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By Thomas F. O'Neill

The Gift

The sirens blared as the ambulance crew worked their way through the congested traffic. Emily Watson looked helplessly as the paramedic worked on her seven year old daughter. When all hope was lost of revving her. Emily let out an anguished cry. She sobbed uncontrollably as she held her daughter Josie’s lifeless body. The paramedic tried in vain to console her raw emotion and gut wrenching pain.

It had only been three months since she lost her husband to cancer and two weeks since her mother passed away. She felt that Josie was all that she had left in the world and her reason for living.

Prior to her daughter’s accident, Emily was putting her mother’s things together in boxes. Josie was looking at her grandmothers old pictures. She was a curious child and she kept running over to her mother with each picture, “who is that, mommy?” Emily tried to hold back her tears as she looked at the old photographs of her family.

It was a rough year for her and her daughter because Josie’s father and grandmother passed away. The merging of two schools left Emily without a teaching Job and now the death of her mother and husband had her feeling beaten down with an uncertain future. She remained strong for Josie because in her mind her daughter was her purpose for living.

Emily took a break from packing her mother’s belongings and she looked at old photographs with her daughter. The photographs reminded her of how hard her parents worked to provide for her. Emily’s father was a polish immigrant who repaired shoes for a leaving. He loved to tell his customers stories with the utmost exuberance. He was an extremely charismatic and outgoing person with an entertaining personality.

Emily enjoyed telling her daughter the story of how Josie’s grandparents met. “Grandma was racing to get to a Job interview and broke the heel off of her shoe,” Emily told her daughter.

Josie began to laugh even though she heard the story many times before.

“Grandma ran into Grandpa’s shoe repair shop and yelled, 'fix this,' holding her shoe in her outstretched hand,” she told her daughter laughing.

Josie was looking at an old photo of her grandfather in the shoe repair shop as she listened to her mother tell the story.

“When Grandpa was fixing your Grandma’s shoe she kept saying to him, 'will you hurry up?' Grandma was in such a hurry she ran out of his shop without paying him." She went on, keeping her daughter laughing, "He eventually tracked your Grandma down a few days later and asked her in broken English, 'you get Job?'”

Emily’s daughter once again laughed at Emily imitating her father.

“When your Grandma said, 'yes', Grandpa said to her, 'good you can afford to pay me now.' Grandma and Grandpa got married a few months later,” she told her daughter.

Emily and her daughter looked at old photographs of Great Aunts and Uncles who had passed away.

“I was your age when Grandpa died,” she told Josie.

She told her daughter like many times before how a customer came to their home to tell Emily’s Mother about finding Josie’s grandfather lying on the floor in his shop. Emily’s father died of a sudden and unforeseen heart-attack.

“After Grandpa died, Grandma worked as a secretary. Grandma worked at the school where you go to school now. She worked there when I was a little girl,” Emily told her daughter.

Emily’s earliest memories were of her Father telling her stories that made her laugh.

“Your Grandfather was such a great storyteller,” she said, “That was his way of bringing Joy and happiness to people.”

Emily looked at pictures of herself and her husband and thought to herself they were such happy times. They came across baby pictures of Josie with her father. Emily tried to hold back her tears as she remembered the love her husband had for her and her daughter.

Emily’s mother had a large pool in the backyard which Josie loved to jump into and they came across pictures that were taken of her in the pool. The pictures were taken when Emily’s husband was strong and vibrant before the heart attack took his life.

“Are we going to move in here now, mommy?” Emily’s daughter asked her as they were looking through the old photograph album.

It was a few days after packing her mother's belongings that Emily decided to move into her mother's home. The home was close to her daughters’ school and Josie could walk the four blocks rather than riding on a bus. She also considered the fact that she was no longer employed and living there would make it a little easier on her financially.

After she settled into her mother’s home she placed her daughter back in school. Emily was worried about how Josie was handling all the changes in her life, such as her father’s death, the death of her grandmother and the move into her grandmother’s home. She was concerned about how her daughter was handling the stress, so Emily decided to visit her daughter’s school and talk to Josie’s teacher, Miss. Crone.

“Your daughter never arrived to school this morning,” Miss Crone told her.

Emily became extremely concerned and went back home. She searched the house and the backyard. What she found changed her forever. Her daughter was facedown in the pool. Frantic and panic stricken Emily pulled her out. She dialed 911 on her cell phone and then began CPR. The Paramedics soon arrived and took over.

Emily walked into the hospital with the help of one of the paramedics. She was pale and weak and needed help walking. She was grief stricken and in shock as her world spiraled out of control. A paramedic sat her down in the Hospital Emergency room and brought her a cup of coffee.

While little Josie was being wheeled into the Hospital a paramedic noticed something unusual. What he saw was a small tear rolling down the little girl’s cheek. He quickly ran and got one of the Emergency Room Doctors.

“We got a pulse,” came a loud and thundering voice from inside the Emergency room.

Emily held her daughter's hand all night and into the next day as she sat in a chair next to her daughter’s bed. Her daughter Josie slowly opened her eyes,

“I am really sore, mommy,” she said.

