I was walking along to somewhere when I ran smack dab into Coral. "Oh, there you are," I said. "I was looking for you!"
"I'll bet," said Coral as sarcastically as I ever expected to hear a spirit speak who had been in the hereafter as long as she had. "The Children's Paradise is right this way. You can't miss it!" she said.
The Children's Paradise was exactly as I expected it to be. It was the most beautiful place imaginable with long low buildings stretching out in the distance to forever, with beautiful flowers and trees surrounding it. I could see children playing, running here and there. A beautiful little blonde girl with curly hair came running up to us.
"Here is Serena," said Coral, "She is practically my grandchild. She is a special little girl. Would you like to play the piano for us, Serena?"
"Oh, yes, " said Serena. "I have been waiting for my grandma's sister all morning. She said she was coming to visit." I felt ashamed of myself.
Coral and Serena led me into a beautiful room where a piano sat. I wondered if it was a spirit piano. I supposed it was just as we were entering into a spirit house with beautiful spirit flowers and trees. Or it might be a real piano in an alternate universe. At any rate little Serena who must have been about nine years old sat down to the piano and played so beautifully tears came to my eyes.
"I can tell she is very gifted," I told Coral. After Serena played one piece for us she got up and said she would go and play now so Coral and I could visit. Like all the spirits I had met so far, she seemed to read my mind and could tell I needed to talk to Coral the worst way about all that was happening.
"You are going just a little too fast for me," I told Coral. "I discovered I was not quite ready to see the Children's Paradise."
"Nobody is ever ready to visit the Children's Paradise," said Coral. "Nobody wants to see evidence of children having suffered death who are as beautiful as these children, as talented and wonderful. Don't you think I know that? I have been here a long time. I know what people try to avoid."
"I would have gotten around to coming sooner or later," I said. "It was just not easy."
"Why do you think these children were killed?" said Coral. "Their parents did not think they had room for them in their lives."
"Then why did they create them in the first place?"
"Obviously because sex is a big source of pleasure for some. Untrammeled sex."
"That's right," I said. "As you must know, Coral, I spent the last close to 40 years protesting legalized abortion. It was a terrible self appointed volunteer job that got worse and worse as I went along. I was just traumatized by the whole experience. I got into so many nasty fights with so many women. There is no more divisive issue on earth. Now I find you expecting me to come and visit the Children's Paradise and maybe even work here. I just was not ready."
"What exactly did you think was going to be so hard about it?"
"Well, I am sure some of the mothers who aborted their children after it was legal are starting to die. I was afraid of getting into an awful fight with one of them."
"They don't come to the Children's Paradise unless they are ready. When they are ready they come and ask very respectfully if it would be possible for us to help them find their children. Some of their children are grown and are helping raise the babies. We introduce some of these mothers to their children and let the children take care of the rest. They have been thinking about the way they died for years, some of them, so when the parents come to find them they have little speeches all prepared for them. Many and many a child has told me that if their mother ever came to find them, they would say thus and so to them."
"Oh, well, that figures."
"You didn't have the children on that side to help you make your case. Since they weren't anywhere around they were easier for the parents to dismiss, and naturally women might get very cross with you for reminding them of a painful event they just wanted to forget."
"Maybe that was it. All I knew was the whole subject got to be so painful to me I could hardly stand to be reminded of it myself. I finally had to quit blogging about it when I hit 80. Nobody was reading my blog anyway. I got into two or three painful fights over what I wrote and that was it. I thought I was going to have a heart attack and die right then."
"Well, you needed to retreat from the battle field, that was all. There are other places to fight for the cause besides on the front lines so to speak."
"I decided to write a novel instead, but I find that every time I get close to that subject I get the jitters, knowing how people hate it. I knew if I wrote about the subject in my novel, nobody would probably read it."
"You were afraid nobody was going to read your novel if you wrote about the Children's Paradise? Am I hearing you correctly?"
"That's just about the jist of it, yes."
"Have you ever stopped to think that most people on earth do not even believe in a hereafter? Most are living in the dark ages. It is very hard for people to get knowledge about the hereafter and retain enough of it that it is going to affect how they act. How many times have people been told they will die and go to hell if they do such and such and they go right ahead and do it anyway?"
