A/N: I wrote this story for an English assignment, but it has a much deeper meaning for me. Having nearly lost my mother to cancer and bacterial pneumonia, as a young girl I was forced to try to explain to my 6-year-old brother and 10-year-old sister about death, and where Mommy might go if she didn't get better. Fortunately for us, it wasn't God's will for my mother to die at those times . . . but in so many cases, this is not so.

In writing this story from a child's point of view, in no way do I intend to cheapen or "water down" the issue of death. It is something we all are forced to face, some of us sooner than others.

A schoolmate of mine recently lost his father. Two close family friends of ours have been diagnosed with terminal cancer. I know there are many more out there who are in danger of losing their loved ones, or who already have. I extend my deepest sympathies to them, and I pray that they feel a sense of God's love and peace.

Daddy's Boat

It's six o'clock at night, and Mommy and I are watching the news together. That's something Mommy and I do all the time when Daddy's not home, because sometimes the news says something about the places Daddy is working at. My Daddy is really important - he works for a big company that I can't spell the name of, and he goes on business trips all the time. I know Mommy gets sad whenever Daddy leaves, but I don't. I know Daddy will come back in a week or so, and he always brings me presents. He calls them "soo-ve-neers." Last time it was a 3-D puzzle of the Something-Tower (I think it's called the "Heifer Tower." I don't know why they named the building after a cow) from Paris.

Anyway, Mommy's sitting in her big, blue armchair watching the T.V. Some bad man killed his neighbour, and Mommy tells me not to look, so I don't. I'm lying on the floor on my tummy, and I'm playing with the toy boat Daddy gave me, pretending the carpet is the ocean. This is my favourite toy, because Daddy made it for me himself. He carved it out of a piece of wood from the tree that fell down in our front yard, and made it into a boat just for me. He told me that as long as I keep the boat with me, he can always come back to me. That's in case his plane is late or his car runs out of gas. My boat is special. It's how I know Daddy is coming back.

I lie on the rug making boat noises, though I make sure I'm quiet so I don't disturb Mommy. It's rude to be too loud when she's trying to listen. All of a sudden, Mommy makes a funny sound - it's like a gasping, crying noise - the kind of sound that people on grownup movies make when they see something bad. I look up, and Mommy has her hands clapped over her mouth like she said a bad word or something, but her eyes are really wide and big and scared looking. Mommy has really pretty eyes - they're green, but not green like grass. It's more like leaves in a forest, where the sun can't shine through so the colour is darker. Daddy always says mommy has the beautifullest eyes he's ever seen.

I ask Mommy what's the matter, and she just keeps staring at the T.V. like she didn't hear me. I don't ask again and I look at the T.V. myself, to see what's on the news. It shows an airplane crash. There's a big explosion and there's fire all over the place and bits of the plane flying around everywhere. It looks like one of those action movies that I'm not old enough to watch yet, but I see on commercials. The man who talks and tells people what's going on is saying that the landing gear didn't work right, so the plane couldn't land properly and it caught on fire. He says there are no survivors.

I look at Mommy again, and now she's starting to cry. "What are survivors?" I ask, "How come there aren't any?"

Mommy finally hears me, but the look on her face is like she saw a ghost. "Quiet, honey," she tells me, but not in a mean voice. It's sad and . . .and scared. Mommy is never scared.

The man on the television is still going. "ConAir Flight 334 departed from Hong Kong for Toronto today at 9:14 a.m," he says, holding the microphone up to his mouth. I want a microphone, but something tells me it's not the best time to ask Mommy for one. The man keeps talking, but Mommy picks up the remote and turns off the T.V..

"Why did you do that?" I frown, and I sit up so I can see her better. "I like watching the news."

Mommy takes her hands off her mouth, and she is still crying. The tears are sliding down her face like rain on the window, and suddenly I feel frightened, too. I've never seen Mommy cry before. "What's the matter, Mommy?"

Mommy breathes deeply, like she has to say something she doesn't want to. Finally she talks, but her voice is all thick and hard to understand 'cause she's crying. "Cameron," she says , (Cameron is me. Cameron Malcolm Jones.) "The plane that crashed was Daddy's plane. Daddy . . . Daddy has gone to Heaven, sweetie."

