Elizabeth Barnett had always been an independent woman. Life had taught her to become one after her parents died in a fire that engulfed their home years ago. Her so-called husband had walked out of her life, claiming he had no responsibility for her, or their children, and so, rather than mourning the separation from her husband, she was more concerned with the future of her children, their education, and instilling good ideals in them so that they grow up to be good human beings.
However, life is a way of putting everyone to the test, and Elizabeth’s children had to face the harsh side of their fates too soon. Elizabeth used to work three jobs per week and 12 hours a day to support her children, which included working as a nurse at a hospital on weekdays and at a pizzeria on weekends, besides working as a cashier at a tiny grocery store in the mornings.
Thankfully, she had a kind neighbor, Mrs. Olson, who stepped in to look after her children when she was away. “I don’t know how I’d return your favor, Miss Olson,” Elizabeth always used to tell her. “You’re like a mother to me.” The 89-year-old woman would giggle and reply, “Oh dear, since my husband and I never had children, I like taking care of your little ducklings.
They’re so adorable too.” Before leaving for work every day, Elizabeth thanked the older woman for her help, and on weekends, she often baked cookies or pies for her as a token of gratitude. But one day, it all came to a halt. Elizabeth was tending to some clients at the grocery store one fine morning when a group of three armed guys barged in. Some shoppers panicked and fled to safety, but the gunmen opened fire and grabbed a small child to prevent the rest from escaping.
“Stop wherever you are or blow this child’s head off,” one of them said, aiming his gun at the boy’s head. “Empty your pockets and hand over any cash you have. Don’t act smart or call the cops, or you’ll all die. Got it?” And you,” he added, turning to face Elizabeth.
“Get all your money out of there and bring it here.” A terrified Elizabeth obeyed his demands and handed the money to him after emptying her drawers. Meanwhile, his other two accomplices began approaching all the shoppers and collecting money from them. But the boy’s father, Andrew, had left his wallet in his car. “Please, please don’t do anything to my son, okay?
I’ll, I’ll get my wallet from the car right now. I forgot to get it,” he begged. The gunman signaled for one of his accomplices to accompany Andrew to his car so he wouldn’t use his phone and call the cops. However, when Andrew went to get his wallet, he secretly dialed 9-1-1 while the man was away and managed to bring his phone inside the shop. Meanwhile, he continued to drop indications on the phone by conversing with a gunman, giving the cops a hint of what was going on.
Within the next five minutes, several police cars were approaching the crime scene, which alerted the robbers. “Who was it who called the cops? I’d warned you all. Now this child will bear the consequences,” he said, motioning his gun toward the young boy. He was about to shoot the youngster when Elizabeth pushed the child from his grip and became the victim of his gunshot.
“Oh man,” the gunman grumbled, and he and his accomplices managed to flee before the cops arrived. Elizabeth, on the other hand, was lying on the ground struggling to breathe. “Ma’am, please try to stay awake. I’m calling 9-1-1,” Andrew said as he dialed the number and rushed her to the hospital. But unfortunately, she had lost so much blood that she died before she made it there.
The police recovered Mrs. Olson’s contact from Elizabeth’s belongings and called her to inform her about the accident. The older lady almost passed out on the call, so her husband stepped in to handle Elizabeth’s funeral arrangements. Andrew, on the other hand, couldn’t help but feel guilty about what happened. He was the one who called the cops, and he held himself responsible for Elizabeth’s death.
He got her address from the cops and asked when the burial would be so he could pay his respects to her. The police officer consoled him, saying, “It wasn’t your fault, sir. It was just an accident. You and your son should go home now.” But Andrew couldn’t forgive himself.
So, at Elizabeth’s burial, which was scheduled the next day, he arrived to bid her farewell. But what he saw there left him in shock. Andrew noticed nine small children gathered around Elizabeth’s gravesite. Four of them stood holding each other’s hands, grieving in little whispers, while the other five stood by the graveside, looking at her grave with sad, despondent eyes. Their tears streamed down their cheeks all the while.
“Who were these kids, and why aren’t there any elders around them?” he wondered and decided to approach the children. “Hi, what’s your name? Where are your parents? Why are you alone?
he asked the child who he felt was the oldest in the bunch. But the little boy didn’t respond to him, as if he hadn’t heard him, and continued to stare silently at Elizabeth’s grave. Andrew tried to ask him again, and one of the small girls piped up this time. “Mommy won’t come. We’re alone,” she said.
Baffled by the little girl’s words, Andrew decided it was better to ask an elder about them. It was then that he noticed Mr. Olson accepting everyone’s condolences and bidding them farewell. He decided to approach him and ask about the kids, only to learn about their heartbreaking story. “Excuse me, sir.
Who are those nine children crying around her grave? Your Elizabeth’s children, young man,” Mr. Olson revealed. “She was a single mother, and only God knows what will happen to those poor souls now that she’s no longer alive.” A shock ran through Andrew when he learned that she had nine children.
“What happened to their father? Is he also…” “Oh, what a jerk he was.
He didn’t want to do anything and lazed around the house after Elizabeth started working to support their children. He said her income was enough, so he didn’t need to work, and one day he just left her for another woman. She loved her children so much that she said she would look after them alone. I wonder what they’ll do now,” Mrs. Olson said.
Andrew couldn’t stop his tears at that point. After returning home from the funeral that day, he couldn’t get those children’s sorrowful, tearful faces out of his thoughts. And so, he made a decision and planned to discuss it with his wife at breakfast the next day. “Darling, I understand you feel responsible for what happened,” his wife replied when he suggested they adopt the nine children. “Boy, you’re asking.
It’s insane, Andrew. How can we adopt nine children? You know it’s a huge responsibility.” “But why can’t we, Lily? We’re well off, and those kids would have to live in an orphanage or with a foster family for the rest of their lives.
Why don’t we just step in and take care of them? See, I’m not putting any pressure on you. We can at least foster them until we decide whether or not we want to adopt them. What do you think?” “Okay, fine, but it’s not a yes from my side for adoption.
We’ll see about it,” she said. Andrew and Lily contacted Cassandra, a social worker who’d been a close friend of theirs since they became foster parents, and with her assistance, they were able to take in the nine children. Of course, juggling work and caring for the kids had been a challenge for Andrew and Lily, but they grew to love the kids with each passing day and eventually decided to adopt them. When the paperwork was done, and the kids were legally theirs, Andrew and Lily were delighted. The poor kids got loving parents, and Andrew and Lily gained a wonderful family of ten children.
Now, whenever Andrew visits Elizabeth’s grave, he seeks forgiveness for not being able to save her that fateful day. And at the same time, he promises her that her children will be safe with him and Lily and that they’ll raise them with the same love they have for their son.