Our Greatest Gift
The sirens blared as the ambulance crew worked their way through the congested traffic. Megan Watson looked helplessly as the paramedic worked on her seven-year-old daughter. When all hope was lost of reviving her, Megan let out an anguished cry. She sobbed uncontrollably as she held her daughter Morgan’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 Morgan was all that she had left in the world and her reason for living.
They had listened somberly as the Priest read the prayers at the graveside. Her mother’s casket was slowly being lowered into the ground. The seven-year-old girl grasped her Mother’s arm as the Priest slowly walked toward them, “She is with Jesus, now,” he said, but his religious platitudes rang hollow for the woman who just buried her mother. The Priest’s words and manner seemed somewhat rehearsed for Megan Watson.
She tried desperately to hold back her tears, “Don’t cry, Mommy,” her daughter whispered.
Her family, friends, and neighbors walked stoically by her side as they turned from the graveside. They then quickly gathered at Megan’s home and spoke openly about her Mother. They shared food with one another it was their way of showing that they truly care for each other.
They shared stories as well about the old neighborhood were Megan and her friends grew up. She is one of the few that stayed behind in her hometown. Most of her friends after graduating high school and college left for better opportunities and a better life. They knew it was a rough year for Megan and her daughter, Morgan.
That same year Megan’s husband died of lung-cancer, and the merging of the two local schools left her unemployed. Now the death of her mother only added to the fact that life was beating her down. She drew on every fiber of strength though, to remain strong for her daughter. She wanted desperately for Morgan to have a better life and future.
“Remember old Mr. Pompasko,” Megan’s cousin Fred asked in Megan’s livingroom, “He taught Ninth grade English, whatever happened to him.”
“He retired long ago,” said Megan, “I remember the fun we had. The tricks we played on him. Remember when we glued his chalk to the chalkboard?”
“Boy did he get mad,” said another cousin, “I was too scared to laugh after that look he gave me.”
“Everything was so different then, the whole town is different now,” said Fred, “It sure changed from when we were kids.”
“I know,” said one of Megan’s neighbors, “this town is going downhill really fast.”
“I would give anything to move from here,” Megan said, “I want my Morgan to have better opportunities.”
Megan and the others continued to reminisce and laugh about their childhood experiences. The conversations stirred up deep feelings and emotions. Megan’s feelings welled up to the surface and she was unable to hold back her tears. She began to tell them stories about her father who immigrated to America from Italy. Like most of the immigrants in their hometown, they’d come there to work deep in the coal mines. But her father later opened a shoe repair shop in the town. When Megan’s Mother died the coal, mines were closed for twenty some years and their hometown has been on a continuous decline.
The stories stirred up some of her earliest memories as well. She told them how her father would sing songs to her in Italian when she was her daughter Morgan’s age. One song was of an Angel watching over a young orphan child. He sang the songs with such passion, love, and warmth. She still remembers how he would hold her in his arms as he sang. She would try and sing along with him. It was her father’s way of putting her to bed. The memories brought her both comfort and pain though, because her father passed away when she was only seven-years-old.
His body had been laid out in the living room and she could remember family and friends dressed in their Sunday bests coming by her home to pay their last respects. She too had grasped her mother’s arm at the cemetery the day her Father was buried.
At the age of seven she tried desperately to write the words of the songs her father sang to her. The harder the little girl tried the more the tears flowed. Her mother held the grieving child in her arms. She told Megan, “Your father will always sing to you,” as she wiped the tears from Megan’s face. “Your father’s love will always be with you,” her mother told her once again. While holding young Megan with all of her might, “his love will always be sung to you, you will see,” said her Mother with certainty, “Like the Angels in his songs, he is with you.”
Young Megan with all of her might believed, in her Mother’s words. The thought of her Father watching over her like an Angel brought her great comfort.
A few days after her mother’s funeral, she moved into her Mother’s home. The house brought back so many recollections. They were memories of relatives and her Mother’s friends that have also passed away over the years. The memories came with each new discovery of old postcards, photos, and old letters from bygone days. Megan was an only child and the thought of not being able to talk to her mother weighed heavily on her.
It was just a few days after she moved back to her mother’s home that she enrolled her daughter in her new school. She was very much concerned about how Morgan was handling the change. Morgan’s father no longer in the picture only compounded the feeling of abandonment. She felt that she and Morgan were now alone in the world.
Megan’s, mother unlike her father was of Irish descent and Megan always enjoyed telling her daughter the story of how Megan’s parents met. “Grandma was racing to get to a Job interview and broke the heel off of her shoe,” she told her daughter.
Morgan began to laugh even though she heard the story many times before. Morgan was looking at an old photo of her grandfather in the shoe repair shop as she listened to her mother tell the story.
“Grandma ran into Grandpa’s shoe repair shop and yelled, 'fix this,' holding her shoe in her outstretched hand,” she told her daughter laughing.
“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?'”
Megan’s daughter once again laughed at her mother imitating Grandpa.
“When your Grandma said, 'yes', Grandpa said to her, 'good you can pay now.' Grandma and Grandpa got married a few months later,” she told her daughter.
Megan 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 Morgan.
She told her daughter, like many times before, how a customer came to their home to tell Megan’s Mother about finding Morgan’s grandpa lying on the floor in his shop. Megan’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,” Megan told her daughter.
Megan’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.”
Megan looked at pictures of herself and her husband and thought, “they were such happy times.” They came across baby pictures of Morgan with her father. Megan tried to hold back her tears as she remembered the love her husband had for her and her daughter.
