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July 23, 2014

“Amen I Say Unto You! Amen!”

Tom McLaughlin

Malta, Montana – The day started off bright and sunny. I applied my insect repellent early and went outside to water the garden, herbs and flowers. The plains were unbelievably beautiful that morning.


We had established three gardens while I was there and all three needed a daily dose of sky juice. The largest vegetable garden had really come along and we were harvesting radishes and lettuce. The corn was" knee high by the Fourth of July," as Dad had always said. The basil didn't want to grow, as after a month of cold and windy weather it just stood there saying "help me!" I went to the back of the ranch and got a wheel barrow full of manure and applied it to enrich the soil. The flowers were about half way tall and started to spread outward. The beds would need some help.


I went inside while the sprinkler was, well sprinkling, with the long waves going back and forth. A breakfast of toast and eggs awaited me. We always had eggs as Mary, my eldest, had chickens that regularly produced. Sometimes we would retrieve a dozen or so every other day. They were good with a couple of pieces of toast drenched in butter. I must have smelled really ripe with the insect repellent and manure smell emoting from me. Oh, well, this was a ranch.


I went down to the back buildings and started painting. I poured the white mixture from a five gallon bucket into a smaller one gallon one and stared to apply it on the building where the horses stayed. Mary, five months with child, tried to get the paint sprayer working. It was a damnable thing, spraying only when it wanted to. I applied the roller and brushed the grooves in between the boards, Mary finally gave up and we worked together applying the paint the old fashioned way.


Around noon, we both stopped. It was lunch time and we cleaned up the paint mess. We had lunch together, I showered and made ready for my afternoon nap.


My disease necessitated a sleep of about two hours and I didn't argue with it. Mary had an appointment with her doctor in Havre, an hour and a half away. We were preparing to return to the Orient, two days hence. I fell into a blissful deep sleep.


When I awoke, I was in a good mood until my wife told me to sit down. She informed the child had died inside Mary three weeks previously. I looked at her incredulous.


I was stunned. I immediately called Mary and the only thing I could blurt out was "I am so sorry." She was on her way back from Havre to get some clothes and return to deliver the dead fetus. When they arrived, I held both of them, Cody more that the others as I felt he needed support. He did. There were so many tears. At times like these, a haze or fog develops and one goes into auto mode. We said we would take care of Leeilia, her 16-month-old daughter. I still couldn't believe it. We ate something, what I couldn't remember. They left again for Havre and the delivery.


My daughter is the most health conscious of people I know. She runs every day, exercises in front of the television and eats the best of health foods. It made no sense, this abomination. How could a five-month fetus die inside her body? I struggled with that question all the next day as we took care of Leeilia and Dzul. They ran around the house having a merry old time while I kept watering up. We got three phone called – morning, noon and night – saying she had not delivered. The same agony was true the next day until she finally delivered at around 6 P.M. The fetus had the cord wrapped around its neck, another ugly scenario, but an explanation. She said the fetus had all of the attributes of a perfectly formed child, just very premature.


Layton Paul will be buried with a grave site ceremony for just the three of them on "pretty place by the river" on Cody's father’s ranch.


It is funny. I now have an image of my mother holding a baby while sitting in a rocking chair. Just sitting there looking down at Layton Paul. Someday I will join them. But not now.


Cousin Ryan drove us three-and-a-half hours to the airport for our flight to Seattle and then Seoul. We offered to stay an additional week but Mary said no, we have to get back to "normal." I understood this.


I don't fathom any of this, some things are meant not to be understood. I just remembered the phrase from the old Negro spiritual, beating itself over and over into my brain,


"Amen, I Say Unto You! Amen.”



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