar for the Women’s Scholarship fund.” Gladys pointed to the jar. “See it’s almost full of coins and bills.”

Ethel gleamed, “I saw a couple of checks in there too!”

“What are you two whispering about?” interrupted Molly.

“Stay in the reception line like you’re supposed to and you won’t miss the conversation,” said Ethel.

“I had to check on Greg and the ice cream,” chided Molly. “Want to be sure there’s plenty of ice cream.” And then she whispered, “And wanted to taste a bit of ice cream too. Ha!”

“You stay away from Greg and the ice cream,” said Gladys. “And where is Hannah?”

“She went to powder her nose,” said Molly, discretely. “She’ll be back in a bit.”

Of the four friends, Molly was like the baby sister always getting into trouble and drawing attention to herself. On the other hand, Hannah was quiet and thoughtful, usually lending a listening ear when the others were disturbed about something.

Gladys and her friends stood alert as Mr. Goldman walked in the door.

“Ladies, good afternoon.” Mr. Goldman extended a hand of congratulations to each. “Very proud of your accomplishments.”

Almost in unison Gladys and her friends said, “Thank you.”

“And how is Mrs. Goldman?” asked Ethel.

“She’s resting with a headache. Sorry she couldn’t be here.”

“Hope she’s better soon,” said Ethel. “Please have some ice cream and root beer.”

“Oh, uh, no thank you. I want to present a check to you. Mrs. Goldman has wanted to donate to the Women’s Scholarship Fund for a long time now and she’s so happy to do this in honor of your graduation.” He handed the check to Ethel.

“Oh my,” she gasped as she looked at the check. Shaking Mr. Goldman’s hand, “Thank you so very much. This will go a long way to help future Fairmount women.”

Mr. Goldman blushed a bit. “I remember when she first heard about your endeavor to graduate college and start careers. She remarked that she would like to find a way to reward you for your success. And now the time has arrived. Again so very proud of you ladies and now must return home to check on Mrs. Goldman.”

“Tell Mrs. Goldman we are greatly honored and we’ll drop by to see her soon,” said Ethel.

The Goldman’s, although elderly, were very active in the community and worked hard to develop local interest in the arts. They opened an art gallery for local artists and touring artists. Also, plans were underway for building a theater for professional drama productions and classical music concerts hoping to bring talent to Fairmount College.

Gladys slept late Monday morning, soothed by the sound of gentle rain. Relieved from the stress of college and celebrations, she now rested in future plans which seemed to give her peace. The wedding, her fiancé’s banking career, a new home built and furnished, and even the number of children she would have, had already been discussed and planned. But once again a sense of uncleanness interrupted her sweet sleep. Rising with a yawn and a stretch she stopped by the window to watch the rain. Feelings of emptiness, insignificance and a longing for serenity overshadowed any happiness from the preceding days. However, the somber mood was quickly replaced with the delightful thought of walking out in the rain. So Gladys wrapped a blanket over her head, walked out to the back yard and sat on the bench under the canopy of a thick-branched oak tree. Birds chirped and a squirrel clucked as she watched the clouds overhead quickly dissipate, allowing a ray of sunlight to burst through. She thought of childhood Sunday-School lessons about creation. More sunlight broke through as the clouds rolled away.

What a beautiful majestic sky. Brilliant blue with the puffiest clouds I’ve ever seen. God created the sky on the second day…

Her thoughts were interrupted by Mother coming out the back door. “Gladys, what on earth are you doing out here in your nightgown with a blanket on your head?”

“Just thought it would be fun to sit in the rain a bit. Getting a little chilled though. Think I’ll go in now.”

“I’m making a pot of coffee. Come inside. Warm up. I’ll heat up the biscuits I made earlier and we’ll have some of the apple butter Mrs. Ellis made.”

Mother wrapped one arm across her shoulders as they walked inside together. “Go put on your robe and slippers while I hang up this wet blanket to dry on the clothesline.”

Gladys returned to a warm kitchen, the wonderful aroma of biscuits and brewing coffee, feeling like a little girl again with her mother doting on her. Mother enjoyed preparing scrumptious meals and Gladys being the only child was always tempted to eat more than necessary. She had learned to put off indulgences by simply asking Mother to make a plate and then save it in the ice box for later. And many times she gave the plate away to Greg or one of her friends.

