This original story was written by Mark L. Acker, who is from Springfield, MO. The way he describes it, the story was inspired by the Holy Spirit. He sat down and practically wrote the story all in one sitting. A few months later, his father was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. In just a very short time, he lost his biological father, his best friend, and his greatest mentor. He has since looked back at the story and sees the lesson he feels was sent to him through the story....God has perfect timing. Mark is now happily married and serving the Lord with gladness. Read more about Mark and his personal relationship with God, or e-mail him anytime.


By Mark L. Acker

               “I’m taking Bob out for a walk, Dad,” Hatti yelled on her way out the door.

            Daniel Cooke laid his morning paper on the table and turned just in time to see the screen door slamming behind the exuberant eight-year-old girl.  “Don’t be gone long,” he said, knowing she probably didn’t hear him.

            He had been trying for some time to get her to stop carrying that frog in her front overalls pocket, but he had finally given up.  “He likes riding around in there,” she would protest.  He felt a degree of sympathy for the poor frog, but wasn’t about to break his little girl’s heart for its sake.  And he would rather she spend her time playing with frogs than not play at all.

            When Hatti’s mother died, Daniel wondered whether he would ever be able to give Hatti an adequate home life.  After all, how could he raise a two-year-old girl and still take care of his farming duties?  Although farming was becoming more difficult every year, he thanked God every day for what he had.  And mostly, he thanked God for the gift of a daughter like Hatti.  He couldn’t imagine life without her.

            Hatti ran as fast as she could while still keeping Bob from falling out of her pocket, her uneven red pigtails flailing behind her.  She didn’t care for her pigtails one bit.  They only served to keep her hair out of the way.  She had often pleaded with her father to cut her hair short, but he always refused.  “I won’t have my little princess looking like a boy,” he would say.

            Hatti made her way past the barn and out into the cornfield.  She loved to run through the tall cornstalks where the rest of the world seemed to disappear.  It was here that she would stay for sometimes hours at a time, talking to Bob and telling him all her secrets.  Of course, her secret list being very short, Bob usually heard the same secrets every day.  And every day she would grab his little webbed foot and have him pinky swear not to tell anyone.  He always obliged.

            Hatti knew her daddy would be sad if he ever found out her biggest secret.  But she had to tell someone, and Bob was the only one she could trust.  He never talked.  Hatti didn’t want anyone to know that she was angry.  Mainly, she was angry with her mother for leaving.  “Your mommy loves you very much, sweetheart,” Daniel had said to her.  “And one day we’ll get to see her again with Jesus.”  Hatti wasn’t sure how her mother died.  Hatti remembered her father telling her about it.

 “Your mother was very sick.  We prayed that Jesus would make her well.  But He doesn’t always answer our prayers just the way we want him to.  But Jesus did answer our prayers for your mother.  He took her to a place where she will never be sick again.”

She was only six at the time of the conversation, but she still noticed the tears forming in his eyes as he spoke.  Hatti wondered why he was so sad if the place Mommy went to was so great.  That question renewed her anger and frustration as she wiped a tear from her eye, still sitting with Bob in the cornfield.  Bob gave a little croak as he sat in her hands looking up at her.  She held him to her cheek as she managed, “Oh Bob, if Jesus ever asks you to go with him, just say no.”

“Hatti!” she heard her father yell.

“Coming, daddy,” she replied as she jumped up and made her way back out of the corn.  When she reached him he was opening the barn door.

“Listen, sweetheart, I’m going to be out in the field for a while.  Stay close to the house so you can hear the phone, okay?  And be watching for Aunt Sarah.  She said she was going to be bringing by some of her homemade apple pie later.”


“I love you, Princess,” he said as he knelt down and hugged her.

“I love you too.”

         "You are still my little princess, right?”

“Yes, daddy.”

“Are you still my sweetheart?”

“Yeah,” she said burying her head in his chest.

“Are you still my sugar bear?” he asked, grinning from ear to ear.

“Dad, stop it,” she said blushing and giggling despite herself.

“I’ll see you in a couple hours,” he said as he turned for the tractor parked in the barn.  He stepped onto the front tire and sprayed ether into the top of the old tractor, to assure a clean startup.  He climbed up into the spring-loaded seat and turned the key.  After a growl and a puff, the huge engine roared to life.  Hatti stood by the door as the tractor moved by.  Daniel turned to give his daughter a wink and then he was gone.

By mid-afternoon Hatti was starting to get impatient.  She didn’t mind making herself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch, but she hadn’t liked eating alone.  Now more hours had passed and it was still just her and Bob.  She kept stepping out into the yard and listening for the tractor, but she never heard it.  At three o’clock, Aunt Sarah showed up.

