Sara and her cousin are best friends,
more like sisters really. Betty, at age eight,
is three years older, and Sara depends
upon her to guide her, to keep her straight.
Their families live way out in the country
on neighboring farms. They are each other’s
main playmate. When the weather turns wintry,
they play in the barn to avoid Betty’s brothers.
They play games, play hide and seek, read books
together, and Betty braids Sara’s long, blonde hair
into a giant pigtail. Sara doesn’t mind that it looks
poorly done…because Betty did it, she doesn’t care.
In the corner of the barn behind some bales of hay,
the girls have their own secret hiding place, known
only to them. They have pinky-sworn never to betray
their secret to anyone. Here they come to be alone.
The end of summer brings excitement…a vacation
to Disney World by Betty’s family, and Sara can
come along. The girls are filled with anticipation,
but then Sara comes down sick and ruins their plan.
Sara must stay home and watch Betty’s family
drive away. For Sara it is the worst possible day…
until three days later when her mother shakily
stands beside her bed. “Oh, Sara, what can I say?
“How can I tell you this? Uncle Bob, Aunt Jane,
and your cousins had a bad wreck. All were killed.”
Her mother breaks down sobbing from the strain.
Sara sits silently, but with tears, her eyes are filled.
“When will Betty be home? Will I see Betty again?”
“No, darling, Betty is in Heaven now. She is gone.”
The next few months are hard; there are times when
grief is overwhelming. Sara has become withdrawn.
This year Christmas is particularly hard to enjoy.
The farmhouse next door stands empty and dark,
a constant reminder of their loss. There is no toy,
nothing that can ignite in Sara the holiday spark.
Comes Christmas Eve and Sara solemnly tells her mother
that all she wants Santa to give her is one more chance
to talk to Betty. This tears at her mother's heart; any other
request she would fulfill, for she’s desperate to enhance
the holiday spirit for Sara this year. Brokenhearted,
she cries herself to sleep, in grief and sorrow about
Sara’s only wish. When the night has finally departed,
she finds the front door standing open. Sara’s gone out!
Snow has fallen, blanketing the ground. Tracks lead
toward the farm next door. She runs through the snow,
following the footprints. The bitter cold and snow feed
her fears about Sara’s safety. The small footprints go
straight to the door of the barn. “Sara! Are you in here?
Answer me. I mean it. Answer me!” But it is to no avail.
Then, “I played with Betty, Mom.” Sara is standing there.
“Oh, Sara, no…”; then she sees Sara’s hair is in a pigtail...