I Dream of Heaven - Short Story

Hung on a wall with a nail and black string is a photograph that nobody has looked at. There is no reason for people to walk down this corridor that leads to nowhere, void of light and purpose in the far back corner of a church hallway. Odd place for a photograph, empty space is your audience.

Me, I am a Catholic brother for St. Michael’s church. Life as a Catholic brother means that I have no holy orders, no sacramental blessing to dispose. I’ve taken a vow of living a life of no money, no honey, and I answer to a boss. In my case, my boss is Father Dougherty and let me tell you answering to God is easier than reporting to Father Dougherty. My day is spent counseling parishioners, mopping floors or whatever undertaking that Father Dougherty and the congregation need of me.

I spent the last two years walking by this empty hallway that lead to nowhere. For no particular reason this day I decided to sit down in front of this photograph and give it the viewing that it deserves. Sitting on this cold, slate hallway floor with my Bible and my journal I stare at this photo.

There is no background, no ambient quality to this photograph, only a subject of four people whose story is told by the expression on their faces.

A widowed grandfather, a happy and observant man, quiet most days is seated back center of the composition. The grandfather watches his two daughters playing a game of dominos. The daughter to his left is divorced, keeps herself occupied by reading and taking care of her father. Her father is not in ill health but the company is good for both of them.

His second daughter, Marie, the younger of the two is seated to his right, gazing outwardly, lost in thought. Marie has made bad life choices and lives with her anger, placing blame on no one for her place in this world. The source of her redemptive pride is her daughter, the grandfather’s only grandchild, Ella, stands behind her mother.

The two sisters sit face to face at this small card table playing their game. This time spent is a social responsibility to the family. Obliged by tradition, not of connection. Small amounts of coins, one ashtray clean and unused, a lighter, but no cigarettes, is on the table.

The granddaughter, pretty, twenty-something and well educated stands behind her mother leaning on her left shoulder. She understands the sacrifices that her mother has made for her. Like her mother and her aunt she is accountable for keeping the family together, although she would rather be elsewhere.

Ella stands behind her mother metaphorically and in body pondering her decision.

Carman, stay or go with him? Can Carman remaining faithfully to be after breaking his commitment? Should I leave my family and go away with him. I love him…I think. Will my mother be able to cope without me? Should I ask or tell or just go? Does Carman make me happy? I think so…most days. Independence without obligation, that’s what I want…I know it’s selfish. The gift of sharing my self whose life has ben given to another. If I leave will my family will they want me back? Yes. Look at my Papa…that is my dream.

The grandfather holds a small chalkboard pressed to his chest. In his own handwriting he scribbles “I miss Heaven”. That is what he called his wife…Heaven.
“Carman”, Father Dougherty calls out to me…yes Father, I’m coming.