Years ago, I had flown by myself to Dublin to meet the Irish family who had hosted my ten year old son's month long visit which was coming to an end, then he and I would both fly home together. The program had been a joint venture between his school and my mother's church, like a foreign exchange program but for 10 year olds, financed by my Dad because he still held out hope that someone in the family might claim our rightful land with its thatched cottage, potato and parsnip fields, best well water for miles.
We met in a small pub after I freshened up from the long flight. This had been arranged by the priest whom my father knew from two visits to my mother's uncles after my Dad gave speeches on mathematics and they played chess over a few pints. I was looking forward to meeting their 10 year old plus the grandparents who did most of the talking. The boys sat together, both in that chubby stage with mussed hair, kicking each other under the table.
Their 10 year old showed me a photo of his "other Granddad, the one who is in Hell" with a solemn freckled face and delightful lilt to his voice. I asked who had told him his Granddad was in Hell. He looked a bit bashful, about to cry then nodded towards the priest. I asked why the priest would say such an awful thing. The boy leaned towards me, smelling of soap, dirt, mint candy and whispered, "Because he was too sad and killed his self," with a quick glance to see if I agreed with the priest.
I definitely DID NOT agree with the priest who was pouring himself tea, munching on a biscuit, crumbs falling on his cassock. He caught my look then tilted his head, wiped his mouth with a white cloth napkin before speaking to me. "And what would you be thinking of our fair land and fine hospitality?"
I didn't answer mostly because of the boys and the very lovely grandparents. I would have said something terrible and then gone back to the USA, leaving them in a bad situation with the priest. But in my thinking, it already WAS bad. Why would a grown person say that to a boy of ten? About his obviously beloved grandfather? A priest who knew what Jesus said about little children?
Instead, I said something to the boy to reassure him that I didn't think his Granddad was in Hell, then asked him to tell me his favorite memories of the man. His face brightened as he excitedly told me his Granddad was a soldier then a Garda, that he was big and strong, that he carried the boy on his shoulders, taught him to make and fly kites, had carrier pigeons, played chess, loved eating candy and sharing everything but mostly stories.
"He sounds like a perfect Granddad. Was his favorite candy mint drops by any chance?" The boy giggled and pulled a sweaty handful out of his blazer pocket. I couldn't refuse those green eyes and despite the little boy pocket lint, I accepted a few, popping one in my mouth right away. "Oooooh, very yummy, indeed," because they were... plus I wanted to keep the grin on the kid's face a little longer.
Then something very strange happened. Despite not having an International data plan, I received a photo of "the other Granddad" on my cell phone which was dazzling. Bright white light then my cell phone stopped working, just like the day my husband died. The few people I shared that with two years ago all said it was a message from God.