Little Billy jumped into bed and quickly began to 'struggle' with the covers. "Brrr…it's cold, Mommy."
Billy's mother helped. "It sure is." Mission accomplished, as the blanket finally rested comfortably under Billy's chin. "Now don't pull the blanket off during the night, okay?"
Billy smiled and pulled the covers even tighter. "I'll try."
The woman took her hand and ran it through Billy's hair. "So, what's it going to be tonight?"
Billy watched as his mom walked over to the small white bookcase set against the wall, and began going through his favorite bedtime story books. "Could you tell me the one about the garden?"
She stopped looking through the books, and turned to her son. "You sure that's the one you want to hear?"
The woman walked back over to Billy, and sat down on the side of the bed…
"Once upon a time there was a beautiful garden, with every kind of plant and flower imaginable."
Billy's eyes brightened. "And were there two really tall plants in the garden?"
Mom smiled, and a tear began to trickle down her cheek. "Yes, they were very tall, and very beautiful. People came from everywhere to see the two plants."
"But not everyone liked the garden, did they?"
Her face turned somber. "No, honey, they didn't."
"And so they came to tear down the garden, huh? To knock down the two plants so no one could enjoy them."
"That's right, they did. And I'm afraid it worked, at least for a while. But the people who took care of the garden began to clean it up…they all pitched in together, worked together, and saved as much of the garden as they could."
"And then Daddy left, to help protect us against the one's who don't like the garden?"
This caused another smile, but inside the tears were beginning to flow freely. "That's right, he did."
"And that's when he went up to heaven?"
The woman closed her eyes and took a deep breath. "Yes, some of the people who help protect the garden were hurt…some were even killed."
The boys face turned long, and he stared down at the covers.
The woman continued. "But they didn't die in vain, oh no. For it was those people who were willing to risk everything for the garden…they're the reason the garden is still here today…stronger and more beautiful than ever."
"Because of people like Daddy."
"Yes, because of people like Daddy, we can sleep tonight, knowing they're protecting the garden…looking out for it."
Billy smiled, his face returning to normal. "I like that story, Mommy. I'm proud of those people…people like Daddy."
"Me too, honey…me, too." She bent down and kissed Billy on the cheek. "You ready to say your prayers?"
Billy nodded, and closed his eyes. "Dear Jesus, thank you for Mommy. Thank you for Granny and Papa. Thank you for our dog, Benny. And thank you for Daddy - and all of the people who take care…of the garden."
The woman got up and went to turn off the light. "Sleep well, Billy. I'll see you in the morning."
"Okay. Goodnight, Mommy."
The woman turned off Billy's light and quietly shut his door. As she walked down the hall toward her own bedroom, she stopped at a picture frame hanging on the wall. She lifted her hand to her mouth and kissed her first two fingers, then gently placed the fingers on the lips of the person in the picture. She whispered something to the picture and then walked on to her own room, turning off the hallway light as she did so.
The picture, now resting in the darkness of the home, almost in a 'guarding and protecting' sort of way, was of a man in a military uniform, and the caption underneath read: Sgt. Peter Walker, U. S. Marines.
I've been there with the soldiers
Who've gone away to war
And you can bet that they remember
Just what they're fighting for
- Darryl Worley (from the song "Have You Forgotten?")