"But Mama, I can't find him." Billy groaned, skinned knees tucked into his chest and tears dripping from his dirt-streaked face.
Marietta kneeled, running her fingers through Billy's hair with one hand and wiping away his tears with the other. "I'm sure you'll find it soon. Do you want me to help you look?"
Billy nodded. Marietta stood with her arm outstretched. Billy rose and put his hand in hers. Her son's plodding forced Marietta to slow her pace as they walked toward his bedroom.
"When do you remember having it last?"
Billy sat on his bed and lowered his head. "He was in my pocket right after lunch - I know 'cuz I looked at him."
"Did you put it back in your pocket?"
He shrugged. "I think so."
Marietta sat on the floor and looked up into her son's downcast eyes. "Hey, Billy? You're not going to find it sitting on your bed."
Billy sighed. "But I've looked everywhere already. He's totally gone."
"It can't be gone, hun." Marietta looked under the bed. "Where have you been since lunch?"
"Just in my room, and I looked everywhere. He just disappeared."
"Did you go to the bathroom?" Marietta began opening Billy's desk drawers.
Billy nodded, a glimmer of hope invading his eyes. He bolted for the bathroom.
"Mom, I think..., Oh, no!"
She ran after him, finding Billy kneeling by the commode, tears flowing.
"What, sweetie?" She rubbed his back.
He tried to speak but couldn't.
"It's all right, Billy. Take a deep breath and tell me."
Turning around, he breathed deeply several times until he could speak.
"I flushed him, Mom. He must have fallen out of my pocket." Billy held up a toy car and a quarter. "These were next to the toilet, and they were in my pocket too."
Marietta sighed. There was nothing else on the bathroom floor. He was right.
"Come here, Billy."
Billy buried himself in his mother's arms and she held him, rubbing his back.
"I'm sorry, Billy. Do you want me to get another one?"
Glancing up, Billy appeared at least ten years older than any second grader had the right to look. "He won't be the same. He's gone."
Marietta closed her eyes briefly, then looked down at her son once again. "Billy, let's sit down."
The two walked to Billy's room and sat on his bed. Marietta rested her hand on his shoulder.
"I know that picture was the last one we took of you and Daddy before he died, and I am really, really sorry you lost it." Marietta cradled his chin in her hand. "But we have other pictures. You can look through the scrapbook and pick out any one you want. I can even laminate it, so it won't get bent or torn."
Billy shook his head vigorously, sliding away from his mother and turning his back to her. "It wouldn't be Daddy. I lost Daddy, Mama. I lost him!"
Marietta enveloped him in her arms. "Oh, sweetie, your daddy will always be with you. You can lose his picture - every picture - but you will still have your memories and your love. Daddy will always be with you: in your head and in your heart."
Billy sniffled, looking up at his mom with a sparkle in his eyes. "Really?"
She nodded and smiled. "And do you know what else?"
"You will get to see him again."
"I will?" Billy's eyes were filled with expectation.
"Yes, you will." Marietta grabbed both of Billy's hands. "You know where Daddy is right now, don't you?"
Billy crinkled his nose. "Um, heaven. Right?"
Marietta nodded. "And if you believe Jesus died for your sins, you will be going there too some day. And you told me the other day that you did, right?"
"Yup. So I'm going to the same heaven Daddy's at?"
Marietta giggled. "There's only one heaven, sweetheart, and we'll all be there some day. And it will be wonderful."
Billy paused a moment. "Mama, can we both just go there now? I really miss him."
She embraced her son. "Oh, Billy. God wants us to stay here for a while longer. I miss Daddy too, but we can still think about him. We can remember what a wonderful place he's in and look forward to when we will be together. Okay?"
Billy nodded and kissed Marietta on the cheek.
"I think I do want another picture of Daddy. Can we look through the scrapbook?"
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