Noah rushed out of his cozy maze to see what Shem wanted. As soon as Shem glimpsed his father coming toward him, he rushed off with Noah following close behind. Shem lead Noah into the lambs den where a ewe had just given birth to a little pure white lamb. The newborn was still weak and wet. The shock came because no one expected it. Shem thought they had been careful to avoid pregnancies, but this ewe must have come into the ark pregnant. Lazaria was already there having assisted with the birth. Lazaria was smiling and glowing at the beauty of this new little lamb whose mother was still licking it all over to clean off the layer of mucus. The newborn tried to stand but its folded legs collapsed beneath him a time or two until he finally straightened them out and wobbled around his mother sniffing her while she licked him.
Many of the other lambs and goats and cows looked on in curiosity. They were not accustomed to so many people being in their room at once. Soon Ham and Aurelia entered, "There you are father! We have been looking all over for you. What is going on here?"
Noah looked up at his son and proudly answered,"Look! We have a new resident!"
"Great!" exclaimed Ham noticing the baby lamb for the first time and then the swollen mother-tits, "Milk!" Ham's big blue eyes sparkled with glee.
Aurelia smacked him on the arm and responded, "Ham! Stop that! The milk is for the baby."
Watching the newborn, Ham and Aurelia were in awe of the instincts of this little lamb, that it knew how to stand and walk, and how it related to its mother. Then Ham said, "Should we feed the mother more? She must be exhausted."
"That's a good idea, maybe your best yet. Go fetch some more grain."
Soon Japheth and Sha-me arrived to see what the commotion was all about. The family stood around gazing at the mother and infant while the other animals lost interest and wandered away.
"Lazaria, let's sing something to welcome this new one into our world." said Aurelia.
The rain was still falling hard, so hard that the pounding of it could be felt inside the farm animal room. From the openings on the side of the ark that let light and fresh air in for the animals Japheth noticed that they could no longer see anything but sky, sea and rain, no treetops, no hills or mountains. He wondered if they had all been overtaken by the deluge of rain, or if the ark had drifted over to a flat part of the world, perhaps where there had always been a sea. Japheth was thinking that he was particularly grateful that the air was unusually temperate. He remembered that they started out in the midst of the hot season, but even after all these weeks, which to Japheth felt like a lifetime, the crisp air that he had always known to follow the hot season still hadn't arrived. Japheth stood there thinking pensively while the others harmonized in quick curly strings of syncopated alleluias, composing a new birthday song for the new baby lamb. Aurelia noticed that the other animals had quieted down to listen and perhaps to join their hearts in the sentiments of rejoicing.
Japheth quietly stepped out to resume his chores, and when Ham noticed, he too left with Shem close behind who went to fetch some more water for the mother.
Noah went to the gathering room to look out the bigger window and Sha-me followed him there.
"Noah, how much longer will it rain?" she asked.
Before responding Noah gazed thoughtfully at his lovely wife. Although she was an hundred years younger than he was, making her five hundred years old, her big brown eyes and high cheek bones still made Sha-me pleasant to look upon. Noah loved the way she wore her hair twisted up and fixed with the bones he honed for her, but he liked it even more when she let her silky locks fall free at night before going to bed. Sha-me had been a quiet and faithful wife. Noah felt blessed to have her by his side grateful that she never complained or argued with him even when she was told that she had to leave her brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews behind to die in the floods. Sha-me said good-bye to them in her own calm and sad way, never letting on that she knew what would become of them, knowing that there was no use causing their anguish pre-maturely, or inviting their sarcasm.
Noah shook himself out of his musing to remember her question and replied, "By my calculations less than one more week my dear." Noah sensed that Sha-me was torn in spirit.
It was true. Sha-me had grown accustomed to the discomforts of the ark in the same fashion that she had dealt with the evil and wickedness they left behind; she chose to focus on the positive. Sha-me, perhaps more than the others, was relieved to be rid of the old village with its own set of hardships, with all the gossip flying and petty strife. She was glad to have her children contained and worshipping the Lord together. She was glad to have her daughters, the wives of her sons so near, to get to know them and influence these young women who were little more than children to her and Noah. Sha-me in contemplation realized how blessed and happy she was in the ark. She had even grown accustomed to the water that surrounded them and saw it as a shield to keep them safe from threatening beasts and pests that had plagued them on earth. Sha-me thought she could be content if they stayed in this ark forever. She didn't want to see an end to the closeness they were developing with each other and with God.
"Sha-me, did you hear me? I said that by my calculation it will rain for five more days." shouted Noah to be heard over the rain that started beating on the side of the ark and sprayed through the window. The ocean waves raised and lowered the ark so that Noah and Sha-me had to fix themselves in their seats holding on to whatever they could.
At that moment Coochie walked in carefully but confidently, arms splayed, to compensate for the rocking ship. She had surely gained her sea legs thought Sha-me proud of Coochie for adapting so well. "Did you see the newborn lamb! Wasn't he adorable!" She exclaimed.
"Yes!" replied Sha-me. "How exciting to have a birth aboard our home."
