Thomas F. O'Neill
She was a young single mother, sitting in
a bus, concerned about the fate of her ten year old
daughter. Her daughter, Samantha, was being treated for
leukemia at Mercy Hospital. The half hour bus trip for
the young mother has become a morning ritual and one of
the stops along the way was her old
That neighborhood stirs up memories that she would
prefer to forget. Her physical scars are long gone but
the emotional and psychological scars have become a
festering scab that refuses to heal.
The memories of her father are always there to haunt
her. Her father called her Joanna but she now prefers to
be called JoAnn. “He was a degenerate,” as she would
prefer to describe him, “a retched, drunkard, who
annihilated my self-esteem.”
Her brother Jimmy who is two years older than her,
took the full brunt of the physical beatings. Her
brother’s chipped teeth are a visible reminder of where
they came from and what they endured. Her brother’s
broken nose, arm, and leg, have long healed but those
beatings have left an imprint in his psyche that will
remain with him permanently. He is filled with anger and
a deep seated hatred that he cannot adequately release
or control. He has fits of rage that have landed him in
Prison. He also has a deep resentment towards his mother
for allowing his father to brutalize him.
On a number of occasions JoAnn tried to explain to
her brother that their mother was a victim too. She was
victimized not in the same severity as her children but
she was still a victim. Their mother lived in constant
fear and with the guilt of knowing what was going on in
their home. Jimmy on several occasions screamed at his
mother, in fits of rage, “Why didn’t you leave him and
take us out of there?”
When JoAnn was seventeen the Police showed up at
their door and hauled her father off to jail. Her mother
could not raise the five hundred dollars to bail him
out. He was charged and later convicted of raping a
thirteen year old girl. The Judge sentenced him to ten
years in Prison. That same year JoAnn dropped out of
School and started pumping gas at a local gas station to
help her mother with the bills.
She had one failed relationship after another. She
attracted the users and the abusers. She had no way of
knowing what a normal relationship is. When her brother
stopped by the house one day and saw his sister’s
swollen lip and her swollen-shut eye something inside of
He went to his sister’s boyfriend’s house and kicked
in his door. The boyfriend was sitting at the kitchen
table and when he saw Jimmy standing in the kitchen he
jumped out of the chair in fear.
“You like to beat on girls, Hank!!!!” Jimmy yelled.
He did not see Hank as a tough guy or a monster but a
squirming little coward.
“Listen, Jimmy, she hit me first,” he said.
His fist hit Hank above his left eye. He hit him so
hard that Jimmy felt his knuckles pop in his hand. He
ignored the pain of his broken hand and he watched
Hank’s legs buckle from another blow. Hank collapsed on
the kitchen floor. His left eye was swollen and blood
was rolling down his face.
“Get up!!!!!” Jimmy yelled.
“I’m sorry, Jimmy, please don’t hit me again.”
He pulled Hank up by the back of his shirt. Hank
leaned up against the Kitchen sink.
“I’m sorry, Jimmy, please don’t hit me!!!!” he
He hit Hank with an upper left so hard that he
knocked four of his teeth out. He watched him squirming,
dazed, and crying with the four bloody teeth lying on
the kitchen floor. At that moment as the adrenalin was
racing through his body. He no longer saw Hank but
instead he saw his father lying there. He walked over to
the sink and grabbed a carving knife. He plunged the
knife so hard into Hank’s back that the tip of the knife
broke off in his spine.
Jimmy’s bloody palm prints and finger prints were all
over the kitchen. He was soon arrested and convicted. He
was sentenced to ten years for involuntary manslaughter.
He was moved three times in five years to various
state prisons. He was eventually moved to a medium
security state institution. The inmates in medium
security are given three hours of recreation time, each
day, in the prison yard. One day when he was out in the
yard he saw an inmate that had an uncanny resemblance of
his father. He started to walk closer to him and he
heard him say, “is that you, Jimmy?”
He stood and looked at his father in disbelief. His
father looked old and weak. Not the monster he
remembered in his childhood, not the nightmarish figure
that brutalized him and crippled him emotionally.
“What are you doing here, Jimmy?”
“I killed a man,” he said in a matter of fact way.
“That is too bad,” he said, “how is your sister?”
“You don’t act like the big tough guy now. Why is
that?” Jimmy asked.
“I was messed up. I was a drunken lunatic out of my
mind. I am clean now and sober. Not the man I was. We
can use this time to get to know one another,” he said.
“Do you have any idea what you did to us?” asked
“I have been writing letters to your mother. I asked
that you three come and see me,” he said.
