It was a hot September afternoon when I entered the local Potawatomi tribal supermarket in Shawnee, Oklahoma. I was not particularly interested in purchasing groceries nor was I hungry for anything. Coming to this supermarket reminded me of the young children and teens in Indian Child Welfare and in Foster care I would bring here to purchase items, look at those children who had fathers and mothers and state how they desperately yearn for a father and mother to care for them and love them unconditionally. One teen in particular, Lorene, often came with me and the other children and teens in foster care. Almost every time she came Lorene would pretend to go through the store to look for something unique and special.
I knew what Lorene was up to. I would always watch her walking down the aisles of the supermarket then go over to the floral department and look at the flowers, cry and slowly walk away. My heart ached for this young person. Although only 15 years old, Lorene was still grieving the death of her older brother who died in a car accident just twenty months earlier. To Lorene, her brother was her best friend. Both were fortunate enough to have been placed in the same foster home so when she had a problem, her brother would be there to comfort her. Any questions she had, he would drop everything to answer it or search until he found one. No one ever said anything bad about her without having to face her big brother. Any extra money he had he would take Lorene to her favorite ice cream store to treat her to her favorite ice cream—cherry-almond cream—then ask her about how things were. Now she felt alone and lonely without him. Her days and night were just miserable in her opinion.
As Lorene aimlessly walking through the store she stopped to look at the brightly colored bags of candy when a teen age girl with her shopping cart came beside her. She was roughly 5’ 5” tall, slim, Native American, with thick long brown hair that appeared to reach her waist sporting a short sleeve jean blouse and jean trousers. Lorene watched her as she picked up five Snickers candy bars with almonds, dropped them in her shopping cart, hesitated, and then put them back on the candy display. She turned to go and did but came back to where the Snickers were reaching for them once again. She saw Lorene watching her and she smiled, “My little brother loves Snickers candy with almonds. But I just don’t know if I should pay fifty cents a bar for them. I’ll bet I can get ‘em at Wally World for thirty-seven cents. Ya’ think?”
Lorene held her emotions back. Then her eyes met the brown eyes of the other teen, “My big brother died twenty months ago in a car accident”. As her voice trembled and fighting back tears, “Buy your brother the candy and cherish every moment you have together because you’ll never know what the future is gonna bring. My brother was just 17 years old when he was killed by a drunk driver. I miss him so much! I didn’t even get to tell him that I loved him!” Her tears began to flow freely.
The other teen shook her head then put the candy bars in her cart and quietly wheeled her cart away. Lorene just stood there wiping an ever flowing level of tears from her cheeks. Once she gathered herself, she chose a carton of cherry-almond ice cream and a large box of oatmeal raisin cookies then proceeded to the check out line. Within minutes we saw the blue jean outfit then recognized the teen age girl coming toward Lorene. In her arms she carried something long and green. On her face was an angelic, radiant smile.
One could swear this teen age girl presented a pastel halo about her long brown hair with all the appearances of a Native American angel. As she came closer, Lorene and I could see what she held in her arms. Tears of happiness filled Lorene’s and my eyes.
“These are for you”, then she placed four bound carnation in Lorene’s arms. “When you go through the check out line, they will know that I paid for these in full for you.” The taller teen leaned over, kissed Lorene on the check and gave her a big hug. Lorene looked down at the carnations bundled and wrapped in the green tissue paper then thought out loud, “How did this perfect stranger know?”
Tears came to Lorene’s eyes, “Mr. Peterson! It’s Juan! It’s Juan! No one else knows but Juan! He’s here! Mr. Peterson! Juan is trying to tell me that he’s still with me! That strange girl is an angel sent by God through Juan to tell me that it’s okay! That he’s in heaven with God!” Through her tears she presented the biggest smile that one might imagine.
Lorene entered the supermarket with tears but left with unspeakable joy, praise and thanksgiving to God. Lorene is now an adult woman with a husband, beautiful children, an overwhelming praise for God, doing His work in the Shawnee area and has the four carnations given her by her big brother!