“Went to check on Mrs. Ellis this morning while you slept. She said to apologize for missing your graduation.”

“Is she feeling better?”

“Just a little cold it seems. She’s drinking hot tea with lemon and honey and napping with a hot water bottle on her chest.”

“I’ll drop by in a few days and thank her for the apple butter. It’s delicious with the butter and biscuits you made mother.”

Mrs. Ellis had been their close neighbor since Gladys could remember. She liked to garden and often visited with neighbors as they walked by. And in summertime if you walked by on Sunday afternoon, you got an invitation to sit on the front porch and drink lemonade and perhaps, fresh baked cookies too. Mother had said Mrs. Ellis treated everyone in the neighborhood like family since she had no children of her own. Gladys remembered her mother saying that she didn’t know where Mrs. Ellis was from, but that it didn’t matter, because Mrs. Ellis had lived on Rose Lane long before they had moved to the neighborhood, so seemed like she had always been there. In most recent years, Dad and some other men in the neighborhood had helped Mrs. Ellis with cleaning the chimney, painting the house or fixing the water pump when it stuck or froze. They never complained since Mrs. Ellis was a joy to be around. Kind and wise, sometimes humming hymns or quoting Bible verses when she thought it helpful to someone.

The sound of dad coming home for lunch interrupted her thoughts. She walked to the living room and gave him a quick hug while he hung his hat on the coat rack near the door. “Looks like someone slept in this morning. Just having breakfast, when it’s time for lunch?”

“Yes dad, you caught me being lazy this morning. Just this one time though. The rest of the week, month actually, will be too busy to sleep late.”

“Alright then, just this one time I’ll let you off the hook.”

“I’ll let you two have lunch now. Mother made chicken sandwiches while I finished off the biscuits from this morning.”

Dad usually came home for lunch, since he worked nearby as the editor for the Old Town Newspaper. The trolley could get him home and back to work in just a few minutes. Mother and Dad enjoyed each other’s company and rarely argued. Any disagreement that erupted usually quickly ended with Mother giving in to Dad’s wishes. Although, occasionally Mother quietly stood her ground and eventually Dad was the one to compromise. Gladys secretly thought perhaps Mother should stand her ground more often, however observed their family life seemed to work well this way. She was well cared for with Mother’s focus on good manners, social graces and church attendance while Dad focused on education and school achievements. And Dad, although not quite arranging her marriage, had a significant influence with her choice in marriage partner. Gladys had met her fiancé, Greg, and his parents at the Church ice cream social. The Greysons had moved to town a few years earlier to open a bank while their son finished college in New York. After graduating, Greg moved to Old Town to work with his father at the bank. Dad and Mr. Greyson had become good friends and the mutual agreement that their children would be a good match led to the arrangement for Gladys and Greg to meet at the church social. And shortly thereafter, to Dad’s delight, Greg and Gladys were engaged to be married after she graduated. Gladys had been fascinated with Greg and his discussions with colleagues about stocks and investments. And how could she resist a proposal which included a promise of a new house in the country with all the modern conveniences of 1921. And besides, potential prospects for marriage partners in Old Town were mediocre so Gladys felt fortunate to receive Greg’s proposal and gladly accepted. Later though, in retrospect, she compared her feelings for Greg with the short-lived infatuations of her teen years. The excitement of just catching a glimpse of the boy of her daydreams, the racing heartbeat, stomach flutters and dizziness were all missing. Instead, with Greg, she enjoyed a feeling of security, but questioned if this was best. But she liked the after dinner walks with Greg on Saturday evenings with friends Ethel, Molly and Hannah strolling along behind them. Often, they had played chess in the dining room while her parents listened to the radio in the living room. And the past month he had helped her prepare for final exams. And although, her initial goal of graduating college and then teaching at the school had changed, the achievement of receiving a college diploma sufficed for now.

The rest of the week was busy planning the wedding, the final fitting for her bridal gown and the dresses for the bride’s maids, florals for the church and meeting with the minister. They had planned to meet with Pastor on Friday afternoon. Gladys had never been in Pastor’s office before and to her surprise, although the typical shelves of Bibles and reference books took up the entire wall behind his desk, the other walls had several stained glass windows with the afternoon sunlight making a golden glow in the room.