“Come and see you, do you have any clue what you did
to us?” trying to hold back his rage.
“I am sober now, I am not that person. Forgive me,
Jimmy,” he said.
“You are a monster from hell. How could you do that
to your own daughter? She was a child and you raped her
repeatedly and locked her in a closet. You beat me so
bad that you broke my arm, my leg, and my nose in four
places. You broke my teeth, I was only a child. What
could I have done to deserve that from you? You raped
that thirteen year old girl. You are a monster, an evil
monster. You getting locked up was a good thing but what
I am going to do now is even better.” He began to take
off his belt.
“Listen, Jimmy, I am no longer that person. I am
sober now. I would never do those things again, never,”
he said pleading with his son.
He grabbed his father’s hair and through him to the
ground. He wrapped the belt around his father’s neck and
began to strangle him. His father’s legs began to kick
uncontrollably as he was fighting for air. The other
inmates ignored what they saw because they knew he was
finishing off a child rapist. The child rapist in the
inmates mind is the lowest form of scum inside the walls
of a prison.
The prison guards ran over and jumped on him but he
never loosened up on the belt. The guards began
pepper-spraying him but his adrenalin was pumping and
the pepper-spray did not faze him in the least.
He was charged with murder and he was moved to a
maximum security Prison. His defense attorney brought
out all the dark family secrets in hope of the Jury
convicting Jimmy of a lesser crime.
His sister recalled her nightmarish existence at the
hands of her father. While she was answering the defense
attorney’s questions during the trial she was unable to
hold back her tears. Jimmy testified about the ongoing
beatings he received. Their Mother then backed up their
account of what took place in their home.
The prosecution tried to debunk the defense’s
testimony by stating that anyone living under those
conditions would not have remained in that house but
rather they would have fled by running away. The defense
argued that they had no where to go and their fear was
so great that they could not escape him.
Her brother was sentenced to an additional three
years for involuntary man slaughter of his father. The
Judge took into consideration the emotional duress that
he was under at the time of the killing.
The killing of their father did not heal the deep
scares or calm the emotional turmoil inside of them. The
court testimony however brought everything out in the
open and it helped them move closer towards the healing
process. The Judge told them that they need to reach
that place inside and find the strength to let go of
their anger and hate.
Shortly after the trial their mother began to have
mini-strokes that triggered the onset of dementia. Her
memory loss was the first sign that something was wrong.
Joann on occasions found her mother lying on the floor
disoriented. She would get confused about the time of
day and the seasons. She would wear summer close in the
winter and winter close in the summer. She would get up
in the middle of the night and start cooking breakfast.
For the next ten years JoAnn’s full-time Job was caring
Her brother was released from prison but the
condition of his mother was too much for him to handle.
He moved out of their home and found a place of his own.
JoAnn was forced to go on public assistance because
due to her mother’s condition she was unable to work.
Ten years later her mother had no memory or recognition
and she was completely bedridden. The last six months of
her mother’s life was spent at Mercy Hospital.
The caring for her Mother helped her move closer to
healing that broken little child within her. She was
also working on ways to subside her nightmarish memories
that was inhibiting her from finding Joy in life.
Her brother rarely came around after their mother
died and he moved on without leaving a forwarding
address or a way of contacting him. It was then that
JoAnn decided to take care of herself. She sold her
mother’s home and went back to school and got her GED.
She then enrolled in a near by community college and
became a medical assistant.
She was moving forward but she still attracted the
losers, users, and abusers. She could not differentiate
the difference between love and her partner’s neurotic
need to control her. She also attracted men with deep
insecurities that needed to dominate her out of their
fear of losing her. Those men in her life continuously
moved her towards dependency rather then independence.
She eventually had to have restraining orders placed on
four of her boyfriends who had habits of breaking down
her door and beating her.
In the mist of her search in finding herself she
became pregnant. She had a baby girl and she named her
‘Sam’ short for ‘Samantha.’ The relationship with Sam’s
father did not work out of course. It didn’t take JoAnn
long to discover that he was a degenerate drunk like her
father was. She focused her energy on raising her
daughter and she pretty much gave up on men.
She began working as a medical assistant and as a
full-time Mom. Her daughter Sam was an absolutely
beautiful and bright child. She had long beautiful blond
hair and bright blue eyes. She had an angelic face that
radiated a sweet innocence and wondrous expressions of
joy. Through her daughter, JoAnn began to find Joy in
The next six years were happy times for JoAnn but she
grew more and more concerned when her daughter started
getting sick. It took the Doctors two years to pin point
the problem. What Sam was suffering from was a rare form
of leukemia. Mercy Hospital placed her in their
pediatric unit and they started her on chemotherapy. Sam
was heart broken when she lost all of her beautiful
When Joann entered room 22 in the pediatric unit,
she noticed a beautiful crystal Angel on the table next
to her daughter’s bed.
