The Rev. John Ashby thought his heart would break yet he could find no tears. How could god have allowed a drunken man to drive off the road and kill his son? He was the one person who should be able to forgive yet he could not.
A sound from the back of the church caught his attention as a small boy entered carrying a small bundle.
‘Can I help you?’ John asked gently as he saw his tear stained face.
The boy nodded and handed the priest a small bundle. Carefully John Ashby opened the towel to find a lifeless small ginger cat. He looked up at the boy, shocked by the tears in his own eyes.
‘Can you help Tipsy go to heaven?’ The boy asked in a shaky voice. ‘Cats do go to heaven don’t they?’
The priest nodded finding he could not talk. The young fair haired boy solemnly placed the small broken body on the church alter. Gathering himself up together, the priest went to stand next to the young boy. ‘What is your name?’ he asked in the silence of the church.
‘Oliver,’ answered the boy solemnly. ‘Can we light a candle so god knows Tipsy is here?’
‘I think that would be a good idea,’ John offered, and if you wouldn’t mind, I would like to light a candle for someone else who is finding his way to heaven.’
Together they watched as their two small flames flickered, in the dimness of the church.
‘Shouldn’t we say a prayer?’ Oliver asked, breaking the comfortable silence.
John swallowed hard. ‘You are right Oliver, we should.’
Oliver frowned as he considered what to say before finally beginning his prayer. ‘God, Tipsy was a good cat. Mum got cross sometimes when he brought mice in.’ He chuckled and turned to the priest. ‘Sometime they weren’t dead and would run under the cupboards!’ The priest smiled as the boy went on.
’Dad said it was good that he caught mice. He slept on the end of my bed at night but last night he didn’t come home. Mum said I shouldn’t be too sad because he had been happy and he had had a good life catching mice. God please take care of him for me. She said I wasn’t to come to the church but the old man said it would be alright.’ Oliver looked guiltily at the priest. ‘You’re not cross with me, are you?’
John shook his head. ‘That was a good prayer Oliver.’
‘It’s hard though,’ whispered Oliver, ‘it hurts inside.’ The priest sighed as he silently agreed with the young boy.
Oliver sniffed. ‘Now it’s your turn to say a prayer for your candle.’
John swallowed as he realised what was expected of him. Holding his candle close to him he began and as he did so a great weight lifted from his heart and peace settled over him. So lost in his thoughts, he did not see the young boy leave with his little bundle.
‘Good to see the sun,’ called Mrs Roberts, ‘I hope I am not disturbing you but your son said it would be fine for me to come in.’
‘John felt his heart beating fast. ‘William was killed in a car accident a few weeks back Mrs Roberts. I’m sorry you didn’t know.’
Mrs Robert sat down heavily, ‘I’m so sorry John, I was sure … He pointed out the bulbs we planted. He said they should make a fine display this year.’
John rushed out of the door, filled with both fear and excitement. In the distance, he could only see Oliver walking alongside an old man. John Ashby smiled to himself as he looked at the bulbs and realised god had been in the church with him all along he just hadn’t seen him. ‘You are right William,’ he whispered, ‘they are going to be wonderful this year.’
Rosie Cottier 28/12/07
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