“Frankly,” said Pastor. “I know you two came to discuss the details of the wedding ceremony and we’ll get to that. But first, I want to discuss something much more important. Marriage is a serious commitment, a covenant between a man and a woman to become one as God intended. Even more important is being one with God, individually by faith in Jesus Christ. So I have an assignment for you both. Over the weekend quietly sit with God and read the book of John in the Bible. I hope each of you will accept his gift of Salvation, then you will be prepared for a lifetime commitment to God and each other. Come back next week, same time and we will discuss the wedding ceremony.”

Speechless, Gladys and Greg rose from their seats. Greg shook Pastor’s hand, said “Thank you.” Then humbly, they left.

They walked silently for several minutes, each not knowing what to say to the other. Then they both spoke at the same time.

“You go ahead and speak first,” said Gladys.

“We could have the marriage ceremony at our new home. It was going to be a surprise, but I hired a gardener to make a beautiful garden with an arbor and flowers in the back yard. I can imagine it would be even more beautiful with you in your wedding gown.”

“Sounds wonderful. Let’s go see it.”

“I want it to be as much of a surprise as possible. So let’s go ahead and plan to have the ceremony there. You can see it then.”

“I just hope the weather is nice, what will we do if it’s raining?”

“Umm,” Greg continued with confidence in his ability to plan well. Even with last minute changes to his plans he was methodical and thorough.

“Well, we could have the ceremony in the gazebo if it rains. The dance in the barn and a barbeque on the patio under a canopy. We could have canopies on the lawn for shade over the chairs if it’s sunshine or for shelter from rain. And besides, I suspect that if it rains not as many will come in on muddy roads.”

“True. Though, I hope for the sunshine. I can’t wait to see the garden you’ve made and I think everyone will enjoy an outdoor wedding party much more than being cooped up inside on a summer day.”

As they walked, they talked about all the details of changing the location of the wedding to the garden. As they walked by Mrs. Ellis’s house, two woman were just leaving. Gladys recognized these woman from the university. They had been speaking to a small crowd about the evil of alcohol and wanted to make the sale of alcohol illegal.

“Good day, ladies.” Greg said as they walked away in a huff.

“Mrs. Ellis, How are you?” Gladys asked as she walked up to the porch. “Is your cough all gone?”

“My cough is all gone now and my voice is back. However, I don’t think my visitors liked my voice just now.” Mrs. Ellis flashed that unique laugh of hers, a laugh mostly with her eyes and a very faint sound.

“Whatever, do you mean?” Gladys asked.

“Now Mrs. Ellis, were you mean to those ladies?” Greg said in jest.

“No, just honest. They wanted me to join a rally they have planned to speak out against the sale of alcohol. I explained I don’t have time to be doing that. People drink alcohol because they have no other comfort without Jesus. They have to numb the pain of sorrow and sin with drink. So let the poor souls have their drink if they don’t have Jesus. I would rather tell them about Jesus who can take away their need for alcohol.”

Greg was amused. “Mrs. Ellis, you amaze me.”

Gladys informed Mrs. Ellis of the change in plans for the wedding ceremony looking for affirmation of approval for a garden wedding. Instead Mrs. Ellis responded with a blank look and awkward silence.

“Let us know if you would like Dad to take you to the wedding in the carriage Mrs. Ellis,” said Gladys. “I need to get home now and discuss all the changes with Mother and Dad too.”

“A carriage ride in the country sounds fun. So tell your Dad I’m grateful. Will be praying for you two. And God’s good plan.”

Saturday morning came with soft rain showers which started off Gladys’ day with thoughts of the garden of her future home. She imagined beautiful roses, irises, tulips and perhaps geraniums nourished by the gentle rain. Then she thought of the reason for the change in wedding plans. The challenge by Pastor to read the book of John in the Bible. Why had Greg not mentioned anything about Pastor’s suggestion, but instead changed the ceremony from the church to the garden? Curiosity about Pastor’s challenge directed her to take her cup of coffee back to her room and read this book from her own Bible, a gift from Mother at age twelve when attending confirmation class at church. Soon after, Mother called her to breakfast, which she quickly gobbled down, refilled her cup with coffee, cream and sugar and then returned to her room to read more from this wonderful book. Some scriptures were familiar and some were difficult to comprehend, but she was content to read half of the book with plans to read the remainder after church service on Sunday. And then she would ask Greg if he had read the book.

He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. After he has gathered his own flock, he walks ahead of them, and they follow him because they know his voice” (John 10:3-4).