“What a beautiful Angel, Sam, where did you get it?”
“Doctor Paul gave it to me. He is really nice and he
“How does he know me?” she asked.
“He talks about you all the time,” she said.
It was at that moment a little boy walked into the
room, “Hello how is everything going,” he asked wearing
a white coat.
“Aren’t you a little young to be a Doctor,” JoAnn
asked laughing because the white coat fit him like a
“I’m Doctor Paul’s assistant,” he said with a
“He is Doctor Paul’s assistant, Mommy, his name is
Rodney and he is my friend, he calls me Sammy,” she said
“Well in that case my name is JoAnn, Sammy’s Mother,”
playing along with him. “Are you studying to be a
“Yep, like Doctor Paul, well I need to make my rounds
now,” he said walking out of the room.
“Well with those bedside manners he will make a great
Doctor and a good catch for you,” she said to Sammy.
“What room is he in?”
“He doesn’t have one he just walks around from room
to room. He said he is going to make me his assistant,”
she said laughing.
“What a sweet kid, maybe he is Doctor Paul’s son,”
The next day JoAnn walked into the Hospital’s gift
shop, “What do you have for a young boy?” She asked the
woman behind the counter. She saw a Crystal Angel in the
display case, “That looks like the Angel in my
“Someone has been stealing them out of here,” the
woman behind the counter said.
“Who?” she asked with curiosity in her voice.
“We can’t catch the person. We think it is someone
who works in the Hospital because they are disappearing
at night when the gift shop is closed,” she said, “they
are mysteriously showing up in the pediatric unit and no
one knows who’s doing it.”
jOaNN bought a small stuffed bear for Rodney and went
up to the Nurses station, “Can you tell me what room
that little boy is in with the white coat? He said his
name is Rodney. I got him this little bear.”
“Rodney?” Nurse Betty asked. “When did you see him
“Yesterday” she said, “he said he is Doctor Paul’s
“Doctor who’s assistant?” Nurse Betty asked.
“I am new here, I don’t know all the Doctor’s. Well
he must have been discharged because there isn’t a
Rodney on my room roster,” she said.
JoAnn went to her Daughter’s room and told Sam that
Rodney has been discharged.
“He is still here, Mommy; he came in to see me.”
“They told me at the Nurses station that they don’t
have a kid named Rodney in this unit,” she said.
“He is Doctor Paul’s assistant he is not a Patient,”
“Well I got him this Bear,” she said, a little
“I will give it to him,” Sammy said.
A couple of day’s later JoAnn missed her bus and she
was at the Hospital later then normal. She sat next to
her daughter’s bed while her daughter slept.
“So you missed your bus,” said a Doctor sitting in a
chair across the room from her.
She became startled and her body shifted in her
“What’s the matter? You look like you seen a ghost,”
“I didn’t hear you come into the room and I didn’t
see you there.”
“I didn’t want to wake your Daughter,” he said.
“Would you like to have a cup of Coffee down in the
coffee Shop?” he asked her.
“The Coffee Shop is closed now.”
“Oh, I can get you in I have been here so long that I
am part of this Hospital,” he said.
She looked at his name tag, “Dr. Paul Harper, MD,
you’re Doctor Paul.”
He turned the door knob at the Coffee Shop and it was
dark inside. He lit a small candle at one of the tables.
“Shouldn’t this place be locked,” she asked.
“It’s a security issue,” he said
“Are you the one stealing those Crystal Angels out of
the gift shop and giving them to the kids,” she asked
with laughter in her voice.
“Who me? No, I think it is my assistant Rodney,” he
said with a smile in his voice.
“Is he your Son?” she asked beaming with curiosity.
“No, just a dear friend of mine,” he said.
“How long have you been here?” she asked.
“A long time but it doesn’t seem that long because it
is no longer work for me. I truly love being with those
children and looking after them,” he said with deep
sincerity in his voice.
“And, they love you,” she said.
“Thank you, that means a lot to me,” he said.
“You and Rodney are all my daughter talks about.”
“I like making those children happy, just like you
enjoy making your daughter happy. You are a great Mother
and a kind person. You care for your daughter very much
and you looked after your mother for a very long time,”
“How do you no that? I don’t ever remember seeing you
before,” she said slightly concerned.
