This is a continuation of my Callemonit Effect Page.
Next up in line is Gabrielle Dunagan. She lived to 49, three weeks short of her 50th. Sadly, a dump truck driver decided he was going too fast to stop at a red light without spilling his load of stone, so he entered the intersection as cross traffic began. Gabrielle and her little Chevy had no chance. She was killed instantly.
And if you’re wondering about her physical appearance as she stands on the clouds, feel contented to know, everyone above the age of 33 returns to 33.
Gabrielle approaches St. Peter’s chair, but it’s facing the other direction. She bends down and grabs the arm of her designated seat, but even before sitting she begins, “Oh my goodness St. Peter, you and Lewis had all of us crying like babies…I just hope my story is…”
Gabrielle stops talking as St. Peter’s chair adjusts to face her. She stands up straight, “…oh…I thought you were St. Peter. He was just sitting here a minute ago. Am I in the wrong place…” Panic sets in as she notices the Pearly Gates have suddenly lost their golden luster, “…who are you…oh my God…what did I do wrong…am I going to-“
The man in St. Peter’s chair is Robert, 56. He has a stern face yet welcoming gaze, strong build, black hair with barely a hint of gray, and is wearing a dark suit. He leans forward and reassuringly secures Gabrielle’s hand with his, “Gabrielle…sit, relax…you’re all good. But there’s some things I want to go over with you…some unresolved business, to be exact…”
Gabrielle slides her hand away, melts into her chair while simultaneously taking a deep breath then exaggerated exhale, “Well that’s a relief…for a moment there, I thought I was heading for a fiery future…and what’s with the gates? The whole time in line, they were bright like the sun…now they’re all dull and…(There’s an apparent aha moment.)…oh, now I get it…Purgatory…I’m in Purgatory…I knew it, I knew it…it was that darn Breast Cancer Walk. I promised the girls I would participate…but like…the weather said, rain all day…100%. I hate the thought of being out in the cold rain when I have a perfectly dry-“
Robert’s eyes are bulging, and his hand goes up like a crossing guard, “Gabrielle…please…”
Robert: “Excuse me.”
Gabrielle: “…Gabby…nobody but my Aunt Irene called me Gabrielle…she had this thing for proper names, symbolism, tradition…all that stuff, Gabrielle, if your parents wanted you to be Gabby, they would have named you Gabby…do you know Gabrielle means Hero of-“
Robert’s hand goes up again, “Yes, yes, I get it…Hero of God and God is my-“
Gabby: “…might…God is my might…but how ’bout Hero of God…me…I loved when she would tell me that…” She reads Robert’s facial expression of fading patience, “…is something wrong?”
Robert starts leafing through pages on a clipboard, reading notes to himself at whisper volume, “Office work…secretary, secretary…” His index finger scans quickly, sure of his previous discovery, “…assistant, assistant…assistant to the VP of Operations…” He looks up and returns to normal projection, “…Gabrielle-“
Robert’s saucer eyes reduce to squints, “Gabby…it says here you were a career office worker who gravitated to positions of authority, particularly males…that they always seemed to get your undivided attention…”
Gabby: “Well, I never really thought of it like that…the whole male thing…but…true, true, and true.”
Robert grins and shakes his head with bewilderment, “…Gabby, as your salt, I determined that the presence of a stereotypical boss-like figure would have the most success with-“
Gabby: “…getting me to listen…and did you say you were my salt?”
Robert: “Exactly and yes. Just like you, I arrived here with my 33 year old body, but as your salt, I can become an age and appearance that best initiates a cohesive relationship.”
Gabby: “Well…” Then she gestures toward Robert, suggesting she wants to learn his name.
Robert understands the cue, “Robert…but I guess you can call me Robby.”
Gabby laughs, “…no wonder you’re my salt…” She laughs some more, “…but what in the world does it mean that you’re my salt…am I your pepper?”
Gabby playfully, “Oh, this is a riot…definitely not the Purgatory I learned about in Sunday School.”
Robby: “Well, before you get on with the belly laughing, realize that we are under explicit instruction from St. Peter…I don’t like the words handler or mentor or teacher. They infer levels of superiority. When you work to achieve a common goal, you do so as equals, teammates. You complement each other like salt and pepper… Then he finished with, …and don’t be afraid to mix it up a little. You can be peanut butter and jelly, pizza and beer, ice cream and cake, hot dogs and sauerkraut…”
Gabby: “He actually said hot dogs and sauerkraut?”
Robby: “Well…actually, no…I added that one in. I use it from time to time…do you like it?”
