Monday, October 19, 2009

Pictures Don't Lie

Everyone has their secrets. Some don't reveal themselves until tragedy strikes.

My father always swore he wasn't there when it happened, but pictures don't lie.

Unfortunately, he would never be able to explain himself. The robber had seen to that. The robber and Dad's pigheadedness. If he had just let the guy have his money...

But that was the past. The present held only the mountain of debt he had left behind, debt that forced us to sell the store. This was the last business day, and I was cleaning out his office. I remembered playing here as kid while Dad did the books. I recalled working summers here in high school selling hammers and nails. So many memories, yet what kept running through my mind was, “Who’s going to get that giant ‘HARDWARE’ sign off the roof?” Each plywood letter was six feet tall. Dad was so proud of it - wouldn’t let anyone else maintain it. Once again, cleaning up after him was left to me.

To change the direction of my brooding, I opened the safe. It was a family joke that he never kept anything inside. He claimed it was a decoy for burglars. Sure enough, inside lay a pile of worthless old cancelled checks. For no reason, I plowed my hands through them like a pile of old leaves, and that’s when I found the faded manila envelope sealed with duct tape.

Curious, I slit the envelope open, and poured out an old photogragh. Ice ran through my veins. Two smiling young men in the middle pointed to a giant V at the right edge. One man was my father. I looked at the other and began to shake. “You lying bastard.”

Downstairs, the bell tinkled indicating a customer. Must have forgotten to lock the door.

"We're closed," I called down. Nobody answered, but heavy footsteps made their way up the stairs.

"I said we're cl--"

"Good evening, Mr. Wilson," came the voice of the one man I did not want to see. Before Detective Mason reached the top, I crammed the photo and envelope into the safe and locked it.

"Thought I'd find you here," said Mason sounding casual. After two months of dealing with him, I knew one thing about Detective Robert Mason. He was casual. Florida casual from his pastel polo shirt to his brown boat shoes. Too bad we were in Poughkeepsie.

Tonight, though, his insouciance looked forced. Maybe it was the sweat staining his armpits, the pallor behind his tan, or the wideness in his eyes. Mason shoved the ancient rotary phone to the middle of the desk and claimed one corner for a seat. He shot a glance at the safe. "I've been thinking about our last conversation--"

"Hold it right there, Mason. You've been pestering me about my father’s past associations ever since he died." With more bravado than I felt, I leaned my fullback frame over the smaller man, casting him in shadow. "Like you think he was the criminal. What are you after?"

He turned to the wall. "Nice safe. Wonder what's inside."

"Keep wondering."

Even when he stood, he had to look up to me. Shaking his head, he said, "Usually people cooperate when a loved one has been murdered."

"Usually detectives try to catch the killer instead of digging into their past."

"Did you ever think they might be related?"

"Wh-- What?"

Mason gave a harsh laugh. “Are you that stupid? Do you think your father just said, ‘Hey robber, let’s fight so you can shoot me.’?” The detective glared, his face red like it had never been since he began investigating my father. How did he know there was more to Dad than I had known until today? All I wanted was for this jerk to go away so I could take in the bombshell that photo had dropped just minutes before.

“Show me what’s in the safe,” he demanded.

“Screw you,” I spat, shaking.

“Open the damned safe!” he screamed, grabbing my collar. The little guy was stronger than he looked.

“If you don’t have a search warrant--”

Next instant, I felt the barrel of a Glock semiautomatic jammed under my chin. “This is my search warrant! Now open the safe.” I couldn’t tell who was shaking more, but at that moment I began to understand my father’s stubbornness. If this creep thought he was going intimidate me, he had another thing coming.

“You’re a cop!”

“Not tonight I’m not.” That sentence, filled with resignation and anger, frightened me more than the pistol. But it also seemed to take the air out of his balloon. Mason lowered his gun and sank into the desk’s wooden chair. He stared into distance, brooding. “You’re just like your father.”

“I’ll take that as a compliment.”


This evening had gone all over the place. I didn’t know if Mason was a cop or a kook, and with that Glock dangling from his right hand, I didn’t want to press my luck. On the other hand, the silence that had fallen was suffocating.

“What’s going on?”

He looked up at me with sad eyes and gave a big shrug that led to a sigh.

“Did you know my mom died last week? Shot herself. Know what she used? The gun that killed your father.” He paused to let the gravity of his words sink in. Then it hit me.

“Your mother?” He nodded. “But--”

In response, he handed me an envelope. Inside was an exact copy of the photograph I had discovered that evening. Not exact; it was the mirror image.

