Grace S. Potts
I shared this story with a woman whose godly old father had just died after a long, debilitating, dignity-robbing illness. It’s a lot for a blog post, but I’m convinced someone out there needs the same hope.
In a time of wickedness no worse than our own, there remained one righteous man.
"Build an ark," God said to Noah, "and take
your family to safety." As the ark was being
built, another old man lived the last of his
days. He, too, found his Maker faithful.
Palpable darkness crushed him. Then, as its weight swirled up from him, Methuselah tried to stretch away the pain. His old bones creaked in protest, but the pain in his soul screamed, for he was still caught in a dream of the wickedness that surrounded him.
He woke, and could not open his burning eyes. He listened for the sounds of his family, longing to speak with his grandson Noah. The house echoed with emptiness, but an unfamiliar hammering rang from somewhere outside. He stirred to rise and look, but his body would not obey him. He lifted a wizened hand and forced open an eye.
There, before him, a figure waited quietly.
Methuselah tried to greet his friend, but his mouth was dry and made no sound. The friend lifted the old man’s head and gave him a few drops of water, then a few more, until his tongue worked again.
“Elohe,” he croaked. “I’ve been asleep. Have you been here long?”
“As long as the days of your life.”
Methuselah closed his eye and rubbed it. “What’s that noise?” he asked.
"That’s Noah. I told him to build an ark.”
Elohe laughed. “An ark,” he said. “For I’ve heard your cries, and Noah’s, and will give you peace. I will open the storehouse of heaven and send rain upon the earth, and I will open the gates of the deep. I will send waters to drown every creature, for I regret having made these wicked men. Only those I keep safe within the ark, Noah and his family, will live.”
Elohe wet a cloth and washed Methuselah’s eyes, then gave him more water to drink. Methuselah looked long at his friend, then closed his eyes and drifted into sleep. Elohe sat by him and waited.
“I was thinking of my father. Do you remember when you walked with him in the evenings?”
Elohe smiled. “Yes.”
“I watched him go out alone every evening,” said Methuselah. “He’d come back and tell me of his visit with you. More than anything I wanted to go with him and be with you, but he only said, ‘A man must walk alone with God. You will learn.'”
Methuselah sighed. “Then I called out to you, and you came to me, and walked with me, too.”
“It took you long enough. I was waiting for you.”
“But that’s how it is with the old ones,” said another soft voice. “It does no good to try to talk with him. Before you can speak, he’s asleep again. Besides, his memories are all the company he needs.”
“What’s rain, Elohe?”
Elohe started to explain, but Methuselah had fallen asleep.
“When you took my father away with you, I worried about my grandfather, for they were close. He longed for the comfort of his son in his old age.”
“He had you.”
“Yes, and I was a son to him. But now I’m old, and I understand. The pain I saw in him was my own. He was old enough to see the joy beyond the pain. I think he felt so much joy that it overcame his sorrow. Noah is so much like him.”
Elohe smiled, and the friends waited together, listening as the music of Noah’s obedience filled the room.
Methuselah bore these indignities with patience, but when his granddaughters had finished and left him, he said, “How dreadful this must be for you, Elohe, to sit with an old man who cannot keep himself clean. I don’t know I have to relieve myself, and I don’t know that I have. When you come to me, how will I know if I’m clean enough to receive you.”
“Is your heart clean, Methuselah?”
Methuselah heard the voice of his grandson Noah, and roused himself. “You’ve come! I’ve waited for you.”
"I have something to tell you. I’ve worked all day. Did you hear the sounds?”
“We’ll be making a journey! God came to me and said to build an ark! We’ll go to sea in a floating house, while He makes the earth clean again! I’m making a room for you near the cattle, where you’ll be warm…”
“I know all about it.”
“What? How could you know?”
But Methuselah had fallen asleep again.
“Once I climbed to the top of the eastern mountain, to see if my eyes could see the ends of your creation.”
“What did you see?”
“I saw the day and the night. I saw an eagle… Elohe, when I’m here, I watch the eagles and wonder what it would be to fly. But there, in his land… Even there, he flew so far above me that I… My heart followed him, Elohe, and when I lost him, I lost my heart.”
“And what did you hear on the mountaintop?”
Methuselah was quiet, remembering. Finally he said, “I heard the wind whistling through the stars.”
“I’ve been under this roof for a very long time. I’d like to see the stars again before I die.”
Elohe lifted the frail old man, and felt the lightness of his burden. He carried Methuselah from the house and stood with him beneath the night sky.
“Ah, Elohe! The stars have faded. I can see them better with my eyes closed.”
Elohe smiled. “Close your eyes, then,” he said. “Be still and listen. The stars are singing as they sang at the creation.”
“I hear them, Elohe! They sing of peace to me.”
When the stars had sung Methuselah to sleep, Elohe turned and carried him to his bed.
“Noah comes to me every evening and tells me what he’s done. He tells me how all the people come to mock him. One man shouted today that the ark is a house of fools who follow a god of fools. They don’t know what they don’t know, so who is the fool?”
“To a small man, both great and small are foolish.”
“My father didn’t get to say goodbye to me when he left. Tonight he came to me in a dream and said ‘Hello.’”
“Soon you’ll see him again.”
“My father pleased you.”
“Yes. Enoch is my friend.”
“But you gave him few years.”
“His years have ended, but his life hasn’t.”
“Why did you give me so many years? Was it to reward my father?”
“I’ve blessed you because you please me.”
Methuselah closed his eyes and rested, but his thoughts were too heavy for sleep. Elohe waited, knowing his friend hadn’t finished.
“Noah’s building me a room on the ark.”
“Can I bear it?” Methuselah asked. Then, wearied by the long journey before it had even begun, Methuselah slept.
“I am now, Noah.”
“I’ve finished, Grandfather! The ark is ready, and filled with food. My sons are settling the animals. There are so many of them that it will take a long time. We’ll move you last, after everything is ready. Or, would you rather go now and watch?”
Methuselah closed his eyes.
“In the night I heard the stars sing, Noah. I’m still listening.”
“Good night, Grandfather.”
“Is it morning?”
“Noah came yesterday and told me my room is ready.”
“You’re sad today.”
“I’m weary of this world, Elohe. I’m weary of this old body. Of what use to me is the ark? My children have all they can do with caring for the animals. I’ll only be more work for them. And if I die, where will they lay my bones? Even if I don’t die, the smell of an old man’s weakness… I’ll be too much for them."
“Soon,” said Elohe.
“What will it be like to leave this world?” asked Methuselah.
“Remember the eagle who took your heart?”
Methuselah stirred, and wondered if the whisper he heard was part of his dream.
“Methuselah, wake up.”
“I’m here, Elohe.”
“Methuselah. Why sleep in this old body anymore? Come home with me now. We’ll look down on the eagle, and he’ll yearn to follow.“