Naamah was worried, it was well after the rising of the sun, but still there was no sign of Methuselah. She approached his tent with care as the old man was particular about his privacy. Calling his name as she entered, it took her a moment for her eyes to adjust to the darkened space. She could hear heavy breathing, assuming at first that he was still sleeping, but as she approached his raised sleeping platform, covered in woollen skins to keep him warm, she realised all was not well. Methuselah’s eyes were open, as if gazing beyond where she stood in front of him. His breath was strong if raspy, but he seemed unable to speak. His eyes focussed on her face when she spoke his name once more, a touch of a smile on the corner of his mouth, but still no words. She ran for Noah who had been standing in his usual place overlooking the valley for his morning prayers. The others, hearing the commotion and urgency in Naamah’s tone, rushed with Noah to the tent of their great-grandfather. The women saw to Methuselah’s physical needs as Noah and his sons stood awkwardly nearby. Noah’s face was filled with worry and doubt. His grandfather was of such great age, he ought to have prepared himself for this day, but somehow it never dawned on him that this might happen.
‘How old is he?’ asked Japheth softly, they had only ever known him as an old man. ‘He’s in his 970th year’, whispered Noah, ‘I always assumed that he would make the thousand. ‘It is a great age’, added Ham, intending no harm, but Noah jerked around to him, speaking harshly, ‘He is not so old that he cannot live longer’, he snarled. Ham seemed to shrink back into himself at the intensity of the tone. Noah, turned back to face the dying ancient, ‘He has been both father and grandfather to me for many, many years’. Tears began to fall as he gasped, ‘How on earth do I keep going without him?’
‘You’ll have to do what you’ve always done’, croaked the old familiar voice of his grandfather, ‘you’ll only listen to half of what I tell you!’. They all looked on him with amazement. ‘Do not resent me returning to my fathers’, wheezed Methuselah, ‘I have begun to feel quite stretched of late, these are too many years for a Son of Adam to endure. Thank God he cast us from the Sacred Garden before we might eat of the tree of life and never die’. Naamah pressed a damp cloth onto his weather-worn forehead. ‘Hush now, grandfather’, she whispered, ‘rest your voice, you will need all your energy to get better’. The ancient one looked on her with genuine pity. ‘I am not much longer for this world, No, let me speak, I do not fear death, I welcome it. I picture myself returning to that Garden where Adam and Eve walked with God in the cool of the day, not so very long ago. I can see its gates, guarded still by mighty Seraphim, but I fancy, they just might let me in!’ he gasped with a spasm of pain that seemed to grip his frail body. ‘Noah, do not fear what is to come, and do not lock your family out of your thoughts and fears. Long have I watched you struggle to do what is right and honourable, long have I feared for you. There are too many storms locked away within you, each one waiting for their moment to escape. Be patient with yourself, be patient with your sons and daughters, be patient with God, he will tell you what to do’. Again he smiled weakly at Naamah, still tending him as large tears fell from her face on to his, ‘And listen to Naamah, long have I perceived her wisdom, long have I seen her destiny. She is your rock now, she sees much, understands more than she knows, and listens quietly to the voice of God that grows stronger within her’.
He looked at his three great grandsons and their beautiful wives. ‘My children, carry me out, so I may gaze once more upon the wonder that you are creating.’ It took some time to help him to the spot where Noah prayed each morning. As he settled on a bank of cloths and cushions, he looked with pride on the emerging frame of the ARK. He lifted his shaking hand slowly until it gripped Noah’s hand with surprising strength. ‘Noah, I have watched you follow God so faithfully, so carefully. You have toiled night and day to obey and to please him. May you know the depth and pleasure that God and I both take from who you are, and what you do. There are many storms gathering, my beloved grandson. Some will come from the sky, some from deep beneath the earth, but it is the storms that are locked within you which will challenge you the most’. Noah could feel his grip weaken as he spoke his final words, ‘Trust God, do not fear, He will keep you paths straight. Bury me here, and remember me when you stand above me in prayer.’ Gathering all his fading energy for one last time, he called out, ‘Love God my children, my soul is growing, even as my body fades. I can see the Garden clearly now, the veil is gone, the guarding angels are stepping back, welcoming me in, home to my Father and my fathers…..’