“There’s your father,” he said, pointing to Dad. “And there’s mine.” My knees grew weak, and I had to sit on the desk to keep from collapsing.

“Your father was…”

“Benny Harcliff, international jewel thief and mastermind of the infamous Ferris heist. See that bag?” He pointed the sack my father held. “Ferris diamonds.”

The room started to spin. “Dad always said he had met Harcliff in prison but never had anything to do with him afterwards and was nowhere near the Ferris job.”

“He lied.”

“So I see.”

Mason joined me on the desk. “My father fled to Rio when things got hot. Mom never saw him again. But a few months ago she got a letter saying he was dying and wanted her cared for. He told her your father had the Ferris loot and would give her half if she showed him this photo.”

“Is that why you harrassed me so much?” He shook his head.

“Everyone knew your father had a past. I just wanted to see if there was any connection. Little did I know it was my own mother.”

"So, why'd she kill him?"

"Apparently, she showed him the picture, and he laughed. Said they already split the loot, and he’d spent his half. Mom didn’t believe him and pulled the gun, but he just kept laughing. Something snapped inside her, and she shot. Mom searched but found nothing. Last week she confessed everything to me -- just before putting the gun in her mouth."

"So, your mom killed my dad for diamonds that don’t exist."

"Yup." He holstered the Glock and folded his arms.

“Now what?”

He shrugged. “I just want to know more.”

“Like if the jewels are really gone?


“Well, I didn’t even know Dad worked with Benny Harcliff.”

“It’s only, if there was something left…”

“It’d be blood money. It killed my father.”

“And my mother. But still.” Mason seemed so pathetic, so sad. I wanted to throw him a bone, something to cling to. But what? Then it hit me. I jumped from the desk nearly knocking Mason over. "Hey," he started but stopped when he saw me head for the safe.

A few twists of the dial, and a satisfying click sounded. There was the photo. I reached out my hand to Mason.

"Give it here," I commanded. He obeyed. Instinctively, I knew what to do, laying both photos on the desk side-by-side with the V at the left side of the frame of one meeting the V at the right side of the other. Together, they formed a giant W with two men on either side pointing to it. Why did it look familiar?

“HARDWARE,” breathed Mason. I smacked my head. Of course, the sign on the roof. But what did it mean? Surely they didn’t park the diamonds on the roof. And if they did, if there were still diamonds up there, what would we do? Take them? Stolen goods that killed our parents? Turn them in for a reward? Rewarded for their crimes?

“You could save the store,” Mason said, with no joy.

“And you?”

“Don’t know. I just want to know the truth.”

The truth. What was that? After a lifetime of being lied to by my own father, I had no idea. Perhaps only those old photographs held my truth. After all, unlike people, pictures don’t lie.

Work From Home

Wouldn't it be nice if people who lose everything could have a second chance? Only the second chance might lead to something new. New life sounds almost like a miracle.

The man, rumpled and disoriented, staggered off the bus and into a lamppost. Hugging the post, he saw a weathered flier dangling from it. Through gray morning mist he read the words, “Work from home.” A lone information tab with a phone number clung to the paper, a forsaken invitation to some better life too good to be true.

“Home,” Paul spat and pushed away from the post. Talk about too good to be true. He stumbled backward into the street where the M50 bus had just pulled away. A horn blared, and he turned to see the M55 inches from his face, its angry driver gesticulating at him through the enormous windshield.

A bear paw hand clapped down on his shoulder and hoisted Paul to the sidewalk.

“Hiya, Buddy.” Markus beamed down at him.

“What’re you doing here?” Paul asked, straightening his soiled tie in a reflexive nod to his former dignity.

“You didn’t come back to the SA last night. I got worried. Thought you’d do something stupid.”

“Not yet,” muttered Paul.

Markus nodded toward the M55 as its door hissed shut and it rumbled away. “Thought you couldn’t handle a bus. It ain’t no limo after all.”

Paul snorted. “Those days are over. Bastards threw me out like an old Kleenex.”

“Yeah,” agreed Markus. “Like me and the Bengals.”

“Damn concussions, eh Markus?”

“Damn straight.” Together, they walked to the Salvation Army, Paul’s hands buried in his trench coat pockets. He felt a piece of paper in the left and fished it out. It was the information tab. “Work from home” it insisted. Funny, he didn’t remember pulling it off.