Sunday morning church bells rang as Gladys and others from the congregation walked inside to the sanctuary and took a seat in their favorite pew. Gladys saved a seat for Greg, but when after songs and prayers he had not yet arrived, she began to worry. Worries about Greg and little notes from Ethel distracted her so that she couldn’t remember what Pastor had talked about. She had told Ethel about the change in plans for the wedding ceremony as they walked into church. Now, Ethel was too excited to wait for further explanation. After the service, Hannah and Molly who were seated behind them asked to be let in on whatever secrets were being shared in the notes.

“Now that all my bride’s maids are here, let’s have a little meeting about a change in the wedding ceremony.” Gladys had almost forgotten about Greg while discussing the garden wedding with her friends. Then a man Gladys had never seen before, shyly walked up to them and asked if they knew of anyone named Gladys.

Humbly, holding his hat in his hand the stranger introduced himself.

“Sorry to interrupt Gladys, I work for the Greysons doing landscaping and carpentry. Greg wanted me to drop by and let you know he couldn’t come to church services today because he’s been called to attend a meeting in New York City and had to take the train out this morning. He should return next week.”

“Thank you very much for delivering the message. I was worried about him.”

Gladys and her friends walked for a few blocks talking with the gardener, who had introduced himself as Clay. They talked about his work for the Greysons and also his work preparing the garden at her future home. Molly maneuvered her way to walk beside Clay, expressing a common interest in gardening and her secret dream of starting a small floral shop in Old Town. Gladys and Ethel shared mutual looks of amusement at Molly and the gardener walking ahead of them, while Hannah quietly observed them all.

Busy were the days and weeks for Gladys until finally wedding day arrived. A warm sunny day in June washed by gentle rain the night before. With the road to the country house lined with cars and the barn full of horses resting from their carriages, it seemed that most everyone in Old Town had come to the Greyson wedding. As guests arrived they were seated in wooden folding chairs on the lawn in front of the arbor. Behind the arbor to the left, a small bridge over a stream led to a gazebo where the parents of the bride and groom were seated. There too waited Judge Brooks and Greg until the singing began. From the patio door of the house Ethel, Molly and Hannah walked the cobble stone path leading to the arbor as they tossed rose petals from their baskets to the ground. They wore mid-length rose chiffon dresses and matching hats with a brow veil. Then the parents, the Judge and Greg joined the bride’s maids in front of the arbor. The wood arbor was wide enough for two to walk through comfortably. It was painted white including the gate and fence on both sides. The top of the arbor arched with floral vine planted in hidden planters allowing the purple floral vine to cascade along the top and down along the sides of the arbor, with hedges of roses on each side of the gate along the fence. Wildflowers bloomed on the other side of the stream where the gazebo stood and further out even to the barn.

Gladys stepped out from the patio door when her friends from the college choir began singing in acapella the Song of Ruth, a traditional wedding song taken from the book of Ruth in the Bible. A song expressing dedication and commitment. These two friends, Marvin and June, were also engaged and planned to sing this same song to each other at their own wedding.

♫ Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live.

Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God.

Wherever you die, I will die, and there I will be buried.

Today we two, vow to live our lives, together as one…

Gladys walked gracefully in a full length white chiffon dress, veiled in lace and a headband of pearls. A train of lace flowed from the back of her dress over the rose petals on the ground. She carried a simple bouquet of white flowers tied with rose ribbons. Overwhelmed with emotion. Acute awareness of stepping up to a life changing moment. Gladys fixed a smile upon her face, barely able to speak or remember the rest of the day. On reflection she seemed to have been in a daze throughout the ceremony, reception, dinner and the entire evening.

Now after two months she had accepted the transition of being a free spirited college graduate with endless opportunities to being a country wife. All the extra duties hardly seemed a burden while enjoying the beautiful house, garden, the orchard, and the tree lined fields adorned with wildflowers. And Greg seemed to be a good man. However, she was concerned about his nightly habit of taking a shot of whiskey after arriving home from work and then smoking a pipe of tobacco after dinner. He had noticed her disdainful look and remarked that a little whiskey and a smoke was common practice among his colleagues back east. And lately, she was also concerned about the nausea she felt in the morning. Greg suggested she visit the doctor, but Gladys decided to visit her mother first.

So Greg while driving to work, dropped her off at Mother’s house the next day. “Mother brew a pot of coffee. I brought some cinnamon rolls I made yesterday.”

