A story of faith, Hope and Lovey.
It was a beautiful morning in early autumn, the kind of morning where it is almost too warm to wear a jacket, but too cool to go without one. An older man stepped into the fresh air and onto his newly painted porch. He admired his handy work from the previous weekend. He was pleased at the outcome of a job done just before the leaves began to fall on the porch and stairs. The porch was a nice shade of light grey. Most wooden porches and stairs on the block were painted a shade of grey. It seemed to be the right color. The old man was a shade of grey too, perhaps not the right color at all.
He moved down the stairs carefully. A chronic pain of the right foot caused him to use a cane and step carefully. If he only put the weight on the back half of the right foot, he did not feel the pain very much. He was quite practiced after all these years of going down stairs carefully. When he reached the bottom of the seven steps that took him to the sidewalk, he turned right and strolled directly toward the corner. A southern breeze hit him head on and reminded him of touch football games in the park from decades earlier. Mild fall weather always had this effect on him. He absolutely loved this time of year.
Just two houses down the street, where the soft grey paint had almost completely worn away from the steps and porch, sat a young girl on the second to last step. Tears were streaming down her face and she looked up to see the old man. Her curly brown hair revealed that she may have just gotten out of bed and her red eyes indicated she had been crying a while. Her faded blue dress was wrinkled and her feet had no shoes. She was a sad sight, to be sure.
“What is wrong, my little friend?” said the old man. He could not remember the girl’s name, although he must have heard it many times. He forgot most of the names of the people who inhabited the old wooden frame houses of his block. He tried hard to remember, but his occasional contact with the humans of the neighborhood made memory difficult. He did remember the names of the teenage boys who came to mow the lawn, rake the leaves or shovel the snow. He was grateful for them. The others were familiar faces without familiar names.
“Hope is dead,” declared the little girl, much to the surprise of the old man. When she finished her proclamation, she began to cry almost uncontrollably. The old man hardly knew what to say. How could such a young girl feel this way? No one should lose hope, or cry this much over something except perhaps the loss of a loved one.
“I am sorry to hear this,” he started hesitantly, “but we should always have hope. There is always the chance for a better day.” The child looked at him as if he were crazy. Clearly he did not understand.
“But she is dead,” she shouted. “Hope is dead!” He stood there dumbfounded. What could he say? The little girl obviously suffered some traumatic loss and he certainly was not the person to offer words of comfort.
“Mom put her in a shoebox and is going to bury her in the backyard by the roses,” she said in a somewhat calmer voice. Apparently, this was the action meant to make the girl feel better.
“Bury her?” the old man wondered.
“Yes, and she will no longer sing for us,” the girl blurted out.
“This was your pet?” the elderly gentleman queried carefully.
“Yes,” came the reply. “Hope was my parakeet and now she is gone.”
“Oh, I am sorry to hear this. Perhaps you can get another bird,” he said in his most understanding voice.”
“But I don’t want another bird,” was her retort, “I want Hope.”
“Yes, but we must all go to heaven at some time, and there is always another bird that needs a home.”
“Yeah, that’s what my mom said,” responded the girl in an unbelieving voice.
“I am sorry for the loss of your pet and may you always have a good memory of Hope.” He walked away quickly. The elderly bachelor had no idea how to comfort young children. He felt he did his best but also thought it was not good enough. He was sad that he did not have the right words for the small girl with the messy brown hair. When he reached the corner, he looked up and down the street for his tan Oldsmobile Cutlass. When he spotted the car, he moved quickly toward it, got in and started to run the day’s errands.
It was almost two weeks later when he again passed the young girl in front of her house. She was smiling and this time offered a greeting first. “How are you?” the man responded. He was still uncertain of her name.
“I am fine,” she declared in a bold voice. “I have a new canary,” she said with the same pride he might declare if he could ever afford a new car.
“That’s nice,” was the reply. “Does the bird have a name?”
“Yes, he is Lovey. My mother helped pick out the name.”
“That was very nice of her. Lovey is a nice name.” He smiled and began to walk away. As he did the little girl’s mother appeared on the porch and said “hello” to the man. He waved back. There was nothing much to say as the mother did not speak English and the old man knew no Spanish.
When the old man reached the old car he thought that the young girl would need to keep the faith that she will some day meet Hope and Lovey again in the next life. Perhaps her mother told her this. Perhaps she carried this faith with her. Perhaps she had no faith at all. He never found out.