I suspect my cracked rib is God’s way of telling me to sit down and be still. The 46th Psalm gives it to us straight: Be still, and know that I am God. With a broken rib, still is the only choice.
I don’t believe in accidents really, so I figure I fell down the steps for a reason. There was ice, of course, but what about the big picture, the metaphysical cause, the lesson behind the bruises? What is the Universe teaching me? Ultimately, I’m thankful. My head is fine. My face intact. But the rib is another story, and each breath gives me a lifetime to contemplate. During the fall, for a brief moment life lost velocity, and I tumble in that slow motion kind of way, reminiscent of cartoon characters who hold still in the air before noticing the ground is gone beneath them. And I saw a close up of the step, the round ridge of concrete that flashed me back to the round ridge of wood that my body bounced off of as a child, my mother’s hand clutching my hair, dragging me step by step up those beige, wooden, cellar stairs thick with coats of paint. There was violence in my childhood. In fact, I now understand I got just enough love and stability to keep me from psychosis but not enough to liberate me from a lifetime of therapeutic analysis. Good news for The Therapists’ Guild of the Hudson Valley.
“Your father was terrible. I was so unhappy. And I know I beat you with those metal curtain rods, but I’m sorry. So. There. Now that’s done.” But the ache in my ribs inspires another round, and I suddenly decide not to let my old mother walk away. After all, it’s a miracle we’re even talking and no accident I fell down her steps.
“You dragged me up the cellar steps by my hair. Why in God’s name would a mother do that to her child? Nobody made you do that. You did that on your own.”
Her mouth only turned down, but her hand spoke, darting out as if to block the words and wave them away, both defensive and dismissive, she lifted her chin and set her eyes forward. “I don’t want to talk about all those hurtful things. I don’t want my pressure to go up” her words trailed off in explanation as she floated down the hallway. Moments later I thought I heard her sniffle, and I ran to her room anticipating the dramatic moment I was sure I’d been summoned to fulfill—my mother’s confession and redemption. But she was only blowing her nose while she read her Star magazine.
The next morning I look in on her, surprised beyond words to see her small, white head highlighted by a bright red blotch of fresh blood. “My pressure went up, and I had a nosebleed.” It took ninety years, but she finally looks helpless. “I don’t want to die,” she whispers. “Pray for me.” And all my pain turns to compassion, and I wonder once again just whose redemption God is plotting.
Come and see what the Lord has done, the desolations he has brought on the earth. He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth. He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire. He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.
Rev. Darlene L. Kelley March 5, 2015