An abused, runaway collie, watched the traffic from the berm of a busy road. Favoring one paw, she cowered as the slip stream of passing cars and trucks sped by. The transient stroke of air on her coat shied her even closer to the ground.
It was late fall, the sky gray with expectant clouds. A line of cars to her left pulled to her side of the road allowing an oncoming funeral procession of cars to pass. Her bent ears perked as she caught her reflection in one of the darkened windows. Distracted, she limped across the road. Inside the lead car, a young boy stared out distantly beyond his window, watching her.
It began to rain and the collie ran deep into the woods, faltering and on guard.
A month later, morning light slanted through the woods pulling her to a clearing at the edge of her forest. The waxing light exposed a sweeping meadow dotted with grazing horses and cows. In one of the gullies of the meadow stood a pond reflecting the red of a nearby barn and the white of a lone farmhouse in its stilled waters.
The closing clap of a screen door carried to the collie’s ears and she cocked her head to watch a young boy dash across the porch of the farmhouse and into the yard to finally disappear behind the barn. Chickens scattered as a strong male voice called out behind him. “Tommy, come back here.”
A man stood on the porch, hands akimbo on hips. A woman in an apron stood next to him. “Leave him be, pa. He’s hurting. He’s got to have time to heal in his own way.”
“It’s been a month, ma. We’re his grandparents, yet he’s shut us out. When is a good time? He turned and went back into the house shaking his head.
“In God’s time,” she answered after him.
The collie followed the boy with her eye as he ran behind the barn to lean against the clapboards and slide to the ground. A breeze stirred the trees above the collie’s head; taunting her as it battered her coat. She shied to the ground; the wind’s touch a memory of hands raised to beat her. But there was something else in the wind; a force greater than memory, a silent voice compelling her to run to the side of the barn and peek around its corner.
The boy did not see her watching him as he laid his head against the barn. The morning sun unmercifully exposed the grief hidden in his face. His eyes were closed; tears glittered on his cheeks, his breath labored by audible sobs.
Shaking, crouching forward on her elbows, the collie moved to lay her head in the boy’s lap. The boy did not open his eyes, yet instinctively reached down to pet the collie’s head. The collie sighed and snuggled closer, wagging her tail, raising her head but a moment to lick the boy’s face.
Her warm breath soothed him and his labored breathing eased. His eyes remained closed as his fingers felt her raised scars and sensed the trembling beneath her knotted coat.
Peace found its way into the following silence. And there by touch alone, trust was born - shared sorrow reckoning its own remedy, lifting pain away.
The Bible tells us that all things are brought to us in due season; the book of Ecclesiastes explains that there is a time for all things; Proverbs instructs that we might plan, but it is God directing our steps. And, it is in Esther that we find each of us is called to a certain time.
My parents were killed by a drunk driver when I was seven. The courts called it manslaughter. Defining it didn’t help and my world turned upside down even as I was placed in the loving care of my grandparents. That was me in the funeral cortege and me behind the barn.
Grandma was right; it took God’s timing to help me heal. It was seventeen years ago when He sent a timorous collie, I later named Esther, into my life. Two hurting souls met at the perfect moment to receive the balm of Gilead through our shared pain.
Thanks to Esther, I’m a veterinarian now. And Esther? She’s a healthy and content great-great grandma still with the uncanny ability to show up just when I need her most. I hope she thinks the same for me as well.
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