Sean McCory was doing about 90 when the bright flash of light on the road ahead caused him to slam on the brakes and skid to a halt on the shoulder. His old van groaned from the unusual demand being placed upon it and sputtered out as Sean turned around and asked his father, "Are you all right back there, Dad?"
"No, I'm not all right, you idiot!" his ailing father moaned, from underneath the pile of blankets Sean had bundled around him, "I'm dying! And you're bouncing me around in this damned truck like a sack of potatoes! I should be home, that's where I should be. Take me home."
"Now Dad," Sean protested, "we've been all through that already. The Kildare Institute is the best alternative treatment cancer center in the United States. The sooner you get there, the sooner you'll be well again."
"I'm not going to get well again," his father rasped, his breath coming in gasps between stabs of pain in his belly, "this crap's eatin' up my guts. I'm done, you hear?"
"Cut it out, Dad!", Sean pleaded, "just because your oncologist gave up on you, that doesn't mean you have to die. The institute has treatment methods the AMA won't accept for decades. I've heard that they're curing so-called 'incurable cases' every day."
"Bully for them!" the old man croaked, "Take me home, I say!"
Sean was tired of this conversation, which he had been having every day for a week, ever since he raced home from college and found his father in this terrible condition.
Sean had left his father in September looking fit and healthy. And the old Irishman was so stubborn and prideful that he hadn't even hinted about his illness in his many letters to his son. The father and son were unusually close—Sean couldn't imagine life without his Dad. For the ninth time, the young man cursed himself for not coming home over Christmas break, but since neither he nor his father were Christians, and school let out too late for them to spend Yule together, he decided to just remain on campus in New England, get in a little skiing and catch up on his studies. It was a worried neighbor who finally called Sean at school the last week of January and told him of his father's failing health.
He jumped in his van without packing and drove 24 hours non-stop to arrive in Indianapolis ready to take charge and set his Dad back on the road to recovery, only to find his father talking about dying. It wasn't like him! So Sean did the only thing he could do. He bundled the old man up, pretty much against his will, and put him in the back of his beat-up Ford Econoline. He was taking him to Daytona, Florida where there was supposed to be a top-notch cancer facility that he had heard about back in Boston. They had been on the road for over 18 hours when this latest incident had occurred.
Now Sean scanned the highway, looking for the source of that sudden flash of light that had made him run off the road. His eyes were weary from so many hours of driving and he rubbed them with his fingers, trying to clear them a bit. Then he saw her.
A young blond-haired girl on a shiny new bicycle, pedaling up the side of the highway towards them, singing as she rode. It must have been a reflection of the sun on her bike, he thought, glancing at the overcast sky with a puzzled frown.
She stopped by his window and asked, "Is everything all right, Mister? Did y' all break down?" She looked to be about 12 years old and her Georgian accent was charming.
"No, we're fine, just tired and my eyes are playing tricks on me, I guess. How long is it to Jacksonville?", Sean asked.
"Depends on how fast you go.", she said with a smile, "This is Homeland, Folkston is 6 miles down the road and the Florida border is just after that. You have kin in Jacksonville?"
"No. We're going to Daytona, actually. I'm taking my father to a clinic there. He's very sick." Sean confided, surprised that he was being so open with a total stranger, but finding the girl strangely easy to talk to.
"Ah, yes, I see." She said, peering into the van to glance kindly at the old man, now dozing in the back, "You must love him very much to drive so far, just because he wants you to."
"Well, actually, he's not all that keen on the idea." Sean admitted, "But I have to do what's best for him."
"Of course," the young girl agreed, "It's lucky for him that you know what that is!" She smiled pleasantly in farewell and rode away, singing as she went.
Sean pulled back onto the old highway and continued on towards Jacksonville. He couldn't get the young girl out of his mind. He kept going over their conversation in his head. He had the weirdest feeling that she was somehow playing with him.
