The Justice of the Mourning Doves

“The x-rays showed a huge mass and the biopsy confirmed lung cancer,” Erma said.
“Heidi, I am not doing anything about it. I know where I am going.” She said it as a matter-of-fact. I knew it, too. It became apparent as we sat at the small, round table by the window in the foyer of her apartment building. Even though spring was already a few days old, we watched a cold Wisconsin wind push flurries across street. We talked for nearly two hours while she strained for breaths. At times, we laughed so hard it gave her coughing fits, and other times, when she spoke of her children, grandchildren, and how her mother died, we fought back the tears. There was not a doubt in my mind that Erma, in her seventies, lived her life in preparation for these last months and maybe even weeks.
“The doctors thought I have until June. But the hospice nurse and I agree, I will go in April. I know my body.”

She said it as if she had just booked a flight to sunny Florida and as if she was reading her itinerary to me. Her faith and strength moved me deeply.
“Then I won’t pray you out of heaven, my friend.” We both smiled.
“I appreciate that,” she said, as she removed her glasses and rubbed her eyes.

I have always seen Erma serve people, make meals, study the Scriptures with her friends, or watch someone’s kids. Out of the blue she would call a busy mom of toddlers and offer to take the bouncy bunch to the park and for ice cream. I had heard from others of her love of sowing and crafting gifts for people in the church. I also knew Erma was a lover of words. Her eyes lit up when I asked her if she journaled or wrote stories about her life. Her entire face crinkled with delight as she told me of a letter she had recently written to her landlord. 

The letter went something like this.

“Dear Bill,
I was so surprised you cut that beautiful oak in the back yard of the apartment complex. In the summer this wonderful tree provided me with shade in my living room and kept my apartment cool. In the winter the birds would come and sit and find rest. I loved watching my bird-friends nest there. I just can’t believe you got rid of it.
When I sat by the window the other day being sad over the tree, I noticed George and Mable, our mourning doves, fluttering back and forth. They were trying to find a place to perch. Their tree was gone. They finally sat on my sill, cooed in disbelief and looked at me with sad eyes. George and Mable were so lost. We commiserated. How could you do this to them – to us? I told them, with a heavy heart, it was time to find another place to live. We said our goodbyes. But before I bade them farewell, I told them that when time came, to find some juicy, red berry shrubs, to be on the lookout for some purple mulberry trees. I told them to eat as much as they could stomach. Then I gave them the make and model of your new white car. They took off with a twinkle in their eye. I am sure they will be back at some point.


I don’t think I will ever listen to the cooing mourning doves without smiling, without remembering our conversation, or wondering if somewhere an old oak was felled. I know, I will think of Erma when I hear them. I will ponder about lost birds and people, about those who search for new homes and those who have found their place of rest. I am certain, the sound of mourning doves will make me think about George and Mable and question if landlords will see justice.

Hebrews 11:13-16
“These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one.
Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.”


  1. The Erma’s of the world have a way with words. She is a lot like that oak tree in a ways as well.
    The doves will miss both.
    My dad accused us siblings for keeping him here longer than he wanted to stay. Another Oak gone.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That was EXACTLY where I was going with it, Gary!
      Today, I face-timed with my mom in Germany. She showed me the empty spot in the garden where a big tree fell in the last storm. When I talked with my dad a couple of weeks ago, we talked in code about things that just get sick and die and then fall over. He is 80. I always said that I want to go like a tree. Die while standing. Thanks for reading … and smelling what I am stepping in ☺️

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Heidi, your story touched me. Of course Erma’s letter to Bill made me laugh out loud in a restaurant as I was reading it while having lunch. But, this is the quote that changed my laughter to teary eyes. “Then I won’t pray you out of heaven, my friend.”
    About a year before my Anita went to heaven, as she lay in bed at yet another rehab facility, she looked up at me and said, “I just want to go home. I’m homesick for a place I’ve never been.” I knew what she meant. She was paraphrasing the first line of the song Sweet Beulah Land. She was ready to meet her Lord. I now realize that I was selfish in my prayers. While she was praying for Jesus to come and get her, I was praying her out of heaven. May God forgive me.
    Heidi, you’ll never know this side of heaven how your words will touch someone. Thank you, and God Bless!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dearest Mike,
      I think it’s only human to want those we love so very much to stay with us. I think of “Choose life.” Then … the Bible also speaks of God knowing the length of our days. I think the Spirit moves and guides our prayers … shows us when to pray for life and healing and when to pray for the strength to let go. Blessings, dear brother.— My list of people I want to see again is getting longer all the time! Let’s pray for those who are not heading there … yet 🙂


  3. Praise God for the Ermas of this world who live out their faith day by day, ministering selflessly to those around them, and then die with joy and gladness. Thank you for sharing her story, Heidi. P.S. I too loved that letter to the landlord! (Did she actually send it?!)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you for sharing! I love this story😍 and truely looooove the morning doves living on my Barn silos! And ya know how much I love that you wont prayer her out of Heaven 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  5. What a beautiful lady – and a great sense of humor!
    The funniest thing we have ever seen in our yard was shortly after the biggest tree we had was knocked down by lightning and wind. We’d had a tree service come and remove all but a stump. My husband was shaving and looking out the window when a couple of squirrels came bounding toward the stump. They stopped short, looked at each other, looked up where the tree used to be, circled the stump, looked up, looked at each other, circled some more,looked up, looked at each other…. “?!?!?”
    God bless Erma – and you. I’m sure she has been a blessing to you. 💕

    Liked by 1 person

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