She was a different woman. I didn’t know her well. She dressed unusually, she wore cropped silver hair, gaudy jewelry, and carried a quilted Bible cover.
She claimed she was a healer.
Once, I saw her try to heal my friend’s leg in her kitchen—my friend’s leg was a few inches shorter than the other.
The old woman tried to lengthen it. She rubbed her hands together and said, “The power of the Holy Spirit…”
My buddy sat in a chair, closing his eyes like he was getting a tetanus shot.
“Do you believe?” asked the old woman.
She gripped his ankle and hummed. I didn’t see anything happen. But my friend claimed his limp was less pronounced for a few hours.
My other encounter with her was not long after my father died. The old woman visited our house to babysit me.
That night, she took me to her church. I rode shotgun in her Chevette. We arrived at a small sheet-metal building with dozens of cars parked around it.
A sweaty man paced a church stage, screaming and hollering. At the end of service, he shed his jacket. He rolled his sleeves. He touched people’s foreheads; they fell down and giggled.
She told me, “You oughta go get a blessing.”
“No thanks,” I said.
Before I knew it, she had me by the hand, walking down the aisle. The man laid a meaty hand on me. He yelled at God.
Nothing happened. So, he hollered louder.
On the way home, she took me to Dairy Queen. I’ll never forget it. She bought me a hamburger and a milkshake.
She told me stories about herself. Personal stories. About her daughter—who’d gotten pregnant as a teenager. About her son—who was addicted to drugs.
She talked about her father, who died when she was a girl. And an ex-husband who once abused her.
She told me she’d always believed she was a healer. Though sometimes she doubted herself because she’d never seen a single healing or miracle.
Even so, she still prayed for hurting people. She still touched the sick.
Then, she touched my arm. She said, “Do you know that I pray for you every day, sweetie?”
I didn’t know what to say, so I said nothing.
I regret that today.
The last time I saw her, I was in my late twenties. It was a hardware store, she was working the register. She saw me. We hugged.
Half her face was paralyzed from a stroke. She walked with a cane, and her speech was labored.
She said, “I still pray for you every day, baby.”
And I was a child again. A child in Dairy Queen, seated beside a miracle worker still waiting on her first miracle. A woman who cared about me.
The half-paralyzed woman kissed my cheek. Then, she touched my forehead with both hands. I didn’t feel any magic except the warmth of her palms.
Maybe that’s the only magic that ever mattered.
I thanked her. And I’m glad I did.
Because I understand two nights ago, Miss Lydia met the Greatest Healer of them all.