Lina was forced to accompany her mother on a holiday in Jerusalem. All she wanted was to be near her Grandma who was so ill.
“No! I don’t want to go!” protested Lina, pouting and stamping her foot like she was a five-years-old. “I want to stay here with Grandma!”
Lina had lived with her grandmother for all the 11 years of her life. For a large part of it her parents had been abroad, first studying and then working. Grandma had been the only constant in Lina’s life and now they wanted her to leave Grandma when she was ill!
“I won’t go!” she insisted, but both Ma and Pa turned away and she knew they had stopped listening. Lina couldn’t run to Grandma for support, as she usually did when her parents ignored her, because Grandma was in hospital.
“The tour company has agreed to take you in my place with just the additional visa charges,” Pa had said. “I am needed here to handle any medical emergencies that arise.”
Lina wanted to say: “You didn’t think that I should go with you at the outset, you didn’t even tell me you were planning this — and now you are not letting me stay with my favourite person in the world when she’s sick!” But she said nothing. What was the use?
It was a very sullen Lina who accompanied her mother on their pilgrimage-tour of the Holy Land that Easter week. The streets of Jerusalem overflowed with people and Lina almost got lost several times, but now at last it was quiet as she sat on a stone bench outside the Church of All Nations, within the Garden of Gethsemane. She liked this place. The olive trees were obviously really old and there were stones everywhere, including inside the church.
She was thinking about Grandma. There was absolutely no change in her condition, Pa had messaged Ma last night. She was still barely conscious, not responding to his words or touch.
“She would have responded to me!” said Lina aloud, not realising that she was not alone.
“You’re worried,” said a soft voice beside her and Lina gave a start. It was one of the Franciscan priests, dressed in a coarse robe.
“It’s my grandma!” Lina blurted out. “She’s sick — and I want to be with her at home, but instead I am here!”
“You could pray for her,” suggested the priest gently.
“I would rather hold her…” said Lina. She held out her hand and showed the priest the little statue she had picked up from her grandmother’s bedside table before leaving the house. “I’ve touched this in all the holy places,” she said bitterly, “but Grandma’s condition is the same...”
“It is only a statue, it cannot perform miracles,” he murmured, and took the statue from her and turned it around. Then he pressed it back into her hand. “But maybe your faith can.”
Just then Lina caught sight of Ma coming out of the church. She stood up. “I have to go,” she said.
The priest stood up too and Lina waved to him as he walked into the cordoned area which housed the olive trees, and knelt beneath one of the trees. “Who are you waving to?” asked her mother. “You know you’re not supposed to talk to strangers.”
“I was talking to that priest,” indicated Lina, pointing him out to her mother.
“Very funny,” said Ma. “There’s no one there.”
Lina looked again. True, there was now no one anywhere near the olive trees. “He was there a second ago!” exclaimed Lina.
She looked down at the statue she held. She could still feel the imprint of the priest’s hand on hers. The statue seemed different somehow — more transparent, more luminous, more beautiful. With the face of the priest who had spoken to her.
A sound on her mother’s cell phone told them that there was a message. It must be Papa. Lina suddenly knew what it would say — and she ran to her mother joyfully. She had faith.