I'm real quiet then. I know what Heaven is - I go to Sunday School every week, and before I go to bed at night Mommy reads to me from the Bible. Heaven is a place where people go to be with Jesus, but after they go they can't come back to Earth. Mommy says Daddy is in Heaven now?

I look at the boat in my hand, the boat that Daddy made for me, and I smile. "Don't worry, Mommy," I stand up, and I walk to the chair Mommy is sitting in. She looks at me with a sad face, still crying, and I sit on her lap. Except for Daddy's shoulders, Mommy's lap is the safest place to be. "See my boat? Daddy told me that this boat would bring him back. Remember? He said that even if his plane was late or his car ran out of gas, he could still get back to us because the boat is magic," I watch Mommy carefully, to see if she looks any happier, but I don't think she believes me. I start to feel a little mad at Mommy. "Daddy wouldn't lie to me."

"I know he wouldn't mean to lie," Mommy's voice is quiet, like she's trying very hard not to cry and it's not working. "But . . . if he couldn't . . ." but then she stops being brave, and the tears start running down her cheeks even faster than the first time. Her eyes are all red. She's starting to make me sad, even though I know Daddy will come back. Mommy wraps her arms around me and hugs me close, like I'm a baby again, and she squeezes me so tightly that I have trouble breathing. I try squirming, to make her let go, but she doesn't.

"Mommy . . ." even my voice sounds squished. "Mommy, I can't breathe . . ."

But Mommy either can't hear me, or isn't listening. She just sits in the chair with me on her lap, rocking back and forth and crying.

******

It's nighttime now, and I'm lying in my bed and staring at the ceiling. I like my room. The walls and the floor are blue, so I can pretend they are oceans when I play with my boat. My ceiling has stars painted on it, and they glow when the lights are out -- Daddy said it's so my boat can find its way at night. My boat is on the windowsill right now, and the window is open, so the magic can go outside and find Daddy and help him come home.

Mommy is in the kitchen, talking on the telephone. The silly phone has been ringing all day, and it makes my head hurt. As soon as Mommy puts the receiver down, it rings again and again. I don't know why everybody is calling us. Maybe they saw the news show with the plane crash, too -- maybe they're telling Mommy that Daddy is coming home.

I smile. That's got to be it. Why else would people want to talk to Mommy? They don't talk to me, I guess 'cause they know I know Daddy will be back. I can hear Mommy's voice, but not the words she is saying. I can tell she's crying, though, and I think I hear her saying Daddy's name over and over. Why doesn't she believe me? Daddy wouldn't lie to me. If he said he was coming back, then he will. My Daddy never breaks his promises.

Mommy hangs up the phone now, and she starts crying quietly like she doesn't want to wake me up. I guess she doesn't know I'm awake, huh? It makes me sad that Mommy is feeling so bad . . . I want to make her feel better, but I don't know what to do. If Daddy was here, he would put his arms around Mommy and start dancing with her, even if they were in the kitchen or the toy room or some place like that. Even if there wasn't any music, Daddy would sing something. That always made Mommy smile and laugh. Sometimes they get kissy-kissy, but I just go in my room and play when that happens. Daddy told me that kissy-kissy made me, so it can't be all that bad. It makes Mommy feel better, anyway.

She's still crying. I get out of bed and jump to the floor, feeling the rug tickle me between the toes. I like that feeling -- it's warm and fuzzy and it makes me smile. I walk out to the kitchen, where Mommy is sitting on a chair with her face in her hands. She looks so sad -- like a painting I saw in a museum one time. It was a picture of Mary holding Jesus when he came off the cross, and it almost made me cry when I saw it. That's kind of what Mommy looks like right now. I come up to Mommy, and she sits up fast and tries to wipe her eyes with her sleeve like I caught her doing something bad. There isn't anything wrong with crying, even though she doesn't have to be sad.

