“It’s Father’s Day,” Oudoom intoned, “like it is every day. We don’t need a date on the calendar for this to tell us which day it is. That’s why I’m not going to deliver a sermon today. No preaching about droughts and sin and all the things we all do wrong every day. Today I’m just going to tell you a story. I think it’ll say something to each and every one of us.”
Oudoom closed the Bible, took off his glasses and got down from the little pulpit. He started talking, like one would do to friends, as he walked up and down the aisle.
“My story has a title…”
Daddy’s gonna buy you a Dream to cling to…
Little Joey Small never had a family. Not a real one. He was supposed to be adopted, but his condition never allowed that. His teenage mother, never having seen him after the caesarean section, probably still believes he had a wonderful childhood, where children enjoyed life, played all day and got tucked into bed at night. Children that ate jelly babies and popcorn. In short – children that are healthy.
If you think about it, little Joey never was part of that picture. Maybe he never was a child at all. From the first day of his life, he was thrust into the adult world of hospitals and doctors and X-rays and machines that whirred and hissed softly next to his tiny bed.
Despite the failings of his frail body, Joey was an extremely intelligent boy. He started talking when he was a year old, and his vocabulary amazed the nurse who cared for him. He wormed his little tongue around words like dialysis and infusion to the delight of those at his bedside, while his bright blue eyes constantly scanned the room for new stuff. If the towels were changed, he’d point at them, or if another machine was pushed in, he’d lay there looking at it for a long time. His world was so small that he always was in complete control of his environment – nothing happened without his noticing it. Soon he started asking questions and at the age of three could explain all that was happening to him.
The local church brought Christmas presents every year. Usually he was the only child in the intensive care unit and people took special care to be nice to him, while the carols floated up to the window from the street outside. When he was four, he got a small CD-player with earphones and some old CD’s.
Now, this machine fascinated Joey. In contrast to the machines arrayed around his bed, this one was his. Not the hospital’s or the X-ray Department’s – his. He could fiddle with it as long as he wanted, play it forwards or backwards just like he liked, or turn it on or off whenever he felt like it. Nurses brought more CD’s. Doctors gave him some. Even Marsha, the cleaning lady, brought along a special CD – brand new. It was John Denver’s Whose garden was this?
Joey spent many hours in the company of John Denver. In the end he listened to one song over and over again – Love of the common people.
“Why do you like that song so much?” They often asked, and Joey would smile his special sad smile, push the Replay button and listen to it again.
Four months later, the inevitable deterioration finally announced the beginning of the end. With no family to care for him, the nursing staff rearranged their schedules so that someone would be at his bedside all the time. On his last evening, it was the same cleaning lady whose turn it was to sit with him.
“Play me my song?” His voice was soft, as if it was too tired to come out from his body.
She did. Only she attached the two little speakers, so they could both listen to it.
You know faith is your foundation
With a whole lot of love and a warm conversation
And many a prayer
Making you strong, where you belong
Living in the love of the common people
Smiles from the heart of a family man
Daddy’s goin’ to buy you a dream to cling to…
Joey pushed the Stop button.
“Daddy’s going to buy me a dream, Marsha, ” he said.
She didn’t understand. “But you have no daddy, Joey? You know that, don’t you?” She wasn’t being unkind at all; she just didn’t want him to expect a father to walk through the doors and be disappointed.
Joey smiled, pushed Replay, and listened to the song again.
“I have a Daddy. He just isn’t here right now. He’ll come when he’s good and ready.”
It was in the silent hours of the night that the cleaning lady saw him fading for the last time.
“Hush, now little Joey. Don’t be scared. I’m here.” She didn’t quite know what the right words would be.
He opened his eyes once more, smiled and said his Daddy has finally come. “It was my dream, Marsha. He bought it. Now I don’t need machines anymore.” He pushed the Stop button before he closed his eyes.
His last word was a whispered, happy, Daddy! He stretched out his two thin arms, and died with a smile.
Marsha walked over to the nursing station and told them Joey had passed away.
“His Daddy came,” she said. They understood.
Oudoom climbed back up the stairs, looked down at his small flock, and gave a small smile.
“The small bed in ICU is unoccupied now. The machines have been removed. Matron said it’s OK if the CD-player was kept in the bedside drawer. Maybe, she said, others will need the dream, too.”
He spread his arms wide for the blessing before they parted, hesitated for a second and said: “Come to think of it – we all do. It is His garden, isn’t it?”