Who was left behind when Wise Men followed the star?
The world has become so small, it feels, since my brother left. At the edge of every day, an expectancy. And every long night, just an extension of the long day, though quieter.
I hear a noise at the door and listen for some other signal of that long-awaited presence. But it is only the wind. Ever I hear it whispering. Seeking.
I wish I were the wind.
I could travel, journey far from here, no need for sight or hearing, just feeling my way over mountains and through forests. I could be at my brother’s side in little more than an instant.
But I am here, and he is far away, and my world is so small without his voice to reassure me, to make me smile on the darkest of days.
I wish I could know if his journey has led him to the place his heart yearned for. I wonder if he has found that child king.
My fingers run across the tops of clay jars, all closed tightly. I pick up the tallest, slenderest one. I open it and the faint scent of frankincense washes over me.
I cannot help but remember.
“What would I do without you?” I asked him, fearful at the very thought of my brother’s leaving. “I need you here.”
He laughed aloud, the sound like light itself. “You need no one,” he answered. “At least, that is what you always tell me.”
I regretted every time I told him I could take care of myself. And those times were many, he was right about that. I strived hard to care for myself, even if at times it was not easy since the sickness that took our mother and stole from me, so very much.
“I cannot fathom it,” I told him. “A conjunction of stars informing you of the rising of a king?”
“Not just any king,” he reminded me.
“But in the stars?” I countered.
“The one true God is maker of the stars. Can he not place messages within them?”
I had no response to that.
“And if he has come, the long-awaited one, and we offer him gifts, perhaps we will gain his favor. Perhaps …”
“Stop!” I commanded him. “If you must go, do it. Travel with your wise and lofty companions and place the gifts at his throne, but do not use me as an excuse for your journey.”
My brother did not answer but rose and began to search through the many jars of a once-thriving apothecary. Now just enough to keep the two of us fed and clothed.
“The frankincense,” he said, frustration in his voice.
“The tall, slender jar, near the back,” I told him.
The scent filled the air when he opened it. “It is the most precious thing we have remaining. I will take it to him.”
I did not answer.
The silence between us lengthened, thickened, until my brother sighed loudly. “Do you not believe I would give everything if only I could see you healed?”
I swallowed hard, the thickness of the silence now wedged in my throat, the only thing keeping me from tears. I nodded.
My days have been filled with darkness since his departure, without the light of his laughter to break what feels like endless night.
I cover the jar, empty but for the lingering scent of the precious resin it once held.
Has my brother found the child? Has he lain this most precious gift at his royal feet? Did it make any difference to a king?
The sounds of the town around me have died down into mostly silence. The night lies heavy about me, and I lie down to rest, my heart as heavy as the silent night.
I open my eyes to darkness, but the dream, the dream had been full of light. I force myself to rise, though my body is still heavy with sleep, to try to distance myself from the night vision.
Dreams, the only place where color and images and light dance upon my sight, but this one was different.
Like a story unfolding, revealing itself before me.
I listen for the sounds of morning but there are none. Not even a rooster. It is still night, but I am fully awake. The memory of the dream before me as real as any sight.
The star. My brother told me of it, but I never picture it so bright, so beautiful.
It shone down upon a place unexpected, even in my dream. Not a throne or a palace but a stable, a manger.
The mother, so young and her clothes. Not the royal garb of a queen, surely not the mother of a king. A child lying in, of all places, a manger.
Somehow I know this was the child my brother and his companions sought.
This was the king.
Had they gotten it wrong somehow? Surely they would not be foolish enough to lay their gifts at the feet of a peasant child.
My eyes sting with tears, for although I would not allow my brother to speak of it, some part of me had been holding onto hope — oh, so faintly — that maybe this king would find favor and do something. Something to bring me healing.
My world has been so dark. My days as black as night.
I have always done well to hide them, the tears, but they begin to flow and I cannot hold them back. Sobs rise from within me for all that has been taken. A thousand sunrises and as many sunsets. The simple, holy joy of color.
They will never be returned to me and I will die in darkness.
I turn toward the table of jars — ointments, herbs, medicines. I know exactly where each one stands and my fingers close immediately around the one I am looking for.
I pick it up and throw it upon the floor.
The dying scent of frankincense rises, and I sink to the ground among the broken pieces. I am the clay jar, able to hold nothing but the faintest lingering of hope. I am broken, able to hold nothing at all.
I weep until there are no tears left, but still I do not rise. I have no desire to rise ever again.
My thoughts begin to blend, surge, recede, merge with images that never meet me in my waking.
I see a man, unassuming in looks and form. Not handsome like I remember my brother.
But there is something about this man.
He approaches a beggar sitting with arms outstretched. The image clears and I see. The beggar is blind.
My breath catches in my throat at the sight.
This is where I could have been if not for my brother’s care of me after the sickness. Where I could be if he does not return.
Is this the message of the dream? A warning? My brother will not return and this will be my life? My future is begging for my very survival?
But I had forgotten about the other man. He steps forward now, and I can look upon nothing but him. His face.
It has been so long since I have seen a face. Felt the simple wonder of seeing kindness in someone’s eyes. His face is turned toward the beggar, who reaches out to him.
I cannot understand the words they speak, nor what happens next.
He spits on the ground, mixing the spittle with dirt, then rubs the mud onto the beggar’s eyes.
The sight fills me with anger. Is this man toying with the blind beggar? Mocking him? Shaming him?
Then — in that strange way dreams work outside time and beyond logic — I am the blind man, unseeing, feeling my way forward, following the words of the stranger who instructed, “Go and wash in the pool of Siloam.
I stumble in the darkness and fall, feel the sting of stone against my knees, but am again rushing forward.
I am led by hope.
Then I am at the pool, kneeling down, scooping the cold waters up in my hands and splashing them against my face. In fear it might not be enough, I submerge myself in the water, letting it wash over me completely.
I rub my eyes with my fingertips, the mud made by the stranger with eternity in his eyes. I am washed clean, some invisible thing lifting from my eyes and dissolving forever into the waters of Siloam.
I rise from the pool, taking in air as I open my eyes.
It takes me a moment to gain my bearings. Why am I lying on the floor? Broken shards of clay surround me.
My brother is on his knees in an instant, helping me stand. I had not heard him come in, so deep was I in sleep, but I look upon him now in wonder.
And the wonder is in his eyes also.
“You can see,” he whispers.
Tears spill from eyes that can see the broken pieces of clay on the floor, that can see my brother standing before me, that can see the light filtering in from the window, the light of a new morning.
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