Life and Life


Years ago, a woman who had been diagnosed with terminal cancer, asked me to pray for a miracle of healing.

As she talked about this, I was aware that her body was in advanced labour to give birth to her soul.

I wanted to tell her I believe we have our definitions back to front: our birth is a little death, our souls leaving God to come into incarnation, and what we call death is our true birth.

But that was my understanding, not hers, so I went on praying as she wished. Two weeks before her departure she was still looking for a miracle that would heal her body.

Later, her husband told me that in the last two days, she had been accepting and seemed to be filled with light and peace. So yes, the miracle happened, although not in the way she expected.

Months after her funeral, I wrote a little parable that belongs to us all.

The Prison

When the woman was put in prison, she wailed with grief.

To come from a place of light and freedom and be confined in this small dark cell, seemed intolerable.

Yet the guards were very kind and looked after her well. There was also a small window on the wall.

It let in sunlight and when she looked through it, she could see the place of freedom from which she had come. She spent a lot of time at this window.

Gradually, she got used to the cell.

The guards furnished it for her and made it very comfortable.

There were rugs on the floor, rich wall hangings, a table and chairs and a beautiful blue velvet couch.

She occasionally went to the window to look outside, but now there was a picture over it, that had to be moved.

She found it easier to lie on the couch and admire her possessions.

She thought herself fortunate to be surrounded by so many nice objects.

The woman had been in the prison for many years when she noticed a crack in a wall.

She immediately called one of the guards who brought in plaster and sealed the crack. She was very grateful.

All was well for a short time, then another crack appeared.

This one was bigger.

Again, the guard came in, but the crack took a long time to fill and afterwards, the woman had to shift some of the wall drapes to cover the mark.

After that, she became worried about the walls of her cell.

She inspected them every day to make sure there were no new cracks, and it wasn’t long before her fears were realised.

She woke up one morning to find that a section of a wall had fallen away, and sunlight was showing through.

She screamed for the guard.

This time, the guard said the crack was beyond repair.

The woman lay on her blue velvet couch, pulled a blanket over her head, and wept.

  • Joy Cowley is a wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and retreat facilitator.
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