I take Mommy's hand, and I pull her arm so she stands up. She looks at me funny like she doesn't know what I'm doing, and I just smile. I'm not anywhere near as tall as Daddy, but I can reach Mommy's waist, and even though my voice doesn't sound like Daddy's, I still like singing. I start singing Mommy's favourite song, or at least the parts I know -- it's "The Long and Winding Road" by a band that was famous when Mommy was a girl. I don't understand all the words, but I know that when Daddy sings it to Mommy it always makes her happy.

Mommy looks at me, and her eyes get all shiny and wet all over again. I wonder if I've done something wrong, but then Mommy reaches down and ruffles my hair. It's brown and curly, like hers, but my eyes are blue like Daddy's. "What are you doing, Cammie?" she asks, using her nickname for me. I don't let anybody else call me that. "You're supposed to be in bed."

"Since Daddy isn't home yet, I'm pretending I'm him," I explain, smiling up at her. "I know you feel better when you and Daddy dance, so since you think I look like Daddy, I thought maybe dancing with me would make you feel happy."

Mommy stares at me for a long time, then all of a sudden she scares me by bending down and scooping me up in a big hug. She presses my face into her shoulder, one hand on the back of my head, and she turns from side to side like she's trying to rock me. "I love you so much, Cammie," she tells me, and her tears make my neck all wet. "I love you so much . . ."

"I love you too, Mommy," I don't know what else I can say to make her stop crying, and I do love Mommy, so I figure that's the safest thing to say. I'm quiet for a few seconds, then ask her a question. I'm kind of scared to hear the answer, because I don't want Mommy to be mad at me. "Did I do something wrong? I know I forgot a lot of the words, but when Daddy comes back he can sing it better than I did."

"No, sweetie, you sang fine," Mommy takes a big, long breath, and she holds me away so she can see my face. Her eyes are red and her face is blotchy. I've never seen Mommy so upset. "But Daddy won't be able to sing me the song anymore. He's in heaven, remember?"

I pull out of Mommy's arms and drop to the floor. My socks slip on the tiles and I fall on my bottom, but I don't care. I don't know why Mommy keeps saying Daddy is in heaven, when he promised me he would come back to me. "Don't you love Daddy anymore?" I yell, and I'm surprised that I'm so mad so quickly.

Mommy's face gets all hurt like I hit her, and even though I feel bad for making her look so sad, I'm still angry that Mommy keeps saying Daddy is lying. "Of course I do. Why would you think I don't?"

I'm feeling hurt, and sad, and confused, and mad. I don't like yelling at Mommy, but I can't help it. "Daddy is not in heaven! He's coming back to me. He promised! If you love Daddy you would believe me!"

Mommy opens her mouth to say something, but I turn around and run out of the kitchen. I can feel the tears falling down my face and I don't like it. Boys aren't supposed to cry. Boys are supposed to be brave. I shut the door so Mommy won't hear me crying, but also so I can't hear her calling my name. I crawl into bed and curl up real small into a little ball under the covers. Maybe if I make myself small enough, I'll disappear and I'll be able to find where Daddy is.

Mommy knocks on the door, but I don't answer. I feel bad for yelling, now, but I don't think saying sorry will fix it. I don't think I can fix anything. Finally Mommy leaves, and I can hear her sigh. I look over at the boat on the windowsill, and my lip quivers as I try to stop crying. I sure hope the magic works fast, 'cause I want Daddy to come home very soon.

Just before I fall asleep, I remember something; Mommy and I never read our Bible story tonight.

******

The sun hits my face in the morning and it wakes me up. I blink and look around, covering my eyes so the sun won't hurt my head so much. I sit up, rubbing my eyes, and I look at my clock on the wall. I just learned to tell time this year. It says it's almost 9:30 in the morning, so I guess I must be wrong. I thought it was Sunday today, but we go to church on Sundays and we get up at 8:00. Mommy would have woken me up if it was Sunday.

Then I remember yelling at Mommy and making her feel sad, and my eyes start to feel funny like I'm going to cry again. I wipe my eyes with my sleeve, but there are no tears so I forget about crying. Mommy must be really mad if she didn't wake me up for church.

