Good Day, Mr. Chips. The Authors Collection

FCEtier, Chip, on the left and Mr. Chip on the right.
FCEtier, Chip, on the left and Mr. Chip on the right.

WE SAW ONLY ONE PERSON moving about in the cemetery.

If it wasn’t a caretaker, it must be him.

He was adjusting his lawn chair near the headstone of his wife.

I walked towards him.

When I got close enough to speak, I reached out to shake hands and said, “Good morning, my name is Chip.”

He smiled and said, “My name is Chip, too.”

My attention went directly to the tombstone, “I was sorry to learn of your wife’s passing.”

“She had dementia and died of double pneumonia.”

Our eyes met and I replied, “My wife was waiting on a liver transplant and died of double pneumonia.”

My voice broke.

He instinctively reached out and put his hand on my shoulder to offer comfort.

In the house of the Flamingoes, left to right, John Coe, Veronica Coe, Art Hoffman.
In the house of the Flamingoes, left to right, John Coe, Veronica Coe, Art Hoffman.

That was the sign my friend and two family members who were waiting in the car had hoped might appear. My brother-in-law said, “When he put his hand on your shoulder, we knew everything was okay.”

Our group consisted of a close friend, Art Hoffman, and my brother-in-law, John Coe and his wife, Veronica. Our outing that morning had been to visit a location Art had found a week or so before our visit to Louisville from North Carolina. My return to work begins next week and we all needed a break from home, Chip and Bob’s Flamingo Farm.

Earlier, the lady who told us about Mr. Chip appeared with little warning as we soaked in the ambiance of Art’s surprise.

We had more than a nickname in common. His given name is Charles Franklin. Mine is Frank Cecil. So we share reversed initials, C.F. and F.C.was a consignment store that featured numerous flamingoes, my wife’s favorite fowl.

The mystery lady said Mr. Chip had been keeping a daily vigil in the cemetery and cautioned us to approach with care and respect. It isn’t often a community sees a seventy-something year old man make daily visits to the grave of his wife—visits that last hours.

The cemetery was on the main thoroughfare in town, just a block or two from the fire station. Mr. Chip was in plain view every day, on stage, for all to see. According to the mystery lady, the local townspeople had pitched in to purchase the headstone for Mrs. Perkins.

This morning, we had found him about to get situated in a lawn chair, in a blazing sun.

He was about to read to his wife from Open Windows, a devotional publication from LifeWay.

It was her birthday.

Who would have thought that on her birthday, a Chip from the present would cross trails with a Chip of the future.

I hope Mr. Chip found an unexpected visit from another “Chip” as comforting as I did.

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  • Yet another commonality: Mr. Chip and I both had wives who went by masculine first names, Artie, and Bob.

    • Caleb Pirtle

      Chip, sometimes paths are meant to cross. You were comfort for each other.

  • Susan Mary Malone

    Oh,this is beautiful, Chip! Brought tears to my eyes and warmed my heart. Thank you!

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