When she saw the turtle nestled among the tall weeds, she noticed red nail-polish writing on his shell. Two initials which read: L.B.

“I’ll bet you’ve never written a column about a turtle,” said Mary, sitting across from me at the coffee shop.

No. I can’t say that I have. And I’m not sure I want to break a lucky streak.

Then Mary told me a story.

She was a thirteen-year-old when she found L.B. in her mother’s flowerbed. She was a tomboy in jeans, with scraped knees, dirty fingernails, and a bad case of freckles.

L.B. was a terrestrial box turtle.

Her parents had just divorced. Her father left town with his new girlfriend. He couldn’t have moved any farther away if he’d left planet Earth.

Life was sad. Her mother was always in a bad mood, her older brother started spending time away from home.

Most nights, she fended for herself, eating TV dinners, watching television, and waiting for her mother to get home.

When she saw the turtle nestled among the tall weeds, she noticed red nail-polish writing on his shell. Two initials which read: L.B.

He was a gentle creature, he didn’t squirm or snap. She noticed something wrong with his shell, and blood smears on his wounded back leg.

Her first move was to call her father for advice.

“Dad!” she said into the phone. “I found something in the yard!”

“Sweetie,” he said. “We’ve been over this, you can’t keep calling long distance every fifteen minutes, I have a job, I’m very busy.”

“But Dad,” she said. “I just found a tur—”

A dial tone.

So, she took the turtle to her elderly neighbor, Miss Stanley. People said the old woman was a little crazy, and this might have been true.

Miss Stanley had dozens of animals wandering her place—dogs, cats, an iguana, exotic birds. But if anyone would’ve known how to fix L.B.’s leg, it was her.

The old woman invited Mary inside. She cleaned the turtle’s leg with alcohol and cotton balls. She made Mary some tea. She listened.

When she handed the reptile back to the thirteen-year-old, she said, “This turtle is a sacred gift from above, you can’t ever let go of him, he’s meant just for you.”

And L.B. became Mary’s lifelong friend.

“We were close,” Mary explained. “He used to wander around my room and crawl on my leg until I’d pick him up. He snapped at everyone else, but not me.”

He nosed around while she did homework. She fed him earthworms and crickets. At night, she talked to L.B. and tried to forget how much she missed her father, and how lonely she was.

When she learned to drive, she brought him on road trips. When she got accepted into college, she kept him in an aquarium in her dorm.

L.B. was in her life when she met a young man who eventually became her husband. And L.B. was around when she brought home her first and second babies from the hospital.

For every major life event, there was a small, unassuming reptile in her background who always needed his tank cleaned.

But that was a long time ago. She’s older now. Her hair is turning gray, and her kids are finished with school. She has a nice house, and she is almost ready for an AARP card.

A few months ago, she found a hairline crack in L.B.’s shell. He had also quit eating for a few weeks. She took him to the vet. It was bad.

The crack progressed into an infection. She kept an eye on him every day, but things got worse. One morning, she found him lying still.

“I know it’s weird,” she said. “Crying over a turtle, you probably think I’m crazy, I cried so hard. He was forty years old, maybe older, that’s a long time to have a pet.”

One afternoon, Mary stood in the yard with her two grown children, and her husband. Her son dug the hole.

Mary placed a shoebox into the ground with nail-polish initials painted on the lid.

And she was thirteen all over again. A tomboy who needed something, or someone to love. A child who missed her father, who wanted to feel important. A lonely girl, eating TV dinners. Old feelings never really leave a body.

“Listen,” Mary said to me, “I know the last thing you want to write about a turtle, but he sorta got me through a hard time when I was growing up, and I just wanted to tell someone.”

I asked what she thought the turtle’s initials stood for.

She laughed. “I always told people they were short for ‘Little Buddy’, but I guess I’ll never know.”

Well, if you ask me, there aren’t many differences between Little Buddies and Little Blessings from above.

This is the first column I have ever written about a turtle.

38 comments

  1. Melanie - February 11, 2019 7:37 am

    all creatures great and small ❤️

    Reply
  2. Sarah - February 11, 2019 7:42 am

    What a sweet and touching column. Thank you for writing about not-just-any turtle.

    Reply
  3. Karen - February 11, 2019 8:36 am

    I love it ❤️

    Reply
  4. Susie - February 11, 2019 10:54 am

    I’m glad you wrote about Turtle Love.❤

    Reply
  5. Carolyn Allen - February 11, 2019 11:23 am

    …..and this is the first time I’ve ever cried over a turtle!

    Reply
    • Elizabeth Edens - February 11, 2019 11:34 am

      Me too!

      Reply
    • Ella Herlihy - February 11, 2019 12:40 pm

      Me too. Amazing how we can connect to someone we have never met over something so simple.

      Reply
  6. Cathi - February 11, 2019 11:33 am

    I’ve never before smiled this much over a turtle. Thank you for reminding us that blessings come in all shapes, sizes & speeds.

    Reply
  7. GaryD - February 11, 2019 11:34 am

    This is great. Thanks for sharing. 🐢

    Reply
  8. Connie Havard Ryland - February 11, 2019 12:35 pm

    Great read this morning. Blessings come in all shapes and sizes. I’m glad that child found hers. It’s heartbreaking when families shatter and children are left lonely.

    Reply
  9. Donna - February 11, 2019 12:43 pm

    I. LOVE. THIS!!

    Reply
  10. Sherry - February 11, 2019 1:30 pm

    So touching! Thank you…God knows what we need and delivers it in the most unassuming ways. Several weeks after I lost my brother and sister (on the same day) I was out for my morning run/walk, crying most of the time…two yellow butterflies were flying around me most of the way. I believe it was God’s way of letting me know they were with Him and everything would be okay.