They shared a fetid room at the SA where the stank of ancient urine clung to everything. Sitting opposite each other on their cots, knees nearly touching, the men gazed at the scrap of paper. Paul wadded it up, then unfolded it.

“Maybe I’ll call just for fun,” he said. “Thirty-five cents isn’t too much to waste.”

“Work from home is good,” Markus said.

“Have to have a home first.”

Markus spread his massive arms wide. “This is it, Buddy.”

“Well,” Paul countered, “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

“Probably. But if you got nothing, can’t nobody steal it from you.”

Paul shrugged. Markus pressed a quarter and a dime into his hand. Paul shrugged again then headed down the dim corridor to the lone pay phone. The metal buttons felt large and clunky compared to his old Blackberry.

One ring. Two. Three, then a voice at the other end, male, gentle, soothing. “You were wandering the streets all night, weren’t you?”


“Deciding whether to kill yourself or give it one last chance.”

“How did you...?”

“Experience. Usually, it takes a desperate person to call me.”

“Who are you?”

“Your last chance.”

Markus appeared out of nowhere. He crowded next to Paul so he could listen in. “How’s it going, Buddy?” he asked in a failed whisper.

A pause at the other end. Then, businesslike, “If you want a job, come to the Westend Warehouse. 3:00 pm.”

“Can I come?” begged Markus.

“Bring your friend.”

“Too good to be true,” Paul warned himself, unaware he had spoken out loud.

“That depends on you,” said the voice and hung up.


They sat on the worn linoleum floor scooping tiny plastic beads into tall glass jars. After each scoop, Paul dropped in a trinket. A toy airplane, a star, a tiny telephone. Last of all, he placed a plastic tab bearing some message like “This is it,” or “Look within,” or “What do you seek?” Then he glued a lid onto the jar and attached a tag reading, “Magic Treasure Hunt. Find the treasures listed below, then read the message just for you.”

Paul and Markus had found Westend Warehouse empty except for two boxes of empty jars and three boxes of beads and trinkets. A note promised a dollar per jar when they brought them back filled. Markus found an old shopping cart to bring them home.

There was a rhythm to their work. Scoop, drop, scoop, drop. He liked the feel of the beads, like soft sand. It relaxed him. The messages spoke hope to him. He wondered if they did the same for the children who received these treaure jars.

They took eight timeless hours for the first batch. When they wheeled the jars back to the warehouse, it was empty except for an envelope with two one-hundred dollar bills and more boxes of jars.

Every day for the next month, they repeated the pattern. Scoop, drop, scoop, drop. “This is it,” “Yes,” “Here it is.” Wheel to the warehouse. Bring jars home.

With his earnings, Paul bought a suit and a razor. He began visiting the library and searching job listings online. Nothing. Still, he felt hopeful that the right thing would come along.

Then one day he picked up a plastic message tag that read, “Today is your day.” Paul sniffed. Fear and excitement raced down his spine. He turned the tag over in his hands and read a phone number. He stared at it a long time.

“What is it, Buddy?” asked Markus, concerned. Paul handed him the tag. A shadow passed over Markus’ eyes, as if something had died.

“You got to move on,” he said.

Paul furrowed his brow. “What about you?”

Markus gave a rueful smile and held up his own tag that read, “Soon. Not Yet.”

“Go on, call,” he insisted. Paul snatched up some change and marched down the dark hall. Markus did not follow. Paul dropped in the coins and dialed.

“Ready to get going?” asked the voice. They spoke.

Paul straightened his tie as he left the Salvation Army, suitcase rolling behind him. Out on the street he passed the M55, then stopped at the lampost and waited. When his bus arrived, he climbed aboard unsure where he was going but certain it was good -- and true.

Thursday, December 18, 2008


In 1994, we had a daughter who died at birth.  We were told ten weeks before her birth that she would not survive.  This story came to me one very early morning and became for me a way to survive.  If you want to see more of the powerful and mystical ink illustrations -- by my sister Shirley -- go to 

Among all the souls in heaven, there was Dominique.  Like all the rest, she was beautiful and ever-changing.  One minute she became a dark-haired lass leaping in joy, the next a golden young woman dancing through the heavenly fields.  Sometimes she turned into a gray grandmother or appeared as all three at the same time.   Ageless, race-less, classless, Dominique knew that in heaven, what defined a soul’s beauty was the glow of love. 

