Debbie sat lost in thought as usual. She would be marking her twenty-seventh birthday in dismay like the ones before it. She remembered her last celebrated birthday, she was just ten; ten, yet filled with hopes and love. Her smiles : like Papa said could stir the heart of any king. Her mother would say “unfortunately she couldn’t get married to a King as they were no King in Israel fit for her beautiful heart”.
Then her best friend Mary and herself will act as newly weds like they saw in Aunty Martha’s wedding. Life was planned out. Mary will say she hoped to have seven sons and three daughters but Debbie thought that was too much to ask. All she wanted was a son and a daughter : a son who will look like her Josiah, her Prince Charming, her knight in shining armour, her firm yet loving Josiah, and a daughter just like herself. Josiah was just thirteen, but he had a liking to her. He would bring her roast corn, and then wheats. If she wasn’t smiling, he would bring her fish, when she made a new hair he would bring her fresh wine.
Mama said Josiah was the kind of young man she prayed for whenever they went to the temple.
Four years later and every girl her age had started the monthly purification rites after menstruation.
Little Mary had even started at eleven.
Papa got worried often. He would say “how do I marry you off when you haven’t proofed you’re fertile ground for a man’s seed?
Mama would come to her defense and say girls matured differently.
Though Mama acted indifferently, she went to the temple daily at noon to say prayers : prayers for her precious Debbie. She would cry throughout till she came home. She spent two hours daily crying to God for Debbie.
Whereas Debbie had a different worry. Josiah will carefully find out each evening if she saw as little as a tickle of blood. He would tell her he didn’t need children he needed her. He would say she was nothing compared to other girls who came seeking his attention, neither were her parents like theirs, who would invite his father for dinner at their homes so he would see their daughter as prospective wife for Josiah.
She was worried Josiah will get tired of waiting, she felt the pressure would be too much he would succumb. She cried every night telling God she couldn’t bear to see another girl with her Josiah.
Josiah didn’t understand why everyone expected a couple to have children. He felt marriage was more about the friendship than the children. If children came they only did to spoil the fun and yes he could employ hands to work on his farm he didn’t need sons to get that done. His Father will hear nothing of that, he often said you need children to keep the family alive, you need them to carry your name.
His mother will say she knew Debbie was beautiful and will bring him Joy, but a man needs more than the Joy a woman brings. He needs children to surround his table, sons for defense and daughters for decor. She advised him to look at other beautiful girls around, she offered to help him find them.
Few days to her fifteen birthday she began to feel strange. Sometimes her waist ached,she couldn’t as much as bend, then her breast will feel unnecessarily heavy. She would wake up weak and feel irritated, then on the eve of her birthday she had cramps: she didn’t know who to share her recent experience with as her mother and nurse had traveled by boat to a wedding, they were to come back that day.
On her birthday, her mother kissed her on her temples like she always did. My crown I’m back! and happy Birthday! She woke up feeling moist below, she went to ease herself and what she saw made her scream, it was red and sticky. Mother usually told her it would scare her the first time it came and yes it did.
Her voice caused Mama and Lois to come to her aid: relieved by the discovery, Lois made her a venison from one of the rams. Lois knows how to soothe my pain she told Mama that day, she is a good nurse.
Everyone at home was happy apart from her. The pain and discomfort that came along with it was unbearable. How was she to cope with this for so long.
When Josiah heard of it, he got her a new shawl, slippers and brought her fifteen fish. He said it was for her Birthday, but she knew better.
After five days, she was still flowing: that’s what little Mary used to say “Debbie I’m flowing I can’t go out in that white skirt”
Mama told her not to worry, “it’s your first time”
Well it turned out this first time wasn’t going to be pleasant. After one week they were still traces of blood, it meant the purification process will be a bit delayed. How she longed to wash in the waters of Mikveh, to show the world that she was fit for her Josh, To shut the lips of gossips, to shame mockers and drive girls away from her Josh.
The day for purification came, The night before was a long one, turning on the bed hoping for dawn.
Then Lois walked into the room, “lazy bones come alive!” she said that every morning. I rushed to have my bath so I could appear clean for purification.
Then I saw traces of blood again Yea, with clothing, not traces I was still flowing.
How long Will it take her to have her bath? and you sit here Lois letting her play on a scared day like this. Mama walked into the bathroom before I could do anything, the look on her face when she saw me was devastating, she looked confused yet trying to hide her emotions like she always did.
Tears welled up in my eyes and found their way out, flowing like a calm stream. Lois held me to her side, no one could fathom the cause.
Papa met the Levite Simeon, Who was in charge of the Mikveh bath. My day was rescheduled.
The day would have been fine but for gossips: the news had spread like wild fire. I was inconsolable. Josh came around but he couldn’t see me, he got beads for my waist, beads he must have bought at Jerusalem, probably he thought it would bring an end to the discomfort I felt.