Emily tried in vain to hold back her emotions. She began to cry but this time they were tears of Joy.

“I love you, Mommy, very much so, but I didn’t want to come back,” she told her mother.

“What do you mean, sweetie?” Emily asked.

“She was radiant,” she said.

“Who was radiant?” Emily asked.

“I can’t explain it, Mommy, it was so wonderful, so nice, I love you so much, but I didn’t want to come back,” she told her Mother. “She was so, so radiant, so beautiful, so bright, and warm.”

“Was she an Angel?” Emily asked her

“I don’t know, I can’t explain it, I just felt good, protected, and loved,” she said.

“What did she say to you?” Emily asked her

“She didn’t talk to me like we are talking. I just understood without talking,” she said

Little Josie did not have the words or the means to explain to her Mother what she experienced. Her soul at a point in time was immersed in altruistic love. She was given an understanding of love in its purest form.

“What do you understand, Josie?” Emily asked her

“Some people when they die want to remain behind, they are like people, but not everyone can see them or hear them. They are connected to maybe their home or Job or people. They don’t want to leave.” Josie said.

“Did you see anyone?” Emily asked

“No, but I will,” Josie told her Mother with a sense of certainty.

Josie’s experience opened her up. It changed her in a way that she could not adequately explain in words.

“What do you mean, sweetie? What will you see?” Emily asked her

“Well it is a gift, a great gift, a gift that needs to be shared. That is how I understand it. What I understand is that gifts are only gifts when they are shared and freely given,” Josie said

“My experience, and understanding, is a gift for others. It needs to be shared but not in words - just freely given. It is not a gift, if we do not freely express it to others. I can’t explain it in words, Mommy, I just understand it inside,” she told her Mother.

“I do not understand, honey, but in time perhaps I will,” Emily told her daughter.

“We all have that gift within us but we never reveal it because we do not know it is there. I saw our greatest gift and I must share it now. That is what I understand now, Mommy,” added Josie.

Emily and her daughter walked out of the Hospital a few days later.

“Well, sweetie, we need to call a cab. Our car is at home.” Emily said.

Josie turned to Emily, “I’m sorry, Mommy, I didn’t mean to make you cry. I jumped in the pool because I felt Daddy there with me. I don’t know what happened after that I must have bumped my head.”

“Don’t ever jump in the pool without me being there. You got that, young lady?” Emily said to her daughter in a stern voice.

A few weeks later Emily took Josie to Mass at Josie’s grandmother's Church. Josie got up from where she was sitting and began to walk towards the altar.

Emily asked in a shocked voice, “Josie what are you doing?”

With anger in his voice the Priest told Josie to sit down but instead Josie turned to the congregation. Something came over her as if someone or something was about to speak through her.

“Hey, lady, can’t you control your kid,” said a man sitting behind Emily.

“We all have the greatest gift that needs to be freely given,” Josie said.

Some in the congregation became visibly irate including the Priest, that a mere Child can have the audacity to interrupt the Holy Mass.

“Sit down,” the Priest said again in an angry voice.

The seven year old Child slowly turned to the Priest and said, “We take life for granted. We don’t fully understand life but Life is freely given to us it is our greatest gift. A gift is not a gift unless it is freely given. We experience that gift without fully understanding what we have. What we are to others and what others are to us is a free expression of life. The life within us is love in its purest form.”

The Priest and Congregation were awestruck that a small child was speaking to them with such eloquence.

“Life is the purest form of love but it is not only expressed within us. Our life is a gift to others. The more we express and share the gift of life freely to others, the closer we come to understanding that life is the greatest expression of love,” Josie said to the Congregation.

“How are you able to speak of such things at such an early age,” asked the Priest

“I experienced love in its purest form and I understand that it is freely given unconditionally. God does not pick, choose, punish, or reward us. We cannot please or anger God,” Josie told the Priest.

Emily’s daughter once again turned to the Congregation and said, “When we express the love that is within us openly and freely we come to understand that we are a gift that is freely given. We are the presence of god for others to emulate and embrace.”

Josie walked back to her Mother and took her hand and they walked out of the Church together. There was great chatter within the Church as they walked out. The Priest regained control of the Congregation by reading from one of the Gospels.

“Josie, I understand,” Emily told her daughter.

“I felt a great presence around me that gave me the words to speak,” she told her Mother.

“I understand perfectly what you said,” Emily said.

“Daddy, Grandma, Grandpa, and the others in the photos are in a wonderful place. Some remain there for a long time and others like us return to this world. We return to share our gift and understanding. Mommy, in order to find Joy, happiness, and love in this world we must bring it to others. Then and only then can we truly be content in life,” she told her Mother.

“I was satisfied as a teacher, Josie,” Emily said.

“You can still teach, Mommy, everyone can teach.”

“You are an awesome teacher, Josie,” Emily said to her.

With love,
Thomas F. O’Neill

Yahoo Screen Name for chatting online: introspective777

Other writings of Thomas F. O'Neill can be found at the links below under the Screen Name Introspective:

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