Dominique sat one day at the feet of a cluster of newly returned souls.  Three of them had just come back – died as they call it on earth – and Dominique sat among the fascinated souls who wanted to hear their stories.  “Oh, it’s hard,” said a man in mid transition to a freckle-faced boy.   He had scars all along his left arm.  His faced aged in a moment to an ancient and worn man.  “There’s pain and worry.  Many times I cried to Heaven for mercy, for relief, for some way to escape.  It never came, but at last, here I am.” 

A male soul sitting next to Dominique stared wide-eyed at him.  “Was it worth it?”  All 

three returnees laughed.  “It was but a momentary inconvenience,” said a female soul whose 

laughing eyes outshone the burn marks across her face.  “Compared to what we learned about 

loving others – ” 

   “ – And being loved,” inserted the third, a woman in the process of growing younger.  “Especially in a place like earth where so many things make love hard.  Yes, it is worth it now.” 

As they spoke, the heavenly air began to tingle.  The souls all looked up, excited.  

Warmth flowed through the gathering and angels sang.  They all knew.  The Creator was 

coming.  The Creator came.  All souls stared in adoration and joy. 

“Dominique,” came the sonorous voice.  All eyes turned to her.  She felt her face burn 

with embarrassment and ecstasy.  “I need you.”  She looked at the other souls, but they began to 

fade away, all certain without having to be told that this was not their conversation to hear.  The 

Creator made no move to stop them. 

“My — my help?  What can I do?” 

“I’ll explain.”  She could only stare in wonder.  “You know the souls who return, don’t 


“Oh yes!” she said.  “How I long to know the depths of love they know.” 

“That is good to hear.  Yet there are others.” 


“Others who made the trip, who are no longer on earth but haven’t been able to return 


“Where are they?” 

“Lost.”  A shiver ran through her.  How could souls not return?  Weren’t they in the 

Creators’ care? 

“Many cannot return so easily because they have not known love.  The earth can be so 

hard.  Some die unmourned before they are born, others are killed young through neglect or indifference.  Some suffer long years without knowing what it is like to be loved or to love in return.  And others still have the love ripped out of them.”  Dominique looked at the Creator with wide-eyed horror.   

“Horrible, isn’t it?” asked the Creator.  “Immeasurably sad, too.  Their suffering is mine.” 

“They suffer still?” 

“How can they not?  This place is love.  They no longer have it within them so 

cannot return.  To exist without love is to suffer.  All they know is mistrust and the fear that 

they do not deserve to be loved.” 

“But everyone knows they’re worthy of your love.” 

The Creator gave a short, sad chuckle.  “By accepting the risk of becoming human, each soul gives up that knowledge.  They must depend on others to help them regain it.  That’s why 

there’s such a depth to the love of the returnees.” 

Dominique sat down, forgetting whose presence she was in.  The Creator said nothing but 

waited for her to speak.  She rested her head in her hand, confused.  “What would you like me to 


“Help them.”  The words rang through the divine mountains though no other soul seemed 

to notice.  “Help them move beyond their mistrust and fear so they can once again understand 

my love.” 


“Make the journey to earth just as they did.  Offer little reason for anyone to love you – 

yet find love and acceptance anyway.” 



Dominique’s mind raced, a sensation she had never known.  “But, how will my going to 

earth and finding love help them?” 

The Creator smiled.  “The suffering souls will watch you.  Yes, I know it’s unusual, but 

they will watch your life, feel what you feel, both fear and joy.  In short, they are going to 

experience love through you.” 

The two stared at each other in silence.  No one but the Creator could say how long, but 

much happened in heaven before Dominique spoke again. 

“Suppose,” she began slowly, “suppose my parents choose not to love me?  Suppose they 

don’t want me?  Do I join all those suffering souls?” 

“It is a risk you must take.  I can’t make anyone love another.  But I have chosen parents 

who I think will love you no matter what.” 

More silence. 

“And then?  What do I do after I am born?” 

“I can’t tell you.”   

Dominique closed her eyes.  “This is a hard journey you asked me to make.  Not what I 

envisioned at all.” 

“I do not require that you make it.” 

Dominique knew.  The Creator would never force anything.  But what should she 

do?  She had long wanted to go, but now it sounded like a more dangerous journey than the other 

returnees had known.  But the Creator trusted her, was depending on her.  How could she refuse? 

“I’ll do it,” she said after an age.  The Creator beamed. 

*  *  * 


When Dominique entered her body, it was already formed, tiny fingers and toes wiggling about.  At first she felt the weight of her duty to the other souls, of the importance of her task, but then she became aware of her surroundings.It was dark and warm with distant, echoey sounds coming from somewhere she could not define.  She moved around freely but noticed that there was a limit to how far she could go.  Already, everything here was so very different from heaven.

