A sister is unable to forgive her bitter father who treated her badly before he died.
My name is chip and I saw your story on The Review Request Page.
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Part One: The Review
Forgive Me, Father
A young nun takes on the task of nursing her terminally ill father
1. Serious tone with medical overtones.
2. Consistent through out.
1. An anxious, distraught mood
1. The religious sister
a/ Some physical appearance: was determined by the words under the title. [A young nun takes on the…]
b/ Personality: Seen throughout
b/ 1....forced a smile
b/ 2…dropping her chin to her chest
b/ 3…tears dripped into her hands…
b/ 4…clutching her handkerchief…straightened her spine…
b/ 5…Sobs built inside until I couldn't hold them back
IV Distinct Voice
1/ the young nun, Mary Katherine, had a distressed voice, as it was three weeks since her father's death, and she housed unresolved hatred towards him. This voice was upset until the end. [This troubled voice was maintained throughout-good]
V Past History
1/ Sister Mary Katherine's past history was woven into the story bit by bit. [Good technique]
1/ The sister wanted to find, within her heart, forgiveness for her father who was a caustic and hateful man through out her life.
1/ The sister wanting to forgive her father, but couldn't streaked through the story.
2/ The opening of the story was interesting, as it revealed the story was to revolve around a religious sister.
3/ The plot followed a rising action and was excellent and believable through the climax and to the conclusion.
1/ The interior struggle between the daughters' need to forgive her father and her difficult time in doing this was a realistic conflict.
1/ It read smoothly and was easily understood. b/ A variety of sentences were used.
1/ Both main characters' speech were realistic as seen below.
Sister Mary Katherine's:
a/ "Listen carefully, because I'm only going to say this once. I have come to lend my nursing skills, as I would to anyone who needed nursing…"
b/ "He'd ask for another blanket, then demand that I remove it, accusing me of trying to boil him to death."
Sister's father's as seen here:
a/ "Go away." "Well, you can turn around and go right back."
b/ "You deaf, missy? I said go away."
2/ The dialogue in this story was packed with clear images.
X The personalities
1/ The dialogue brought out the characters' personalities
A. Mary Katherine's"
1. "Is there any sin God will not forgive?"----[Serious minded]
2. "I enjoyed his suffering." ----[Serious minded]
3. "I jammed my fists into my cardigan pockets and stepped into the bedroom."---[anxious]
C. Father's dialogue:
1."Tell whoever it is to go away."----[Bitter]
2. "Stop your damned whispering and get your ass back here."----[Bitter]
XI. Imagery/Sensory description
1.She folded her hands in her lap and tried to pray................................................[good imagery]
2.sitting in the back...staring at the underside of the kneeling rail..small details create believability]
3.She should just flip it down, get..........................[another small detail drawing reader to the pew]
4.Her hand brushed the rosary in her lap. drew the cold beads...........[I am able to see this scene]
5.I gingerly walked up the three steps to the porch........[in the word gingerly, I see image of tip toe]
6.The doorbell hung by two wires................detail one may see, but never see in print..good image]
7.brown vinel recliner listed to the right and footrest didn't quite close.....[I've seen this..good image]
B/ Sensory descriptions
1.I froze.....Sense [feeling]
2. ...she whispered....[sound]
3. ...his lips firmed and he swallowed.....[feeling]
1/ The conclusion of the story finds the old nun and the younger nun, Mary Katherine, the main character, knelling in prayer over the salvation of the father and the forgiveness of her father, Mary Katherine wants to find in her heart. [This made a nice ending, as the future is left in the hands of the Lord whom we are left with listening to the nuns' prayers.]
1/ My only suggestion is to show Mary Katherine feeling a spark of forgiveness, but it then is drowned in her hatred. After a reasonable time, this little flash occurs again, but is, again, wiped out with un-forgiveness. In this way, the reader is able to see a more in depth conflict within the sister than merely striving to find forgiveness where there is not any.
Part two: The Story
Forgive Me, Father
A young nun takes on the task of nursing her terminally ill father.
by redrider6612 (1)
The beauty of the rainbow hues shining from the stained glass windows were lost on Mary Katherine Hancock. She folded her hands in her lap and tried to pray. Again. She'd been trying for the last twenty minutes, sitting in the back pew of St. Stephen's and staring at the underside of the kneeling rail. She should just flip it down, get on her knees and beg. Beg God for forgiveness as she'd done a thousand times before. But forgiveness wouldn't come, because she felt unrepentant. Her hand brushed the rosary in her lap. Mary Katherine drew the cold beads between her palms and pressed her hands together. Empty. She was empty of sorrow and remorse with no desire to seek God's forgiveness. She thought she had shed her bitterness when she entered the order, but she knew now even the vows of God's sisterhood didn't keep her from hatred, anger, and the latent feeling of gladness over her father's death.
The bench gave as someone sat beside her. Sister Mary Katherine swiped the tears away and sucked in a ragged breath.
