Martin Pratt was a talented professor, but he had one strange notion—he believed that religion was only for weak-minded men and silly women. Martin’s wife, Nell, loved him, for he was a fine husband. His hobby was growing beautiful flowers.
In the Pratt’s neighborhood lived a young boy named LeRoy, who delivered newspapers to them and sometimes stopped to visit. Mrs. Pratt reminded him of his grandmother, who had died just the year before.
“Dad,” LeRoy asked one day, “what’s an atheist? Martin Pratt says he’s one.”
“I doubt that a real atheist even exists, son,” his dad replied.
“But what is an atheist?” LeRoy persisted.
“An atheist is a person who denies the existence of God.”
“Mr. Pratt says our universe is like a big automatic clock that was wound up long, long ago and that we don’t need a Heavenly Father to look after it.”
“Actually, LeRoy, nothing could be further from the truth. Perhaps one day Martin will change his mind. At least we can hope.”
But something happened to Martin Pratt before he had a chance to change his mind. One morning when he heard that a hailstorm was coming, he rushed out into his garden to pick his dahlias and was stricken with a fatal heart attack.
The day after the funeral LeRoy delivered the newspaper to Mrs. Pratt and saw her rocking in her chair, looking very lonely. LeRoy got off his bike and went up on the porch and sat down next to her. “Don’t feel bad, Mrs. Pratt. Someday you’ll see Mr. Pratt again. He’s gone to live with Heavenly Father now—just like my grandma.”
Mrs. Pratt shook her head sadly. “No, LeRoy,” she said, “I will never see him again. Martin was a very wise man, and he always told me there is no such thing as a Heavenly Father. So when a person dies, that is the end.”
“But do you believe that, Mrs. Pratt?”
“Yes. If Martin said it was so, it must be true.”
LeRoy finally went home, wondering what he could do to cheer her up. Each day after that when he delivered the newspaper to Mrs. Pratt, he hoped to see her smile again but her eyes were always red. When she took the paper, she just mumbled, “Thank you.”
One afternoon when LeRoy’s mother gathered her last chrysanthemums, LeRoy spied a little tree cricket perched on one of them.
“Mother, can I take this flower to Mrs. Pratt?” he asked.
“Of course! Why don’t we fix her a bouquet.”
With eyes shining, LeRoy knocked on Mrs. Pratt’s door. When she saw him holding the beautiful flowers, she invited him in.
“I brought you some company, see!” LeRoy pointed to the little cricket. “He’ll sing for you in the night and make you happy.”
“Oh, LeRoy, you’ve been so kind to me. But I don’t think I’ll ever feel happy again.”
“Yes, you will,” he quickly replied. “Heavenly Father made lots of things to make you happy, like this little cricket.”
As she turned her gaze on the pale green insect, LeRoy eased toward the door. “Good-bye,” he said softly and closed the door behind him.
The little cricket sang, but Mrs. Pratt refused to be happy. When morning came, she walked out into the yard and saw the pigeons flying high in the sky. She wondered if she could ever feel that carefree again. A bird hopped among the crisp fallen leaves, chirping, “Cheer up!” But she didn’t cheer up. Instead, she went inside and closed the drapes to shut out the sun. She encased herself in such a pall of gloom that one day when LeRoy knocked on her door, she felt like not answering it. But finally she opened the door and looked mournfully at LeRoy.
“Hi!” he greeted her.
Weakly she said, “I’m too busy to talk to you today.”
“That’s all right,” he said, trying to understand her unhappiness.
“Wait,” said Mrs. Pratt. “Maybe we could have a little visit—but for only a few minutes.”
Once inside, the boy noticed that all of Mr. Pratt’s flowers were wilted.
“I bet Mr. Pratt would feel sad to see his flowers looking like that.”
“How could Martin feel sad now that he’s gone forever?” she asked gloomily.
“But he isn’t really gone,” the boy told her. “Dad said Mr. Pratt must have been terribly surprised when he found that out.” LeRoy paused a moment. “I know he’d want his flowers watered if he could see them all wilted now. Can I help you water them?”
“Thanks, LeRoy,” she said, “but I’ll take care of them.” After he left, Mrs. Pratt looked thoughtfully at the pitiful plants. Slowly she opened the drapes and then went for a pitcher of water.
At Christmastime LeRoy arrived at Mrs. Pratt’s door, holding a small flowerpot in one hand. The other hand he kept hidden behind him.
“I made this Christmas tree for you in school today,” he announced. “It’s a peach twig trimmed with gumdrops.”
“Come in,” she said as she set the pot in the center of the table.
Shyly, he handed her another package.
Removing the ribbon and paper, she was startled to see a gold-framed picture of Jesus, finished in soft brown tones.
“It will look pretty by your reading lamp,” he suggested.
As she placed it there, she felt strangely moved. “Thank you,” she said softly.
As springtime approached, LeRoy shared with her the first apricot blossom. Then just before Easter he asked, “Can you go on an Easter walk with me next Saturday? There are things down by the creek I’d like to show you.”
Mrs. Pratt hesitated. Then she said, “I suppose so.”
Saturday morning as they walked down the grassy slope together, they saw buttercups and wild larkspurs and watched the burnished metallic-green tiger beetles scurry through the grass. Meadowlark songs rippled on the sun-sparkled air.
Later they sat in the shade of the cottonwoods to eat their lunch at the creek’s edge. They dropped colored Easter eggshells into the water and watched them float like little boats. Mrs. Pratt gave the boy a chocolate rabbit.
“Thank you,” he said. Then he added, “I like Easter eggs and bunnies, but most of all I like the real Easter on Sunday when we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. My dad says that because of what He did for us, everyone will be resurrected, including my grandma and Mr. Pratt. And we will never die again.”
“I want to believe you, LeRoy, but I can’t believe that what your father tells you is true.”
“You can find out if it’s true, if you want to.”
“Well, you can pray, and then you’ll know for sure.”
“How can I pray when I don’t know how or to whom I would be praying? That would be pretty foolish, wouldn’t it?”
“Then I’ll pray for you, Mrs. Pratt. We can kneel here on the grass together. The trees and bushes are thick, and no one can see us.”
He patted a soft place in the grass for her. She waited for a moment then knelt beside him.
“I’ll pray first so you’ll know how,” he said. “Praying is just talking to Heavenly Father.” Slipping his hand into hers, he bowed his head and closed his eyes. “Dear Heavenly Father, Mrs. Pratt is so lonely. Please let her know You are there, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.” LeRoy raised his head slightly. “Now it’s your turn,” he said. “Just ask Heavenly Father what you want to know.”
The hand that held his was trembling. Her eyes were closed, but tears were beginning to form on her lashes. “Oh, please, Father in heaven—if there is a Father in heaven—touch my heart that I may know. Is there truly a resurrection? Will I see Martin again?”
Suddenly Mrs. Pratt was crying, and her tears wet LeRoy’s hair. She held him so tightly he could hardly breathe. When he began to sniffle his own tears, he fumbled for a paper napkin beside him.
Releasing him, she said, “Heavenly Father has spoken to my heart. Oh, LeRoy, what you have said is true. I will really and truly see Martin again. I know it.”
Once more she bowed her head, and with tears streaming down her cheeks, she whispered, “Heavenly Father, thank you. Thank you so much!”
Softly she arose, and taking LeRoy by the hand, they silently climbed the grassy slope together.