I get out of bed slowly, and I get dressed by myself. Usually Mommy helps me find clothes that match, 'cause I'm like Daddy and I wear whatever I pull out of my drawers first. Last time it was striped pants and a plaid shirt, and Mommy started laughing at me behind her hand, trying not to let me see. This time I find a black shirt and blue pants. I've seen Mommy wear clothes like that, so it should match. I have a little bit of trouble getting my shoes tied, but after a few tries I get the little bows tied neatly. My shoes feel kind of funny and tight, but it doesn't matter.

When I go into the kitchen, I see Mommy is in there. She's not dressed for church -- she is still wearing the sweat suit she uses for jammies with Daddy's housecoat over top. She's making breakfast, but I don't think she's paying attention because the piece of toast she's spreading peanut butter on has way too much and she's still putting on more. She's not even looking at it. I come up behind her slowly, feeling a little scared. "Mommy?"

Mommy turns around, and I'm glad she isn't crying. She doesn't look happy, but at least she doesn't have tears on her cheeks. "'Morning, Cammie."

I scuff my feet into the floor, 'cause that's something I do when I'm nervous, but my sneakers make black marks on the tile and I rub them off with my toe really fast. "I'm sorry for yelling," I tell her, my voice all quiet and mumbly. "I don't want to make you sad."

Mommy just sighs, and she pushes some hair out of her eyes. Sometimes she gets frustrated at her hair because it's so curly that it won't do what she tells it to, but Daddy laughs and says he likes it that way. "It's okay, sweetie. Do you want some peanut-butter toast?"

I look at the mess Mommy made on the counter and shake my head. I don't like peanut butter that much. "I'll just get some Cheerios."

I climb up onto the counter and get a bowl, then I open the cupboard and pour a lot of Cheerios. I like cereal. I like any kind of food except bananas. They're gross and squishy. After my cereal is ready (I don't put milk in it 'cause that makes it soggy and all yucky-tasting) I go to the table and sit in my chair. My feet dangle above the floor, and I kick my chair legs with my feet.

Mommy gives me a "stop-that-noise" look when she sits down, and I stop. I start eating my cereal, and I watch Mommy as she tries to eat her toast. She looks at all the peanut butter that covers the toast so much that it doesn't look like there's any toast at all. She just shakes her head and pours herself a glass of milk, but her hands are shaking and she knocks the glass over. The milk runs down the table like a little river, and it spills over the edge. I watch it go drip, drip, drip over the

side until it makes a puddle on the rug. The rug soaks up the milk but there's a big dark spot there.

Mommy looks at the mess too, but for some reason it makes her start to cry, and she plops her head on her arms. I'm not sure what to do, but I know Mommy hates messes, so I get off my chair and pull a bunch of kleenexes from the box on the table and use them to wipe up the milk. I don't think Mommy sees me, because she keeps crying and her shoulders are shaking. I go throw the kleenexes in the garbage can, and when I come back Mommy is wiping her face and trying to make it look like she wasn't crying. But I saw her crying, so I don't know why she's pretending that she didn't. I don't understand grownups sometimes.

I'm not sure what I'm supposed to do. I guess Mommy doesn't want me to see her cry, because she knows it makes me feel sad and a little bit scared. So I pull the rest of the kleenexes out of the box and hand them to her. Mommy looks at the crumpled tissues, then at me, then at her hands, then she just wipes her eyes with them and looks out the window.

I pull my chair up beside hers like I used to do when I was littler, and Mommy just smiles at me. It's not a very convincing smile, though, because even though her mouth is happy, her eyes aren't. Eyes don't lie, even if the rest of the face does. I finish my cereal and stir the crumbs around in the bottom of the bowl with my finger. I like drawing things in the dust, but today it's not very interesting. It's hard to do anything with Mommy just sitting there.

Finally, I look up at her. "Mommy?" I ask, my voice sounding kind of nervous. "Aren't we going to church today?"

Mommy shakes her head, and she brushes her hair out of her eyes with her fingers again. I notice that her hair is wet from where her tears soaked it. "I'm too tired, Cammie," she explains, and she looks at Daddy's empty chair. When she does, her eyes get that awful empty look, like her eyes are just holes in her head and there's nothing inside. It's kind of scary. "I don't want to talk to anyone today."

"But you like going to church," I argue, feeling confused. My brain doesn't work like grownups' brains do -- sometimes Mommy has to explain and explain and still I don't get what she means. "Maybe the people there will make you believe that Daddy is coming back."

