A soft breeze lifted strands of Alan’s silver hair as the fragrance of flowers in bloom filled his nostrils. Two hummingbirds hovered over the feeder, their delicate bodies reminding him how fragile life is. The ache in his heart since his Madilyn had passed away seemed to crush him at times.
He had escaped the festivities going on inside the house, the family and friends sharing food and fellowship after the funeral. “I need to be alone, Gloria,” he’d said to his oldest daughter. “I’ll just sit in your mom’s garden for awhile.”
And it was Madilyn’s garden. She had started the garden after their marriage when several years passed, and their hopes for a baby grew dimmer. The garden became her solace, her tears mingling with the soil as she dug and planted. He had bought the bench he now sat on, and installed fountains, birdhouses, and bird baths.
With aching heart, he had observed his beautiful wife while she sat in the garden reading her Bible and writing in her prayer journal. The haunting sadness on her face always brought tears to his eyes.
Ten years after their wedding, she planted morning glories to celebrate the birth of Gloria. Every morning, the flowers unraveled into full bloom. “It’s like a daily reminder of God’s faithfulness to my prayers, isn’t it, Alan?”
The yellow rose bush joined other rose bushes in honor of the birth of their second daughter, Rose. Several years after that, Madilyn planted lilies to celebrate Lily’s birth. “My bouquet is full,” she’d said, a smile of contentment curling her lips.
Even after God blessed them with daughters, Madilyn still loved her garden. She had been working in the garden the morning she’d had the heart attack. “God, what will I do without my Madilyn? Who will tend her garden? Who will love it like she did?” Tears slid down his worn, wrinkled cheeks. He dropped his head in weariness, feeling numb with grief. He wanted to cry, but couldn’t.
Perhaps he had dozed, when he was startled by the sweet, lilting song of an angel. He opened his eyes, searching for the source of singing. He saw her then, the little girl bent over the flower bed, her small hands cupping each blossom as she sang a song of her own making. It was a song of love, and flowers, and sunshine, and birds. She clapped her hands in delight, then waved at the hummingbirds as she giggled, turning in a little dance. That’s when she spotted him, and stopped, her little mouth forming an O. “Hi, Poppy,” she whispered, dropping her hands by her sides.
It was his great-granddaughter, four-year-old Madilyn, his wife’s namesake, but they called her Maddy. It had been decided that his granddaughter, Lisa, and little Maddy move in with him now that Madilyn was gone. Lisa’s husband had left them, and she needed a place to live, and the family thought he needed someone to look out for him. It seemed beneficial for everyone, although he wasn’t sure about having a little one underfoot.
Maddy rocked back and forth on her heels, uncertainty in her eyes as she studied Alan. She slowly walked over, and stood in front of him, staring into his face. “Are you sad, Poppy, that Memaw’s gone?” she asked, a look of compassion and concern on her face.
That simple question spoken so tenderly broke the dam of emotions inside him, and deep guttural groans poured from within. He covered his face with his hands, his body trembling with sobs. In a few minutes, he heard the retreating patter of little feet as Maddy rushed away. “I’ve scared her,” he thought, pulling himself together.
His eyes were still closed when he felt a hand touch his. Maddy stood in front of him, a wad of tissue in her hand. She gently wiped his tears, and then said, “Blow, Poppy,” as she held the tissue under his nose.
Seating herself beside him, she took his hand. “I’m sad too, because my daddy left. I cried a lot, and Mommy said if we forgive someone who leaves us, it won’t hurt so bad. Maybe if you forgive Memaw for leaving it won’t hurt so bad, Poppy.”
They sat in silence for a few minutes, Alan sensing that God had sent little Maddy to comfort him. He smiled when she jumped off the bench, laughing as she hopped and skipped. “I love Memaw’s garden,” she said. “It’s beautiful.”
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