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God's Lantern


Mandy Fernandes
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GOD'S LANTERN

Gramps cleared his throat, got that far-away look in his eyes, and began... "A long time ago, when I was a child..." He sat in his favourite arm chair and my sisters, cousins and I were gathered on the carpet around his knees. Gramps' stories were the highlight of our annual family gathering on the farm.

"Our country, England, had gone to war. War is a terrible thing" he went on, studying each of our faces in turn, "especially for a child." He lifted his head and gazed out of the window. We all urged him to carry on. "A plan had been made to move families, especially children, away from dangerous areas. We lived on the coast directly across from mainland Europe and it was decided to move us to farms inland till it was safe to return home. When my mom told me I was devastated!"

"'How can you let them do this? What about Scampie? Mo-om!' My poor mother - your great grandmother - looked stricken and her voice was shaky when she answered 'I'll be here to take care of Scampie.' 'Don't you love us any more?' I yelled at her accusingly, then whistling for Scampie, I stomped out of our back door into the cold evening air. Stumbling along the narrow stony path, with Scampie bounding all around me in doggie excitement, I made my way to the narrow beach, my favourite, most beautiful place. The cold wind made my cheeks burn and my eyes sting. I was glad for the tears that washed the sting away."

"I sat down on a rock and stared out to sea. It seemed grey and manacing. It lashed angrily against the cliff, whipping up snowy froth. What about my friends, my school? I tried to imagine what it would be like on a strange farm. My little sisters were so small. I vowed to take the best care of them that I could. 'Oh God' I cried out aloud 'can't you make a plan?' Then I saw him - the man - sitting with his back to me, writing in the sand. He seemed oddly familiar. Had I seen him before? I was suddenly embarrassed by my outburst, but he sat quietly, not even turning to look at me."

"Something drew him to me and I disregarded Mom's warning about strangers as I made my way to him. I sat down beside him. Somehow I could feel warmth radiating from him and I no longer felt so cold. The rising moon made a shimmering path of silver on the ocean. The wind had dropped."

"'Do you see the moon?' said the man softly. I nodded, afraid to break the sense of peace by speaking. 'As long as you see the moon you'll be alright.' He turned and smiled at me and then, standing up apparently with no effort, he walked away. I sat in utter peace for a while, then suddenly realised that Mom would be worried. How selfish I had been - not caring about how she must be feeling. I hurried home and flew into her arms. She had hot cocoa ready on the stove. We sipped it together in silence. Suddenly she put her hand over mine and whispered 'I know you'll take care of the girls.' I looked deep into her eyes and said 'I give you my word.'"

"Early the next morning I rushed down to the beach to say goodbye to my new-found friend. Strangely I could not find any other footprints among mine and Scampie's. But written in the sand - quite clearly - were two words: 'TRUST ME.' I did then, and have tried to do so all my life. And everything was alright. That is why, till today, I don't go to sleep without saying goodnight to the moon. Even if I can't see it because it's below the horizon or behind clouds I KNOW it is there, like God's lantern, and I am comforted."

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Even in times of hardship, God's beautiful universe assures us of His presence.

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