As soon as I say that, I know I must have said something wrong, because Mommy gets up from the table so fast that her chair tips over backwards and makes a loud noise when it hits the floor. She goes into her room and shuts the door, kind of like I did last night, but I don't think she's mad at me. She starts crying all over again, and it sounds like somebody punched her, she is crying so hard. I want to go try to comfort her, but whenever I try to help, I make her cry harder. So I just sit in my chair and kick my feet against the legs. I stop after a little while, though, because it's no fun if Mommy doesn't tell me to quit it. I don't know why.

It's about ten minutes and Mommy still hasn't come out of her room. I put my bowl and cup (I poured my milk down the sink. I'm not thirsty) in the dishwasher, but I don't turn it on. One time I tried, and I got suds and broken dishes all over the place. Mommy wasn't very happy, but Daddy squeezed her hand and told her that she had wanted to get new dishes anyway. I miss Daddy already -- he's always there to make Mommy feel better when she's upset.

Whenever Daddy isn't home, though, Mommy feels better when she goes to church. Even if she doesn't feel like talking to anybody, she just has to go and listen. I think it would make her a lot happier if she went there -- there are lots of people who are really good at making others feel better. Maybe Mommy will believe me . . .

I knock on Mommy's door. She doesn't answer, so I just open the door and walk in. She's sitting on her bed holding something in her hands, and I come closer so I can see what it is. It's a picture of her and Daddy, before they got married, when their names were Sara and Mitchell instead of Mommy and Daddy. Daddy is giving Mommy a piggyback ride, and she's got her arms tight around his neck like she's afraid to fall off. They're both laughing. It's been a while since I've seen Mommy laugh like that.

Mommy turns around when she hears me come in, and she jumps. She's done crying, 'cause her eyes are dry, so that's good. "What's the matter, Cammie?"

"Nothing," I shrug my shoulders. "I looked at the clock," I say, trying to be helpful, "If we leave soon, we can still get to church without being too late."

Mommy's face gets kind of tight, like she's angry but is trying very hard not to be. "Why do you want to go to church so badly today?" she asks me, "I already told you, I don't want to talk to anyone right now."

"But it's made you feel better before," I point out, climbing up onto the bed. It's a big bed, and I get stuck halfway up. I lie with my stomach on the edge, kicking my feet in the air and trying to push myself the rest of the way up until Mommy notices. She takes my hand and pulls me beside her. "When you're alone, you get sad. Maybe you don't want to see people, but maybe you needto."

Mommy looks at me for a long time, then she smiles. Her eyes smile this time, too, even though they're still a little sad. "You sound like your father," she sighs, then ruffles my hair. "Okay, sweetie. If we hurry we can get there in time."

I grin. I don't know whether I'm happier that we're going to church, or that Mommy said I sound like Daddy. I've always wanted to grow up to be just like him. Mommy looks at my clothes. "You're already dressed for church. You knew we were going to go, didn't you, you little rascal?" she tickles my tummy, and I giggle. Then Mommy notices my shoes, and it's her turn to smile. "Your shoes are on the wrong feet, sweetheart."

I glance at my feet, and for a second I wonder how my shoes could be on the wrong feet when I only have two. Then I think that maybe I have the left shoe on the right foot, and the right shoe on the left foot. I shake my head, feeling silly, and fix my shoes. Yep, Mommy was right -- my feet don't hurt anymore. I guess I'm not ready to get dressed all by my self just yet.

I go back to my room and get my boat while Mommy puts some church clothes on. My boat is still on the windowsill, right where I left it, and I can't tell if the magic is working or not yet. It will prob'ly be a few more days before Daddy gets back. I hope Mommy doesn't get too much more sad before then. I put the boat in my pocket. It's a little too big for the pocket, but the pants are kinda stretchy so it doesn't matter. It just looks like I have a big lump on my leg.