After three days I made it to Mikveh, the water that transforms, I felt outwardly clean. I was so happy that day.
Later that evening Josh and I talked late into the night. My dreams got the spark once more.
Everything seemed okay until the next month, the month that changed her world, the month that brought her world crumbling.
It started that cold Tuesday morning and continued for eternity.
She was quickened by the sound of traders and their customers bargaining their wares.
It was few minutes past 4pm, going to the general well to fetch water was her only contact with people. Everyone avoided her like a plague. “How could she be dwelling in impurity for so long?” she once heard a girl tell her friend.
Her only visitor was Josh. He came every afternoon, he had refused to get married to anyone but her. He even wanted to get married to her, but Debbie will not hear that, she didn’t want to be a burden to anyone.
She had moved to the end of the street miles away from her parents and nurse. She would tend to her garden and send the produce to Lois, she would sell them and bring the money to her.
She wouldn’t depend on her parents for survival anymore.
She had visited every known medical personnel in Israel.
She sold her clothes, shoes and jewelries to pay. The money from her garden was only enough to feed her daily. Josh came around with fish, fresh wine, coconut oil and often expensive articles of clothing he got her from Jerusalem or on his trip to Egypt.
Her parents were frequently visiting, coming with news of someone they believed will be an end to her calamity. Like always the results were the same.
It may cause the flow of blood to cease for a day or two but never brought regularity.
Debbie was resigned to her fate. Her only trouble was Josh, sweet Josh, he had his life on hold just to keep her happy, that brought her more pain.
The walk to the well was uneventful, she loved it, no one to run from her or look upon her with scorn, she didn’t have to see girls staring at her in dismay, it was one of those evenings that gave her time to think. Then she heard voices, usually she would walk away but she stayed mute. “I’m so sure He is coming to our town, my father said he sent demons out of the possessed man at Gerasenes and word had it that they were crossing over here, I can’t wait to see him myself ” the first voice said.
“I really want to see Jesus, not like I believe all people have said about him, but I want to see the wonder man.”
Debbie was delighted, she couldn’t wait, she was sure he would go through her street, whatever she felt within she couldn’t describe, it was a feeling something new would happen. Her walk back home was shorter. She would imagine what seeing Jesus will feel like, she wanted to touch him, she wanted to hold him, she wanted to hear him speak to her, but she knew it would be difficult, the crowd that will follow him will be something else.
She perceived a pungent smell, it was a familiar one, the odour she had carried for twelve long years, this time she didn’t hiss or cry like other times, she smiled: she wouldn’t bath in frankincense like she did after every shower, she wouldn’t even apply coconut oil, she would use kernel oil, it would make her smell worse, no one will stand in her way with such smell.
She slept peacefully for the first time in years. The Night seemed so short, about 5am she heard voices afar, like a mighty army marching, but she could hear delighted voices too, quickly she applied kernel oil to her skin. She would wait till he came her way.
The wait was a long one, by 9am he wasn’t as much as close to her street, she was anxious. It felt like she was going to face the whole Levi tribe, like Abraham, Moses and Elijah would stare at her.
She couldn’t face Jesus, not with all the stories she had heard about Him. She heard he Forgave sins, he restored sight, he caused the lame to walk and the deaf heard, he even commands demons : demons she felt were responsible for her calamity, he commands them!
No she couldn’t, she couldn’t come in contact with such awe, she would get crazy, she decided to touch his garment, if he did so much wonders as she heard, if he truly was the son of God: the God who parted waters twice, sent manna, killed the firstborn of all Egypt, then His Garment should have as much power as he does. She would touch the hem. Yea, she wouldn’t ask for much, all she needed was a cure. She could pay anything.
The sound was deafening, He had come around, he was walking through her street.
The crowd was pressing in on Him. She couldn’t even see Him. Quickly she joined the group she tried to get her way through and it worked, people let her pass: the smell was like nothing they had perceived before, flies came after her too. It made her way easier, people cursed her, some spat in her direction, she didn’t care, she was three people away from Jesus she moved closer, now directly behind him, she went on her knees and touched his garment : what happened was quick, in a split second she felt restored, what she had spent her lifetime trying to Achieve, she lost twelve years searching for something she could just touch, she had wasted money trying to buy this and here was it just a touch away.
Then she heard a voice, different from the ones she had always heard, it had Love and authority, it was tender yet firm, it was like Music. “Who touched my garment?” He said, she couldn’t show herself, his eyes searched through the crowd and couldn’t hide it anymore, she held on to his feet ,
She told Him Everything, how worthless her life had been, how she had become a shadow of herself.
She wept while speaking.
She felt His touch, it was nothing like Josh’s, it soothe her, it felt like compensation for years of shame, it was loving.
Jesus said to her, “Daughter, you took a risk of faith, and now you’re healed and whole. Live well, live blessed! Be healed of your plague. “
Those words were PRICELESS