Gabby: “Uhh…kinda. I mean I like hot dogs and sauerkraut…but me personally…I’d go with like cheeseburger and fries or chips and dip…”
Robby smiles: “Ok, gotcha…we should move on…oh yeah…the point I was trying to make…what’s with the…what’s a good word…babbling…I thought you agreed I’m the type of person who gets your ear?”
Gabby smiles and tilts her head like she’s surprised Robby hasn’t picked up on the implication of the title Gabby, “Hello…Purgatory to Robby…this is me listening. I was called Gabby, because I have the gift of gab…and it’s funny you should say babbling…my Gramma used to walk in the room Uh-oh, who got her motor goin’…Babblin’ Gabby strikes again…I miss that…I miss her. She always looked after me…made me feel special…”
Gabby stalls in a daydream, then returns, “…so to be clear about your notes alluding to how a powerful male figure garnered my respect…as I said, that’s true, but it’s definitely not that I became mute in their presence. It’s more about being intrigued by their confidence and dedication. My father was spineless and lazy and ran out on us before I was 5…and don’t get me started about my ex.”
Robby relaxes, “Alright, now I get it. Well, as a sort of pseudo representative of the male gender, I hope I impress you…” He reaches over and grabs the iPad from a small end table and hands it to Gabby, “…now down to business.”
Gabby: “Oh cool…am I gonna see a video of my past like Lewis?”
Robby: “Just take a look.”
The video is of Gabby’s home, 10 days after her death. Her son Jason 18, and daughter Kim 20, are sitting on the sofa, eating potato chips, drinking soda, and watching Netflix while perusing their cell phones. The video continues to pan the house. There’s dishes piled in the sink, along the counter, and on the kitchen table. The beds are unmade, clothes are strewn on the floor, the bathroom is a wreck, and the litter box is overflowing. And outside, the grass needs to be cut and dog poop is piling up.
Gabby: “What has happened to my house…and why am I not crying…there’s my kids…I love my kids…Jesus Christ, I was just crying a minute ago when I heard Lewis’ story…why am I not crying?”
Robby: “Gabby…it’s normal…like a default setting on a phone or computer program. For real work to be accomplished with your children, there needs to be somewhat of an emotional disconnect…you must be focused while working on your cases.”
Gabby: “Robby, what is goin’ on here…what are you talking about real work…with my children…and cases? I’m dead.”
Robby: “Listen, it’s going to seem overwhelming at first, but I’ve had some practice at explaining it…” He points to the gates, “…you see those…there’s millions of them…mostly dull and closed for an unspecified time…like how you referred to Purgatory. When you arrived, you were meant to be in Lewis’ line and hear the story of how his actions, his words, created an amazing butterfly effect-“
Gabby: “Ripple effect…they ended up going with ripple effect. But I knew what St. Peter meant when he said butterfly effect, and I love butterflies…so let’s stay with that.”
Robby is beginning to enjoy her transparency, “Sure…no problem. So what I was beginning to say, and to be frank…your butterfly effect is not good enough to get into Heaven…or at least, not at this moment…” He holds up his hand as he sees Gabby is about to drop a barrage of questions and rebuttals, “…just wait a minute…look at the iPad again.”
It’s 18 months later, and the house is considerable worse for wear. Jason and Kim are in the kitchen, debating on which relative to call for help, a place to live. Long gone are cable TV, expensive cell phones, and the cornucopia of junk food. Even Gabby’s $25,000 life insurance policy has been squandered. And there’s a notice on the front door from the Sheriff’s Office detailing the terms of foreclosure.
Gabby: “Is this for real?”
Robby: “Well, mostly…I mean it hasn’t actually happened yet…but it’s certainly heading in that direction.”
Gabby: “This feels like A Christmas Carol…who would have thought Heaven…excuse me, Purgatory, was like a Christmas movie…who am I, Scrooge? Because trust me…Robert…I ain’t no Scrooge…(Like a switch was flipped, there’s a sudden rawness to her words and attitude that reflect a working class, poverty stricken upbringing.)…I had a heck of a hard life, and I fought my butt off to get where I got…there was no Scrooge pot of gold for me…no sir. Half the time, my shoes were wrapped with duct tape, dinner was a bowl of cereal with a splash of milk, and a warm bed meant me, my brother, and sister huddled together all night…”
She doesn’t stop to allow possible dialogue, “…but I made it out of that factory town, and made a good life for me and my kids…no thanks to that rotten good for nothin’ sperm donor. And I climbed a steep ladder, all the way to Assistant to the VP of Operations for one of the biggest lumber suppliers in the country…assistant to a vice president. I knew all the ins and out of that business, and I was damn good at my job. Heck, I even learned how to sound perfectly educated…when I wanted to. Nobody gave me nothin’…Scrooge…please. Oh, and my kids…I made sure to give them everything I never had. Lotta good that did…” She points to the iPad, “…look at their dumbasses…” Gabby crosses her arms and puts her head between her knees, exhausted, “God, I wish I could cry for them.”