Time passed, she could not say how long, and Dominique noticed the space where she lived shrinking.  After that came a series of sensations she had no words for.  Pushing and rubbing eminating from the top of the dome which was her world.  A series of pushes came that swept over her dome from end to end, and with each came a new sensation, some sort of energy she could not describe.  Then came a voice she had heard in the past, a kind and loving voice, one she trusted though she could not quite place it.  “They are taking pictures of you,” it said.

What is a picture? she wondered, but could only imagine she would know in time.

After the picture, Dominique continued to grow.  Now she could push against the dome which had shrunk so much that it was always  within reach.  Yet she felt good, confident. happy.

Then one day, the picture taking began again.  Only this time whatever pushed against her world did so much harder than before and much more often.  Over and over the sensation came.  When it stopped, Dominique felt relief, but then it started again, and she became worried.  Dominique did not like the sensations eminating from the pictures, but worse yet, she got the impression that it did not please her world, either.  The word, “mother” drifted into her mind, and she remembered her mission involved a mother.  At one point, the mother’s body began convulsing, and it frightened Dominique.  

The word “father” emerged as an image in her mind, and though she did not know how, Dominique could tell when the father and the mother hugged.  After this last session of picture taking, they hugged a very long time.  The mother shook horribly, producing an eerie wailing sound that frightened Dominique.  It rose to high pitches then dove into unbreathing silence in rhythm with the shaking.  At times she could feel them hug and knew that both were making the wailing sounds she wished would stop.

It was hard to tell what was going on outside -- the idea of there being an outside meant little to Dominique but she knew it was where the mother and father lived.  And she knew that at first there was a flurry of activity which included sharp probes sticking through the dome and inching their way toward her.  One probe touched her, and recoiled in pain.  After that, there seemed to be very little motion from her mother and father -- “parents,” said that vaguely familiar voice -- for a long time.

Thoughts raced through her head that became increasingly morose.  Not only was it becoming increasingly tight in this world of hers, but things did not seem to be going well outside in the world of her parents.  She felt an air of sadness about them that confused her.  She felt fine, so what was the problem?  Or, am I the problem?  Do they not love me?  Will they reject me?  What have I done?

* * *

Dominique had no word for birth defects.  She could not know that she would never be healthy or that her survival was in question.  She could not know that her parents faced each other day after day unsure what to do next.

* * *

All Dominique knew was that things no longer felt right.  She knew that the mother was not happy but did not know if she was still a friend or now an enemy.  Uncertain of where she stood, she waited.

Then one day, for voice recognition had been added to her connection with the outside, she heard her mother sing.  Dominique remembered singing from her heaven days, and although those days were but a distant memory, she felt certain that this was different.  The love in the mother’s songs held a different kind of love than those in heaven.  It sounded sad and filled with pain.  But it was love, and that gave her hope.  

Some time later, she heard the father’s voice.  It spoke in long, uninterrupted streams in which the mother said nothing.  Sometimes his voice came fast and excited but then slowed down to soft and slow murmurs.  Occasionally, his voice became low and thundering.  

The vaguely familiar voice from heaven said, “He’s reading stories,” but did not explain what a story was.  Dominique thought she remembered hearing of them before, but she gave up trying to figure out when.  All she knew now was that she liked it.

Every day now, the parents read and sang th her.  And always, always, one or the other touched the dome that was her world.  Dominique could feel the gentle pressure and felt certain they were trying to touch her.  That’s nice, she thought.  They will be good parents after all.

And still there were times when the strange object passed over the ever-shrinking dome sending its unpleasant sensation through her.  Each time one of these picture taking times happened, her parents became quiet; they neither sang nor read but only took up the horrible shaking and wailing again.  Why do they do it? she wondered.  Even so, it was not long before her mother and father began singing and reading, and Dominique decided as long as she had her parents, she could live with the pictures.

One day, Dominique felt the urge to move in a new way.  She twisted and turned, shoving against the dome until she had done flip.  Now, she felt her head move into a snug place which was not particularly comfortable but felt right.

* * *

Something happened.

A squeezing sensation pressed down on her, not hard but definite and worrying.  After a moment, it passed and Dominique forgot about it.  Then it happened again.  Every now and then the squeezing forced her out of the sleep she was trying to enjoy.  One contraction came hard and now she was wide awake.  

