“Lily, slow down!” Lily didn’t want to wait for Mommy. After three days of rain, Mommy finally said it was time visit Daddy. So, Lily kept running, she knew the way. She stopped mid-run, spread her arms wide, and looked up toward the bright blue sky, squinting from the sun that was no longer blocked by clouds. Lily loved to be outside. She loved to spin in circles until she was dizzy and then watch the world tilt. She loved to skip along with Mommy on their frequent walks, catch ladybugs, and smell all the flowers she can find.
Lily continued to maneuver her way to where she knew her daddy was. Mommy said they should visit often, but not too much. The grass was still damp from the rain and Lily needed to watch her step so she wouldn’t trip from the tree vines sticking out of the ground. She came to the familiar row and counted five before sitting down. She crossed her legs and faced the large headstone. Lily was just learning her letters, but she already knew what was written on the gray headstone. She traced her little thumb over the letters that made up her Daddy’s name. Mommy had told Lily Daddy died serving their country. Lily knew Mommy missed Daddy. She watched as Mommy continued toward her, looking down at the grass. Her light hair wrapped in a knot on the top of her head and little wisps were escaping in the wind. Lily had overheard Mommy talking to Grandma once about how she was too young to have married and start a family, but Mommy didn’t look that young to Lily.
“Why didn’t you wait for me like I asked?” Lily turned and squinted up toward her mommy.
“Because I knew the way and Daddy was waiting. You were walking too slow,” Lily said to Mommy very matter of fact. Because of those three days of rain, Lily and Mommy were two days late and Lily didn’t want to wait anymore.
“Well, next time, please wait for me when I ask you to” Mommy said while setting down her blue bag. She scooped up Lily and sat in the shade from a nearby tree, placing Lily on her lap. Mommy wrapped her arms around Lily and held her close. She took a deep breath and let it out slowly. Mommy always got sad when they visited Daddy.
“Mommy, tell me the story again about Daddy and when I was born,” Lily said while turning around in her mother’s lap so she could see her.
“Haven’t I told you this one before?” Mommy said, smiling.
“Yes…but I can’t remember.” Lily said sheepishly.
Mommy laughed and said, “Alright, that’s one of my favorite’s too. One morning Mommy and Daddy were getting ready for Daddy to go to work. Mommy was making breakfast while Daddy was showering. Then Mommy felt you squirming around and rushed to tell Daddy you were ready! Mommy and Daddy hurried to the hospital. After a little while of…convincing you to come, you finally decided to join our little family. When Daddy held you for the first time, he looked at you with the largest, sweetest smile. And you know what he did?”
“What?” Lily said.
“Well, he started to cry happy tears. And that’s when I knew.”
“Knew what, Mommy?” Lily said, eyes wide.
“That’s when I knew your daddy would love you no matter what. No matter where our life would take us, he would always love you.”
“Oh, I know that, Mommy. He told me so.” Lily beamed. Her legs were getting tired of sitting. She bounced up and started toward the neighboring grave marker.
“Wait, what?” Mommy said, spinning around to look at Lily. “Wait, Lily stop for a minute.” Mommy grabbed Lily’s hand to stop her from walking away. “What do you mean Daddy already told you?”
Lily smiled brightly up at her mom. “I mean what I said. Daddy told me loved me. He tells me he loves me all the time.”
Mommy swallowed and blinked a few times. “You mean you’ve seen Daddy? Do you talk to him?”
“Yeah, not all the time. Just when we are here visiting him or at home. I don’t see him at school or the store. One time I did see him at Grandma’s house!” Lily said brightly. Lily managed to wiggle her hand free and started toward a dandelion blowing in the grass near her daddy’s grave marker. Lily bent down, plucked the dandelion out of the green grass, and started to blow on it. “He said he loves you too,” she said in between breaths. Mommy sat down hard on the grass, breathing heavily.
“He said that? How do you know it was him?” she said, breathless.
“Of course it’s him, Mommy.” Lily said, rolling her eyes. “I know it’s him because he has brown hair and blue eyes, like me!” Lily, finished with her dandelion, tossed it back on the grass and sat in front of Mommy. “He wanted me to tell you something, He said ‘Lily, tell your mommy I love her very much, and I’m sorry I couldn’t keep my promise.” Lily looked up in surprise by her mother’s outburst. Mommy was covering her mouth with her hand and tears were streaming down her face. Lily frowned. “No Mommy, don’t cry.” She stood up and climbed onto her mother’s lap, wrapping her in hug. Mommy kept crying, but her tears had slowed. “What was the promise?” Lily asked. Mommy took a deep breath and wiped the tears off her face.
“He promised he would always come home,” Mommy whispered. Lily looked up at her mother.
“Well, he is home, isn’t he? He’s in Heaven now watching over us. But he told me he’d always be with us. He promised he would never leave us and would be there when we went home, too.”
Mommy stared down at Lily, a slow smile spreading across her face.
“That’s right Lily, Daddy is always with us and we will be with him again.” Mommy took at deep breath and smoothed down her shirt. She reached inside her bag for the flowers they had bought and the homemade sign they had made together. In blue and red, they had written “Happy Birthday, Daddy” in big, bold letters. She placed the flowers and the sign just below the gravestone.
“I think Daddy likes the sign we made,” Lily said. Mommy stood up and held Lily on her hip.
“I think so too sweetheart.” Mommy grabbed the blue bag off the grass and turned to leave, holding Lily close. Lily rested her head on Mommy’s shoulder watching her Daddy’s headstone. Right before they rounded the corner, Lily lifted her head and waved.
Her daddy waved back with a large, sweet smile.