“Your mother was here, JoAnn, I saw her,” he said.
“She wasn’t lucid then, her mind was completely
gone,” she said.
“Oh but her soul was lucid, and she loves you very
much,” he said.
“My Mother died almost ten years ago,” she said
wondering if he is some kook trying to take advantage of
It was then that she looked into his eyes and she
noticed how crystal clear they were and filled with
compassion. His eyes put her at ease.
“I don’t know what I will do if Sammy dies,” she
“Your daughter is a very special little girl and I
love her very much. I love all those Children I met on
that unit,” he said.
“That is why they love you the way they do,” she
“Your daughter is with you now, cherish the time you
have with her. You are a great compassionate human being
and you bring such happiness to your daughter,” he said
“Is she going to die?” she asked with tears rolling
down her face.
“We all die, it is part of life but we go on living.
Those who touch our heart today will touch our heart
tomorrow. There is no distance between us due to our
hearts and souls being intertwined,” he said.
He walked over to her and put his arms around her and
she felt completely at ease.
“Is there any possibility of meeting someone like you? A
kind, decent person, not a control freak,” she asked
with a smile on her face.
“I am certain that someone good and kind is going to
enter your life,” he said.
“My life is not picture perfect,” she said.
“The things that happened to you can never be erased.
It is part of who you are. You have to overcome the
nightmare. You are now more sympathetic to the needs of
others because of what you experienced in your
childhood,” he said.
“I can’t bear the thought of going through life
without my daughter,” she said with tears in her eyes.
“Cherish the moments you have now with your
daughter,” with a smile in his eyes he said, “I see a
Max coming into your life he will help you. He has a
heart of gold but some times his light bulb is not fully
lit. He is truly great with kids and a lovable kind
“I will keep my eyes open,” she said with a smile on
“Well I have a few more rounds to make, stay and
finish your Coffee,” he said.
A security guard with a flash light walked into the
Coffee Shop, “Who’s in here,” he said.
“Oh Doctor Paul let me in,” she said.
“The Coffee Shop is closed, how did you get in here?”
“Doctor Paul Harper let me in,” she said.
“There are too many keys floating around this
Hospital and I am going to get to the bottom of it,” he
The next day as she was walking down the corridor
towards her daughter’s room. She saw a maintenance man
holding a ladder. He slipped on the floor falling on top
of it. He made a thunderous crash and scared the
orderly’s and nurses working on the floor.
“Max, what the hell are you doing,” said Nurse Alice.
“Doctor Paul said there is a dim light bulb in room
22,” he told her.
“His name is Max?” JoAnn asked the Nurse.
“He’s the Maintenance man,” she said.
“Hello there,” he said to Sammy. He then turned to
JoAnn, “Hello there.”
“Doctor Paul said you have a dim light bulb in here,”
“He was talking about your bulb,” Sammy said
“Sammy!!!!” JoAnn yelled, “That is not nice.”
“Oh you got a sweet daughter,” he said.
“You know Doctor Paul?” JoAnn asked looking at him
with curiosity because of what Dr. Paul told her the
“I met him a couple of times. He wants me to go back
to school and become a medical assistant,” he said.
“That is what my Mommy does,” Sammy said to him.
At that moment Rodney walked into the room.
“Hello there,” Max said to him.
“Oh you fixed the dim light bulb good,” he said while
he turned and winked at Sammy.
“He is Doctor Paul’s assistant,” Sammy said to Max
“He must be pretty sharp considering his age and
all,” Max said to them.
“Do you get a lunch break or anything? We can get a
bite to eat. It’s on me,” she said.
As they talked in the Coffee shop JoAnn saw a
sweetness in him, a kind gentle soul. They met everyday
in the Coffee Shop and talked. He brought great comfort
to her and they grew close.
“My Mommy likes you a lot,” Sammy said to Max. “You
take good care of her OK.”
Max looked at her with tears in his eyes because he
knew in his heart she was dying, “I will love her like
no man ever has”
“I love you Max,” she said, “And, my Mommy loves
JoAnn was standing at the door and heard the
conversation. She tried to wipe her tears before
entering the room. She didn’t want them to see her
Sammy took a turn for the worst and Max and JoAnn
stayed with her. She held Sammy’s hand the moment she
passed away. Tears rolled down Max’s face and he held
JoAnn in his arms to console her.
“I am going to miss her,” she cried, “so much so, I
love you, Sammy.”
Max was with Joann through the burial and he remained
with her to console her. When she came home after Sammy
was buried, Max laid down next to her and held her
through the night.
