“Hellooooooo,” said Maggie as she zoomed past Lua and Mateo on her bright blue bike.
“Hey, Maggie,” they shouted, “want to play?”
Maggie didn’t slow down a bit. “Can’t . . . later!” she shouted and waved.
Maggie was pedaling off to Buttercup Village to visit Mrs. O’Sullivan and Mr. Marshall.
At a little table in the garden, Mrs. O’Sullivan was waiting with a plate of oatmeal cookies and a pitcher of pink lemonade — three things Maggie loved.
Maggie jumped off her bike and plopped into the chair. Filling her glass, Mrs. O’Sullivan smiled and asked, “How are you today, Maggie?”
“Great!” she replied tucking a napkin into the neck of her shirt. “Saw Lua and Mateo playing. Mom’s writing and Dad’s cooking. I don’t know what my brother Freddy is doing.”
Maggie picked up the plate of cookies and offered them to Mrs. O’Sullivan. “How are you?”
Mrs. O’Sullivan carefully chose two cookies. “I’m fine, but my older sister broke her arm while surfing. Can you believe that?” Mrs. O’Sullivan shook her head. “How’s school?”
“Okay. We’re having a play.”
And that is how their visit began. While munching, sipping and talking, Maggie observed that the grass next door was unusually high. “Is Mr. Marshall away?”
“No, he’s home,” answered Mrs. O’Sullivan.
“His grass is very long,” observed Maggie. “That’s weird.”
Mrs. O’Sullivan looked a little sad. “Mr. Marshall is not well.”
“Oh, that’s too bad.” Maggie chose another cookie. “Do you remember when you first moved here and Mr. Marshall and I helped you start your garden? That was fun!”
“And a lot of work!” remembered Mrs. O’Sullivan. “I was grateful for your help.”
Maggie wiped cookie crumbs off her face. “Remember how you said we could call it ‘Maggie’s Garden’ even though it’s in your yard?”
Mrs. O’Sullivan chuckled, “That’s because I wanted you to help me keep it beautiful.”
“Remember when we planted the tulips?” said Maggie.
“Oh, yes,” answered Mrs. O’Sullivan.
“And I planted all of the bulbs upside down!” giggled Maggie. “Who knew they had tops and bottoms!”
Back and forth they went recalling every flower planted until the cookies were eaten and the lemonade was finished.
Then it was time for gardening. First they pulled weeds. Then Mrs. O’Sullivan opened the shed and piled the necessary tools in the wheel barrow.
“Do you know why we pull the weeds?”
Maggie clasped her hands around her neck and sputtered, “They choke . . . and strangle . . . the flowers.”
Mrs. O’Sullivan handed Maggie a spade. “Did you know that gossiping, saying bad things about people, is like growing weeds in your heart?”
Waving the spade is the air, Maggie said, “Weeds in our garden and weeds in our heart, look out.” Maggie dug in around a really big weed. She tugged so hard at it she fell on her bottom.
Mrs. O’Sullivan laughed. “Okay, let’s get rid of all of these gossip weeds.”
They dug and pulled and pulled and dug until all of the gossip weeds were gone. Then it was time for watering.
“I think watering our garden is like . . .” thought Maggie, “saying our prayers.”
“I like that,” grinned Mrs. O’Sullivan.
As cool water sprinkled out of the hose Mrs. O’Sullivan sang, “Oh God, My God” over and over again.
Maggie joined in and they praised God, as they watered all of the plants.
“What’s next?” asked Maggie.
“Well, our azaleas are not doing well.”
Maggie looked at the azalea plants. The leaves were droopy and color was pale.
“What do we do?” she asked.
“Transplant!” Mrs. O’Sullivan shoved a pointed shovel into the earth around the bush. Stomping her foot on top of the shovel, it sunk deep into the dark moist earth.
Maggie picked up her shovel and did the same.
They dug a wide circle around the azalea and gently lifted the bush out of the soil onto a wheel barrel.
“Now what?” asked Maggie.
“Now we find a better home for our azalea. Where would that be? Hmmm.” Mrs. O’Sullivan surveyed the available spots.
“What was wrong with where it was?” asked Maggie.
“This was the perfect place, but now our azalea needs more room for the roots and sun for its leaves. I think it will be more beautiful, hmmmmm, over there.” Mrs. O’Sullivan pointed to a place where the sun was shining and there was an empty space. Maggie pushed the wheel barrel and Mrs. O’Sullivan carried the tools over to the new spot.
