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Stained Glass Windows
A little girl gazes up at the man on the brazen cross as her mom rushes her to their pew, her brown pigtails swishing behind her. They were late, again, or so her mother had told her. They had to sit by the pretty see-through windows. Her mother didn't like to sit here; she couldn't see the priest well. As her mom grumbled under her breath, the little girl took time to stare at the tall windows that kept attracting her eyes. There were black lines making triangles, squares, rectangles, and more shapes the teacher hasn't taught her yet. But out of the mess, people take shape. Most have their hands out like they want a hug, and have a shiny circle around their head's. She knows the man on the cross is Jesus. She knows the woman holding the baby is Mary. But who are the others?
She took a moment while the music started to look at the many windows that line the walls. The morning light was shining in brightly, and it hurt the girl's eyes. She blinked, but was bored while the priest with the shiny head talked. She thought it was a good idea to ask her mother who the people in the glass were, and why they were on the walls. She tugged her mother's bright pink blouse with her small hands.
"Momma," she whispered. Her mother looked down at her with a gentle expression.
"Honey, we can't talk during mass." She instructed. The little girl sat back firmly, and by the end of mass, had forgotten all about the windows. Her interest was now on the sweet candies her grandma had given her.
A teenager with her brunette hair in a braid down her back followed behind her aging mother. She leaned toward her daughter as they sat on the sidelines of the church.
"Remember, you have to pick a saint for confirmation. And no gum." She reprimanded. The girl rolled her eyes and swallowed her gum.
"Where am I supposed to find a saint?" the teenager muttered with an attitude her mother said needed to be checked.
"Look at the windows, those are all saints, you know." Her mother reminded her. Of course, the girl's teacher had told their grade that just a week ago. She had forgotten, between all the sports, clubs, and friends. So she trailed along the wall, the mass not starting for a long time. Her mother had suddenly wanted to go earlier and earlier to masses now-a-days. She stopped and read the plaque under a particularly beautiful stained glass window. It told a story of a courageous French girl who pretended to be a man- like Mulan, she recalled- and led an army to save France. But she was burnt at the stake, the government claiming she was a witch.
"Joan of Arc." The girl read to herself. She stared at the window and suddenly understood it. The girl had short blond hair and an army uniform, but she was tied to a flaming stake. The teenager frowned, and realized that that bravery was exactly what she strived for. To stand up for that nerdy girl who always get picked on, even though she's really quite nice. She also secretly wanted badly to be trusting enough to follow God no matter what. So she wondered back to her mother with a satisfied and excited smile.
"Mom. I chose a saint." She chirped, smiling.
"Oh really?" her mom asked doubtfully, her eyebrow rose skeptically. Her daughter rolled her blue eyes.
"Yes. Joan of Arc." She said happily.
"Oh. Wow, that’s a great choice, honey. Good for you." Her mother said, and the teenager sat and smiled at her mother, glad that she was proud of her. For so long, her mother had looked upon her with disapproving looks. For the first Mass in a long time, the teenage girl paid attention. She also took time after Mass, while her mother chatted with the priest, to read the stained glass windows. She found each comforting. The light that streamed through them made each even more of a masterpiece.
A weeping woman stumbled into her old church. It was early, too early for anyone to be here. But she didn't know where else to go. The one person who had been with her through it all was gone, and she couldn't handle it. The woman had even, in her jargogled mind, thought about suicide. But she knew that her mother wouldn't have wanted that.
Why hadn't she told her about being sick? Why wasn't the woman given a warning? She wished desperately that her mother would have, because right now she couldn’t handle it. She was only in college, this shouldn't happen. Her mother was still spritely, she should be alive. She'd always been religious, why hadn't God saved her? On the other hand, the crying woman had only gone to church because of her mother.
The woman suddenly looked at her surroundings. The tall brass cross that Jesus is welded to in memorial. The cedar backing around the altar. She fell into a pew in front of the altar, kneeling and swiftly crossing herself. She didn't know what else to do. She sniffed as she whispered any prayers she remembered to God. To anyone. When she found herself getting angry, she stopped whispering.
"Why God? I thought you loved your children, why do they have to die? Why my mother? Why the only one I loved? Haven't I been good? I haven't sinned, God! I go to confession. I pray for people when they ask me to." She broke down in sobs as she spoke. Her sight was blurred by the tears that wouldn't stop, and her throat hurt more than ever. She let her tired head fall and she clamped her eyes shut. "God. I’m sorry. I'm sorry I don't give to the poor when I have change, and I'm sorry I haven't been to Church in a while. But I don't know what to do anymore." Her voice cracked roughly and she sniffed. "I need help." The once strong woman whispered dejectedly.
As if a sign by God, light poured through the stained glass windows she once adored. She never understood their presence. She didn't know why they chose them instead of normal windows. But when the colored light fell over her arms and body, she felt a sort of amazement. The light washed over her and she found herself smiling. She rose the blue eyes she inherited from her mother to the windows. The light was emanating from a few different windows, but she noticed Joan of Arc first. The saint she had chosen for Confirmation. The woman said a silent prayer to her saint, and begged for bravery, for trust. Next she saw the saint Dympna, the patron of Happiness. She knew she needed those two most right now, and she couldn’t remember the other right then.
She ducked her head and wiped at her still-falling tears as she heard soft padding coming her way. She felt a gentle, wrinkled hand on her shoulder but refused to move her face. No one will see me cry, she thought to herself.
"Honey, what brings you here so early?" a wise old voice asked. When she said 'Honey', her mom's pet name for her, she couldn't help but start crying all over again. The woman sat next to her and pulled her into her small, frail arms wordlessly. After she recovered, she leant back and found that the old woman was a nun.
"I'm sorry, I just…I…" the red-faced woman tried, but the nun with the kind face stopped her.
"No need to explain. Unless it would make you feel better." She said. The crying woman hesitantly accepted that, and explained to her that she had found out her mother had cancer for five years, and she never knew. She couldn’t help but pour her regrets, her thoughts, and her tears onto this tiny woman. She almost thought the weight of her load would crush the little old lady, but she just sat and smiled, and occasionally rubbed her hands in comfort. But the woman had found a loss of weight in herself. The guilt of not knowing, the confusion, the pain. It was there, but it was softened.
"Thank you for listening, sister." The lighter woman said. The light from the windows were rising and brightening by the minute. The windows washed the nun in rainbows.
"That's what I'm here for." The rainbows seemed like a spotlight, and at that moment, the weeping woman knew what she needed to do. After all the help this woman had given her, after the obvious signs from God, after losing her mother, she knew what she wanted.
"Is there any way I can become a nun?" she looked up at the old woman, and she gave her a surprised smile.
"Of course, Honey. May I ask how you came to the conclusion that this is what you want to do?" the woman's wrinkled eyes showed concern but excitement. The woman smiled and looked to the light.
"The stained glass windows showed me."