They bypassed Jacksonville and took I-95 toward St. Augustine. By the time they reached the old city Sean was starving, so he took an exit and began looking for a place to get some food. His father was sound asleep—he slept a lot these days—so he parked in the shade a big tree, dripping with Spanish moss, and got out to look for a grocery store. He was in the tourist section of the city and there were souvenir shops, gift shops, tee shirt shops, craft shops and fast food places everywhere, but he couldn't find a grocery store and Sean preferred fresh, whole foods whenever possible.
Finally he stopped and asked directions from a pretty young woman, about his age, who was making jewelry in a little open-fronted kiosk.
"Sure", she answered, never taking her eyes off the bright, hot flame of the torch that she was using to braze a pin onto the back of an ornate, silver brooch, "there's a Sav-Rite two blocks north and one block east of here," as she cocked her head in the appropriate directions.
Sean was fascinated by the skill she used, as she worked the bits of bright metal and stone into beautiful pieces of jewelry, heating them until they were molten and plunging them into a small vat of water she had nearby. The sound they made was somehow musical.
"Was there something else I can help you with?" she asked with a smile. She was used to young men watching her work for extended lengths of time.
"I... I was just wondering how you knew what you were going to make." Sean said, "I mean, you seem to be able to take a few small pieces of metal and turn them into anything."
"Not at all," she explained, "Each piece grows naturally from the potential of the raw materials to become the item it was meant to be. You can't force something to be what it is not. You must let nature take her course and accept the limitations along with the potential."
"Oh," Sean replied, baffled by her answer, "Well, thanks again."
"You're welcome!" she said, and flashed him a bright smile as she flipped her long yellow hair over her shoulder and continued working.
After lugging the bag of organic carrots, apples and whole wheat bread back to the van, Sean found his father awake.
"Did you bring me anything to eat?", he asked, looking suspiciously at the pile of raw fruit and vegetables.
"What's wrong with this?", Sean asked him.
"Nothing—if you're a rabbit!" his father grumbled, as he chewed on a piece of the bread.
An hour later they were riding through Daytona, looking for the Kildare Institute, but somehow they had gotten lost. Sean stopped to ask directions from a woman walking on the sidewalk. Her face broke into a huge grin and she informed him that she was on her way to the Institute herself! Sean offered to give her a lift and she accepted readily. When she got into the passenger seat, Sean noticed from the bulge in her pretty sun dress that she was about 6 months pregnant. He was glad he could help her out.
"Are you a patient at the Institute?", Sean asked her.
"No, I work there," she explained, "I'm one of the healers on the staff."
"I sure hope you can heal my father ," Sean said, nodding toward the back of the van.
"We specialize in healing the entire family system, not just the disease.", she answered, " Are you sure you know what you really want?"
"Sure, I do!", Sean told her.
They pulled into the Institute, and she said good-bye as he stopped the van under the large covered entryway. Sean checked in at the front desk while several orderlies lifted his father out of the van and wheeled him inside.
As Sean was falling asleep that night, he suddenly realized that it was February third and the festival of Imbolc. If he had been at school he would have been celebrating the feast of Brid tonight, with his grove. It was always his favorite.
That night Sean had a dream. He saw Brid walking toward him out of a thick white mist. Her body glowed like gold, like fire, like the sun. She came to him and asked what he wanted.
"Heal my father," he pleaded, "make him right."
"I will do that" Brid answered, smiling upon him with divine love, "but you must understand that I heal the whole family. Do you know what you really want?"
"I want everything to be the way it's supposed to be!" Sean exclaimed.
"That's what I thought." Brid said, "It is done."
"You mean my father's all...?"
"No. Your father's dead, Sean. That's the way it's supposed to be. The healing that needs to be done here is in you—not him. You must accept the limitations of nature along with her gifts. And not try to force something to be what it's not. And if you love someone, you must concern yourself with what he wants, not what you want—or what you think he wants. Understand?" Brid smiled for a moment.
Sean was blinded. "I... guess so." he replied.
"And I'll give you another gift," Brid offered, "from now on, you'll recognize me when you meet me!"
The next morning Sean drove his father back home to bury him.