“First, let’s loosen the soil.” Mrs. O’Sullivan took her pitch fork and shoved it into the ground. Maggie picked up her pitch fork and did the same.
“Next,” said Mrs. O’Sullivan, “we dig a hole.”
They dug until the hole looked big enough. Gently they lifted the azalea out of the wheelbarrow into its new home. Mrs. O’Sullivan covered the roots with dirt and Maggie firmly patted it down.
“Are we done?” asked Maggie.
“No, it needs lots of water. You know moving to a new place is very upsetting. Water will help.”
Maggie picked up the hose and thoroughly soaked the ground.
“Okay,” said Mrs. O’Sullivan, “we’re done for today.”
As they returned all of the gardening tools to the shed Maggie asked, “What do you think transplanting is like?”
Mrs. O’Sullivan looked at Maggie, “What do you think transplanting is like?”
Maggie didn’t answer right away. In fact, she didn’t answer at all. “I need to think about it.”
“Good answer. ‘Til we meet again.” Mrs. O’Sullivan blew Maggie a kiss and went inside.
Maggie hopped on her bike and began singing at the top of her lungs. It was 4 o’clock, time for chamomile tea with Mr. Marshall.
Suddenly, Mrs. O’Sullivan’s head popped out of the window. “Maggie, come here.” Maggie drove her bike under the window.
“Remember, Mr. Marshall is not feeling well.” Mrs. O’Sullivan held her finger to her lips, “Quiet.”
“Okay,” whispered Maggie.
Being quiet was a good idea but she wanted to do more than that to help Mr. Marshall. Surely flowers would make him feel better.
She returned to “Maggie’s Garden” and cut three Black-eyed Susans, some Baby’s Breath and five Snapdragons.
Maggie hid the bouquet behind her back and quietly knocked on Mr. Marshall’s door. She waited and waited but no one answered. Maggie knocked a little harder. Still, no answer. At last, Maggie knocked really hard, three times. Finally, the door opened. What she saw surprised her. Mr. Marshall was still in his bathrobe, slippers and pajamas.
She held the flowers out to Mr. Marshall. “These are for you,” she said. “To help you feel better.”
Mr. Marshall took the flowers. His lips smiled but his eyes were sad. “It’s seeing you that makes me feel better.”
Maggie gave him a big smile. “Tea time, Mr. Marshall.”
Shaking his head Mr. Marshall said, “Not today, dear,” and slowly began to close the door. Maggie looked startled and asked, “Oh, would I get sick, too?”
“No, I’m not that kind of sick. I’m just too tired for tea.”
“Too tired for tea?” Maggie was shocked.
“Too tired for tea,” he repeated.
“Next week?” Maggie asked hopefully.
“I hope so, Maggie. I hope so.” Mr. Marshall closed the door.
Surprised and disappointed, Maggie went to find Mrs. O’Sullivan.
She found Mrs. O’Sullivan back in the garden weeding.
“Mrs. O’Sullivan, Mrs. O’Sullivan! Did you know that Mr. Marshall is too sick to visit? We’ve never ever missed a visit.”
Mrs. O’Sullivan looked up. “I’m not surprised, Maggie.”
“He’s very sick, isn’t he?” said Maggie.
. “Yes, very sick,” answered Mrs. O’Sullivan continuing to weed.
“Is he very, very sick?”
“Yes, he is very, very sick.”
“What can we do? I don’t want Mr. Marshall to be very, very sick.”
“Maggie I don’t want Mr. Marshall to be very, very sick, either.”
“I want to help him get better.” Maggie began pacing back and forth. “I gave him flowers.”
“That was nice.” Mrs. O’Sullivan yanked on a stubborn weed.
Maggie thought harder. “I could encourage him to get better.”
“Hmmmm, really?” Mrs. O’Sullivan threw the weed into a pile.
Maggie was beginning to get really worried. “What kind of sick is Mr. Marshall?”
Mrs. O’Sullivan put down her tools, got up from the ground and then sat down on the bench.
“Come sit with me.” Maggie snuggled next to Mrs. O’Sullivan.
“Mr. Marshall loves you very much and he doesn’t want you to be sad. But what I’m going to tell you is very sad.”
Mrs. O’Sullivan took Maggie’s face in her hands. “Can you be strong?”
Wide-eyed, Maggie answered, “Yes.”
