By Corinne Smelker
He ambled through the cemetery, winding his way past gravestones, some ornate, others simple. A curlew sang above him, and the scent of freshly mown grass met his nostrils. He smiled gently, as he saw her stone ahead.
He had brought a folding canvas chair - a stool really, to sit on. He planned on being here for a while. He placed the bouquet of pink carnations in front of her grave, they were her favourite.
"I know you're not here, you're in heaven, but I can't help myself." He could hear her voice echoing in his head. You could have spent the money on something else. She was always like that, she had appreciated the good things in life, but saw the needs of others beyond her own pleasure.
Grant leaned forward and caressed the stone with one hand - liver-spotted now, so different to the hand that had grasped hers when he said, 'I Do'. So many years, so many memories.
"Jordan came by last week - you would barely recognise the boy now! Remember when we first brought the waif in?"
Grant's eyes filled as he recalled the frantic phone call to the office from his wife. "There's a homeless lad down on the high street - Grant, he needs a family. His mother died and his father is in jail."
Of course this was in the days before Children's Services, and many children fell between the cracks. Grant was torn. He liked his orderly world, but he also knew his wife's crusade to help the homeless children that littered the streets of Pretoria. He kept reminding her, "Grace, we can't save them all - send them to the orphanage."
She would smile that enigmatic smile that drew him to her in the first place, the smile she knew he couldn't resist, and say, "But we can help just one."
Of course one turned into two and then three and before Grant knew it they had seven strays taking over the house - his house.
"It's not your house," Grace admonished him, "It's God's house!"
"Yeah, well I don't see God giving me a hand with paying the bills and putting food on the table," Grant once retorted.
"Oh Grace, I'm sorry, I didn't mean it." He implored as the hurt crept into her eyes. He knew perfectly well they could afford the seven children, perhaps even more; it was sharing his wife that was so hard.
The sound of the approaching lawn mower broke his reverie. He was here to commemorate their wedding anniversary, not think about the children, although her life was inextricably connected with them. "Oh, and Grace, you'd be happy to know that young Samuel sorted his life out - he's gone on to university to study medicine because he's chosen to be a medical missionary. Remember what a handful he was? How doped up he was, and we wondered whether we would ever straighten him out? Well, I say 'we', I mean, you and Jesus. You always spent more time with them, loving them, praying for and with them, then I ever did."
A sob escaped him, "I am so sorry Grace. I should have spent more time praying and less time griping and whining. I should have realised you had love enough for the kids, and then plenty for me too. You were so good at setting boundaries, and when we closed the bedroom door, all of the children, even Weeping William knew it was 'our' time."
He wiped the tears away from his face, using a broad handkerchief he'd fished from his breast pocket. "Joanna does for me once a week. Can you imagine Joanna cleaning? I remember when we had to supervise her every movement, and make sure things didn't grow legs in her presence. Now, she is a mother herself, and yet she still finds time to come and clean the house, and even do my laundry. That's why I can come here and still look presentable.
"What a legacy you left behind Grace! What a treasure - all seven of these kids have turned out well. Even little William - he's finishing up high school, says he's going into the Army next year. No more weeping for William - he is a strapping six footer now, with looks that make girls' hearts melt. Grace - you did right by them."
Idly Grant played with the corners of his handkerchief, twisting it between his thin fingers - 'architect fingers' Grace called them, and true to form, an architect is what he had been - still was he supposed. Although he had retired, he was still partner of the firm he had founded forty-five years earlier. Now Ian, one of the other waifs they had taken in, ran the day-to-day operations.
Breathing deeply, Grant reached into his back pocket, and pulled a paper roll out. "Grace, I hope you're looking down at me because I have something to show you." Carefully he unfurled the paper, to reveal a blueprint. "This has been in the works for a while now. In fact the groundbreaking takes place this afternoon. This is a plan for a Children's Home, Grace - a dream you had, but couldn't fulfil because you went home to the Lord. I took all your ideas, presented them to Ian, and between the two of us we created the perfect home for your waifs. Well, our waifs I guess. See - here are the bedrooms with the bathroom in the middle, here is the game room/den, and here is the kitchen. I created it to be big and airy, because we know that's where the kids love to hang out."
Grant struggled to get to his feet after sitting in the small, backless stool for so long. I'm not getting any younger, am I? He folded the stool, rolled up the plans, kissed his fingertips and gently placed them on the gravestone. "Well, I have to get to a groundbreaking ceremony Grace. I chose today for it because this is a way to remember the 'I Do' I said to you all those years ago."
He turned to walk away, and then suddenly swung around, "Oh. One last thing - we're calling the home, 'Grace's Manor', you'll get the pun I'm sure."
Goodbye and hello again he thought as he turned his back. She might be gone from here, but Grace never really died.
Corinne Smelker is the mom to five kids and wife of one husband. She is a self-employed writer and also the administrator for Prophetic Life Ministry, a Christian Ministry located in San Antonio. Cori also writes and posts daily devotionals to that site. You can contact Cori via the Letters page of this Magazine.
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