Tuesday, August 24, 2010
The Saddest Stories in the World
Today I heard another one.
Maybe it is only in the small wee places we hear of such stories that would make your heart burst with grief and wonder how so many people just pick themselves up and simply carry on to brave a future full of more storms and other tragedies.
And it sets me to thinking maybe these are just everyday stories. In big cities we simply don't hear them for community life is sadly absent.
Elsie was thirteen and saying her prayers in church after school. She was the only one there, she was a good girl and prayed every single day for her father to stop hitting her mother when he came home late with his body full of drink. Being the eldest she worried about the bare larder and all eight children going to bed with their stomachs painfully empty.
Old Father Shaughnessy had been inspecting the altar cloths. He was very fussy as to how they were laundered and ironed by the parish women. And he oftentimes would humilate them into taking them all down once more and redoing the job. Even if it was only one that didn't meet his approval, the rest were then suspect.
She heard his leather soles on the floor before she saw his feet with her downcast eyes. She was very much afraid of his big roary voice and the way he'd pinch her chest when he asked her about her catechism. Now when he ordered her to the big house beside the church she instantly obeyed. Maybe he would give her some food, maybe he could pray too for her father to stop drinking.
But it wasn't that at all. He told her she would be called to the side of the Virgin Mary if she was willing to do what God had told him she must do and then all her prayers would be answered.
She didn't like it at all, it was very painful but she offered it up for all the sins of her family and Father Shaughnessy gave her some apples and bread and told her not to tell anyone as God would reverse all the prayers she had ever said in her life.
Elsie didn't know what the big belly meant. But her mother did. And her father beat it out of her who had done it. She was yanked out of school and hidden away and her mother told everyone that David was her new baby brother. And her father would go up every Saturday night to the confession box and come out of it carefully folding a few dollar bills into his worn old wallet. But there was a bit extra for them all, in spite of her father trying to drink it all away.
And David was sent off to Toronto when he was fourteen where he was to die when he was twenty-six of a work accident.
And Elsie went on to marry a man just like her father and had seven children in seven years and then the man just like her father was killed while driving home drunk out of his mind from the club. Her mother died from exhaustion the same year.
And Elsie's father lived on and on and on until he was ninety-seven and getting awards and medals for being such a great old man.
And Father Shaughnessy was made a monsignor and died with many Vatican honours and a holy book written about him. There's even talk of beatification still.