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A Poem Because I Keep Thinking About This Story

The story's short, less than a chapter. About the prophet Elisha, a Shunammanite woman, and the loss (& resurrection) of her promised son. We had a teaching on it at church, and it's been on my mind ever since.

If you're unfamiliar, you can read it here.


I wrote a poem and I don't have another place for it to live, so here it is:


Woman’s Song


If I had not met you

I would not miss you


This is a lie


I have missed you from the moment I changed from child to woman

Maybe wanting you was the moment

Imagining your weight

Filling me


I cannot be a mother

But I can welcome others home


And then

This time next year

You shall embrace a son


Do not lie to your servant

You cannot be true

My body has given up


And then here you are


Sweet milkbreath

Sour fist uncurling

You were exactly as I hoped

And someone completely different


And then

You are gone


I’m tired, you said

Lie down, I said


And then

your breath left

Your fists grew slack


I was supposed to see you keep living

I was supposed to slip away first

But you have been wrenched


If I had not met you

I would not know how much bigger

my missing you could grow



Woman's Journey


I must go

I spent my life hosting a good stranger

Never asking for more


I could have gone on this way

An extra room

A little ache

Happy most days


Now all I know is the ache of you


I’d do it all over again

Even knowing this


There is no time to hold you

And weep


All is well

Can it be well?


I must go

I never asked for this

But I am asking now


I am asking through movement

Not words


He sees

He goes to the place I prepared for him

A gesture from a time without you

An obedience I was glad to give

But I cannot give you


Must I give you up?

Must I say goodbye for the rest of my life?



Elisha’s Prayer


Are you a god who does this to his children?

Do you give them half the story?

Do you honor their prepared rooms with corpses?

Do you weep with us?


I saw you take your servant

Without death


I asked for a double portion

Your spirit

It has been welcomed in this room


How can you leave this

I have looked at your chariots with my own eyes

It does not have to be this way


The Discomfort


Eyes to glassy eyes

Breath to cold mouth

Hands to small hands


Warmth


You do not leave bodies

In places built from hope


Again

Eyes to eyes

Breath to warming mouth

Hands to sticky child’s palms


Achoo!

Ach-ooooo!

Achoo!

Achoo

Achoo

Achoo

Achoo


So alive the breath needs a magnificent entrance


Woman, come

Pick him up




Woman’s Song (Reprise)


All is well


All is well, now

Your sweet breath

Your ferocious sneezes


I have received what I daren’t ask for

And then I asked for more

life


Do not give me joy as a passing guest

in a locked room


Give joy to me as a companion

In the field

In my lap


Sticky and wild

Constantly hungry

Arms wrapped tight

Alive and sneezing


Fin


Notes:

I've heard this story before, focused on the joyful moment of receiving a beloved child back from the dead. But this time around, I'm thinking a lot about Elisha in that room, eye to eye with death.


The mother who received a son she didn't even dare ask for, it was such a secret wish. The mother left with this child in her lap, asking why she was given a son if he was only going to be taken away. The resurrection doesn't take away the anguish of this time.


I'm thinking about how we're not meant to gloss over the hurting middle. When we find ourselves there, we may weep. Weep for the lost hours with our children. For our lone-wolf days that could've been spent in fellowship. For days or years gulped up by misguided direction. For the raw aching of being a body pinned down to space and time.


I can't find the quote, but someone said eternal life can sound too scary for us, but we want it for our loved ones. It's enough to think of going through our lives without losing them.


I keep thinking about Elisha, lying prone on this boy's body, a thing almost too uncomfortable to talk about. The full, unflinching reality of death under his weight. The moment of breath on cold skin before.


Might we have these moments? Ones where we put our very mouths up against our anguish and hope. Looking at the whole story, this is an in-between. But in that room, that moment was all there was.


Of course, we know the whole story. Resurrection returns this child to us, the living. Did that mother feel he was always on the edge of being taken again?

Or that now, having seen the worst, did she feel he could only be safe?



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