You can hear my mother’s sobs throughout the palace. They are inescapable: rebounding off of the stones in the walls, carrying from room to room, her cries travel everywhere. Even the servants who did not know Armoni and Mefiboshet are in tears when they come to serve my mother her meals, brought to a state of mourning by this unadulterated pain of a mother for her sons. I have never seen her this way before; she was not even this upset when my father, Shaul Hamelech, died.
“Armoni and Mefiboshet sinned, Mother,” I tell her, pulling my chair closer to the bed in which she has laid since the news came. “When Father struck down the Givonim in spite of Hashem’s command not to, they helped him. David Hamelech had no choice but to deliver them to the Givonim, in punishment for their deed.”
The stark truth does not comfort my mother, and her cries are renewed afresh.
“Ritzpah, you know that Azuva is right,” Na’ama, a friend of mother’s who has remained with us since David handed Armoni and Mefiboshet over to the Givonim, says. “You cannot stay in your rooms all day in hysterics.”
“Then what can I do?” she sobs. The new tears drop onto the coverlet, making fresh tracks on her cheeks. “Two of my precious children, my only sons, have been hanged!”
“You must drink your soothing teas,” I say, handing her a fresh cup that one of the servants brought. She reluctantly takes the mug in both hands, allowing its warmth to seep into her body, and sips the hot liquid. “And you must remember Hashem natan v’Hashem lakach – God gives and God takes. Hashem gave you Armoni and Mefiboshet, and then took them away.” This reminder of their death brings more tears to her eyes.
“No, Ritzpah,” Na’ama says firmly. “No more crying. Drink your tea.”
“Come now, Mother,” I say, taking one of her hands in both of mine. “Look at all the good around you. You have me, and all your other daughters. You have Na’ama, all of your other friends in this room, in the palace, and outside.”
“Hashem has blessed me with wonderful friends and family,” she mumbles.
“Your feelings of sadness are justified,” I say. “I, too, am mourning for my brothers. It is a terrible, terrible thing, to have your loved ones ripped away from you so suddenly, to lose two young, healthy men in the prime of their lives.” I swallow back my own tears; I must be strong for my mother.
“But you cannot let your mourning take over your life,” Na’ama tells her.
“Na’ama is right. You have so much to live for,” I say. “It is unfair to your other children, to your friends, to all the people who love you for you to lie here in fits of depression over Armoni and Mefiboshet.”
Mother sniffles as she finishes her tea. A servant refills it quickly. “You are both right. Of course you are right,” she says. “God has granted me a very wise daughter and friend.”
“Sitwith my sisters and me as we mourn,” I invite her.
She shakes her head. “But the Givonim intend to let the bodies of my sons rot in the fields!” she cries out. “And it being harvest season – ” Everyone in the room shudders at the idea of all the birds that would be flying around the crops.
“You have living children to be concerned about, Mother,” I tell her firmly.
“My sons must have a proper Jewish burial.” She is adamant. Na’ama and I exchange a look, and we see that this will be an integral part of her healing process.