Mrs. O’Sullivan was quiet for a very long time as tears rolled down her cheek. “No Maggie, I cannot tell you. This is Mr. Marshall’s tale to tell.”
“How will he tell me if he won’t see me?”
“Maggie, he will tell you when he can.”
With that Mrs. O’Sullivan got up and wrapped her arms around Maggie. It was time to go home. Maggie was very upset.
All week long Maggie worried about Mr. Marshall. What could be wrong with him? She asked Lua if she knew, but she did not. She asked Mateo if he knew, but he did not. She asked her parents if they knew. They said what she already knew: that Mr. Marshall was very, very sick. At first, she really didn’t know what to do. But then she did — she would pray.
The next Saturday, instead of knocking on Mr. Marshall’s front door, she sat down in the tall grass under his bedroom window and quietly sang a little prayer. “Thy name is my healing . . .” it began.
Then she said, a little louder, a prayer for help. “O God, Guide me. . . .”
When Maggie opened her eyes, there was Mr. Marshall looking down at her from the window. This time both his eyes and his mouth smiled. With a wave of his hand, he invited her to come inside.
Maggie jumped up and ran to the front door. There stood Mr. Marshall, in his robe and pajamas, with the door wide open.
Maggie gave him a big hug. “Mr. Marshall, Mr. Marshall! What’s the matter? You have to tell me.”
Mr. Marshall set Maggie back on her feet. “First a nice cup of tea,” he said as he slowly walked to the kitchen.
At the table, Mr. Marshall poured two cups of chamomile tea, adding milk and a big dollop of honey.
Maggie’s flowers from last week were on the table in a yellow polka dotted vase.
“Mr. Marshall, you know I’m very brave, but I’m not very patient. Please tell me what’s wrong.”
Mr. Marshall smiled. “I know you are brave and impatient, but Maggie, can you accept the Will of God?”
Maggie’s face scrunched.
“Can you be happy when unhappy things happen?” Mr. Marshall’s face was very serious.
“I can if I try,” decided Maggie.
“Maggie. . . . I’m dying.”
Maggie said nothing. Mr. Marshall said nothing. Only the clock ticked.
Finally, Maggie took Mr. Marshall’s hand and said, “Then I want to die, too.”
Mr. Marshall was startled. “Why would you want to do that?”
Maggie said, “I think we should have our teatime forever and ever. And if not here, then there.”
Mr. Marshall’s eyes filled with tears.
Mr. Marshall reached over and picked up his prayer book. He turned the pages, then stopped and pointed to one particular sentence. “Read this.”
Maggie read, “Powerful art Thou to do what pleaseth Thee.”
Maggie paused and then spoke, “But Mr. Marshall it’s just that . . . that . . . that . . . if you die then I will miss you.”
“Hmmm. I’ve been thinking about all of the things I will miss and at the top of the list is you.”
Maggie jumped out of the chair and into his arms. They hugged and hugged and hugged until Mr. Marshall kissed the top of her curly head. He looked into her eyes and said, “God’s ways are not our ways.”
“Don’t you want me to pray for you to get better?” asked Maggie. ‘‘I believe God would do it if we prayed hard enough.”
“You know, Maggie,” said Mr. Marshall, “even though I’m going to miss so many things, I am done with this world and ready to move on.”
“I don’t want you to be done. I’m not done.” Maggie crossed her arms and started to pout.
Mr. Marshall firmly asked a question. “How do you look forward to the end of a trip?”
“Depends on where I’m going?” she replied.
“I know where I’m going. So I’m looking forward to the end of my trip with hope and expectation.”
“Where are you going?” asked Maggie.
“I’m going to a new world. I’ll be in God’s garden of happiness. I’m going to see my Lord!” Mr. Marshall looked deep into Maggie’s eyes. “I’m going to miss you, little Miss Maggie, a whole bunch.”
“Oh, Mr. Marshall,” whispered Maggie, “my heart feels like it’s breaking.”
“Remember,” said Mr. Marshall,” I’ll still be your friend. I’ll know what you’re doing. Maybe God will let me inspire you!”
“Inspire me?” said Maggie.
“Yes,” said Mr. Marshall. “Send you good ideas.”
“Mr. Marshall,” chuckled Maggie, “I’ve got more ideas than I know what to do with.”
“Hmmm, so true.” Mr. Marshall rubbed his chin. “Then I’ll help you do your good ideas.”