"Let's hope we don't have many more births." added Noah. "We are crowded enough and we don't know how much longer we will be in this ark."
Coochie, looking a little surprised said, " I thought you said 40 days it would rain; that means the rains should be stopping soon, isn't that so father?"
"Yes Coochie," replied Noah, "but God didn't tell me how long it will take for the earth to absorb all the water and for land to appear that we may have someplace to grow our food."
Coochie had already grown thin and had lost the muscular definition she started with on their journey, but she didn't lose her cheerfulness, nor her naïveté.
"Oh! I see! I never thought of that." replied Coochie pensively.
Coochie walked over to Sha-me and gave her mother a hug. Sha-me said, "Let's not be too anxious to leave this ark of ours. How I will miss you and Japheth when you go off into the world to start your family on your own land."
"Oh, mother, don't say that! We will never leave you!"
"But you will Coochie and you must. Now let's not think about the future. Look how wet you are! Go and change your covering and come back to help me prepare the supper dear."
Lazaria and Shem were the last to leave the baby lamb. After everyone else was gone they sat quietly for a while watching them drink the water Shem brought. Shem noticed that Lazaria seemed particularly lethargic and quiet, but didn't say anything. They rose to leave at the same time as if speaking to each other subconsciously. When Lazaria stood up, she felt a little dizzy. Shem held her arm to steady her and they walked hand in hand until they reached the ladder. Shem let Lazaria go up first so he could catch her if she fell, but she didn't. When they reached the higher level, Lazaria announced that she wanted to rest. Perhaps, she said, that the excitement of the birth was too much for her. Shem walked with her to their space and tried to make her comfortable, piling skins on top to keep her warm and dry. When he was sure she was resting peacefully Shem went to look for his father.
He found his parents and Coochie in the gathering room. "Father," said Shem "I am afraid that my beloved Lazaria is ill. What can we do?"
Noah replied without hesitation, "We will ask the Lord to come down and rest His mighty hand on her and heal her. Come son, fret not. God can do all things if only we ask and believe."
Shem closed his eyes to shut out the world and to look deep within where he might sense the presence of the Spirit of God, and said, "Dear, oh dear God who has delivered Your servants from evil and wickedness, and saved us from the deadly fate of everyone we ever knew, both great and small, come and heal our sweet little songbird, Lazaria. Strengthen her Lord that she may serve You and love You as Your loving and faithful child." His prayer helped Shem to feel confident that he was heard and that indeed Lazaria would be well.
"She will be fine Shem. You will see; the Lord heard your plea and surely He has already healed. Shall I go check in on her?" asked Sha-me.
"No, mother. She is resting now. We will let her sleep. What should I do? Do you need any help father?"
Noah perceived that Shem was still worried for his wife. He needed to think of something difficult for him to do to keep him from surrendering to anxiety. "Shem, we only have a few days of rain left. Our cisterns are full, but we don't know how long that fresh water will have to last. Can you build more cisterns? Perhaps you can get your brothers to help."
Just then, a big wave slammed the ark while the driving rains continued to dump buckets of water inside the gathering room window.
"Oh no!" exclaimed Coochie. "Now, I'm all wet again and I have nothing dry to change into. Is it any wonder we aren't all sick!" Noah caste a stern look at Coochie who immediately caught her insensitivity and repented saying, "I'm sorry, I didn't mean that the way it sounded. Woah, here we go again! " the turbulent sea and driving rain drove everyone to the floor. "Come, let's get out of this room." Shouted Noah. "Shem, do you know where Ham is, let's see if he can help us with that project."
Sha-me and Coochie tried to stand up too. Sha-me felt like the wobbly baby lamb she just saw standing for the very first time. Once they got up, they held hands to create a broader base beneath them from which to balance themselves. Slowly, inch by inch Sha-me and Coochie made their way over to the corridor grateful again for the railings the menfolk had put up at the last minute with leftover tree limbs. "Let's go find Aurelia," shouted Sha-me,"and we will continue to pray for Lazaria together."
By coincidence they spotted Aurelia heading towards them from the end of the long dark corridor. "Aurelia!" exclaimed Coochie, surprised to see her so soon. The three ladies came together holding on to both walls. "What is it Coochie? Hello mother."
"Lazaria is ill. We must help her."
"The Lord loves Lazaria, maybe more than all of us. Let us tell Him that she is ill and He will heal her." responded Aurelia at the news.
"We prayed with Noah, but let's pray again." Said Sha-me anxiously.
The ladies extended their arms around each other forming a circle of love and solidarity that even the rocking ship could not shake loose. Again they reminded God of His love for Lazaria and her beautiful chants and begged Him to heal her.
"Come," said Sha-me, "let's make her some tea and go to her."
The ladies went to the dining room and gathered all they could find to strengthen and comfort their beloved Lazaria, and then headed to her room together. Aurelia, Sha-me, and Coochie were all a little nervous each of them in a cacophony of thoughts teetering between fear and faith over how they would soon find their beloved Lazaria.
Coochie lead the pack through the narrow foyer that lead to her space. Sha-me and Aurelia were close behind armed with their instruments of healing.