Robby: “Gabby, it’s gonna be ok…you can do this.”
Gabby perks up defensively, “Do what? You keep inferring that I have work to do to fix things, but I don’t even know what I did wrong.”
Robby: “It’s actually quite simple…I mean of what you did and didn’t do. Your motivation to give your kids a better life denied the qualities of you that made it all possible.”
Robby: “You spoiled them Gabby…made their beds, cleaned their rooms. You didn’t teach them to cook or do laundry. You hardly emphasized the importance of education or a job. And when you did introduce them to chores and responsibility, and they failed miserably, you didn’t follow through. You knew deep down their behavior was wrong, bordering on destructive…but you didn’t Callemonit. You were so afraid they wouldn’t like you if you disciplined them, your children of a failed marriage. And it was like some perverse feeling of accomplishment that you were able to provide them with everything you never had, everything their hearts desired. But in doing so, you actually did them a disservice. Gabby, the qualities that got you out of that town, made you a success in business…your strong will and exceptional work ethic…died at that intersection as well.”
Gabby: “That’s just great…I guess it’s true…good intentions do pave the way to Hell…or Purgatory.”
Robby is enjoying the banter but smiles uncomfortably. He knows she spent most of her 49 years trying not to feel like a failure. “…I have another good saying…howabout God gives you all the signs…you just have to be open to seeing them and willing to follow…believe.“
Gabby: “Did you make that up…or read it in a Hallmark Card?”
Robby: “Gabby, you took a sign and ran with it…and it got you onto a path out of poverty.” Robby hands her the iPad.
Gabby instantly recognizes what’s playing, “I remember that day…I remember this girl. It was Career Day at my high school. I walked out of the auditorium and sat on a curb in the parking lot. I was crying…”
Mrs. Henry, the Guidance Counselor: “Is that you Gabby?”
Gabby lifts her head and quickly wipes her nose and eyes with her sleeve, “Oh hi Mrs. H…yeah, just gettin’ a little air between interviews.”
Mrs. Henry sits on the curb beside her, “What’s up…be honest.”
Gabby: “Mrs. H, I’m not college material…the only “A” I ever got was in Typing…I’m gonna be stuck in this awful place forever.”
Mrs. Henry: “What do you like about typing?”
Mrs. Henry: “Typing…what was so interesting that you excelled in it?”
Gabby: “This is gonna seem a little crazy…promise not to laugh.”
Mrs. Henry: “Promise.”
Gabby: “Well…when I’m typing at a super fast speed…I feel like a magician. When Mr. Davenport would walk by my desk, I would hit the last period, pull the paper from the wheel and say, Voila…these words are magically saved for eternity.”
At that, Mrs. Henry grabs Gabby’s hand, “Come with me.”
Robby reached out for the iPad, “Tell me what happened next.”
Gabby: “Mrs. H brought me back into the auditorium and to the front of the line. It was for All Ways Tech School and packed with boys looking to learn a trade, Excuse me guys. Do you mind letting Gabrielle butt in line, being you’re all talking about the football game and car motors…and since you’re all gentlemen?” Then she put her hands flat on the table, elbows locked, and said to the representative, I’ve heard you have the most amazing secretarial program at your school…” Gabby pondered for a moment, recalling how it felt to feel cared for by Mrs. Henry and have genuine hope, “…and that was it…I was on my way.”
Robby: “That’s a beautiful story…and you mostly have your mother to thank for it.”
Gabby: “Who…what does my mom have to do with it…she died of a drug overdose when I was a sophomore. She never called me out for bad grades and being lazy…she couldn’t care less about my future. In 5 minutes, Mrs. Henry changed my life more than my mom ever did.”
Robby: “Not unless your mom was truly sorry for not being a good parent…and then was fortunate enough to have an awesome salt…or cheeseburger.”
Gabby: “Wait…my head is starting to spin…you’re salt…do you know my mother…was she one of your cases…how long have you been in-?”
Robby jumps in, “Let’s just say, I have a lot to make right…do you happen to know the Rolling Stones song Sympathy For The Devil?”
Gabby: “Of course…who doesn’t?”