Mother with arms wide open, hugged Gladys like she hadn’t seen her for years. They talked for a long while catching up on news from family and neighbors. Finally, she told mother about the nausea. “Lately, I’ve been feeling faint and upset in my stomach, but only in the morning. Greg said I should go to the doctor. What do you think Mother?”

Mother smiled and asked, “Have you missed your monthly too?”

“Yes,” and then it dawned on Gladys. “Oh, maybe I’m pregnant.”

“I never had morning sickness. My sister and other women I’ve known had morning sickness. But only when they had baby boys.”

Gladys felt embarrassed and ashamed so changed the subject. “Oh I’m probably not, just too much country air. There’s so much work to do outside. More than I realized. I take care of the garden, the horses and then there’s just the everyday cleaning and cooking to do. You know Mother, much more than this lazy school girl is used to.”

Mother laughed, “Country air is good for you and the hard work too. If you ever need help, let me know.”

Mother and Gladys worked on a quilting project the rest of the day until Greg arrived to take her home. Mother sensed that Gladys didn’t want to talk about the nausea anymore so she didn’t mention it again until it was time for Gladys to go and then to express love and concern encouraged her to visit the doctor and let her know the outcome.

With winter just around the corner Gladys started several projects to prepare the household for the colder weather. She cleared the vegetable garden and stored the last of the tomatoes, potatoes and onions in the pantry. Then she mulched it with leaves that had fallen on the ground. She placed on the porch a pumpkin arranged with sheaves of wheat tied with orange and brown ribbons. She trimmed the hedges, cleaned the barn and had hay and feed delivered for the horses. Over the summer, Greg had been storing up wood from tree trimmings for use in the fireplace. But they also had another big supply of coal delivered for the cook-stove. The morning nausea gradually faded away but the stirring of life within the bulge of her tummy reminded Gladys of more important things to tend to…

Greg had insisted that Gladys visit Doctor and so one afternoon he took her into Old Town for the initial exam and to discuss the birthing. Doctor was elderly, wise and kind, confident that Gladys and baby seemed to be in excellent health. Doctor recommended Mrs. Ellis as midwife to assist with the birthing and suggested that they may want to have her close by during the last few weeks of the pregnancy, just in case the baby came a little earlier than expected.

Mrs. Ellis was so happy when Gladys and Greg dropped by after their visit with Doctor. Especially with the news of their first baby on the way in a few months and even more excited about assisting with the birth.

“Missed seeing you both at church. Mrs. Greyson said you haven’t been feeling well Gladys. Good to know it’s a blessing of a little one on the way instead of a serious illness.”

“If not an inconvenience to you Mrs. Ellis, would you stay with us in the guest room until the baby comes? I’m sure Mother and Dad would help watch over your house. Mother will probably join us when the baby arrives to help out too.”

“I would love to stay with you. Help the little one get a good start in life.”

“We are grateful Mrs. Ellis. Sets my mind at ease knowing Gladys will have someone with her when I’m away at work. We’ll provide everything you need and generous pay for your services.”

“I trust the good Lord to see to it that everything works out just fine.”

“Good. We’ll be celebrating the holidays soon and would love to have you as our guest at the family Thanksgiving and Christmas gatherings.”

“I’ll be counting the days. And making more apple butter. Peanut brittle and fudge too.”

“And I’ll be working on the baby’s room. Dad is bringing the family rocking chair. Going to paint it and make new cushions and quilts for the new crib.”

“I’ll crochet a baby blanket too! You can never have too many blankets.”

While Mrs. Ellis served coffee, the women chattered on for a while about baby things, Thanksgiving pies and Christmas trees and Greg stepped out on the porch to smoke a pipe of tobacco…