"Yes, but isn't that discouraging to you?"
"Not to the point I am going to give up my eternal life. I don't care whether people believe I still exist or not. I am here and by the way so are you, and I am going to go right on doing what I have learned to do in the hereafter to pass my time to be able to say existing was worth it. I made up my mind I would hang in here until my sisters united with me and some of my nieces and nephews, and only then would I start thinking about another lifetime. These little children here are more or less committed to doing the same thing. They all say they want to reunite with their parents some way and work on solving the problem of dying this way. They know that if the parents don't meet up with them and see what life has been like for them, dying before they even drew breath, they won't consider other solutions, realizing that this one was too painful in many of its results."
"But that is all going to take so much time!"
"All changes take time, unfortunately. Sometimes there are no short cuts. You have to have patience."
"It's not that I don't have patience. I don't believe that other people have any. By the way, I met up with Mother shortly after you left me, and she also told me that she could not stand to work in the Children's Paradise. She does not want to clean up after other people's mistakes as she put it."
"That is just the way Mother talks but she does have a volunteer job she seems to enjoy. She works in the old people's receiving center. Mother always had a tough time liking her children, remember? I am sure you are a good deal more patient, just naturally, than she is. She was always a child like person. Not too far from being retarded in a way. You can't make silk purses out of sow's ears."
My head was whirling. A retarded mother? How could Coral say such a thing even it might be true in a way. I had always secretly wondered if Mother had not been born with some of the same characteristics as her 'slow' brother Henry who had been such a slow learner the family despaired that he would ever be able to take care of his many children, but he did, somehow or another. He had a loving wife who helped a great deal, not as slow as Henry by any means but able to tolerate his handicap remarkably.
On the other hand Mother adored her brilliant brother Bryan who had become a doctor, so charming he had managed to make a great deal of money while still being a bit of a rascal.
"I am still avoiding Daddy, too," I said. "I hope he doesn't take offense and try to look me up as Mother did. I would like a little longer to prepare. Are you sure he is being rehabilitated?"
"I assure you he is," said Coral. "I have been to see him a number of times. He is making progress. He turned himself in so to speak. Some parents have criminal tendencies, some are a little retarded. That is just life."
I was glad Coral was so accepting. It had been pretty bad when I seemed to be the only one in the family who recognized our dad's criminal tendencies. Marsha, for example, had gotten very angry at me for maligning him in my memoir. She said he was just a bad drunk, and did nothing else as bad as what I said he did. Which was one reason I abandoned plans to publish my memoir and started writing a novel. I had given instructions that if it took a hundred years for all the bad reactions to die down, my memoir could wait. I was not trying to put anyone in jail, so there was no point publishing a memoir that would not only make all the other sisters unhappy but the grandchildren, too. If my perceptions were true, it would not hurt to wait a hundred years for people to find out what I thought our dad did."
Coral, reading my mind as usual, said, "You will have to be careful that your suspicions don't creep into your novel. People tend to write about what they think, even if they are determined to hide their most troublesome thoughts."
"I know," I moaned. "But if Daddy doesn't show up in my novel for a while I will be able to hide my thoughts about him longer."
Coral said, "As long as you don't use anybody's real names, people will be confused. They won't know what you might have made up and what you might really think. I know the real dad, that is the one who arrived here. I have been talking to him ever since he died and you haven't. So I know pretty much what was troubling him and why."
"Really?" I said, "I can't get over how smart you are, Coral. But of course you would find out all the secrets people try to keep while they are alive."
"People try to keep their dark secrets over here, too," said Coral, "but eventually they feel so burdened, they start confessing. Daddy started confessing his sins to people. He got a load off his chest and found out that was just what the doctor ordered."
"Hmm," I said. "I am sure I don't know all of his sins, maybe just a few of them, but would you please tell him not to take me by surprise as Mother did. Tell him to wait until I have decided I want to see him."
"I will convey your message to him," said Coral. "So now do you feel better?"
"Yes, I think so," I said. "I am ready to see more of the Children's Paradise now."
"Come along," said Coral, "there are a lot more wonderful kids to see."