Sacred Heart RC – the ‘English Church’
May 4, 2021
The verdict is in, but the jury is still out
May 4, 2021

Rachel’s Prayer

By Alvin Peters

The father tried again to call his older son, Seth, but there was no answer. He had left home the night before. He tried the phone in his son’s office but to no avail. He surmised that Seth would busy himself with work. That is what he would have done, too.

He put his phone back into his jacket pocket and looked around at the hastily planned party. He heard the music; he saw the smiles and felt the joy of relief from loved ones, but ever since the loss of Rachel, he had not been fully happy. He sipped the glass of wine. It might as well have been water. There was a reason why Seth wasn’t here and he knew that it was his fault.

He walked around greeting the guests as they arrived. He thanked them for coming on such short notice. They expressed their elation about the good news.

Nicholas, his younger son, had returned. He was away for about two years. They were happy that their prayers had been answered. He saw Nicholas being doted upon by one of his aunts while her husband was jovially chiding her for making him blush with embarrassment.

As he made the rounds, he came upon the family portrait in the living room. There he was seated with Rachel and behind them were their two sons. Beneath was a prayer that his wife used to say and during these troubling times, he kept her prayer close to his heart.

He was about to read it when he heard a familiar, melodious voice, “Anton, my dear. God has certainly blessed this house.” He was about to say something when Beatrice, after she made her grand arrival and warmly greeted the other guests, looked at her godson and said, “Nicholas, stand up. Here, let me take a look at you.”

Nicholas fidgeted slightly under her gaze and that of the nearby guests. Some of the scars of his recent past have not yet fully healed. His father wrapped an arm around him and kissed him on his head. He placed the now warm, half-drunk glass of wine on the tray of a passing waiter.

After her informal examination was complete, she made her declaration, “Well, Nicholas, you had us worried for a while but that is in the past. I am sure you and your father and brother have much to talk about but that is for later. Now, let us rejoice in the present and the joys that it gives to us. Welcome home, my dear.” She embraced and kissed them both. The other guests showed their approval with light applause. “Now if you don’t mind, Nicholas,” she said in a low voice, “I need to speak with your father alone.”

She gently placed a hand on his cheek and smiled. She crooked her hand into Anton’s and they walked away. They both entered his study. He poured drinks for both of them and then he sat in his chair.

“You and Rachel have always had that flair.” He looked into his glass. “That cheerfulness is a gift that you both have been blessed with. Thank you for coming.”

“It is good that Nicholas is safe and sound,” Beatrice said.

He picked up a photo from happier times and stared at it for a while. He placed it gently on the desk and closed his eyes, “I miss her so much.”

“She is praying for all of you.”

“Because of her, God made me a better man. I can only hope I can be a better father.”

“Nicholas made a mistake. He has returned because he knew he made a terrible decision. And now he has returned home. Everything will be alright.”

“I’m afraid not,” he said as he stood and walked towards the window. He did not look at the festivities. “Seth left last night and hasn’t returned. He won’t answer his phone. His secretary said that he told her to say that he was busy. I fear he is gone.”

“Because you forgave Nicholas?”

“Yes, and the other things I have done.”

They sat in silence as music wafted into the room.

What have I done?

He sat down again and took a sip from his glass. “Nicholas left because I indulged him. I couldn’t say no. I was so filled with grief when Rachel died. Then one day he asked for something so wasteful and stupid that I had to put my foot down. I told him to stop acting like a child. He became angry and demanded his share of what his mother left for him. Seth wanted me to say no but I didn’t want Nicholas to remain angry with me, so I gave it to him.

Many days later, I realised the foolishness I had done. I feared losing Seth too so I pushed him to work harder. I hardly praised him for his achievements. Even when he wanted to celebrate with his friends, I forbade it. I didn’t want him to be weak; like Nicholas…weak like myself. He never complained. He showed his love by his dedication to the family, to the company. I rewarded him mostly with indifference and now he won’t talk to me.”

Beatrice sat silently looking at the pained expression on his face. She waited for him to continue.

“Last night when I brought Nicholas home, Seth was so angry. I pleaded with him to forgive his brother. He told me all that he had heard: the drunkenness, the violence, the womanising, the drugs, the frivolous spending. The shame that he brought to us. He said he would not allow him to squander what was left. I told him that all that I have is his and that we should rejoice that Nicholas was safe. He just stared at me for a moment and then walked away.”

He looked at the family photo again, “What have I done!”

“There is still time,” Beatrice said. “You have to talk to him.”

“He doesn’t want to speak to me and I don’t know where he is.”

“Actually, he is parked outside at the driveway entrance.”

“What? How?” he said standing quickly almost dropping the glass.

“That is not important right now.” She walked over to him and placed her hands on his shoulders, “Go. Talk to him.”

“What should I say to my boy?”

“God will give you the words.”

Beatrice watched as Seth stood outside his car with arms folded. His father approached him slowly and tried to hold him but he stepped away. With arms outstretched he implored Seth to come inside. His son retorted with a face of frustration and sadness, hands moving furiously.

With a look of anguish, the father grasped his son around his chest and nearly fell to his knees. The son caught the father up in his arms. He looked around nervously and pleaded for his father to get up.

The father buried his tearful face in his son’s chest. He did not let go. He will not let go. As Seth held his father, the bitterness abated and was replaced with tenderness.

He pulled up his father up. With locked arms they looked at each other. Anton touched his son’s face and smiled. Seth closed his eyes and warmly embraced him.

Nicholas stood next to his godmother, “You called Seth, didn’t you?”

Beatrice nodded, “I reminded your brother of the love your mother, my sister, had for all of us. I will not see that fade away.”

“This is my fault. I will gladly work for father and my brother if it means that Seth will forgive me.”

“It isn’t all your fault but you had some part to play. Be patient with each other.”

She held his hands and looked at him, “Remember your mother’s prayer:

By God’s mercy,

Our past is forgiven.

By His providence,

Our future is assured.

And by His love,

The present is His gift to us.”

To mothers and grandmothers who pray unceasingly.