Megan’s mother had a large pool in the backyard which Morgan loved to jump into, and they came across pictures that were taken of her in the pool. The pictures were taken when Megan’s husband was strong and vibrant before the cancer took his life.
Prior to her daughter’s accident, Megan had been putting her mother’s things together in boxes. Morgan 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?” Megan tried to hold back her tears as she looked at the old photographs of her family.
“Are we going to move in here now, mommy?” Megan’s daughter asked as they were looking through the old photograph album.
It was a few days after packing her mother's belongings that Megan decided to move into her mother's home. The home was close to her daughters’ new school and Morgan 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. Megan was worried about how her daughter 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 Megan decided to visit her daughter’s school and talk to her teacher, Miss Crone.
“Your daughter never arrived at the school this morning,” Miss Crone told her.
Megan became extremely concerned and went back home. She searched the house and the backyard. What she found changed her forever. Her daughter was face-down in the pool. Frantic and panic-stricken Megan pulled her out. She rapidly dialed the emergency number on her kitchen phone and began CPR. The Paramedics soon arrived and took over.
Megan 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 Morgan 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.
Megan 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 slowly opened her eyes, “I am really sore, mommy,” she said.
Megan tried in vain to hold back her emotions. She began to cry but this time they were tears of Joy. Prior to her daughter’s accident, Megan was putting her mother’s things together in boxes. Morgan 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?” Megan had tried to hold back her tears as she looked at the old photographs of her family, but answered lovingly each question.
“I love you, Mommy, very much so, but I didn’t want to come back,” she told her mother.
“What do you mean, sweetie?” Megan asked.
“She was radiant,” she said.
“Who was radiant?” Megan 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 once again, “she was so, so radiant, so beautiful, so bright, and warm.”
“Was she an Angel?” Megan 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?” Megan asked her
“She didn’t talk to me like we are talking. I just understood without talking,” she said.
Little Morgan 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, Morgan?” Megan 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.” Morgan said.
“Did you see anyone?” Megan asked
“No, but I will,” Morgan told her Mother with a sense of certainty.
Morgan’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?” Megan 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,” Morgan 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,” Megan 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, Mommy, and I must share it now. That is what I understand now, Mommy,” said Morgan.
Megan 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.” Megan said.
Morgan turned to Megan, “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?” Megan said to her daughter in a stern voice.
Megan decided a few weeks later to visit Morgan’s new school and once again she talked to Morgan’s homeroom teacher, Miss Crone. “Morgan is such a bright little girl with an extraordinary imagination,” Miss Crone told her.
“My only concern” said Morgan’s teacher “is your daughter has been sitting with the children during recess rather than playing the games they normally play. When I questioned them about it, Morgan said a nice man is singing songs to them. There’s never a man there singing. The others sing along with Morgan all huddled together. It’s been going on ever since your daughter arrived at our School. Her over active imagination is having an effect on the other children.”
“That doesn’t sound like my Morgan,” said Megan.
Megan called her daughter over to ask her, “Who’s the man that sings songs to you.”
“He’s such a nice man, Mommy, funny, and kind,” she said. “He’s teaching me Italian too. He sings to me in Italian, and then he explains the songs to me in English.”
“That is what I mean,” said Miss. Crone, “your daughter has an extraordinary imagination.”
“How does this man look, Morgan?” asked Megan.
“He has a brown suit with stripes and a purple hanky sticking out of his pocket.” Morgan went on to say “he wears the same suit every day.”
Tears began to well up in Megan’s eyes as she knelt to talk to Morgan.
“It’s normal for children to make up stories,” said Miss Crone.
“What songs does he sing to you,” Megan asked her with a tear rolling down her cheek.
“Don’t cry, Mommy, they are happy songs,” Morgan said to her, “they are about angels and love. You find out at the end of one of the songs that only the children can see the Angel.”
“Wait here, Mommy,” said Morgan, as she ran over to her desk and grabbed her bookbag. She then quickly ran back to her mother and pulled out a notebook from her bag and handed it to her.
“I wrote the songs down for us,” said Morgan, “one song is about an Angel watching over a young child but only children can see the Angel. The songs are about love.”
Megan began to wipe the tears from her face, and she said to Miss Crone, “those were the songs my father sang to me when I was a little girl. I tried so hard to write down the words to his songs after his death. My mother told me his love would never leave me and I believed her.”
“Where did you get those songs, Morgan? At your Nana’s house?” asked Miss. Crone.
“No, the nice man sang them to me, and he told me to write them down, so I did,” said Morgan, “He said the songs are for the children.”
“I’m so sorry, Mrs. Watson, I will get to the bottom of this and find out who that man is,” Miss Crone said.
“That’s quite alright I know who that man is,” said Megan, “and he can visit Morgan and the other children whenever he wants.”
As Morgan was walking home with her mom, she said, “Mommy that is Pappy that comes to my school isn’t it?”
“Yes it is,” said Megan.
“You are so lucky to have him as a daddy,” said Morgan.
A few weeks later Megan took Morgan to Mass at Morgan’s grandmother's Church. Morgan got up from where she was sitting and began to walk towards the altar.
Megan asked in a shocked voice, “Morgan what are you doing?”
With anger in his voice, the Priest told Morgan to sit down but instead she 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 Megan.
“We all have the greatest gift that needs to be freely given,” Morgan 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,” Morgan 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,” Morgan told the Priest.
Megan’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.”
Morgan 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.
“Morgan, I understand,” Megan 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,” Megan 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, Morgan,” said Megan.
“You can still teach, Mommy, everyone can teach.”
“You are an awesome teacher, Morgan,” Megan said to her, “and I love you very much.”
- Always with love from Lock Haven University
Thomas F O’Neill
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