Unto This Last

Sarah is propped up with pillows and bolsters, and a pile of blankets and quilts shield her from the winter cold that the wood-stove can never quite overcome. She has a cup of warm broth in her hands, her great grandchildren and her few grandchildren still young enough to listen are gathered around the bed.

She coughs twice, spits blood into a cloth handkerchief, then starts:

“Silas was born thirty Patriarchs ago, back when things were different. Back then, people didn’t understand the Lord’s will, didn’t know how to live a good life. They worked less and spent hours sitting around the fire, telling stories and carrying on.”

Sarah coughs again, adjusts herself on the bed.

“Old Silas was born different from those others. He never cried as a baby, just came out quiet and stayed that way. And he was whip smart, showed the Industry of the Lord from an early age, made himself a life of the Blessed. Ten wives and more than 60 children, God gave him. His sons were all just the same — quiet, industrious, blessed with every earthly richness — and from them came the whole line of Silent Patriarchs, right down to you, Jedediah.”

The sound of his name makes the littlest boy in the room cover his face with his hands and smile between his fingers. She smiles back at him.

“Silent Silas, he taught us the way. No more laughing and funning and daydreaming. Just the quiet, earnest work of life, day in and day out until the Lord calls us home. The proof of his righteousness is in all of us, because nowadays everyone is his kin, including all of you, and even me, though only on my mother’s side. That’s why you don’t hear much talking anymore, and after I’m gone you won’t hear any at all. You see, I’m the last born talker, and that makes this here the last story.”

This entry is part of my journal, published January 31, 2011, in New York.