Sunday, July 28, 2019

A Story for You to Finish . . .

photo found via googleimages

She washed the body as she did all the others, starting at the neck and shoulders and moving down the arms to the fingers. Other than the face, which was always left for last, she spent the most time washing the fingers. If no one else was waiting, she might even massage them a little, taking care to bring any lingering bits of life back into them, and especially for an open casket. It was the last time for the people left behind, the last time for them to see their beloved, and with their beloved’s eyes closed, surely they’d look to the fingers. Didn’t everyone know that the eyes weren’t the only windows to the soul?

The woman’s fingers were well kept, obviously manicured until the very last day of her life and yet there was something unusual about them, something slightly unnerving. It was as if they weren’t quite void of life even before she massaged them. Something still seemed to pulse through them. And even though it was entirely impossible, somehow the fact that they didn’t look dead was irrefutable. As if that wasn’t enough, the first finger on each hand stuck out.

She sat down to collect herself. She was a professional and this was a dead body not a canvas for her imagination. With a deep breath and a few stern words to herself, she was back at the table, continuing her work. And yet there it was again. The nagging sense that this body, these fingers, still had something left to say and she was the only one left to listen.

She shook her head. She opened and closed her eyes. She took another deep breath and begged strength to find her. And then, against all training and in contradiction to all logic, she succumbed. To the returning inevitable truth—the fingers of her deceased client spoke.

She moved the woman forward, as if to help her sit up, resting the deceased’s head upon her shoulder. And when her hands found the woman’s back, she wondered if this was what she was called to witness. For beneath her own fingers, she felt ridges, ridges where smooth skin should be. Gently, and with utmost care, she dared to lift the woman’s shirt and found her entire back covered with small, equally spaced scars. From waist to neck and from side to side, this was a back that had endured unspeakable pain.

She moved the woman back down, laying her head with great care and as she did, noticed that one of the hand’s fingers rested together but the fingers of the other hand still did not. Was there more?

Did she dare?

Could she dare?

How could she not?

Another deep breath and the pearl buttons at the old woman’s belly opened up to reveal a second shocking discovery. Around her naval, as realistic and intricate as the living creature itself, was one of the most beautiful butterflies she had ever seen. It looked as if it were flying and yet there it was, a part of her skin. Was it a tattoo? But she had never seen a tattoo that fine before, the attention to detail something that belonged in a museum or at least somewhere it could be admired and shared.

She swallowed hard as she buttoned the old woman’s shirt, her heart beating out of her chest. Who was this old woman and what had she been through? Did anyone know her story? Or was she, the no-name hired to prepare the body for its final viewing, the last living soul to witness this old woman’s lifetime of secrets?

She looked down at the woman’s fingers and noticed, all at once, that each one rested as a unified whole, the last bits of life present only minutes before, now entirely gone. . .

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