“You still grieve for him, my child?” Sister Benedict asked in a low voice.
Mary Katherine forced a smile and shot a look at the elderly nun who had been her mentor since she had arrived over a decade ago. “No, of course not.”
Sister Benedict sighed and took her hand, smoothing the back lovingly. “You’ve been back for three weeks. I’ve waited for you to confide in me. You’ve lost weight. You never smile. You barely speak to anyone. Something has stolen your peace.”
Dropping her chin to her chest, Sister Mary Katherine fought the knot of misery in her chest. She had to tell someone or she would go mad. “Is there any sin God will not forgive?” she whispered.
“No, child, not one.”
Mary Katherine's shoulders curled forward as the misery burst free and gushed through her, and tears dripped onto their joined hands.
“Come now, dearest, what could you have done?”
“My father died and I cannot grieve for him. To be honest, I enjoyed his suffering.”
Sister Benedict was silent a long time. Mary Katherine finally looked up at her, afraid to face her mentor’s judgment.
The elder nun’s face was impassive. “Perhaps you should tell me what happened.”
Clutching her handkerchief and pushing her fear of censure down, Sister Mary Katherine straightened her spine and pulled in a deep breath. “Very well, but I’m afraid you will be as disappointed in me as the Lord must be when I’m done.”
“I’m not here to judge you, my dear. Only to help you when you stumble, and to remind you that God loves you, no matter what you do.”
“Thank you, Sister.” Mary Katherine dabbed at her dripping nose. “You know it wasn’t easy for me to go back.”
“You haven’t been home to New Jersey since your Aunt Grace died, right?”
“Twelve years ago, last August. I drove past the house then, but couldn’t bring myself to stop and visit Dad. Of course, the stubborn old man didn’t bother attending his own sister’s funeral, so I didn’t see him at all. But the years since then had been harsh.”
Fear and dread dragged at my feet as I approached the house where I had grown up. I tried to dredge up a happy memory to make it easier, but I couldn’t find one. Twelve years had been hard on the place. The weed-choked yard hadn’t seen a lawnmower in ages, and the gray paint on the siding was curled like the mangy coat of a stray dog. I gingerly walked up the three steps to the porch. The doorbell hung by two wires, kind of the way I felt, connected to the place, but not really, hanging by tattered ties that couldn’t carry a spark anymore. I pulled open the screen door and tapped on the warped wood.
A young woman in teddy bear patterned scrubs opened the door. “Hi, you must be Sister Mary Katherine. I’m Helen Miller. I’m so glad you’re here. Please, come in.” Her eyes didn’t quite meet mine but I didn’t have time to wonder why.
“Tell whoever it is to go away!” a raspy shout echoed down the hall.
I froze. It took all my strength to fight the impulse to flee before he could provide fresh soundtrack for my nightmares. I had to do this.
Helen winced. “He’s having a bad day,” she whispered. “He’s not usually like this.”
“Stop your damned whispering and get your ass back here!”
“It’s okay,” I told her with a smile. “I’ll take over now. I’m sure you could use a break.”
“Just ignore his cursing. He’s done it so long, I don’t think he even realizes—”
I doubt that. “Don’t worry, I’ve heard worse. What time does the next nurse come?”
I locked the door behind her and engaged the chain, then turned to look at the home I’d left a lifetime ago. The tiny living room was the same, with the tired rust colored plaid couch along one wall. The tea towels I used to cover the holes in the armrests were missing. Dad’s brown vinyl recliner listed to the right and the footrest didn’t quite close. The end table, stained with endless concentric circles, was uncharacteristically clear of clutter. Someone had made an effort to clean up, but it didn’t alleviate the air of despair that permeated the place. Or maybe that was just me.
“Go away!” His bellow made me jump and fear curled a tight fist in my belly. Memories pounded me, threatening to send me skittering for the front door. Beatings and curses had scarred my life here. I had left them behind, but they were waiting here for me to return. Every bit of me wanted to turn and run away, but if I did, he’d win and I couldn’t live with that.
Drawing in a deep, cleansing breath, I closed my eyes and said a prayer for strength. Unable to delay any longer, I went down the hall and stopped in his doorway. “You asked for me, don’t you remember? I came all the way from Pittsburgh—”
“Well, you can turn around and go right back,” he growled. “I changed my mind.”
I jammed my fists into my cardigan pockets and stepped into the bedroom. The drapes were closed and only one small lamp struggled to relieve the gloom. I froze when I saw him.
In my memories, Dad was tall and bulky, a big bear of a man with meaty fists. Illness had shrunk him to a fraction of what he used to be. Wisps of steel gray hair were all that remained of the thick, wavy black mane. The weathered skin of his face had fallen into deep crevices, like a parched stretch of dry wash, and his brown eyes were nearly lost in hollow eye sockets. Shock rooted me to the spot as I looked for the man I hated in the wasted shell in the bed.
