‘One more step…just one more step’ the grandmother thought. Some days she seemed to hurt all over. She wasn’t a youngster like the granddaughter living with her. She could complain but was too busy for such nonsense. Her thoughts shifted as she reached the mail box at the end of the short but winding road.
She paused to whisper a short prayer that there would be more than greeting cards and bills. ‘Something special please …. Lord, for Katie girl.” That was what they called her… Katie girl. She was sure Katie would still be sitting in the window box seat, the calico cat in her lap. There was no mother in the home. She had wanted no part of such a role as that. She had left Katie and her father behind to go her own way. Katie’s father was a soldier. His overseas tour had lasted a year already. It was the time of Christmas. The tree was small and sat on a table in the living room. On its slender branches, hung red, white and blue Christmas balls. Despite tinsel and lights, and meager gifts beneath it, little joy lived in the house.
Mail was slow to get to her son, and slower yet to make its way to them. In fact the ‘slow’ had become an understatement. Katie thought her dad had been killed and no one wanted to tell her. It had been three months since they had heard anything. She did her best to distract Katie, but little seemed to help. Every day, she would sit on that seat at the window, watching the road. It was three days till Christmas.
She reached into the mailbox. Her heart lifted in joy. The pain in her legs seemed to disappear. Inside was a letter. It had a slight bulge in it and was addressed to them both. On the back were a couple ragged roads of print that read “Rush this to my Katie girl in the rolling hills of Kentucky’. She’d let Katie open the letter .
Katie girl held it close; savoring the feel of having this letter from her precious father. She was only ten. All of her years, she had been a Daddy’s girl. She knew he had sent her something because of the thickness inside the letter. Now she carefully, unsealed the flap, smiling over the personal request in the message. It warmed her heart thinking her fathers hands had done their best to get this mail to her and the grandmother. Out tumbled a handmade necklace that would just line up with Katie’s heart. It held a piece of flattened wood with a tiny photo of the father pasted upon it, and a hole drilled in it, perhaps by hand, to hold a string of leather making it a necklace. Katie wasted no time putting the simple gift over her head and around her small neck. She began to read the letter aloud.
“Dear Katie girl and Mom,
I know you must be wondering and worrying about why you have not heard from me. I am sorry I have been unable to write. I have been in the hospital and was in a coma for some time. It seems I was involved in some type of explosion, or so they tell me. I don’t recall. Anyway, it knocked me out for awhile. Some of the fragments made it into my eye and right leg. The fragments in my eye have been removed and I can see okay. Not as well as before but enough to see both of you when I return, as well as the beautiful rolling hills that surround our home. They couldn’t get all the fragments from my leg so I will limp forever. Unlike some others, they saved my leg so I am very grateful. I plan to continue in the military, Mom, if you will continue to care for our precious Katie girl. I love my country and guess this time, my service to continue the struggle for freedom will be behind a desk. They are going to give me a leave. I’ve been discharged from the hospital. I don’t know if I will be home for Christmas, but I will be home, perhaps for most of a month. I look forward to the smell of cookies and gingerbread men, maybe a homemade pie. Perhaps a nice ham I could help slice for us all, if I make it home in time for Christmas.
I keep a New Testament Bible in my pocket, Katie girl. I have been reading the story of the Lord Jesus’s birth that is the reason for a birthday celebration each year. It helped me on those days I lay in that hospital bed. Maybe, Mom, you and Katie can do that together during this year’s celebrations. Please do that for me. The Lord gave us freedom to serve him, and I do. He gave me freedom to serve my country. I will do that as long as I am able. Remember, don’t be sad when I am not there. I am in your heart and you in mine. I love you both.bb I’m coming home.
Katie read the letter once more before sliding it carefully back into its envelope, and going to her room to put it under her pillow. “ Grandma … Grandma. Let’s get some cookies and gingerbread men made. I am so excited. Daddy’s coming home. He’s coming home. Don’t we have a ham in the freezer? Hurry up grandma. We gotta get going.” Katie girls face was flushed and her eyes lit up as she pictured the military Christmas tree, with her, daddy, and Grandma before it. Like the joy of that wondrous birth in a manger, Katie had a special happiness this day. Daddy was coming home. She knew some soldiers would not be coming home. Each night she had prayed about that, for families that would never see the one they loved again. Tonight she’d pray for the end of war and for those away to be able to come home
In an nearby town just a few miles away , a uniformed soldier limped, arm and thumb up, hitchhiking his way down the road. The driver of a eighteen wheeler brought his truck to a stop, welcoming the man in. He’d be glad to take him the rest of the way home. All eighteen tires stopeed peacefully before a mailbox on its post. It stood in front of a short curving road, as if guarding it. He shook hands with the truck driver, thanking him for the ride, wishing him a safe and blessed Christmas. The truck driver was making his own way home today. Tomorrow was Christmas. The Lord had let him make it home. He somehow knew when he rounded the curve of the winding path, Katie girl would be at the window…watching for him and she was.
LIFE WAS GOOD
May the Lord watch over each of those serving this country. One and all , at home or away, each marching to a different drummer and doing their best for the cause of freedom,, covering the backs of those of us who sat safe within our homes this day. May we always remember them. May we never forget.