Sarah Evers was of no relation to the Cookes, which was fairly obvious by her chocolate-colored skin.  She was pleasantly plump in her early sixties and silver streaks had begun to dominate her black hair.  She was a recently retired nurse, having worked twenty-six years in the maternity ward at St. Michael’s Hospital.  She was on-duty the night Hatti was born.  During her break that night, she found Daniel pacing in the lobby of the delivery room.  She had seen that look a thousand times in that lobby, but still felt a deep sense of empathy every time.  She spoke with Daniel and tried to reassure him of the doctor’s experience who was tending to Laura Cooke in the next room.  She asked Daniel if she might pray with him before she returned to work and he didn’t object.  Later Daniel introduced Sarah to Laura, and from then on she had a special bond with the Cookes.  They asked her over to their home often and she never refused an invite.  After Hatti turned one year old, they sometimes called on Sarah to baby-sit her so they could go on a date.  It was Sarah who introduced Daniel and Laura to God.  She pleaded with them many times to go to church with her, and when they finally did, it became a core part of their lives.  And now, Hatti was learning about God from Sarah.

As Sarah made her way up the sidewalk with her wicker basket of goodies, Hatti ran out to meet her with a hug.  Sarah laughed as they embraced and kissed Hatti on the cheek.

“Child, you don’t know how happy your Aunt Sarah is to see you.  Let’s have a look at you,” she said as she pulled back.  “My, my…You must have grown a foot since I seen you last.”

Hatti laughed, “You just saw me yesterday.”

“I know it, I know it, and it’s been too long.  Come on, honey—let’s get these goods in the house before they spoil.”

Hatti sat at the kitchen table while Sarah pulled two pies and a large zip-lock bag full of muffins from her basket and searched for a good spot to place them.

“Aunt Sarah, why does Jesus want people?”

“Why, Jesus loves everyone, child.  He wants them all because he loves them all.  From the meanest, grumpiest old coot to a sweet little girl like you—there ain’t nobody Jesus don’t want.”

“No, I mean why does he want people to go live with Him?”

Sarah set down her pie and looked at Hatti.  “So that’s what’s on your mind today, is it?  Come here, child.”  Sarah pulled up a chair and beckoned Hatti onto her lap, wrapping her fluffy arms around her as Hatti sat down.

“Hatti, I’m going to tell you something my grandma told me not too long before she went to be with Jesus.  ‘Sarah,’ she said, ‘not a one of us knows how much time we’re going to have on this earth.  Some of us is here for 10 years, some for 50 years, and some for 100 years, but we’re all just here a short while.  But you see, Jesus loves us a whole lot and he gets lonesome for us up there in heaven.  One day he just gets tired of waiting and he sends for us.  When that day comes, you ain’t got no choice but to go.  And it ain’t because He makes you go.  It’s because when that day comes, and you go where He is, you’re sure never going to want to come back.  Up there, there’s always enough food on the table, nobody ever takes sick, and everyone laughs and sings and dances all day long.’  That’s what my grandma told me, Hatti.  And it’s what my mama told me.  And the older I get, the more I believe it’s true.”

“But why doesn’t Jesus just come here?”

“Honey, this place just ain’t nice enough.  Where He’s at, the streets are made of gold and it’s never nighttime.  In fact, He’s up there right now, building a mansion for every one of us.”

“When will I go there?”

“Well, that’s the funny thing.  It’s a secret, kind of a surprise of sorts.  Ain’t nobody knows when they’re going to go, child.  Not me, not nobody.”

Sarah decided it was time to change the subject.  “Hey, are you going to let me cut your hair today, Honey?”

“Yeah, I guess so.”

“Have a seat right here and let’s see if we can’t do something about these pigtails.”

Sarah snipped and clipped and combed and sprayed until finally she had a finished product for Hatti to see in the mirror.  Her hair now curled in neatly just below her chin.

As Hatti gazed into the mirror, sirens could be heard in the distance.

          “Oh, it’s beautiful, Aunt Sarah!  You think Daddy will like it?”      

“I’m sure he will, child.  I’m sure he will,” Sarah replied moving over to the window and gazing in the direction of the sirens.  “Lord, send your angels to whoever might need them out there,” she whispered.

At five o’clock the phone rang and Sarah answered it.  “Hello?  Yes, this is Sarah Evers.  Uh, huh.  You’re going to have to repeat that for me, Hon.  Yes.  Oh my, no!”  Sarah’s hand went over her mouth and Hatti noticed the concern.  “Yes, thank you.  We’ll get there as soon as we can.”

“Is everything okay, Aunt Sarah?”

“Yes, everything’s fine, child.  Go get your shoes on.  We’re going to take a little trip to see your daddy.”

“Where’s he at?  He’s supposed to be on the tractor!”

“Hatti, your daddy’s been in a little accident and he’s at the hospital.  We need to get over there as quick as we can so we can be there for him.”

Hatti grabbed her shoes in her hands and started walking towards Sarah’s car.  Sarah followed her out the door, praying silently.

