The Third Pew

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Sister Jenn paused a moment after her morning prayer. After the mantra of her usual devotional, she always liked the moment of silence afterwards. Yes, He is in all things, even the silence. She rose, and turned to face the old, 21st century church. It's classic styling, the use of colored concrete and recycled plastic pews felt warm and comforting, like the church where she grew up just off the coast in San Antonio.

Today, though, the sanctuary was not empty. In the third pew just off the center isle, there sat a girl. Her head was tilted forward, and her body was shuddering slightly, with an occasional sob escaping. She looked teen-aged, perhaps sixteen. Jenn thought that she couldn't really tell anymore anyway. All of the girls looked too young to be wearing what they wore and too old to acting like they did. But it is not for her to judge, she reminded herself, and 50 years ago, when she was 16, she was sure the same was said about her.

Jenn walked cautiously to the end of the pew, sat and asked, "Can I help you?"

The girl looked up. "I... I don't know." She was shaking, her eyes overflowing with remorse and tears.

"Are you hurt?"

"No, no. Yes. I hurt. It hurts so bad!" She reached out to the elderly woman, who instinctively reached out to the young girl. Her tears and cries turned to loud unabashed wail, and she buried her head in Jenn's lap. Jenn rocked with her, held her, stroked her hair. A few minutes went by, and eventually their motions slowed and stopped, the girl still crying quietly.

"Do you need a doctor?"

The girl shook her head. "She's gone."

Jenn didn't answer. She just held the girl, tried to comfort her. She knew from experience that she should not ask, just listen. The girl came here for help, and will ask for it when she's ready.

"My, my friend, Alice. She's gone. After all the doctors and all the treatments, she's gone." The girl sat up, her head still downcast, and looked at Jenn through her disheveled hair. "She had JIDS. They caught it too late. They tried everything, and still. She's gone. The funeral service is tomorrow, and I won't even be here." There was a sense of anger in her voice now,

Jenn reached out and held the girl's hand, her expression showing concern and a lack of understanding.

"I was her companion throughout the whole treatment. I was with her every day, every night." Her words were spat out through angry teeth. "I did everything for her, everything, and I don't even get to give my final respects. Some bean counter at the hospital under-budgeted for companions this year, and I'm being sent to another patient too quickly, and, to me Alice will no longer exist." The anger subsiding, she started to cry again, but more controllably.

Jenn nodded. She understood now. But it didn't make this, this, this girl's story any less compelling.

"So, I'm here to say goodbye to a girl that was my best friend for a year, even though she's not here yet."

"She's here because you are here."

"Even though she'll be erased from my memory?" The girl was shaking again, hoping for the right answer.

"Her soul, where it rests, will remember you."

"Where ever it rests?"

Jenn nodded, smiling warmly. "Yes. That's His promise."

The girl reached across and held Jenn closely for a long embrace. "Thank you."

"God be with you." Jenn answered, holding the girl once more.

The girl relaxed the embrace and stood. Jenn stood with her, stepped back into the isle, and watched as the girl walked slowly back down the isle and out the door into the rain and traffic beyond. The door slowly shut, the heavy clasp catching, echoing in the silence, leaving Jenn standing in the center isle alone.

Yes, Jenn thought, He is in all things.

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