Robby: “Well, if you really listen to the words…you’ll understand, there is no Devil with a long tail and pitchfork, and there’s actually no Hell, for that matter. Humans love to have an escape goat…someone to blame…the Devil made me do it. What you’ll come to realize as you do your work here, God gave us free will, and the Devil was actually us all along, our behaviors, the terrible way we treated each other. Hell is nowhere…nowhere but down there, Gabby…on Earth…”
Robby gestures to the iPad which is frozen on the picture of Gabby and Mrs. Henry standing side by side, “…we have to be accountable for our actions…and in your case, after you broke the chain of poverty and misfortune, you had the responsibility of paying it forward, starting a new chain, especially for your children. And again, what I was trying to explain before…it’s not about money and material things…it’s strength of character, pride, confidence, determination…all the qualities that left that girl on the curb behind. You see, the legacy of our existence, what we became and allowed to be set into motion…that’s our butterfly effect. And until we make it right…those Pearly Gates won’t shine like the sun.”
Gabby, sullen, “Remember the parable…The Bags of Gold? I finally understand what that means. All along, I thought I was the one who turned the bags into more bags…but…” Her voice softens with sadness, “…I was actually the one who buried my gift in the sand.”
Just then the Gates of Heaven sparkled, for only a moment.
Gabby, “Did you see that…the Gates?”
Robby: “Yes…thank you.”
Gabby: “Thank me…what did I do?”
Robby: “Let’s just say, we’re being good salt and pepper. And the Gates…I imagine it’s God smiling, being pleased with His children…and…He’s rewarding me with a nudge.”
Gabby: “A nudge…what?”
Robby: “You know…a nudge…a prod…uhh…like a push.”
Gabby: “No, no…I know what the word nudge means. But I didn’t see you move…and I certainly didn’t see God.”
Robby hands Gabby the iPad, “Watch.”
The video is from the interior of Mrs. Henry’s car. She’s driving along, and through the windshield you see a squirrel run onto the road. Mrs. Henry swerves (The view switches to her passenger seat.) and the top folder from a pile of paperwork slides off and down between the seat and the door.
Gabby: “I don’t get it.”
Robby: “Gabby, your mom had her penance to do too. And just like you’re exhibiting, she was becoming a good pepper to my salt, listening and understanding what God wants for the world and how she could have done better…”
Robby smiles with pride when reflecting on how quickly Gabby’s mom caught on, and how her work yielded ample rewards, “…she helped many souls, the way I’m doing with you…to see the Light. God thanked her with nudges, a way to fix her butterfly effect for those still on their mortal journey…”
Robby senses Gabby is still confused, “…the squirrel on the road, perfectly timed…was your mom using a nudge…pushing a moment, bending reality to benefit you…the daughter she neglected. She looked into the future and saw you sitting on the curb crying. Then she fast forwarded time, just like how I showed you your kids losing the family home…and what she witnessed was a life of suffering, not much different from her own…so…squirrel on the road, displaced folder, Mrs. H comes outside to search her car, sees you crying…and well, you know the rest…” Robby realizes Babblin’ Gabby is momentarily at a loss for words, so he continues, “God loves us…and with the help of a mom’s clever nudge and the guidance of a dedicated counselor, you felt inspired. Remember…He gives you all the signs…you just have to be open to seeing them and willing to follow…be-“
Gabby’s humbled, “Believe...and here I always thought it was luck, fate…or like some kind of strange coincidence that the perfect person to see me on that curb…did.”
Robby’s eyebrows raise slightly, “Crazy, huh.”
Gabby: “Robby, where’s my mom now…is she in Heaven?”
Robby: “Your mom is an excellent salt, helping new arrivals…but her work is not done. She continues to receive nudges, and she uses them where she sees fit…mostly on your brother and sister. But I wouldn’t be surprised if she now puts focus on her grandchildren as well.”
Gabby: “Can I see her?”
Robby: “Not yet…you have work to do. I’m starting you off with something in your wheelhouse…” He hands her a clipboard, “…it’s a case about business…nothing to do with parenting. And the pepper…or fries…whatever you want to call him…is-“
Gabby reads, “Benjamin Silverstein…what’s he a lawyer or something…do you know, I might be a redneck at heart, but I’m actually a quarter Jewish…Gramma was-“
Robby interrupts with a straight face, “No, he wasn’t a lawyer. Study the file. Focus on parts where he had the opportunity to change the butterfly effect…times when he denied the urge to be honest about his feelings…when he chose not to Callemonit…”
Robby stands up and extends his hand, “…it was a real pleasure meeting you Gabby. I think you are going to do great things here…I’ll be in touch.”
And with that, Robby faded into the clouds.
How amazing is it that God’s Love is so strong that He’s constantly providing us opportunity to live a happy life…and conversely…how daunting are the potential negative ramifications of not speaking up when something bothers us…not choosing to Callemonit.
Stay tuned to my blog to see what Purgatory has in store for Gabby next.
And if you have a comment or advice for what you’ve read so far, especially regarding how Gabby should have parented her children, created a lasting positive Callemonit Effect…please leave in the Comment Box below. Thank you!