After the arrival of yet another snow storm in February, Gladys was thankful she had worked so hard to prepare for winter. The baby’s room was ready and Mrs. Ellis was planning to move into the guest room in a few weeks. Greg shoveled a path to the barn and then to the road so he could ride the horse to work the next day. Gladys had made a pot of stew and was waiting for two loaves of bread to finish baking in the oven. Greg would be in soon to warm up and so she brewed a fresh pot of coffee. She sat to rest awhile to relieve pressure from the weight of baby. She thought of her Bible and the unfinished reading Pastor had recommended several months ago. She poured herself a cup of coffee, retrieved the Bible and started reading from the book marker, the tenth chapter of John. Some of the verses intrigued her, some were confusing, but captivating. So after dinner and dishes done, instead of quilting she settled in the rocker near the fireplace and continued reading. She thought about the connection between obeying God’s commands and relationship with him. She had always thought of God as some force, far away and not very concerned about the small things of daily life. She would think about this more tomorrow. As she got up to go to bed, the pressure on her lower abdomen was so intense she had to clasp her hands under her belly to if somehow relieve it, but it didn’t help. She went to the bathroom and there baby’s water gushed out and the birth pains began. Greg heard her moans and came in to see her on hands and knees on the floor to relieve the pressure. He gently lifted her up and helped her to the bedroom to lie down. The pains subsided.

“Greg I think it’s time. The baby is coming. What should we do? Mrs. Ellis isn’t here to help us. It’s too late to go for the doctor. It’s too cold and the roads are bad.”

“Do you think you can hold on, or baby will wait till I can head out at daylight?”

“I don’t know,” she softly cried. “This is the first baby, I have no idea what it’s like. Do you think God is punishing us?

“Look at you. Read the Bible for a few hours and now you’re talking foolishness. I’ll bring you a cup of milk to help you relax.”

When Greg returned with the glass of milk, Gladys could smell a hint of whiskey on Greg’s breath.

“Try to sleep, I will head out to town as soon as daylight. Everything will be alright.”

Another birth pain. Greg held Gladys’ hand and rubbed her arm to sooth her. He brought more pillows. He brought a pitcher of water, wash basin and towels and put them on the cabinet nearby. An hour went by and another birth pain, but more intense. She thought of stories told among the women in her family about “troubled” births and either the mother or baby dying. Gladys was frightened, but tried not to show it. After twenty minutes another birth pain. Greg sat in a chair beside her, holding her hand. Greg tried to comfort her. Talked about buying a pony for the baby, setting up a savings fund for baby’s college. Talked about having Clay come and help out in the spring and summer, since she would be busy with baby. Then he smiled and whispered in her ear, “We’ll even have another picnic in the meadow this spring.” She closed her eyes and gritted her teeth with yet another even more intense birth pain. Forceful pressure pain of baby bursting its way out. Change of position and extra pillows could not ease the pain.

Silently she prayed through the pain of another contraction. God please forgive me. Forgive us. Please God.

Gladys allowed the natural instinct to push hard with each contraction while she prayed through each excruciating pain. God please help us. She was exhausted but the pain urged her to keep pushing even harder with each contraction as they came more often.

“Keep doing what you’re doing Gladys. The baby’s head is appearing. Baby is just about here.”

Gladys smiled and glowed with joy. She rested a bit. Then with a few more agonizing, piercing hard pushes, along with prayers and Greg’s help, their baby boy took his first breath and announced his appearing with his first faint cry.

“Gladys its daylight. You and baby rest. Going into town to get the doctor or Mrs. Ellis.”

“Be careful. Bring both if you can.”

Gladys and baby could do nothing but rest and wait. But she was at peace.

After a few hours, Greg returned with Mrs. Ellis. Doctor had gone over to New Town to check on some patients but couldn’t get home because of the snow. Mrs. Ellis went right to work taking care of the baby and Gladys. Then she took care of the household while Gladys and baby slept.

Soon baby began fussing and Mrs. Ellis gave Gladys instruction on nursing the baby which was exactly what baby needed. “Mrs. Ellis, thank you for coming out here. I don’t know what I would do without you.”

“Sorry I wasn’t here to help with the birth, but somehow you managed fine.”

Gladys whispered. “Greg thinks he’s the one who came to the rescue, and he was great, but I was silently crying out to God too.”

“God can certainly help and direct like no other. Now that baby is finished feeding, he’ll sleep well for a few hours. We’ll wrap him up real cozy in blankets over here in the cradle. So now you try to go back to sleep for a while too. Don’t worry about him, he’s right here, you’ll hear him fussing a little when he wakes. So you rest.”

Greg came in to take a little nap too. Sweet sleep for the Greysons for a few short hours.

