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Glass Half Full


Marlicia Fernandez

Isabella adjusted her veil and made the sign of the cross. “Holy Mother Mary,” she began, “thank you for all you have already done for me and for my family. Please ask your Son to be our strength and our shield. You know the words to say.” She bowed her head, listening. “Help us to know and accept His will—even when it is not our will. And then, help us to give Him the love and glory and honor He deserves.”

She gazed at the crucifix hanging above the tabernacle at the front of the church. The glowing sanctuary light told her He Who Knew All Things was there in a special way. Her prayers went silent. No words were needed. He knew what was in her heart. He knew her needs, her desires, her pain and her sorrow. He made them all bearable. He even gave her joy. Most of all, He gave her love. His broken body on the cross signified that great love. “Thank you, Lord,” she whispered.

And she felt peace.

Using the communion rail, she pushed herself to her feet and grabbed her cane. “I’ll come back tomorrow, if I’m able.” She bowed her head and turning from the altar, shuffled her way to the back of the church one slow, painful step at a time.

Her brother, Mateo waited in the vestibule for her. He helped her to the door. “You were in there a long time. We were beginning to worry.”

“I’m sorry ‘Teo. But no one has to worry about me when I’m here. “She slowed. “Wait; let me take off my veil.”

He steadied her while she removed the head covering, folded it, placed it in a cloth sack and put everything in her pocket. “I missed rosary today.”

“Don’t worry. You can do it at home. Or tomorrow. But now we have to get back.”

He threw open the door and the sunlight almost blinded her. “Have I been inside so long?”

“Since morning Mass. Watch your step, Bella.”

She gripped his arm a little tighter and flashed him a smile. He was so good to her. Always. Her illness was hard for him to bear, maybe harder than for anyone else in her family. That was one of the things she prayed about. That he would find peace with what was happening to her before God took her home.

“Uncle gave me the cart. Said you’d be too tired to walk.” Teo helped her up and settled the blanket around her. “I don’t want you to catch cold. The last one you had scared Aunt half to death.” He climbed up beside her and flicked the reins. “Get on now. Come on now.”

They traveled in silence along the rutted road. But Mateo cast worried glances at the darkening skies, then at her. She squeezed his arm. “Don’t worry.”

He grunted and urged the horse picked up speed. “Bella…”

She looked up at him from the blankets covering her to her chin. “Yes?”

“Why do you do it?”

“Do what?”

“Talk to God the way you do? Not that you shouldn’t, but how can you keep doing it when …” He adjusted her blanket and his hat. “Never mind.”


He looked at her.

“You have to see the glass as half full.”

The horse shied and he pulled back on the reins. It eased back into a trot. “What do you mean?”

“We have to count our blessings.” She coughed and pulled her blanket closer. “We’ll never be completely happy, never have our glasses full to the top until we’re in heaven.” She shivered and coughed again. Mateo pulled her closer with one arm and she smiled up at him. “We can choose to see our lives as half empty because of what we don’t have or half full because of what we do.” She leaned her head against him. “I’ve got Uncle and Aunt and you. You’re always putting blessings in my cup, like you did just now.”

When they arrived home, Mateo helped Bella down from the cart and carried her into the house. Their aunt took one look at her and ordered her to bed and him to fetch the doctor.

“Don’t spare the horse, son,” she said. “I’ve sent your cousin for your uncle.”

“Teo,” his sister called from the bedroom. “Remember to look for God’s blessings.” Rasping coughs filled the small house. “It makes things…much…easier.”




Mateo stood at the new grave tears streaming down his face. “Where is the blessing in this, Bella? Where? Show it to me.”

“She did so much good in her life, short though it was.” The woman leaned a bouquet of wildflowers against the small headstone, next to those he had brought. “Bella taught by example, helped others be happy, whatever their circumstances.” The woman looked up at him. “But I don’t need to tell her brother that. She spoke of you with great love and affection, Teo. She called you her best friend. Her greatest blessing.”

He didn’t know what to say, other than, “Thank you.”

The woman nodded and walked away, leaving him alone with his sister and a grave covered with flowers. When had they come? Mateo knelt beside them and saw the little slips of paper nestled in each bouquet. On the papers were names, names he recognized. Poor people, sick people, bereaved and old people. Below each name was at least one blessing and a note of thanks.

These people had very little. Mateo remembered many being bitter, yet somehow they’d found things to be thankful for. Was this his sister’s doing? Had she helped them to see?

Bella’s last words returned to him.

“Remember to look for God’s blessings.”

Mateo sat beside the headstone, his face in his hands. “What did he have to be thankful for?” And then he knew. Carefully, he tore a strip of paper from one of the bouquets. How would he write?

He searched the ground until he found a small twig. Lighting a match, he lit the tip. He let it burn until it could be used to write and then blew out the flame. His first blessing was one word, ‘Bella’. He hadn’t lost her any more than he’d lost his parents. She would always be with him, in his heart. More blessings followed, written in the dirt between the flowers. His sister was right. The glass was indeed ‘half full’. He’d just been too blind to see it.


© Marlicia Fernandez (WC 1086) 12-05-08

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