Written by Susan Brooks
Emily made her way down the aisle to a pew on the far side of the church. It was still early before Mass and there were just a few people already inside. She shivered slightly as she genuflected and then slide into her seat. Snow had been falling all night and Emily wondered how many people would brave the weather to make it to church. Missing Mass may be a mortal sin in the eyes of the Catholic Church, but when it came to comfort, especially on a cold, snowy morning, only the most devout seemed willing to attend Mass.
She didn’t consider herself devout, but Emily did find peace inside the old, drafty church. It was a place she could sit and quietly reflect on her life. Richard her husband, although raised Catholic, long ago abandoned his faith and never accompanied Emily to Mass. It didn’t really matter to her because many things she did by herself because Richard didn’t enjoy going out in the world.
How different their lives were now; not anything like the lives Emily hoped to share with her husband. Richard was a good man, but he wrestled with PTSD demons that over their years together, now impacted the way Richard and Emily lived. He was quick to lose his temper, he had little patience, and at times his words aimed at Emily were hurtful and dismissive. He preferred to spend his time watching television or mindless You Tube or TikTok videos. Emily’s suggestions that they go out for lunch or dinner, visit friends, or even take a weekend trip were met with excuses as to why Richard couldn’t or wouldn’t want to go. Too many times, Emily had cancelled reservations because of Richard. She was very good at making excuses for Richard’s selfishness. Usually, she was sharing those excuses with herself as a way of soothing her hurt feelings.
Richard’s health was beginning to deteriorate. Every year seemed to bring another new health crisis. Emily tried to be supportive and understanding, but deep down inside she was scared and many times angry. Thankfully they had terrific insurance coverage so medical bills weren’t an issue. But the toll on Richard’s confidence and on Emily’s patience was large. They were both good at putting on brave faces with family and friends, but Emily wasn’t sure how much longer the façade would hold.
Emily wished she was brave enough to leave Richard, but she knew she couldn’t do so. Their families and friends would be shocked and dismayed that she would be so heartless and cruel to leave a man who needed her so much. None of them knew how unhappy she was and how desperately she wanted to be happy. Every day she prayed for strength to get through the day and possibly find some small glimmer of happiness. At the end of her day, when she fell exhausted into bed, Emily thanked God for the many blessings she and Richard shared and asked God to show her a way to peace and contentment . But even as she said the words, Emily wondered if God was listening.
Soon Mass was over and Emily carefully walked to her car. The snow had continued to fall while she was inside the church and her car was completely covered. Sitting inside the running car, waiting for it to warm up, Emily felt as if she was huddling inside a snow cave. You couldn’t see anything outside the car and the snow muffled the sounds of the other people and cars in the parking lot. It was very quiet and peaceful. It was nice.
She didn’t know how long she sat there, but Emily roused herself to grab the snow brush and attempt to clear off her car so she could see to drive home. When she was finished, she got back inside and as she did, she heard her cell phone ding. Pulling it out of her purse, she saw she had a text message. It was from Richard. He wanted her to stop on her way home to pick up lottery tickets and some beer. That was it. A few words asking her to run an errand for him. No words of affection, no words of gratitude, just words of need. Typical of Richard to only think of himself and not Emily.
Emily stuffed her phone back into her purse and pulled out of the church parking lot. She did not see the patch of ice that grabbed her car and spun her around into the path of another car and flung her car against a large, oak tree.
As she closed her eyes for the last time, Emily thanked God for finally hearing her prayer and giving her an acceptable way out of her marriage to Richard. She wished him well and happiness.