Mommy and I get to church right when the organ is playing a hymn. I don't know why they're called "hymns" and not "hers." Maybe 'cause God is the Father? I don't know. I asked Mommy and Daddy that once, but they just looked at each other and started to laugh real quiet. Anyway, when we get to church everybody is standing up and singing, and we walk up the aisle. I can hear how people stop singing for a little bit when they see us, then keep going again. It's kinda weird. It makes me feel like a king or something, the way the people are watching us. But they're not looking at us like we're kings -- they all have sad faces on, like they think Daddy is in heaven. Oh man. Maybe Mommy should have stayed home this week. I hope nobody makes her cry, 'cause I'll get mad. I really will.

Mommy sits down in the pew, and I go in to Sunday School. A bunch of old ladies stop me on the way there, and they all give me hugs. I hate hugs, if they're not from Mommy or Daddy. All the ladies' eyes are wet and they are crying and telling me I'm such a brave boy. Brave for what? For believing in the magic? I guess that's what they mean. I just smile and say thank you, real polite like Mommy taught me, even though the ladies scare me a little. The magic is special, but it's nothing to cry over. Maybe crying at everything is something else I'll do when I'm a grownup. I don't think I want to grow up yet. Or maybe just girls do that. I don't know.

My Sunday School teacher and the other kids are sitting in the room, listening to Nathaniel (he's one of the kids) reading a story from the Bible. As soon as he sees me, Nathaniel stops reading and goes quiet, and everyone turns and stares at me. I feel like a bug under a magnifying glass. I don't like being stared at. It makes me feel like I did something bad. So I smile and wave, but nobody smiles back. They all look at me the same way the old ladies did. Maggie, she's a girl the same age I am, runs over to me. Before I can say "Eww, cooties!" she puts her arms around my neck and hugs me. She's crying even harder than the old ladies were.

"I'm so sorry for you, Cameron," she sobs, and I guess she doesn't notice how scared she's making me. I've never been hugged by a girl before. I don't think I like it. Maybe if she wasn't crying it wouldn't be so bad. "Your poor Daddy!"

"Maggie, sit down, please," that's Matthew, our teacher. Maggie lets go and goes back to her chair, and I just stand there. I start rubbing my neck trying to get it dry again. Maggie's tears made it all wet and now it feels funny.

Matthew gives the oldest girl, Becky, the lesson book and tells her to read from it. He takes the Bible from Nathaniel, and he comes over to me. He smiles at me, and he's so nice that I don't feel as frightened. He holds my hand, and we walk outside. I start skipping, because I feel special. Matthew is gonna' give me a private Sunday School lesson, all to myself! Maybe it's about the magic! Maybe Matthew knows about the boat Daddy made. Maybe Daddy talked to him already!

Matthew sits down on the grass outside on the lawn, where sometimes our church has picnics. If the weather is nice, we do, anyway. I sit down beside him, and I bounce up and down. I'm so excited that I can't sit still right. Matthew looks at me, then he leans his head to one side. "You're awfully happy, Cameron," he says.

"Of course!" I reply, grinning my head off. "Daddy will be back soon. I'm always happy when Daddy is coming home."

Matthew looks at me hard, and he's frowning. I start to get a little worried. I hope Mommy hasn't told him there isn't any magic. I hope Matthew didn't believe Mommy! "How do you know that?" he asks.

Whew . . . I guess Mommy didn't talk to him. I take the boat out of my pocket, and I explain about the magic. It takes a while to get all the words out right, 'cause I'm not sure how to explain it so Matthew will believe me. But he doesn't ask questions or anything -- he just sits and listens and nods his head a little.

When I'm done, Matthew asks if he can see the boat. I let him hold it, and he sits it in his hand and stares at it for a while. Finally, he sighs. "Your father said this boat would bring him home?"

I nod. "That's right. He said the boat was so he could find his way home if something happened."

"Did you ever think" -- Matthew is quiet, like he's looking for the right words to use-- "that maybe 'home' isn't your house?"

"What?" I frown. "Where else would home be?"

He hands me the Bible, a sad smile on his face. I'm not sure I'll like what he's going to say, but I listen anyway. "Look up a verse for me, Cameron. John 14, verses 2 - 3."

