by Mark Irwin
One fine, sun-filled day a healthy and beautiful little blessing came into this world. Mom and dad, we’re elated and thankful, for they’d wanted a child with all their hearts. And little Timothy became the answer to those prayers, a true blessing from heaven.
Time passed, and as little Timothy grew, he would so often bring joy, laughter, and surprise to his mom and dad. Sometimes he would surprise them so much that they just didn’t know what to say; for Timothy was so very much just like little boys are supposed to be – full of life, wonder, and curiosity.
There was a bright red cap timothy’s mom and dad gave him when he was three years old. He liked that cap so very much, and he wore it whenever he could. His little red cap had much more status than his pockets for keeping any special treasure; always to be found tucked under that red cap. From time to time his mum and dad would hear the familiar clackity, clickety clank as one of those little treasures slipped from its hiding place.
Sometimes, little Timothy would give his mom and dad even more of a surprise than little boys are supposed to; like the time just after Timothy turned four years old when his mom discovered he’d been burying one of his dad’s war medals with every little dead creature he came upon in the yard. Mom and dad never did find all of his dad’s medals; little boys have a way of forgetting where they put things.
But for the most part, little Timothy was a quiet and thoughtful youngster. All the parents would comment on how well-behaved Timothy was, and how well he played and shared with the other children.
Everything was so full of happiness and wonder in young Timothy’s life, until one morning when he didn’t feel well.
Mom and dad took him to the doctor right away. But their doctor sent them to another doctor, and that doctor sent them to another doctor, then to another for some tests. And that’s when they found out gentle little Timothy had a very bad illness, and they didn’t know if they could make him well again. It was then that mom and dad agreed to send their special angel away to a big hospital in a faraway city.
And worse, since Timothy’s mom and dad were very far away from that city, and since it cost a lot of money to go there, they could not easily visit their beloved little boy as often as they wanted.
The doctors and nurses and other little children were very nice to Timothy and tried very hard to make him feel at home. But that gentle little soul knew he wasn’t at home, knew he was ill and inside himself, he feared he would not be getting better. He tried to be such a brave little boy, but he missed his mum and dad and all those little treasures, especially his little red cap. At night, alone in the darkened hospital his soft sobs couldn’t be heard, but if one listened very closely, they might hear him whispering his troubles to an invisible Friend.
But no matter how hard the doctors and nurses tried, the stricken child just didn’t seem to be getting any better. It was only when little Timothy would turn to his Friend that he felt any comfort at all.
Finally, the day arrived when Timothy’s mom and dad have been able to save enough money to come and see him. She had brought something with her that she knew would make her precious gift happier than anything else, and when she took that little red cap out of her bag his eyes finally shone brighter than they had for a long time.
After that, little Timothy never let that little red cap out of his sight. When he didn’t have it on his head, he held it in his hands or just lay it nearby his pillow. He was very fond of that cap, whenever he sat there with it, he would think happily of his mom and his dad and their house and all the other good things that little red cap had in its memories.
But, even with all his happy memories, little Timothy still didn’t get any better.
All the doctors and nurses worried about how fragile his body was and yet noticed how brave, how quietly stoic, he remained with the discomfort he endured during and after his treatments. They wondered because they all knew too well that those treatments always hurt him a lot more than he showed.
In in those moments, little Timothy would be with his invisible Friend and the comfort his Friend always gave him whenever he’d been sad or hurting. For little Timothy knew in his heart that his Friend would come to him whenever he needed help. He didn’t know why; he just knew he could trust his invisible Friend without question.
It happened most often at night when little Timothy most needed comfort, and it was then that his Friend would come to him, and then, when little Timothy felt safe, he would fall asleep; and in that sleep, his Friend gave him dreams of happier times than the ones he knew now.
On this particular night, he dreamt of the time he was waiting on the porch in his Sunday best. How he’d taken the paintbrush and the white paint intended for the porch, how he and his sister had painted each other, their little Sunday outfits and several other things as well.
Oh, how his mom and dad had been so upset at first, but the two rookie painters looked so funny standing there in prideful innocence, his mom and dad couldn’t help but laugh. And they laughed and laughed, all four of them, until their sides ached and their eyes teared.
Then Timothy’s mom cleaned them up, and since it was too late to go to church that day, they’d all gone out for ice cream instead. Timothy’s invisible Friend had been there that day too, but Timothy hadn’t noticed because he didn’t have need of him, then. Timothy dreamt those memory dreams often, and they were a great source of comfort to him.
When mornings would come, it would be the dreams that gave him so much joy in remembering all the next day. He needed those memories, for he’d been in the hospital for a long time now, and even little Timothy knew he wasn’t getting any better.
And then one day Timothy’s mom and dad came to see him when he was feeling very sick; too sick now to even sit up. On this day his mom had tears in her eyes almost the whole time, and Timothy knew by the look on her face that they weren’t happy tears. And little Timothy’s dad just sat there, Timothy’s hand in his, his eyes wet, not looking at anything but Timothy – like there was nothing else in the world worth looking at, in that moment.
Timothy loved his mom and dad so very much, and it made him so sad to see them hurt as they did.
They stayed for a long time that day and when they finally had to leave Timothy’s mom hugged him so big it hurt a little, and his dad just sat there until his mom pried his dad’s hand from Timothy’s and led him from the room. Timothy could hear this mom’s quiet sobs echoing down the hall.
It was that night he dreamt of the day his mum and dad had taken him to God’s House. There, a man baptized little Timothy, and they all closed their eyes while the man spoke to Someone about him. And Timothy remembered in his own little heart how nice it had felt, and it was in the midst of that dream Timothy felt a vague but illumined figure standing quietly beside his bed. And in that instant, Timothy felt the same safe comfort he’d come to know so often.
“Timothy, someone so brave and trusting a person as you should have much work to do here on earth.” With those words, Timothy felt a soft, warm hand touch his forehead.
The next morning no one could believe that little Timothy was well, but he was. Laughing, sitting up in his bed, talking, and telling all the other little children about how happy he was to be feeling so good.
When the doctors and nurses found out, they were all scratching their heads and wondering what had happened. All of them had accepted that little Timothy would soon pass away. They just didn’t know what to make of it all, except maybe call it a miracle, and leave it at that.
A few weeks later, Timothy’s mom and dad came, and they laughed and they cried and they hugged and they packed his bag because Timothy was going home at last.
He said goodbye to the doctors and the nurses and all the other little children and he told them all to get better real soon, just like he did.
As Timothy walked out of the hospital with his mom on one side and his dad on the other side, and his little red cap on his head, he knew for sure he would never leave them again, and he knew, in his heart, that his invisible Friend would never leave any of them, ever.
Mark Irwin has been writing for 40 years, and has published three novels and several short stories. He had a fulfilling thirty-year career as a college remediation professor. Married with two adult children, he lives with his wife in a small town in Ontario, Canada.