By Linda Porter Carlyle
Hannah Maria Estevez stirred. She stretched. She opened her eyes and looked at the glowing red numbers on the clock beside her bed. 6:39, they said. Hannah shivered and pulled the covers up under her chin. The bedroom was cold! It was dark too. Papa had reminded her yesterday that the short winter days would be getting longer soon. Each day would soon be a tiny, tiny bit longer than the day before. And finally the very longest day of the year would arrive in June. Then it would be summer. And hot.
But summer seemed a long way away now. And it was definitely not hot now! Hannah pulled the covers up to her eyeballs and tried to go back to sleep. But it was too late. She wasn’t sleepy anymore.
Hannah scrambled out of bed and hurried to put on her new leopard print bathrobe. She loved the new Christmas bathrobe that had arrived in the mail from Tia Lupe. It was so beautiful and so cozy and warm that Hannah wished she could wear it out of doors for a coat. But Mama hadn’t let her do that so far.
Hannah stuck her feet into her slippers and padded down the hall toward the kitchen. Then she stopped. Who’s voice was that talking to Baby Paulo? It was not Mama’s!
Hannah tip-toed the rest of the way down the hall. She peeked around the corner. It was Mrs. Pastor Chuck! What was Mrs. Pastor Chuck doing in her kitchen at this time of day? And where was Mama?
“Good morning, Hannah,” Mrs. Pastor Chuck said, spying her in the doorway. “Are you hungry too? I can’t seem to fill your brother up.” She spooned another bite of cereal into little Paulo’s open mouth.
“Hi. Where’s Mama?” Hannah asked shyly.
Mrs. Pastor Chuck smiled. She patted the kitchen chair beside her. “Come, sit down, and I’ll tell you. I love your robe!” she said.
Hannah sat down and grinned as Baby Paulo banged his hand on his high chair tray and shouted, “Han! Han!”
Mrs. Pastor Chuck sprinkled some Cheerios on the tray in front of him. Paulo filled his little fist with them and crammed them into his mouth.
“Your mama and papa are at the hospital,” Mrs. P.C. explained gently. “Mr. Edwards next door had a heart attack last night. They went to the hospital with Mrs. Edwards to comfort her and help her if they can. They asked me to come stay with you and Baby Paulo until they get back home.”
“Is Mr. Edwards going to get well soon?” Hannah asked. “Is he going to come home soon?”
“I don’t know,” Mrs. P.C. said, pouring out more Cheerios for Paulo. “I think it was a bad heart attack. He may not get well.”
“Do you mean Mr. Edward’s going to die?” Hannah whispered. She felt hot tears prick her eyes. She liked Mr. Edwards. He always had a friendly smile for her. He let her pick roses from his special rose bushes to make bouquets for Mama. He let her help when he was working on projects in his shop in the garage.
Mrs. P.C. put her hand on Hannah’s shoulder. “We need to have hope,” she said. “And we should pray for Mr. Edwards too. We can pray together right now.”
Hannah closed her eyes and listened as Mrs. P.C. prayed. “Han! Han! Han!” Baby Paulo shouted in the middle of the prayer.
Hannah found herself smiling at Paulo at the same time as tears leaked out of her eyes. She wiped them away on the sleeve of her bathrobe. “But what if Mr. Edwards dies?” she asked when Mrs. P.C. said, “Amen.”
“Well, that’s not the worst thing that could happen,” Mrs. P.C. answered. She stood up and went to the sink to get a wet cloth to clean Paulo’s face.
Hannah stared at her. What did she mean? What could be worse than dying?
Mrs. P.C. smiled. “Mr. Edwards loves Jesus,” she said. “He has the hope of eternal life. Do you know when the Bible talks about hope, it isn’t the same as when we say, ‘I hope I get to go there,’ or ‘I hope I can do that.’” she went on. “When the Bible talks about hope, it means a sure thing. Mr. Edwards is going to heaven. It is a sure thing. So, you see, if Mr. Edwards dies, it isn’t the worst thing that could happen. The worst thing would be if he died without having hope in Jesus.”
Hannah sat still, thinking. If Mr. Edwards died, she would really miss him. Mrs. Edwards would really miss him. Lots of people would miss him. But she would still have the hope of seeing him again in heaven. Mrs. Pastor Chuck was right, Hannah decided. If Mr. Edwards died, that would be a hard thing to get used to. But if Mr. Edwards were to die with no hope of going to heaven, that would be far worse.
Hannah smiled at Mrs. P.C. She absently picked up one of Baby Paulo’s Cheerios and put it in her mouth. “I’m glad we don’t have to worry,” she said. “I mean, we can trust Jesus to take care of Mr. Edwards, can’t we?”
Mrs. Pastor Chuck looked at her with shining eyes. “Hannah, I’m so proud of you! You have a better understanding about this than many grown-ups do.”
“Han! Han! Han!” Baby Paulo shouted.