She picked up the box and examined it. It was ivory with the raised shape of a deer in the center and outlines of vines and berries traveling over its surface. How often had she passed by this box without noticing the detail that had gone into its design? How many days had she seen it without really looking at it?
Hers was a lifetime of inattention, she thought. A lifetime of distraction and hurry. Life was, after all, so full of details and important things that could not wait. It had happened so quickly that thinking of it now still made her shake her head as if to clear it. A knock at the door interrupted her thoughts.
She turned and looked at the care attendant.
“Sybil. Just Sybil,” she answered.
“Ms. Stryker, the van is here to take you for your doctor’s appointment.”
A lump began forming in her throat. It would be the same as it had been for over two years now. Always the same. Probing and asking questions over and over again, questions she had by now memorized. The prognosis was set in stone.
“I’ll be there in a minute,” she answered, dismissing the attendant with a nod.
Upon learning of her paraplegic state, it had not taken long for her husband to leave her and even less time for her to lose her job. Visitors had come and gone. Family members showed up on a rotating basis, except for her grandmother. Her grandmother had come that first horrible night and had taken a taxi every Sunday after church thereafter, sitting and visiting; telling jokes; singing in her warbling, wavering, winsome soprano; and bringing some small thing now and then – a tin of cookies or an article from the newspaper or a little memento from home. And sometime during each of those visits her grandmother would sit in silent prayer, intent and immoveable.
One time Sybil had said out loud what she thought whenever she saw her grandmother’s eyes begin to close or to stare off into space into a realm through which most others didn’t pass. “Grandma, stop praying for a miracle. It’s done. I’ve accepted it. We need to move on.”
Her grandmother had simply glanced up and caught her eye with an intensity she remembered from her childhood. It was a look that said, “Do not presume to know more than your elder”.
The next Sunday, her grandmother had brought the box from Sybil’s parents’ home where she had left it along with the things of childhood so many years ago. It was one that her grandmother had given to her when she was born. She had stored little treasures in it when she was young, then it had sat on her dresser through years of other, more important things. The Sunday she brought it, her grandmother had set it on her dresser and there it had remained without a glance from its owner.
Just this week, she had felt an inexplicable prompting to examine it, but ignored its pull. Why? It wasn’t as though she had pressing meetings any longer, nor appointments nor social engagements nor visits from friends. Not many, anyway.
The care attendant came to her door again.
“Ms. Stryker, the driver says he’s on a schedule. You really need to come. Here, let me help you,” she said as she moved to take the handles of the wheelchair.
“No,” Sybil said more firmly than she had in a long time. She softened. “No, tell him I need just another minute.”
She lifted the lid, expecting to find some little trinket of a forgotten childhood. None was there. Instead it was filled with slips of paper. She picked up one near the top and read, “Please help her to be a good girl. Bless her life. Keep her safe.”
Sybil’s eyebrows knit in confusion. She picked up another. “I don’t know what’s bothering her at school, but would you please help her? Please send a good friend. Please give her success.”
“She says she’s in love and she doesn’t see him clearly, so I’m asking you to help her see. Or change him. Either one.”
“Oh thank you, thank you, thank you for this dear girl.”
As she pulled slip after slip out of the box, tears burned her eyes as she began to realize what she was reading. Long after the slips should have run out, long after there were more in her lap than could have ever fit in the box, they continued, spilling onto the floor.
“If only that deer had crossed the highway a minute later. If only she had been delayed or left for home sooner. Oh, I know I’m going on like you know I do. Please heal her. Please make her walk again.”
“Please, somehow help her to believe that you are bigger than she is or her doctor is or anything is in this world. Help her to believe in miracles.”
Sybil reached for a Kleenex and dabbed harshly at her eyes. She pulled her chair closer to the dresser to set the box in its place, but as she picked it up, she lost her grip and it began to fall. It would break, she knew. There would be no putting it back together. She lunged for it, and that’s when it happened.
She didn’t fall. And as she stood for the first time in two years, the rescued box in her hands, she looked up. There in the doorway was her grandmother.
“I had a feeling you might want to go for a walk today,” was all she said as Sybil left the wheelchair and walked to the door.