Today, you will find my body, wedged between an uprooted tree and a boulder half-buried in the mud of the wash. It is evidence of His grace the Lord that has kept my limbs intact—that I am not battered and unrecognizable like the rest of the flood’s flotsam tangled in the rushes. That I am still wearing my glasses, my gloves, my Sunday best will be oddly comforting for you.
Before you find my body, you will spot my purse lying on the banks and you will allow yourself a moment of false hope. “Maybe Mother dropped it here when she climbed up out of the water. Maybe she escaped and cut across the cornfield to that house over there.” But you will know in your heart that if I had survived the flood and found refuge, I would have sent word to your father at the parsonage. We would have already had a happy reunion where I would have chided you, saying how foolish it was to be worried.
You and your father and the other men will be on horseback when you find me, because what roads there were in this backwoods part of Ohio have been destroyed by the flood, and to canoe along the Little Muskingum has always been a journey interrupted by portage after portage—now made all the worse by the slide and debris: hunks of hen houses, tangled rain gutters, whole roofs off tool sheds. And animal carcasses, poor things — the last thing I saw on earth was a pair of cows draped in the branches of the hickory trees above me. Of course they were dead but they looked so innocent in that cow way, as if they were waiting for someone to give them wings. […]