Maggie threw her arms around him and kissed his cheek. “That’s a great idea.”
Content, Mr. Marshall sat back in his chair and wiped his brow. “I’m feeling like a nap.”
“Do you want me to stay?”
“No, but can you clean up before you leave?” With that, Mr. Marshall carefully stood up and headed for his bedroom.
Maggie quietly put the milk in the fridge, the tea in the cupboard and the cups and saucers in the dishwasher. Then she tiptoed out the door and ran over to Mrs. O’Sullivan’s.
“Mrs. O’Sullivan, Mrs. O’Sullivan! I don’t want Mr. Marshall to die,” cried Maggie as she pounded on Mrs. O’Sullivan’s front door.
Mrs. O’Sullivan opened the door and pulled Maggie into a big hug. “There, there, there.”
“I don’t understand what I’m supposed to do. We need to pray.”
They sat down on the sofa, closed their eyes and prayed, and prayed and prayed. God would surely help. He answers all sincere prayers.
After finishing their prayers, their eyes flew open and they started talking at the same time.
“You go first,” said Mrs. O’Sullivan.
“I think God is transplanting Mr. Marshall. . . .”
“Yes,” agreed Mrs. O’Sullivan.
“. . . .to the garden of happiness,” continued Maggie.
Mrs. O’Sullivan nodded in agreement, saying “So . . . like the azalea, we should . . .” “loosen the soil and let him go,” concluded Maggie.
From then on Maggie’s visits with Mr. Marshall were different. Sometimes, they sipped their chamomile tea and talked in the kitchen. Sometimes, they just held hands while Mr. Marshall lay on the couch. Sometimes, Mr. Marshall was too sick to visit. On those days Maggie was sad. On those days she prayed quietly under his bedroom window.
One Saturday, Maggie knocked on Mr. Marshall’s door and it was Mrs. O’Sullivan who let her in. In the living room was a bed. In the bed was Mr. Marshall. He looked like he was sleeping. Maggie slipped her hand in to his and softly said, “Mr. Marshall it’s me, Maggie.” A smile appeared on his lips but his eyes stayed shut.
“Are you leaving soon?” she asked.
Mr. Marshall nodded.
Maggie let go of his hand and pulled a card out of her pocket.
Mr. Marshall opened his eyes and saw a drawing of a beautiful garden and standing right in the middle with a big smile was Mr. Marshall.
Inside, the card read:
Dear Mr. Marshall,
I’m going to miss you, our tea-time and our visits. But I know that you are going to a wonderful place and will be very happy. So, have a wonderful time.
Mr. Marshall smiled. He pointed to a package on his nightstand. It was wrapped in bright blue and brown polka dotted paper, tied with a pink ribbon.
Maggie quickly unwrapped it and discovered a journal and a pen. She smiled. She knew what it was for. When she looked up, she saw that Mr. Marshall’s eyes were shut. Mrs. O’Sullivan put her finger to her lips. Maggie tiptoed out the front door.
The next morning Maggie’s parents were very sad. They told her that Mr. Marshall had died. Tears filled her eyes even though she knew that this day would come. Maggie ran into her mother’s arms. They gently rocked back and forth. Her father also had tears in his eyes. Now Maggie was hugging him as he patted her on the back.
Soon they all dried their eyes and Maggie went upstairs to her room. She took out Mr. Marshall’s gift and sat on her bed. Opening the journal, she read what Mr. Marshall had written on the first page.
I’m so glad we are friends. Please say this prayer for me. You know I’ll be praying for you.
“O my Lord! Purify them from trespasses, dispel their sorrows, and change their darkness into light. Cause them to enter the garden of happiness, cleanse them with the most pure water, and grant them to behold Thy splendours on the loftiest mount.” — ‘Abdu’l-Bahá
Your forever friend,
PS: I’ll be helping you.
Maggie did not know what every word meant, but the words “garden of happiness” were underlined and that made her smile. Maggie turned the page and drew a line down the center. Then she was silent and waited. Soon it began. Ideas filled her head. Maggie wrote them down as quickly as she could. On the left side of the line she wrote her ideas. On the right side of the line she wrote how she would do them.
|One idea was:||│||On the other side of the line she wrote:|
|Help kids when somebody they love dies.||│||1. Invite them to Maggie’s Garden.|
|│||2. Show them how to transplant.|
|│||3. Teach them a prayer.|
|│||4. Tell them that real friends are forever.|