    Reply
  11. Barb - February 11, 2019 1:36 pm

    🐢❤️

    Reply
  12. Janet Chutro - February 11, 2019 2:25 pm

    you made me cry. At work, at my desk.

    Reply
  13. MermaidGrammy - February 11, 2019 2:25 pm

    Such a good job for your first story about a turtle. All God’s creatures need love

    Reply
  14. Roxanne - February 11, 2019 2:26 pm

    I’d say you knocked it out of the park. And I was JUST discussing with someone this weekend how turtles (especially box turtles) seem to be something that everyone likes. I’m not one to mourn for possums or armadillos who have gotten on the wrong side of a car, but it’s VERY sad if the same has happened to a turtle. Thank you both for sharing about LB.

    Reply
  15. Jan - February 11, 2019 2:31 pm

    Awesome!!!

    Reply
  16. Cheri - February 11, 2019 2:33 pm

    Oh I love this story❤️ Thank you for writing about such a wonderful blessing.

    Reply
  17. Patricia Pope - February 11, 2019 2:38 pm

    Our Heaven Father watches over us… His mercies new every day!

    Reply
  18. Donna - February 11, 2019 2:44 pm

    Love a Little Buddy!

    Reply
  19. Jack Darnell - February 11, 2019 3:35 pm

    If I had a do-over in pet life, I would get me a turtle after the death of my dog. WOW 40 years for a pet is as the grandloves would say, AWESOME.
    I am glad she told you the story!
    From central Fl,
    Sherry & jack

    Reply
  20. Shelton A. - February 11, 2019 3:43 pm

    Great story! You captured what love for a pet can do for someone. Well done, Sean. And God bless turtles!

    Reply
  21. Nancy J - February 11, 2019 4:13 pm

    A couple of weeks after my husband died I was walking and found a box turtle and brought him home to my 9year old grandson who had been very close to his Poppa! He named him Jimmy (myhusbands first name) and loved & cared for that turtle for about 9years. We always said that Poppa had sent that turtle to be his Buddy. ❤️

    Reply
  22. Charlu Kent - February 11, 2019 4:19 pm

    Well that took me back to tomboy days n nights missing my Dad too….💙🐭❤️🐢❤️😎

    Reply
  23. Edna B. - February 11, 2019 5:21 pm

    What a wonderful story. Made me think of all the wonderful creatures that my brother and I brought home every day when we were small children. You have a wonderful day, hugs, Edna B.

    Reply
  24. Tim House - February 11, 2019 5:49 pm

    Very touching… Brought tears to my eyes. So often non-human critters figure more in our lives than the people around us. They don’t judge, and usually the only time they make us cry, is not their fault, but when the good Lord calls them home.

    Reply
    • Janet Mary Lee - February 11, 2019 11:51 pm

      Amen,Tim!,

      Reply
  25. Janie F. - February 11, 2019 7:24 pm

    PERFECT!!!

    Reply
  26. rantsandravescom - February 11, 2019 7:38 pm

    A pet no matter what kind often fills a hole in someone’s life. No matter the hurt a pet is something to love and someone who will listen to your problems without judgement. Thanks for the story. Grief is the result of the loss of someone we loved.
    Estelle S Davis

    Reply
  27. Colleen - February 11, 2019 8:04 pm

    love …

    Reply
  28. joyful reader - February 11, 2019 9:40 pm

    My 3 year old daughter’s friend; ‘Grape Turtle’-found in the fern field where I picked leatherleaf bunches supplying Mobile’s wholesale florist. How she loved him!! Her 4th Birthday cake had a large turtle across the top…in each square on his “shell” was the number 4..she was delighted & saved a piece for her friend, ‘Grape Turtle’. Sweet story Sean.

    Reply
  29. Liz Watkins - February 12, 2019 12:06 am

    It’s so sad what some children have to go through in their sweet lil lives! Thank Heaven for LB❤️❤️

    Reply
  30. Susan Kennedy - February 12, 2019 12:30 am

    I love this so much. 💕💕💕💕

    Reply
  31. Sue Richardson - February 12, 2019 12:48 am

    So sweet. Thank you for sharing.

    Reply
  32. Lawanna Nowell - February 12, 2019 1:13 am

    My mother had a “buddy” but his name was Pedro. She has had this turtle for 69 years. Pedro was so special to my mother. When Pedro passed away mother keep him in a special glass container that she still has today. Long live Pedro

    Reply
  33. barbara ann locklear - February 12, 2019 1:36 am

    Love the story, I think LB was a little blessing played in that garden to put a little sunshine in that Child’s life. God has a way of taking care of our needs in the most unexpected ways. Some time we don’t even l now it until much later. Sometime adults get so caught up in what we want, we can’t see the needs of the child. That is sad but to often very true..

    Reply
  34. Mary Ellen Hall - February 12, 2019 11:31 pm

    I ABSOLUTELY LOVE this story Sean!! EVERYONE has a “Turtle!!” Whether it’s a TRUE Turtle; or dog or cat. We ALL have a pet we LOVE DEARLY; & when they die, it TRULY BREAKS OUR HEART!!!
    I KNOW you have SADLY EXPERIENCED that TERRIBLE HEARTBREAK-NOTHING LIKE IT!!!

    Reply
  35. Carolyn Parker - February 15, 2019 4:56 am

    Beautiful story. The ending brought tears to my eyes. We all need that special one in our lives.

    Reply

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