Stunned he looked quickly back at Joley’s face. She was smiling, but only now did he notice that her eyes were no longer blinking. Michelle’s mother, upon hearing the statement from Sharon burst into loud sobs, and began to talk in Spanish with Michelle hugging her saying, “It’ll be all right, ma ma, it’ll be all right.”
Sharon reached gently up, and closed Joley’s eyes. Michelle got up and walked around the bed. She looked down at her little sister. “Joley, when you see the Blessed Mother, tell her the new way we are saying the Rosary. And, please, say it with her for me.” She fell to her knees, and began to sob long sobs over her sister.
Sharon took a necklace from around Joley’s neck with a little medal on it, and gave it to Michelle. As Michelle, and her mother knelt beside the body, John and Sharon left the room. They walked to a nearby park that was part of the projects. John sat on a bench with Sharon, and tried to take it all in.
“God! That was terrible!”
“What was terrible, John? That a little girl died?”
“Sharon, I’m not in the mood for theology right now.”
She slid over beside him. Putting her arms around him she stroked his hair, “No, preacher boy, I’m not talking to you about theology. This is life. We all die. God himself suffered on the cross. And he did it so that little girl could go to Heaven.”
John was crying openly by now, “But she was just a child. Why didn’t God do a miracle and save her?”
“It was her time, John. Look at it from God’s view. The difference between her time and yours is only a few years. Perhaps just a few minutes. She was just ready for Heaven a little quicker than you, that’s all.”
He sat up straight, dried his eyes and said, “How can you just sit there, Sharon, and talk about Heaven, after such a scene as that?”
“How can you not talk about Heaven, after such a scene as that? Heaven is all that makes it make any sense at all! The person who doesn’t believe in the hope of Heaven sees a scene like that, and it’s insanity. The God of the universe would not allow Joley to suffer any more. She’d used up that body, and now, right now, she has a new form. she’s free of pain, and she’s home. And it’s not just a nice thought John, it’s real! That’s supposed to be the purpose of your whole life, John. Preparing people for Heaven! And then, you get mad when someone goes! That little girl has done no wrong. She’s been ill for so long, and now she’s free. Medical science did all it could, and God just said, ‘No.’ John, you’ve just held the hand of a saint! She’s in Heaven, right now. We won this one. I’m sorry to see my friend Joley die, just like you are, but look at what has happened. Joley had no more options left in this world, and she left us so much on her way out. And, in a little while, we’ll both see her again. I don’t know how many sick calls you’ve made in your ministerial career, but I’m willing to bet that you’re not going to quickly forget that little girl in that apartment, are you?”
“I’m sorry. I just got over wrought, that’s all. Just like the man in the wheelchair the first night of the revival. Some things are beyond me.”
“It’s not all hallelujahs, and revivals, John. Some things are beyond us all. Life is hard. Satan made sure of that. Jesus came to show us the victory that can be ours. That little girl didn’t know anything about theology. She knew that ‘Holy Joe’ was a good man. She knew that you were like him, and that the last thing she saw in this world was you praying the Rosary with her, as she died. Let’s go back to the church.”
The walk back was without much talk. John had been badly shaken by what he’d seen. He also felt ashamed. Ashamed that he had wanted so much of Sharon’s time, when the little girl had needed it so badly. What if he’d been sitting in the garden talking with her, and Michelle had come up and told them that Joley had died without seeing the lady she so badly wanted to meet?
He did ask her, “Where was the priest? It was so important to give the last rites to a cat, what about that little girl?”
“Most Catholics never get the sacrament of the sick. And, John, in the final analysis, we all die alone, don’t we?”
“John, you put all of your faith in a book. The Bible is the Holy Scripture, but it was never meant to be used as a road map. God cannot, will not be reduced to a book. Call it the Bible, or the Koran, or the Book of Mormon, he will not be locked down. He reveals truth to all men. From the Dalai Lama to the Pope. All truth comes from God. You cannot exclude any truth from your life, no matter where you find it. You may find it in your King James, or you may find it in the writings of a priest, or you may find it in the face of a dying child.”
The Butcher Shop