Rose and Lily sat in the church that particular Sunday morning. Rose who always chose a pew to the right side of the alter wore her usual Sunday adornments. She had on a new outfit which had set her back a pretty penny, but what was money when it involved staying beautiful. She wore her diamond tennis bracelet, her large diamond earrings, and a diamond pendent. Her hair was immaculate and her aging face glowed. It had cost Rose dearly when she went to the parlor for her weekly cut, dye, and style, but after all she was worth it. She had also had a facial peel and the new deep moisture therapy done. Rose ran her hand across one of her cheeks and smiled. Oh yes, she thought smooth as baby's skin. Rose not interested in what Father Joseph was preaching about sat with her wealthy friends and started looking around at the rest of the congregation. Today Lily became the focus of Rose's assessing gaze.
Lily sat with the other parishioners who were feeling the pinch of a bad economy. The clothes Lily wore were not very fancy or expensive. They were however neat and clean. Lily had her mousy brown hair pulled up into a top knot. Lily unlike Rose wore no jewelry save the small silver cross her mother had given to her years ago at Christmas. Lily loved God and church more than anything else in the world. She sat quietly and obediently as Father Joseph read from his Bible. The Word of God to Lily was food and it sustained her. Lily's face glowed as well but it came from the love she felt for her Creator.
Rose continued to stare rudely at Lily. What was up with her anyway, Rose thought to herself. Father Joseph seemed to always be mentioning Lily's name. Why hadn't Rose done so much for the church and for him? Rose always tithed her ten percent when she had it. She almost always served on any of the projects or committees as long as they let her be the head or chairwoman. So what was so special about this Lily person? All these thoughts ran through Rose's mind as the service continued.
Father Joseph motioned the congregation to stand and he led them in the final hymn. Rose still not satisfied with why Lily appeared to be Father Joseph's pet looked one more time at Lily. Lily stood singing the invitation hymn with all her heart. A light seemed to radiate from her face as she sang. In disgust Rose looked away and started to gather her purse and coat.
The service was soon over and the two women started toward the door. Rose elbowed past people so that she might catch up with Lily.
"Why Lily," Rose gushed sarcastically, "What a lovely dress! Wherever did you purchase it?"
Lily's cheeks reddened and she slightly lowered her face. The mocking tone in Rose's voice had not escaped Lily and it hurt Lily's feelings.
"Hi Rose," Lily replied with genuine kindness and sincerity, "your dress, shoes, purse, and hair are exquisite as always. You always look so fabulous."
"Why! Thank you!" Rose exclaimed trying to stand more erect and sucking her stomach in.
Rose than began telling Lily where she had purchased each item and who had done her hair and face. Lily took it all in stride. It would be the last time the two women would see each other at church.
Before the next Sunday service Lily and Rose both became ill. A new strain of flu had taken hold and many people perished. Rose and Lily became two more statistics that the local Health Department kept.
As fate would have it the two women met at heaven's gate. The great Book of Deeds was brought forth by one of God's gatekeepers and both women were judged.
"Lily, you good and faithful servant," the Angel said smiling, "you have done well and suffered long in silence. You have helped the sick, the poor, and down trodden. You have testified to others and many heard the Word and became followers of Christ. You gave to others and held nothing back. You may enter paradise and be blessed."
Rose hearing all of this became irate. She had balled her hand up into fists and her face had turned a horrible shade of reddish purple.
"Look you!" she screamed at the Angel, "how could you make me wait and allow that little tart Lily to enter the gate before me? Have I not always given my ten percent? Have I not always been there for God when I wasn't busy? Have I not always been in church?"
"Silence!" the Angel's voice boomed, "Be still vile woman. The woman, Lily, who you speak of so cruelly has an extra measure of humility. It is a virtue that you unfortunately do not possess. You, Rose, have been vain, cruel, uncharitable, and self indulgent. Lily has been self sacrificing, charitable, loving, caring, humble, and has put other's needs before her own."
Rose watched as the gates opened and Lily walked to her well deserved rewards. Rose ran as fast as she could toward the gates but they had already admitted Lily and then slammed closed. Rose pounded on the golden gates but they still remained locked. The Angel pointed in a downward direction and Rose began to sink into the softness of the clouds. Rose caught one last glimpse of Lily and Lily's face glowed with that beautiful radiance Rose had come to hate.