Her Final Prayer - Kathryn Casey


“I’m late,” Naomi muttered. She turned right out of the trailer park and heard a faint grinding coming from the white van. She wondered about the health of the wheel bearings, or if the brakes needed repair. Before Abe died, he kept the family’s vehicles in top condition. Back then, in addition to the van all three sister-wives had their own cars. Now the family had only the aging van. Naomi glanced at the odometer: 148,692 miles, most of it on mountain roads. How long would it last?

A little more than a year since Abe’s passing, their world had become infinitely harder, and Naomi had begun to think of her life as before and after. Before, they had the big house in town. Mornings were busy but manageable. A calming force, Abe circulated and gave each child a kiss on the forehead and encouraged them to study hard and make him proud.

After? Naomi pulled back an errant strand of her brown hair—just beginning to fade at forty-five—and deftly tucked it back into her topknot. She could think of only one word: chaos.

This morning, a Monday, was a perfect example. Up before sunrise, the women rushed about in the cramped double-wide trailer, surrounded by sixteen of their jostling and complaining offspring. Too many bodies in a small space bred confusion. While Sariah flipped pancakes, Ardeth fulfilled her status as first wife and head of the family by shouting orders: “Sit down at the table! Eat! Get dressed! Don’t forget to collect your homework!”

Meanwhile, Naomi tried in vain to quiet the storm for a brief morning prayer. She had finally calmed the other children when Kaylynn clamped on to her leg and held tight, scrunching her eyes shut in rebellion and screaming that she wouldn’t go to pre-kindergarten. Not that morning. Not ever.

“Child, let go!” Naomi had shouted. She didn’t like raising her voice with the little ones, but everyone had a limit, and the girl had found hers. “Kaylynn, I insist you be still. You will obey me. I am your mother.”

In spite of the confusion, by the time the sun came up, the children had eaten and dressed. The girls in their long prairie dresses and the boys in khaki pants and button-down shirts rifled through the dozens of hand-me-down winter jackets that hung from hooks. At the last possible moment, they all, including Kaylynn, ran out the door to catch the school bus.

Yet the hubbub delayed Naomi’s departure. Forty minutes later than she’d planned, she left the trailer to work the hives.

Winters in Utah’s high valleys could be hard, and she had to prepare the bees. The first hard freeze was expected that night, and snow already dusted the mountaintops surrounding the small town of Alber. If her hives were to live through the frigid months to come, Naomi had to make preparations. A lot to accomplish—she had little time to spare. In three hours, Naomi had to return the van to the trailer so Ardeth could do the family’s bi-weekly grocery shopping.

Considering the time crunch, Naomi wondered if she should have made the promise the day before. Heading southeast, she glanced over at the metal and plastic object wrapped in a plastic bag that sat on the seat beside her.

At Sunday’s church service, Naomi had had a long conversation with Laurel Johansson about her baby, Jeremy. “I’m afraid he’s not getting enough nourishment,” Laurel had confided. “Two months old and he’s not much over his birth weight.”

Saying she understood the young woman’s concerns, Naomi explained the benefits of using a breast pump. In fact, Naomi said she had one Laurel could use. “I’ll drop it off in the morning.”

A big, handsome man with shaggy dark blond hair and laser-like blue eyes, Laurel’s husband, Jacob, had stood beside them, listening intently. “That would be kind of you, Naomi. What time will you arrive?”

Giving Jacob a broad smile, Naomi vowed, “I’ll be there at seven thirty, no later.”

A first-time mother, Laurel had been so grateful that she threw her arms around Naomi and hugged her.

Naomi turned off the highway, passing the Johansson family’s bison grazing in the surrounding fields. Naomi wondered if Laurel realized how lucky she was to be Jacob’s second wife. He came from a respected family, one with a business that funded all their needs. More than a thousand head roamed the Johanssons’ 300 acres. Skilled marketers, they sold to high-end meat markets where big-city folk paid premium prices.

“Envy is the devil’s cauldron,” Naomi mumbled, reminding herself to