The car ride to the hospital was silent and solemn.  Sarah thought nothing good would come of trying to push Hatti to talk so she left her to her thoughts and continued to pray silently.  When they reached the hospital parking lot, Hatti crawled out of the car and ran to the entrance as Sarah followed a little slower.

They reached the front desk and Hatti blurted out, “Where’s my dad?”

The young woman behind the desk looked at Sarah and said, “Is this child with you?”

“Yes ma’am, this here’s Hatti Cooke and I’m Sarah Evers.  We’re here to see her daddy, Daniel Cooke.”

          The nurse’s face softened.  “Yes, I’ll try to reach the doctor.  Hold on one moment please.”

          Not long after the nurse got off the phone, a pale-faced man in glasses with a stethoscope hung on his neck came through some double swinging doors.

          “Ms. Evers, would you come with me, please.”

          Hatti tried to follow, but Sarah stopped her.  “Hatti, I need you to wait here for just a bit.  Can you do that, honey?”

          Reluctantly, Hatti nodded and walked over and sat down on one of the cushioned seats in the lobby.  Sarah and the doctor went through the double doors.  Hatti watched the doors continue to swing back and forth after the two were out of sight.

          “Ms. Evers, I’m glad you could make it.  I only wish I had something better to tell you.  Mr. Cooke has sustained multiple broken bones and is bleeding internally.  He’s lucky that tractor didn’t kill him instantly when it rolled.  Ms. Evers, we’ve done everything we can do.  It’s only a matter of time now.”

          “How long?”

          “Minutes.  Half an hour at the most.”

          “Can I see him?”

          “Come this way.”

          The Doctor ushered Sarah into the Intensive Care Unit.  There she saw Daniel.  He looked better than what she had expected, but he was very discolored.

          “Daniel?”  She took his hand in both of hers.

          “Hello, old girl.”  His voice was weak and he was obviously having difficulty breathing.  But he was easily understood.  “Guess I really made a mess of things this time, huh?”

          “There now, little brother.  Don’t you start in with that stuff.  Ain’t nobody blaming you.”

          “How’s Hatti?”

          “Just like any girl her age would be.  She’s worried and she wants to see you.”

          “I don’t want her to remember me like this, Sarah.”

          “Seeing you here like this ain’t going to make her forget anything from before now, Daniel.  She’s always going to be her daddy’s girl.”

          Tears filled both their eyes.

          “Sarah, I want you to take care of Hatti for me.  Will you?

          “Daniel Cooke, how could I say no?”

          “Please bring her to me.  Hurry.”

          Sarah found Hatti in the lobby and sat down beside her.

          “Hatti, your daddy wants to see you.   But listen to me very carefully.  He’s very weak and won’t be able to talk much.  We will have to leave soon so he can rest, okay?”


          They made their way into the ICU to Daniel’s bed.  Hatti ran to him and lay her head on his arm.  He was just able to curl his hand and touch her face.

          “I love you, daddy.”

          “I love you too, Princess.  And I have something to tell you.  Something very important.

          “When can we go home, daddy?”

          “That’s what I have to tell you.  I’m going to be seeing your mother soon, Hatti.  Very soon.  I want you to know that…”  His voice trailed off.

          “No, daddy!  You can’t leave yet!”

          Suddenly the “blip, blip, blip” of the machine at his bedside became one steady beep.  Nurses flooded in by the bedside pushing Hatti backwards.  Soon the doctor was there holding what Hatti thought looked like irons in his hands.  “Clear!” he ordered.

          “No!” Hatti screamed as she turned and ran out the door.  Sarah followed her to the entrance but then stopped when she saw her climb into the car and bury her head in her hands.  Best to leave her alone for a bit, Sarah thought.

         In the car, Hatti tried to wipe away the tears.  She swallowed hard and spoke between gasps for air.

          “Jesus, please don’t take my daddy.  You already have my mom.  I can’t live without my daddy.  Please don’t take him from me.”

          Sarah began to weep softly and she stared out the window at the car.  Suddenly the nurse from the front desk tapped her on the shoulder.

          “Ms. Evers?  I’m sorry to disturb you, but I thought you might want to know they’ve revived Mr. Cooke.”

          “Oh, thank you, ma’am!”

          Sarah made her way back into the ICU.

          “Mrs. Evers,” the doctor called out stepping away from the bed, still surrounded by busy nurses.  “I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask you to step back out into the waiting room for now.”

          “No, let her stay, doc’,” came a faint voice from the bed.

          Sarah ran to the bedside squeezing between nurses.

          “He sent me back, Sarah.  He sent me back.”

          “What are you talking about, Daniel?

          “Jesus sent me back.  I saw Him there.  It was heaven.  I was there.  But Jesus looked at me and said…”  He stared straight into Sarah’s eyes.

          “He said what, Daniel?”

          “He said, ‘Hatti’s not ready yet.’”


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