By Debbonnaire Kovacs
Solomon Nassim El-Charif grunted as he pushed the heavy wheelbarrow down the garden path.
“I’ll help!” Luke Farmer cried. Solly grinned as he watched his four-year-old neighbor grab the edge of the wheel-barrow and “help.”
“Right here,” Susannah called. “We need more mulch for this petunia.” She and her brother Matt sat back on their heels and waited for Solly to arrive with the load of cedar bark.
“Not too much,” her mother called from another bed not far away. “Just a few inches deep. Then bring the rest of it over by the gazebo, Solly.”
“OK, Mrs. Farmer.” Solly grunted again as he and Susannah (and Luke) tipped the wheelbarrow while Matt scooped out a pile of mulch for the petunias.
Solly wasn’t sure if Luke was a help or a bother, but he knew everybody had to learn how to help sometime. Little Johnny was helping by staying out of everyone’s way. He was happily pushing a toy truck around in a pile of sand, making engine noises with his mouth.
Solly rested for a minute and looked around the garden. It was starting to look really nice now that it was May. It was amazing how much work a garden took! His mother and sister were planting little sticks! They would grow into shrubs along the path that led to the house. Papa was running a huge, noisy tiller to make a rose garden.
Solly turned his head and watched Mrs. Farmer weed around the bright red tulips. Solly’s mother said Mrs. Farmer was the best garden designer she had ever had. Mother had told Mrs. Farmer that since they didn’t have time for a vegetable garden, she would buy all the family’s vegetables from the Farmers’ huge garden too.
Solly lifted the handles of the wheelbarrow again and headed toward Mrs. Farmer. He liked knowing that they were helping Mrs. Farmer just as she was helping them. Sunday afternoons, when everyone came and worked together, had become one of Solly’s favorite times of the whole week.
A cheery little electronic song made Solly groan. Mother’s cell phone! He watched as she answered, stood up, and nodded her head. Oh, rats, another emergency!
“Sorry, everyone, I’ll be back as soon as possible,” Mother called, heading into the house.
Susannah came over to Solly. “Does that happen very often?”
“Sometimes.” Solly tried to smile.
“It must be hard being a doctor’s kid,” Susannah guessed.
“Well, it could be worse. My friend’s dad is almost never home for dinner with his family. Mother told us she worked all the time when Sara was a baby. She missed Sara’s first steps, and when Sara fell or wanted comfort, she went to the nanny instead of to Mother. Mother decided to reduce her caseload.”
“What does that mean?”
“It means she accepts only a set amount of patients. If others call, she refers them to a different doctor. See, there are always emergencies. No one can help that. So if you have only a certain number of patients, you can let them feel free to depend on you and call you when they need to, but doing that is impossible if you have a lot of patients.”
“That’s smart. Is it hard for her to say ‘No’ to people?” Susannah wanted to know.
“Sometimes. But we’re important to her, and there are lots of other doctors. I heard her tell someone that having an unhappy family is one of the things that can make you sick!”
Solly’s mother came out of the house dressed for the hospital. She gave them a wave before driving away.
“It’s her garden,” Susannah pointed out. “She’s probably sadder than you are when she has to leave.”
“I know. She always needs it when she returns.” Solly looked worried. “I hope it’s not anything bad. Sometimes one of her cancer patients dies.”
“Let’s pray for her,” Susannah suggested.
So the two friends bowed their heads and asked Jesus to be with Dr. El-Charif, and with her patients and their families. “Please, Jesus, don’t let anybody die without knowing you first,” Solly finished.
Then they went and helped Papa plant the rose garden. He had first tilled it two weeks before. It had lain in the sun and rain, and now that it was tilled a second time, it was ready to plant. The roses were waiting in their black plastic tubs. Solly dug the holes, Papa held the roses at just the right level, and Susannah filled the holes in and pressed the dirt down with her foot. They called Luke and let him hold the hose to water each rose.
The sun was getting hot, and Solly thought Mother had bought way too many roses. He was sure they would never be finished!
Finally, the last rose was in and watered. “Now for the surprise,” Papa announced. He asked Solly and Matt to come and help him. They went to the garage and carried out a beautiful, white bench to set in the middle of the roses. Everyone sat back to admire the effect.
“That’s perfect!” Mrs. Farmer explained. “Of course, it will look even better when the roses fill out and bloom.”
“If it hadn’t been so rainy last month, we could have planted them sooner,” Papa said.
“Everything in its time,” Mrs. Farmer smiled at him. “A garden takes patience.”
They turned as the car came back up the driveway.
Solly watched anxiously as Mother got out of the car and came toward them. Usually, he could tell right away how her day had gone, but today he wasn’t sure.
When she got close and saw her new rose garden, she burst into tears. Solly felt awful!
Mother leaned on Papa’s shoulder. “I am sorry. It is so beautiful! And wait till I tell you—” She looked around at them all. Everyone had come over, even Johnny. “I lost a patient today, a young husband.”
“I knew it!” Solly whispered sadly to Susannah.
“I’m so sorry,” Mrs. Farmer said.
“No. It was terrible, but it was also wonderful—a miracle. I have been praying so much for this patient. Today, for the first time, he asked me about God and let me pray with him. Just before he died, he held his wife’s hand and gave his heart to Jesus.” Mother wiped tears from her cheek and sat down on her bench. “New life,” she said softly.
“Thank You so much, Jesus,” Solly whispered.