Months went by and Max stayed. He helped her grieve
her loss. They were deeply in love and eventually she
helped him get certified as a medical assistant and they
“Oh, Max, look how cute he is,” she said as she held
her new born baby at Mercy Hospital. “I am going to name
him ‘Paul Harper.’”
“Paul Harper Stork, that is a nice name,” said Max.
Before leaving the Hospital they went to the
pediatric unit and went up to the Nurses Station.
“Excuse me I hate to bother you but I was wondering
if I could see Doctor Paul Harper,” she said to Nurse
“Who?” asked the Nurse.
“I named my son after him, Paul Harper,” she said,
“is there any possibility we can see him?”
“Doctor Paul Harper? Well, what is your name?” the
“Mrs. JoAnn Stork, my husband Max works here,” she
Another Nurse overhearing the conversation told Nurse
Alice that she will help them out.
“Hello, Max,” she said
“My name is Ruth I worked here for over twenty
years,” she told JoAnn, “longer than anyone on this
“We just want Doctor Paul to know that we named our
son after him, that is all,” Max told the Nurse.
“Well this is the ‘Doctor Paul Harper’ ward. Was your
daughter in room 22?” she asked. “I remember her, a
pretty little girl.”
“My daughter died in that room.”
They began to walk down the corridor and Nurse Ruth
began to explain how the ward acquired its name.
“Doctor Paul Harper worked this ward for years and
when he got sick they put him in room 22,” nurse Ruth
The Nurse showed them a large picture on the wall in
the corridor, “that is Doctor Paul Harper; he died here
in 1962, in room 22,” she said, “he was a great man who
loved the children and that is why they took care of him
in this ward.”
They looked at the picture as tears rolled down
JoAnn’s face, “it is truly him,” she said, “the smile,
the eyes, the humor in his face, Doctor Paul Harper.”
“You’re not the only one that has seen him, every
child on the ward sees him. He loves the children,” she
“When Doctor Paul was a little boy,” said a Doctor
standing behind them, “his grandfather used to take him
to this ward and Doctor Paul would put on a white coat
and tell the children that he was his grandfather’s
assistant. His grandfather was an orderly here.”
As the Doctor was walking away he told them that he
has an old picture of Doctor Paul. The picture was taken
on the ward when Doctor Paul was a child wearing the
“Can I see the picture,” JoAnn asked.
“Sure,” he said.
They waited in the corridor for the Doctor and when
he returned he handed JoAnn the picture. Tears once
again welled up in her eyes and she became filled with
emotion. She was looking at a picture of little Rodney
in his white coat. The coat that Doctor Paul’s
grandfather gave him when he was a child.
“Why does the picture have the name Rodney on it,”
“Rodney was his middle name and that was his father’s
name,” the Doctor told her, “He never used his middle
name not sure exactly why. Some people say that his
father was not a very nice man. People say his father
was a mean drunk and that is why when Doctor Paul got
older he stopped using the name Rodney. He started using
Paul which was his grandfather’s name who worked here.”
She wiped the tears from her face and at that moment
she felt the presence of her daughter Sammy standing
next to her. Other children began to fill the corridor
and they moved in close to look at the new born baby.
“He smiled,” said one of the children. “I think he saw
me,” said another child.
They were the children that Dr. Paul touched over the
years. Some of the children passed on and then returned
to visit him when he was sick and dying in room 22. It
was out of love that Dr. Paul visited the children. It
is now through their love for Dr. Paul that the corridor
has become more and more filled. They are the children
like Sammy who have passed on after getting to know Dr.
Paul and experiencing his love.
Throughout the years every child on the ward was
special to him and they all touched his heart.
“Hey Nurse,” said a little boy at the Nurse’s desk.
“Yes,” said Nurse Alice.
“Who are all those kids?” asked the little boy.
“What kids?” she asked.
“Those kids, can’t you see them?” he said.
The little boy was surprised that the nurses were
completely unaware of the amount of children going
through the corridor to catch a glimpse of the little
baby. It was at that moment that children began to leave
their rooms and they too began to walk down the corridor
to look at the little new born baby.
“What is going on,” said Nurse Alice, “it’s like they
never seen a baby before.”
“I think that baby is quite special,” said Nurse
Sammy with her beautiful blond golden hair and
radiant angelic face reached over and placed her hand on
the new born baby’s head and said,
“Welcome back, Doctor Paul.”
Thomas F. O'Neill
Click on author's byline for bio
and a list of other compositions.
Other articles and commentaries by Thomas F. O'Neill can
be found at the links below.