I can't remember her laugh. Or the color of her eyes. But sometimes, as I'm falling asleep, I can see her face.
I see her as if in a dream. She walks and sings and stretches out her hand to grab hold of mine... only I can't touch or hear her. It's as if she's on one side of a hazy, rose-tinted window and I'm on the other. As her face materializes from the depths of my shadowy dreams, I realize: I miss her. The longing is like a dull ache you wake with - you're not sure where it came from or when, exactly, it appeared.
My cousin says I'm like her. Like my mother. He says I'm fearless and unflappable just like she was. I couldn't say. My time with her and my father was brief. After they died, when I was still a child, I came to live here with Cousin. He doesn't talk much about my mother and father... about their deaths. Instead he tells me stories of our people; stories of how our forefathers braved war and famine and despots in the name of becoming a great people who serve the one true God. I love these recounts of faith and bravery. It's because of these stories that I forgive him for not telling me more of my parents.
Well, that and the fact that Cousin understands living a life that hasn't gone as planned. Whereas life watched me grow up without parents, life watched Cousin climb the political ladder here. He's not from this place, you know. He was exiled from Jerusalem. He doesn't speak of it much. In fact, he told me never to talk about our roots... about where we come from. It's probably just as well.
Our lives here are complex. Privileged compared to most, but complex. After leaving my cousin's house I married well, partly due to Cousin's influence and partly due to the ex-wife's vanity. My husband is a powerful man and Cousin works for him within the same walls where I make my home. Despite our proximity, we rarely talk. It wouldn't do, Cousin says, for people - including my husband - to know we're related. We live, therefore, separated by expectations and fears. (Cousin doesn't know, but I see him from time to time, pacing the courtyard outside my building and asking about me. When I know he's there I try to send word: I'm fine. All is fine.)
And it has been. It was. Only the same fearlessness that characterized my mother has taken hold of Cousin. For the second time this week I've heard that he's angered prominent people for refusing to bow and scrape to his superior. It's the latest gossip. What will become of that man? people ask in hushed, incredulous tones. I wonder too. And worry. This situation doesn't bode well for him. For him, for me, and for many, many others like us.
I'll spare you the details. Suffice to say Cousin sparked a wicked fury in a formidable foe. Our adversary is close to my husband and therefore I know this man is cunning. Cruel. And based on Cousin's rebellion, this man's devised a plot to bring devastation on Cousin. He's on his way here... to my house... to lobby my husband's support for his diabolical plan. I would intervene, only my past has been carefully hidden all these years. My roots are buried as deeply as my dear parents. To reveal my past - to disclose my relation to Cousin now - would be too risky.
I wonder what my mother would advise if she were here. I close my eyes and try to see her face... remember her voice. What I wouldn't give to have her with me now.
The situation has worsened. The imbecile has brought others into his revenge. The date has been set, at which time Cousin and all his people will be ruined. Killed, even. The sentence would include me, too, if anyone knew of my background. Knew who my parents were. My cousin has sent word. Do something, he said. I responded immediately: you know the risk. The time isn't favorable.
I don't know what to do. I can't sleep.
I received this message from cousin just now: Do not think you alone will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise from another place, but all of us will perish. And who knows that you have come into your position for such a time as this?
Every life has a purpose. Of this I'm sure. Although mine's seemed to be the result of accidents and tragedy and happenstance, perhaps it's not. Perhaps life has lead me here - to this exact place - for this exact moment. I think of my mother and her early death. I try to imagine what she would have done, given this opportunity to come to the aid of her people. I think and then send Cousin word: gather together and fast for me. I will do what needs to be done. If I perish, I perish.
It's been three days. I slept once and when I did, I saw her face again. She looked at me through the haze with those eyes... her brown eyes. I held my breath. Moments fell between us as we held the other's gaze. Slowly, she nodded.
A breath, and I awoke. I have a plan. It's time.
Who am I? Have you guessed? My mother... my fearless, unflappable mother, named me Hadassah, Persian for "star". But you can call me Esther. Queen Esther. Read about my plan... and the rest of my story... in Esther 5.
(Did you know that Esther is one of two books in the Bible that never refers to God? I'm fascinated by orphan Esther's story, and by the fact that although God is never mentioned, His hand is evident throughout her incredible life. This summer, I challenge you: dive into the Scriptures. Live the lives of these heroes of our Christian faith. And catch the first Identity Story here. -Brin)
Monday Moment is a little devotional to help kick-start your week. See you again next Monday!