In the dim room with only one narrow slit for daylight to enter the ladies saw Lazaria lying very still under layers of skins. Sha-me moved to the front of the group and scurried to her side. She quickly dropped to her knees to get a close look and saw Lazaria's white and lifeless face. Sha-me looked at Coochie and Aurelia in disbelief and then back at Lazaria. She then drew down the covers and found her hand lying on her heart. She took the cold hand in hers and knew then that it was true. All life and breath were gone from their sweet songbird.
Aurelia and Coochie gasped in unison and then also fell to their knees to see for themselves. Sha-me moved back to allow the sisters to behold Lazaria from up close.
Coochie cried aloud and between sobs managed to say to God, "Oh Lord, God why didn't you come to her rescue? Didn't we just moments ago with Noah beg you to heal Lazaria? How is this possible? Why did You linger and let her die?"
Aurelia had no words to say. She simply weeped with tears streaming down from her eyes, for Aurelia had grown to admire Lazaria more and more over the last few weeks. She loved her peacefulness and quiet confidence. She perceived that Lazaria had a very private personal relationship with God that Aurelia wanted to know about, but had never gotten the opportunity to discuss as much as she wanted to. And now it was too late; she would never know. Suddenly Aurelia, as if outside of herself, heard herself beginning to chant the Alleluia and Coochie and Sha-me chimed in through their tears. There was nothing else to be done for her. Sha-me wondered where she was, and where God was. Coochie wondered what Shem would do when he found out.
There the ladies were gathered weeping, and contemplating and chanting and lying still under layers of skins for hours together until darkness swallowed the last ounce of light. They heard the footsteps coming and a call from Shem.
"Mother, where are you?"
Shem entered the room. He was sent by the menfolk who were looking for dinner and wondered where Sha-me and the other wives had gone. He didn't expect to see all four women together in the room. By then the women were no longer weeping so the situation was not obvious to Shem.
"How is she? Lazaria darling, how do you feel?" said Shem quietly. Coochie and Aurelia stepped back to let Shem get close, and Sha-me gave her son a big mother-hug. Her grip told Shem what he didn't want to know.
He looked at her and cried aloud, "Oh God, my God, how could this be?! How could my little bird leave us like this? Where have you taken her Lord?"
Shout as he did, repeat the cry as often as he did, God still did not answer. God was as silent after Lazaria died as He was before.
Coochie and Aurelia signaled to each other to leave and they tiptoed out of the room without being noticed. Sha-me stayed with her son and daughter for a little while longer in case Shem needed to talk. But Shem didn't want to talk; he just wanted to cry.
Even in death Lazaria was radiant. Her skin was smooth and fair, her long wavy blonde locks fell over her small round breasts. Her full lips were slightly open as if she was about to speak. Her eyes too were open and her face looked pleasantly surprised. It was Shem who decided to shut her eyes so she could look as if she were only sleeping.
Soon they heard the footsteps of Noah rushing to the room.
"Coochie told me. How could God have neglected us like this?" Noah said in dismay. No one attempted to answer for God. Noah walked over to his son and knelt beside him. He stroked the lovely forehead of Lazaria and reached down for her still and cold hand and wept. Words could not describe the confluence of thoughts and emotions that swirled in Noah's faithful heart.
Shem broke the dense silence by asking, "Father, what should we do with her body?"
"Let us leave Lazaria here to rest, my son. We cannot toss her out to sea as if she were one of the damned. She was better than that, she was an angel. We will wrap her tightly in the skins and when we land we will plant her in the earth."
Noah and Sha-me helped Shem roll Lazaria tightly in the skins. They planned to get some hemp rope and tie it around the body and leave it to rest right in that cave of a room where she went to regain her strength and health. Shem told his parents that he wanted to stay with beautiful Lazaria that night, but that he would meet them for prayer in the morning.
Respectfully Noah and Sha-me left Shem and Lazaria to be alone together that their spirits may have a chance to commune if ever they could without physical touch.
The darkness had sent each of the other pair of mates to their own beds without supper that night but with enough food for thought to last them for a week. One by one each man and woman silently noticed that the waters had calmed and the ship was sailing smoothly. Sleep came easily.
Sha-me was the first to awaken and remember the tragedy of the previous evening. She rose from her bed knowing how hungry everyone else would be too and began to prepare the morning meal. One by one Noah, Ham and Japheth with their wives gathered to assist her. The room also needed tidying up as the turbulence of the previous day had left it in complete disarray.
Sha-me didn't know whether they should fetch Shem for breakfast or not, but finally decided to save some food for him. Just as they were gathering for the prayer time, Shem emerged looking drained but alive. "I am ready for the prayer time." he said somewhat mechanically.
Coochie ran over and gave Shem a sisterly hug. "Shem, my brother, I am sure God has a reason for this; perhaps He is testing us and we must show that we trust Him by accepting what has happened and still love and worship Him. Can you believe this?" Coochie was a little surprised to hear herself say that. She knew that she wanted to comfort Shem, but wasn't sure what to say. She wondered if God spoke through her.
"I believe," replied Shem, then added, "help me to believe."