Miriam was married to Raju and they had six children – all girls. I liked Miriam because she was kind and gentle. She always had a cup of tea for a priest visiting families. I never got to know Raju very much. He looked a bit scary, and he hadn’t much to say for himself. The girls were all schooling. The family seemed poor.
I called to the house one morning. It was locked on the outside but Miriam was inside. I was puzzled. Later, I returned one evening. As I sat drinking tea I asked her why she was locked inside the house that afternoon. “Raju locks me in when he goes to another town,” she said, “He doesn’t trust me.” “Have you given him any reason to mistrust you?” I asked. “No,” she said. “There is something not right with him. He won’t let me visit any of my family or even go to town. Sometime it is really bad. One night last week he sat sharpening his cane knife as I prepared to go to bed. He said to me, ‘You won’t see the light tomorrow morning.’ I was so scared I couldn’t sleep all night.”
In recent years Raju became weak and sickly. Two of the girls were married and two had gone overseas. Raju was afraid now that Miriam would leave him. But she didn’t. He was hospitalized. She took him food every day and sat by his side until night fall. When he died she made sure that his burial took place from church and she observed all the cultural rites.
Today I visited her again. She just arrived home as I got there. “Where were you?” I asked. “I have just come back from the graveyard,” she replied. “I go there every day to pray for Raju.”
Columban Fr. Frank Hoare lives and works in Fiji.