Once upon a time, perhaps never, perhaps always,
there was a man and a woman.
No one knows from whence they came, or their age,
or anything else about them,
but we know that they loved each other very much.
We know they were committed to each other
and there was a lot of love. That is all we know.

As a man and a woman often do, they got married
and soon, they moved into the deep wilderness and built a cabin
in the woods.
They had no neighbors for many miles around, and they
were completely alone with one another.
As time went by, the woman gave birth to a baby girl.
The baby girl was healthy and sound in most every way,
except that she was born with only one leg.
As time went by, she grew into a loving and respectful child,
reasonably happy in every regard,
and she hardly seemed to notice her handicap.
She willingly applied herself to the mundane work of the homestead, and was ever helpful without complaint.
Every day seemed like a fresh beginning,
and her greatest strength
was her awareness of the need of every hour;
how she could be helpful,
and to this end was she ever engaged.
Because of her persistent nature,
she was given the name Patience.

Before too many years had passed by,
another child was born, also a girl,
and from the moment of her birth,
she was cheerful and radiant as the Sun.
She grew quickly and gracefully,
content to play around her mother’s work table,
or dance to a melody of her own making,
singing all the while.
She gladly did whatever was asked of her,
most often bringing joy
to the ordinary chores of the home.
However, she so loved to play so much,
she often had to be called in from her dreams.
Because of her joyful nature,
she was given the name Hope.

The third and last child born was a boy,
and different from the other two.
His birth was difficult for the mother,
and he seemed to be constantly in pain,
ever dissatisfied.
As a baby, he greedily took the nipple,
but when he had taken his fill he pushed away,
and made a face as if it were foul vinegar.
These traits never left him,
and he grew into a curious and eager,
yet unhappy child.
This child was given the name Nada,
which in Spanish, means “nothing”.

It so happened that the parents had to go on a long journey, and they left Patience in charge of the home, because at this time, she was quite adept at keeping order.
A few days after they had departed,
and Patience was cleaning up after breakfast,
Nada climbed to nearly the top of the large Sycamore tree in the yard.
This was something he had been forbidden to do,
but there was a crow’s nest
that he thought might have eggs,
and he wanted to take them.
He had shimmied out on a limb,
trying to get the nest,
when he had looked down and become frightened,
and had frozen in terror.
Hope, who was playing underneath the tree,
heard him crying, and had climbed up the tree
to bring him down.
Gently coaxing him,
and offering her favorite toy,
a wooden doll that Papa had carved,
as a reward if he would come down,
she pleaded with him, but it was no use;
he could not move.
Then Hope straddled the limb herself,
and began inching her way towards him,
asking him to extend her hand.
Whether she was careless,
or frightened,
or Nada’s pull was too hard,
whatever the reason,
Hope lost her seat and fell to the ground
where her beautiful soul soon flitted away.

When Patience had finished cleaning the kitchen,
and satisfied that the next meal was planned out,
and brought up from the larder,
she decided to go outside for a few minutes
in the beautiful sunshine,
and to investigate why her brother and sister
were so scarce around the cabin.
As she went through the doorway
her little heart turned to stone as she saw
the contorted position of her dear sister
twisted on the ground.
She hobbled to her, but there was nothing to be done.
Hearing Nada’s mournful cry she looked up and saw him.
Between tears and screams,
Nada explained the best he could what had happened.
Patience was deathly afraid,
because she knew that Nada would have to save himself,
because she could not tempt the same fate as Hope.
Coaxing him the best she knew how,
she she eventually wrung her hands in despair,
and set herself to the task at hand;
preparing dinner.
When dinner was ready,
and there were two places set at the table,
she once again went out to Nada,
trying her best to get him down from the tree,
but all her efforts failed.
Later, sometime in the night,
she heard his final scream
and the breaking of branches.
She lit a candle, and again through the door
she discovered what she had most feared.
Nada had joined Hope in the life to come.
Hacking out a shallow grave,
Patience lay the bodies beside each other in the ground,
and covered them up with dirt, stone and leaves.
She fashioned a crude cross out of sycamore branches,
and placed it at the head of the grave.

Her days passed in silence and grief;
tending the garden,
waiting for the arrival of her parents,
so to share the unhappy news.
Weeks turned to months
and the parents never returned.
The wood supply for the winter was low,
and Patience grieved herself into
skin and bones sickness.
Though she cleaned the house,
and prepared food,
she could hardly partake,
and one day after finishing her journal entry,
she laid down her pencil,
walked outside in the light snow,
laid across the grave of her siblings and
took her last breath.

It was by chance that I, a trapper looking for skins,
came across her crumbling cabin in the woods,
found the skeletal remains of Patience,
read her journal, and in turn,
relate their story to you.
I buried the remains of Patience next to her siblings,
and it is my surmise that the parents met an unexpected fate,
and the three children were all that was left of them in the world.
Being a practical fellow,
and not given to sentiment,
I would say that
Patience lacked the will to get her brother out of the tree;
Nada lacked the courage to face his own fears;
Hope simply lacked common sense.
I choose to believe that they all found their fulfillment
and satisfaction in Heaven.

John Loveless.

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