It takes me a few minutes 'cause I'm not very fast at finding things in the Bible. The letters are small and really hard to read for me. Finally I find it, and I hold the Bible up to my face real close so I can see the tiny writing. I read it out loud. Daddy and Mommy taught me to read last year. "'"In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?"'" I look at Matthew, confused. "Huh?"

"Jesus is talking about Heaven," Matthew tells me. "That's just verse two. Read the next one."

"'"And when I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, and where I am you may be also."'"

When I'm done reading, I put the Bible down on the grass and look at the boat. Matthew's still holding it in his hands, and he looks at me. "Do you understand what that means?" he asks.

I think I do, but I don't want to. All of a sudden everything makes sense. The news, the plane, Mommy crying . . . I look at Matthew, and he looks all blurry because I'm starting to cry. "Jesus is saying that . . . that Heaven is home," I sniffle, and wipe my nose on my sleeve. That's bad manners, but Matthew doesn't say anything. "Do you think Daddy meant that the boat was gonna' show him how to get to Heaven?"

Matthew shrugs a little. "I don't know about that. I don't think your Daddy knew he was going to Heaven, but that's where the boat led him. He's truly home now."

"But . . ." I try to be brave for about five seconds, then start to cry really hard. Matthew holds his arms open, and I run into his lap. He hugs me close, rocking me back and forth. "I want . . . I want Daddy here!"

"You'll see him again someday," Matthew tells me, and his voice is soft. "You'll go to Heaven, too. One day you'll be together again."

"But I want Daddy now!" I start crying even harder. My shoulders are shaking. My whole body is shaking. I cry so hard I start to scare myself. "I don't want him to be gone. Why did he lie to me?"

Matthew is still hugging me. "Cameron . . . your Daddy didn't lie to you. He still loves you, and he always will."

I don't know what to say or think. The whole time I thought Mommy was wrong. Daddy was coming home -- he told me so! He promised me so!

I think Matthew can read thoughts, because he says, "I realize he promised to come home, but he won't be gone forever. When you go to Heaven, he'll be there waiting to give you a big hug."

"I don't wanna' go to Heaven," I cry. My voice is all shaky. "I don't want Daddy to go to Heaven. It's not a nice place if it takes Daddies away!"

Matthew sighs. "Your Daddy made the boat, right?" I nod. "Well, would he ever make something that would lead to someplace bad?"

I shake my head slowly. Daddy doesn't do anything wrong. "No . . . you think Daddy is happy in Heaven?"

"I think so," Matthew smiles, and he puts one hand on my head. "I think he's very happy, and he's waiting for the day when you'll come to Heaven to be with him."

After a little bit, I stop crying. If Daddy is happy, then I guess I don't need to be sad. I still feel sad that I won't see Daddy for a long time, but Matthew is right. I will see him again someday. I look at Matthew. "Do you think I should tell Daddy I know where he is?" I ask.

"How are you going to do that?"

I stand up. "C'mere," I tug on his hand, and Matthew gets up and follows me. There's a little stream behind the church. It runs down into a river, and then the river runs into a lake. I saw the lake once -- the water goes straight on forever, right into the sky. I bet it goes right on to Heaven. "I'm gonna give Daddy his boat. When he sees it, he'll know I know where he is."

Matthew smiles at me, and he nods. "I think you're right, Cameron. I think your father would be very happy to have the magic with him."

I take the boat and kneel down at the side of the stream. The water is sparkling with the sun, and it's really clear. I can see the grass and plants at the bottom, and there's a little frog sitting on a rock on the other side. I put the boat into the water, and right away it starts to sail away. It sails down the stream, going to where the sun is in the sky. I smile, because I know it's going to find Daddy.

Matthew rests a hand on my shoulder. "Are you okay?" he asks.

I still feel sad, and I'll probably cry some more for a while, but I know Daddy is okay. I wipe my eyes, and I smile up at Matthew. "I'm okay. I'm gonna' tell Mommy where Daddy went."

Matthew nods. "That sounds like a good idea," he takes my hand, and we both walk inside.

On the way to the door, I look back over my shoulder. I can't see Daddy's boat anymore, and I smile again. I know that wherever Daddy is, a little boat is sailing up to him right now. "'Bye, Daddy," I whisper, "I love you. I knew you kept your promise . . ."

******