“You deaf, missy? I said go away.”
The voice that haunted my nightmares for so long hadn’t changed. I gritted my teeth and stiffened my spine as I fought the old flight reflex again. This father didn’t rule my life anymore.
“Listen carefully, because I’m only going to say this once.” Was that strong voice mine? “I have come to lend my nursing skills, as I would to anyone who needed nursing. The Lord has compelled me, and nothing you can say or do will stop me from doing my duty. So, you can make this hard on yourself, or you can just let go of your bitterness and make your last days more pleasant. Because I am here until the end.”
His mouth hung slack as his beady eyes studied me. I don’t know what he saw, but after a few moments his lips firmed and he swallowed. “What’s a man gotta do to get a drink ‘round here?”
Instead of relief, I felt an odd sense of victory over this first minor skirmish. I might have left right then if I’d known how it would end.
For the next twenty-three days we treated each other with cool detachment. He called me “Sister” and I called him Mr. Hancock, like we were nothing more than nurse and patient. I went about my duties with a calm maintained by prayer and force of will, because he seemed determined to test my resolve at every opportunity. Sometimes I caught him staring at me with a frown, like he was trying to figure out what I’d become. Not once did he acknowledge our relationship.
As the days wore on, he grew weaker and more foul tempered. At times, he was impossible to please. He’d ask for another blanket, then demand that I remove it, accusing me of trying to boil him to death. When I brought him water, it was too warm or too cold. The drapes should be open, but then it was too bright and I was trying to blind him. I’m ashamed to say I prayed he would sleep to give me some peace.
I hoped the end would come on someone else’s shift, but God wouldn’t have it that way. I had pulled a double because Helen was ill. Once he was settled for the night, I lay down on the cot.
I woke suddenly at two a.m. Looking around the quiet, dimly-lit room, I tried to figure out what had disturbed my sleep. I rose and approached the bed.
At first I thought he was dead. His eyes were mere slits, and his chest didn’t seem to be moving. I touched his arm and he dragged in a deep breath, like he’d suddenly remembered to breathe.
“Mr. Hancock? Do you need me to get you anything?”
His lips twitched and his eyes opened a bit wider. “Water,” he sighed.
I poured a glass and held the straw to his mouth. He took a sip and spit out the straw. “I know why you’re here,” he whispered.
I leaned in closer. “What?”
“Waste of time. Not gettin’ into heaven.”
Relief lifted my heart a bit. Could it be he felt some remorse? “It’s never too late,” I said in what I hoped was a reassuring tone. “If you repent—”
He gave a dry chuckle that ended in a cough. “Not me, stupid. You.”
I took an involuntary step back. “What do you mean? I’ve done nothing—”
“Damned insolent, ungrateful little b…” His voice trailed off in a string of foul language. A moment later he slipped away.
Fury burned in my chest. He had hurled insults and verbal abuse at me for years, heaping blame for everything on me. It was my fault Mother left, my fault we lived in a dump, my fault he had to beat me because I was so stubborn and willful and disobedient. I thought maybe time and imminent death had made him take stock of his life, made him realize what a horrible father he’d been. All of the beatings, the abuse and neglect, that I had endured growing up came back in a flood of images. Sadness, fear, anger roiled through my gut, fighting for control. I dropped to my knees and bent until my forehead pressed the floor. Sobs built inside until I couldn’t hold them back any more. My cries echoed off the walls. I wanted to pray, but words eluded me.
I don’t know how long I knelt there. When I finally straightened, slowly, aching in every bone and joint, early morning light peeked through a gap in the drapes, illuminating his face. The lines had dropped away leaving him looking younger and his eyes had sunk deeper in the sockets. His chest was still. I bent over him and felt his neck for a pulse. He was gone.
“The man who had caused me so much pain, who had been given the task of nurturing me and instead abused me, was dead. He never paid for what he’d done, never even thought he’d done wrong. I wasn’t sorry that he had suffered so much pain at the end of his life. I felt no pity for him at all. I was glad for his suffering.”
Sister Benedict squeezed Sister Mary Katherine’s hand, which she had held throughout her halting tale. Tears stood in her eyes and put a rasp in her voice. “You know it is wrong to take pleasure in the suffering of another, no matter what they’ve done. But there is another sin, a more insidious sin that you must ask forgiveness for.”
The younger nun drew a shaky breath and squared her shoulders.
“When you hold onto your sin and let it burden you, let it grieve you until you doubt our Lord’s assurance of grace—that is a sin.” She paused to let that sink in then went on gently. “God has already forgiven you, my child. Now you must forgive yourself.”
Sister Mary Katherine closed her eyes and nodded. Sister Benedict started to drop to her knees but paused at her young friend’s grip on her arm.
“Do you think he went to heaven?” Mary asked.
The older nun smiled and patted her hand. “God only knows, my dear. Let’s pray, shall we?”
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