Recently, I received a letter from a friend. At the time, I was thinking about events that happened on the same day, more than fifty years ago; it was the anniversary of that fateful day when my late husband had been the victim of a drunk driver, and spent the next two years undergoing twenty-two surgical operations.
The accident was life-changing; with the amputation of his left leg and the rebuilding of his right, but with his career as an engineer apparently over at twenty-six he decided to embark on studies that eventually led to a successful medical career as an ophthalmologist. This letter from Irene in Australia contained a story about someone who’d experienced something that would evoke memories for me too. It seemed a woman had written:
‘I was walking around a Target store when I saw the cashier handing back the money a little boy, (he was probably about five or six years old, had handed her saying, ‘I’m sorry, but you don’t have enough money for the doll.’
The little boy turned to the older lady who was with him and said, ‘Granny, are you sure I don’t have enough money?’
The older lady said, ‘You know you don’t have enough money dear. Now be a good boy and put it back while I go and finish the shopping,’ and off she went.
The little boy stood with the doll in his hands, but when asked, ‘Who do you want the doll for?’
He said, ‘It’s the doll my sister wanted so much for Christmas, and she was sure Santa Claus would bring it to her.’
Trying to be helpful I said, ‘I’m sure Santa Claus will bring it for her.’
But his reply stopped me in my tracks; ‘ No, Santa Claus can’t bring it to her where she is now. I have to give it to Mummy so she can give it to my sister when she gets there.’ His eyes were so sad as he continued, ‘My sister has gone to be with God…and Daddy says Mummy is going to go soon to be with her…so I thought she could take the doll…so I asked Daddy to ask Mummy to wait until I got back from shopping so she could take it with her…I don’t want Mummy to go…but daddy says she needs to be with my little sister.’
He was still holding the doll and looking at it with those sad eyes, so, while leaning over and suggesting, ‘Why don’t we check your money in that pocket in case it is enough after all?’ I managed to slip some extra cash into the pocket I’d seen him put his money into without him seeing.
‘OK…I hope it is enough’ he said, as we started counting. There was enough, and a little to spare, then I heard him add, ‘thank you God for giving me enough money.’ Then, looking at me he said, ‘Last night, before I went to sleep…I asked God to please make sure I would have enough money to buy the doll for Mummy to take to my little sister…He’s given me enough to buy the doll…and a white rose for Mummy…Mummy loves white roses.’
I got home but couldn’t get that little fellow out of my mind, then, as I remembered reading the local newspaper article about the hit and run by some drunk driver having hit a car in which a little girl had been killed outright and the mother was in a coma; I wondered if this had anything to do with the little boy. A couple of days later there was a follow-up stating the family had decided to withdraw the life-support as the mother was brain-dead; there were details of the funeral.
I felt compelled to go and pay my respects at the funeral home and joined those who had come to pay theirs, so saw the young woman lying in her coffin holding a beautiful white rose in her hands with the photo of the little boy and the doll placed on her chest. You can guess my eyes were full of tears too as I left my bunch of white roses alongside.’
Memories came flooding back as I read Irene’s letter and thought how, in a few seconds, the lives of another family had been wrecked by the stupidity of another drunk driver. This one, robbing a little boy of his mother and his sister, yet enabling a perfect stranger to answer his prayers while gaining a golden memory for herself. I couldn’t help thinking that life is full of little ironies as well as cherished memories.