Still her parents sang and read.  Other voices seemed to calm the mother, or at least that is what it felt like to Dominique.  How strange, she thought, I can almost feel what the mother feels.  It’s sad, but I think it is also love.

* * *

At so it was.  Her parents had discovered that their baby was missing kidneys and that there was no hope.  At its birth, it would die.  They cried horribly and wanted to get rid of this thing which suddenly could not be their child.  They were angry at the Creastor for giving them the joy of a child only to take it away.  They were angry at the child for not being perfect.

But as the weeks passed, they realized that Dominique was their child, their little girl as the doctors had told them, to love as long as she -- and they -- lived.  If they could not be with her after her birth, they would make the most of their time with her now.  It didn’t stop them from feeling sad, nor did it take away the hope that the doctors might be wrong, but it did help them know how much they loved the little girl who was their daughter.

And there was a hint -- just a hint -- that her parents understood the importance of her work.  They had no words for it, but they knew she was a special girl.

* * *

Only, as their understanding of her importance grew, Dominique’s shrank like the ever-tighter space that was her world.  Her memory of heaven dwindled until she had no thoughts of the Creator, no thoughts of the other souls, no thoughts of those who depended on her to help them feel love for the first time.  She felt her parents’ love, though she lost the words for it.  She felt that, even though things were becoming less comfortable, all was right with the world.

One day, everything went wrong.  the squeezing that had been sporadic and gentle before now came in frequent and sharp waves.  Dominique retreated from the pressure by burrowing down deeper.  With each mounting spasm, she worked her way down away from it like a frightened rabbit.  After a long time, she could tell her mother didn’t like it, either.

Hours went by until an unaccountable rush of energy swept over Dominique.  Giant waves of pressure picked her up from behind and shoved her out of her tight home into a bright, cold, raw place where the noises were loud and harsh.

In that first instant, her overwhelming feeling was disorientation.  As second later someone grabbed her and placed her in a blanket.  Then she moved to a soft, warm surface she had never known before but which felt familiar.  Voices came at her, louder than before but equally familiar.  She recognized her mother and father.

It felt good.  She gained a glimpse of her parents, but only for a moment.  Next instant a change inside her ripped her attention away from her parents.  The long, narrow tube that had always been part of her, that now dangled between her and her mother, seemed to stop working.  Its familiar pulsing ceased, and Dominique felt other unfamiliar parts of her body stirring.  She experienced uncomfortable sharp pressure, and the tube which she had assumed would always be part of her was suddenly gone.

Two things happened at the same time.  Her insides ground to a halt.  Things felt wrong, and she struggled to breathe.  It frightened Dominique, and she threw her eyes open as wide as she could.  It was not much.

But the blury faces she gazed into looked back at her with unmistakable love so strong no spirit could make it for anything else.  She found comfort looking tin their eyes and knew they were forever linked after only a few moments.

Then sleep overwhelmed her.  Dominique took one last look at her parents and closed her eyes.

* * *

A brilliant light greeted Dominique.  She sensed the Creator’s great joy at her return.

“Welcome home, dear one,” said the Creator.  “You have done well.”

She replied with a combination of anger and bewilderment so powerful that she wished the words back the second she spoke them.  “I didn’t do anything.  I only had a moment in the world before you called me back.  You didn’t tell me I wouldn’t have a life!”

The Creator smiled.  “You bear the marks of one who has made the journey.  But you have much to learn from your experience.  Tell me about your parents.”

“I think they were good people.  They loved me.”

“They cried over me,” she said, “and they sang to me.  They read me stories and, for those few moments when I was with them, I looked into their eyes and they looked into mine, and I could see the mixture of love and agony that you just can’t imitate.”

“So you knew your parents’ love?”

“Yes,” she said, “I knew my parents’ love.”

“Despite your inability even to live for a day?  Despite your inability to return their love in any tangible way?”

“Despite all that, I knew their love.”

The Creator smiled.  “Then, my child, you have experienced life to its fullest.”

Then she knew.  In and instant, Dominique understood that in the depths of her heart she had experienced the truest essence of life, the fullest measure of life, the entire point of life.  She knew how wonderful it was only when there was love.

“I see it, I see it!” she cried.  “My life was complete.”

“Like I said,” said the Creator, “you’ve done well.  All that’s left is to meet the souls you’ve been helping.  They’ve been watching you, trying to learn about love and acceptance from your experience. but that sort of vicarious living can only go so far.  They need to see you, to hear you tell them how your life was complete.  Com now, you loving sould, and share your heart so they can be free.”

And there was rejoicing in heaven that day.