A child can often open the eyes of an adult on levels we could never comprehend. Come let Bella give you permission to grieve and to love through this simple story about cherishing life and enjoying the simple things.

by Patricia Ann Britt

Bella came to visit while her grandpa went to the garage where the men were gathered. She stood before me after knocking on the door.

“I will wait this out,” I thought. In a house which was no longer child-proofed, she wanted to talk to me. I was the chosen project of an eight-year-old.

“Show me your art!” she demanded.

Childishness swirled around her as if a hurricane of sunburn, leanness and curly hair had arrived. A precocious spirit radiated from her face. Resigned to my fate, I sighed. Ushering her into the white room where my art was kept, I asked if she would sign my guest book. After some careful effort she finished that, then curiosity no longer contained, Bella pointed to the large plant crowding the small room.

Inside I wept. Outwardly I gathered myself, “My father died. He was grandpa, 81 years old. This was a plant from the funeral.”

She watched my face, “How did it happen?”

I told her of a call in the night, a trip to the hospital, a week of vigil…hope…and then, suddenly, his death. She told me of an uncle who had died. Listening with patience to her long, emotionally charged story, I watched as a child’s view of death unfolded.

She, too, had been awakened by a phone call in the night. There were surprised voices expressing urgencies. With huge eyes, she told how whispers and half-finished conversations circled her the next few days. Sensing confusion and change, she could only watch as adults grieved.

My own hurt seemed far away from one so young. How could this child grasp the reality of death?

The next request from her was “to the pond we go.” Her hands knew no repulsion, finding flowers and worms alike, as well as a cracked blue egg that lay on the ground. I pointed out it was full of ants. No problem, it was a prize to be claimed.

Bella let me carry other discoveries, as well as a small bouquet of wild flowers. As we walked, she carefully studied the blue egg: this was a find! Soon enough, as if they were off on a safari, a single file column of black ants crawled up her arm. It was interesting to watch her remarkable tolerance. Soon she suggested we stop. There in the soft, yellow sand, with solemn ceremony, we gave the egg a burial.

After a reverent pause, she and I headed for home. I marveled at how far I had strayed from my childhood. On our way back down the trail, Bella demanded some paper and crayons. “What a bundle of energy,” I thought. If only I could find art materials suitable for a child, I knew I could keep her busy for awhile at my kitchen table.

Bella huddled over her supplies a long and deliberate time. It was obvious that she was working hard. Her grandpa came in to say it was time to leave. He repeated, “it’s time to go.” Carefully biting her tongue with the expenditure of effort, she applied the last dot of color to the paper.

Bella handed me the work of art. “How nice,” I said. “Tomorrow is Father’s Day.” For she had created, with her marking pens, a flower-strewn message: I LOVE MY DAD.

“Your Father will like this,” I stated.

“No!” she said. “It’s for you.”

Speechless, I turned around and placed her surprise beside my father’s portrait.

From my safe haven at the kitchen window, I watched them leave. She sat on the passenger side of Grandpa’s pickup, so very close, but not aware of my scrutiny. The spirit of childishness had left Bella’s face. She was deep in thought as they passed. Was she reviewing my lesson?

I would have paper and crayons ready for her next visit.

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