Turning toward the edge of the pallet, Ruth smiled, eyes still closed. The bygone excitement still stirred her heart and she marveled at the freshness of the images in spite of the decades that had passed. She could sense a change in the light in the house, sunshine trying to push through the shutters in the window that faced the street. She heard a neighbor call out, commanding to child to bring a lantern and she could make out the clip-clop of a donkey a few houses down. The town had begun to stir.
Ruth gripped the edge of her blanket with her knobby hands, fingers curled painfully around the woolen fabric. She opened her eyes and sought out the staff that leaned against the wall near the head of her bed. Pushing up on her elbow, she worked her thin legs out from under the blankets, slowly easing her stubborn joints to move. She planted her feet firmly on the ground and paused to catch her breath. “Such work, just to sit,” she mumbled to herself, shaking her head.
Her long hair hung down her back in a long braid. She had kept her hair long, even as it turned grey and became streaked with white, her husband had always told her that her hair was her crown, an award for her loyalty to God. Even in these last years, she spent time each day braiding the long locks and twisting them into a bun at the base of her neck. It took longer now with her twisted hands often being uncooperative, but it was a way to keep Jacob close to her. A connection she was unwilling to lose.
In her left hand, she gripped the short staff, rubbing the rounded top with her thumb. She smiled, the familiar etching bringing comfort on this cold morning. She slid to the edge of the mattress and leaned forward. With a push off the pallet, she gripped the staff and hefted her thin frame up to standing. She felt a jab of pain in her hip and she caught her breath. Shuffling a few steps, she felt the discomfort subside slowly. As she hobbled toward the fire, her joints warmed and she felt her stride lengthen. The tap, tap, tap of her staff echoed in the empty house as she stopped at her seat near the hearth, her breath coming in puffs. Ruth lifted the shawl from her seat and carefully settled onto the chair, wrapping the woolen shawl around her lap against the chill.
Ruth grasped the staff in both hands and leaned her weathered forehead against the smooth wood, sighing. In the morning light she whispered a prayer, an ancient prayer she had learned from her father. “Search me, Yahweh, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Peace flooded her soul. At the the sound of a knock at the door, she opened her eyes.“Come in.”