Baby John was now the center of attention in the Greyson household. And rightly so. Twenty-four hours focus on baby’s needs first and then any other task came second. Mrs. Ellis helped the Greysons adjust to the change and establish a workable routine during the first week. Doctor came to check on Gladys and baby too. He remarked that baby John was fully developed, good weight and seemed very healthy for being born a month early. There was an awkward silence and no comment from Greg or Gladys. Greg returned to work with assurance that Mrs. Ellis would stay another day to help Gladys who was still a little weak and needing help with the household.

“Mrs. Ellis, Mother is coming to stay for a few days, so if you need to go home Dad will take you, but you’re welcome to stay. You seem like part of the family.” Gladys poured a cup of coffee for them both, put out cream and sugar on the kitchen table. They took a quiet break while baby John had a morning nap.

“Good to be here, but missing home. Think I’ll go on home with your Dad tomorrow. Your Mother will be good help. I’m sure she’s ecstatic about meeting her new grandson. Anyway, I need to prepare Sunday-School lessons for the kids at church. Some hands-on craft things I need to work on too.”

“Mrs. Ellis I’ve been thinking about God more lately. Reading the Bible. Feeling guilty about some things. I want to know more about God and spiritual things. Seems like I’ve known stories about Jesus and how God has worked in people’s lives, but he hasn’t been real to me.”

“Didn’t you dedicate your life to Christ when you went to confirmation classes?”

“Well, yes, but I think I just went along with everything because my friends were in the class. I never told anyone, but I never felt any different about God after the classes. Until this past week, God has just been someone far away out there who doesn’t really know or care about what I’m doing.”

“So what changed this week?”

Gladys hesitated with embarrassment. “When Greg and I were all alone with no one to help with the baby’s birth, I was frightened and thought maybe I would die. Or maybe God was punishing us. So I cried out to God to forgive me.”

Mrs. Ellis thought for a moment and began to put everything together. “So I think you’re saying you’ve felt guilty about breaking one of God’s commands and thought you were being punished.”

“Yes. I think he forgave me and helped us. But I want to be sure.” Gladys began weeping. “Oh Mrs. Ellis I’m so ashamed. Mother and Dad will know. And my friends. Everyone will figure out just like Doctor that baby wasn’t premature.”

“Gladys, I’ve known shame too. But Jesus is such a wonderful Savior. A friend of sinners like you and me.”

“You, Mrs. Ellis? What could you be ashamed of? You’re such a good woman!”

“I’ve watched you grow up and I think you can keep a secret. So I will tell you.” Mrs. Ellis took a deep breath and began her story.

“Long ago when I was about your age, I lived in a big city. I had gone there to meet a man I had written letters to for two years. We became engaged and he had invited me to come to the city and we were to be married as soon as I arrived. My parents forbade me to go, but I secretly left on my adventure anyway. When I arrived to meet the man I was to marry, I found out he had been killed in a street brawl. I was devastated and too proud to go back home. So I stayed. Got snared into what seemed to me the only type of work I could do. And I had a house to live in with other ladies doing the same work. It all seemed exciting for a time, but then I began to loathe myself and drink alcohol. Then one night an elderly man and woman came into the saloon where we served drinks to our clients. They had a handful of fliers and they gave one to me. They both looked at me with smiles and sparkling eyes. They said won’t you please come and hear a life changing message. We would love to have you there. They were so sincere and full of love I couldn’t resist going. I heard the truth about sin and rebellion and the need for cleansing and healing by believing in Jesus. I’ve been clinging to truth about Jesus’ cleansing blood ever since. He made me a new person. I left that big city and came to Old Town. Bought that little house on Rose Lane. I was one of the first to live there. God has been so good to me. He’s taken care of me and given me a new life.”

“He has outstretched arms to you right now. So just come to him and tell him you want that new life that only he can give. Ask him to cleanse you of your sin. We’re all rotten sinners. Every one of us. God became a man, Jesus. Fully human but without sin. He died willingly to provide the sacrifice needed to bring reconciliation between people and God. It’s what God designed. Only by faith in Jesus can you be healed of your sin nature and become part of the family of God.”

“I want to be cleansed and healed. Part of the family.”

“Dear Lord, hear her prayer of faith in you Jesus. Accept this child.”

Go ahead Gladys, pray to Jesus now.”

“Jesus please cleanse me of sin. Heal my soul. I want to know you and live to please you.”

Gladys and Mrs. Ellis stood hugging and weeping.

“Welcome to the family.”

###

Note: This is a fiction story. The character’s names and story line are fictional. Any resemblance to actual persons is coincidental.