Her life began as a brief birth announcement,
followed by a series of Owen Mills poses,
& unfocused, jittery videos.
Then there was the grainy color newsprint photo in The Patriot Press
of her holding up a certificate
& wearing a medallion
for placing first
in a Constitution calligraphy contest.
For many years,
that was akin to her 4 touchdowns in 1 game.
She never got a write-up in the arrest records,
for that was a legacy she didn’t want to leave;
rather, she lived up as a subject
for several human-interest stories—
as the girl who sold 6701 Girl Scout cookies
because of a YouTube video
that turned those processed disks
into decadent desserts;
as a college graduate who crowdfunded her way
into creating an endowed scholarship
for creative writers in memory of her sister,
whose memoir, Lessons from Mother Goose,
gained notoriety posthumously;
in her silver-haired, golden years,
as a woman who made old tee shirts
into rag rugs for the homeless,
in memory of the brother she’d lost to addiction,
whose inward riches had turned to outward rags.
And then she finally told her own story
by writing her obituary,
for she always had to have
the last word.
A priest in love with a mortal
could not be a good priest—
just as a missionary in love
could not be a good missionary.
Both were choices made by men,
who chose a Man over a woman,
& for those who said that God
was neither male nor female
had no answer to how anything but a man
could have fathered a child in a woman.
David was my lifeguard,
pulling me from the ocean of grief I had been floundering in
for being one of Brad’s sleeping apostles.
Perhaps Brad had gotten caught in a riptide
and hadn’t called for me
because he’d known I’d have come after him.
Perhaps he had saved my life
by not letting me try to save his.
Like a woman,
I didn’t know coordinates—
that which I could not see;
but I knew landmarks—
which I could.
Perhaps I had no sense of direction—
no sense of myself—
except in relation to my surroundings.
I hadn’t paid attention on the way to the beach—
just as I hadn’t paid attention most of my life
to what was happening around me
& to the people around me.
I had lived my life unaware & unafraid.
I often think about how different
our lives would have been
had I not been downstairs
at that moment—
closest to the door.
David would’ve defeated them
with some intellectual sparring
& sent them on their way;
Caitlin would’ve flirted with them,
scaring them away;
but with Mother,
I would never know.
Would she have been distracted
& told them, “Another time, perhaps,”
not meaning it,
or would she have done what I did?
Let them in out of careless curiosity?
David’s arms comforted rather than chastened,
& there was no rebuke in his voice,
“I’ll take care of everything,” he said,
& I let him,
for he always had.
Logline for Because of Mindy Wiley: An Irish-Catholic girl coming of age in the Deep South during the New Millennium finds her family splintered when two Mormon missionaries come to her door, their presence and promise unearthing long-buried family secrets, which lead to her excommunication and exile.
He had been there to see him leave the earth
but not to see him put into it,
& I was angry at the world
that had not magically changed
because someone was no longer in it.
In burying my father,
she had buried, it seemed,
the last facet of her old self.
She had gone from a grieving widow
to a blushing bride-to-be
in the matter of an hour,
& no one from the LDS Church knew
of the quickening of Patrick Nolan’s soul
to the Spirit World.
The first ceremony would be a civil one,
followed by a spiritual one.
Just like everything else,
the marriages of other churches
were the preparatory marriages,
& Mormon marriages,
Because my father had died,
my mother would live as she pleased,
but hadn’t she always?
For if one had already enjoyed the intimacy of marriage
without taking the vows,
then how special could making it legal be?
For what was marriage but a representation
of being subject to one entity
till the death of oneself or the death
of the other.
I was a hollow vessel
where Mother’s empty words echoed,
taking no delight in what I had dreamt of
for as long as my eyes had beheld
the glory of David Dalton.
When the fog settled over the Gulf Coast
for days that seemed to run together
like a week of binge-watching,
life was like walking through a dream
in varying filters.
It was that last day in the middle of the night—
before the fog lifted—
that the 3 boys came to her door.
Their frightened faces had been framed
in the frosted oval glass,
& their owlish eyes had looked sickly
in the illumination of the orange streetlight.
They said that the Londoners had taken their parents
& spoiled everything.
She chastised herself for opening the door
for what if they’d been followed?
And it was when she thought to look back
that she realized her family had disappeared
the second she had opened that door,
just as she was here
because someone else wasn’t.
When he was alive,
she slept to escape him through dreams,
but when he died,
he haunted those dreams,
& she became an insomniac who,
from sleep deprivation,
began to see his reflection in every window
& imagine his presence behind every door.
Famous writers haunted ghostwriters,
cases were tried by the judges perfected in Christ,
& the scientists who’d practiced the healing arts on Earth,
imparted their knowledge from Heaven—
even as those who’d passed on ages before
were able to witness the wonders of humankind
while living in the presence of the wonder of God.
Funerals were truly a celebration of one’s mortal life,
& grief became a thing of the past.
There was no moving on,
for to see & hear their loved ones was enough
to make up for the loss of the other 3 senses;
this new way of life & death helped keep their memory alive,
even as new conversations with the departed
were being had.
Where there had been faith,
there was now knowledge,
save for those who believed that man had never walked the moon.
The terrestrial kingdom was Protestant heaven,
the celestial, Mormon heaven,
but even the telestial surpassed all understanding.
While my father had hovered in earthly purgatory,
I had been living in a heaven on earth,
my mother, in the hell she had created for herself.
My childhood had been one of opaqueness,
my adulthood, of startling transparency.
If God had wanted Patrick to live,
he would live without a machine,
but by that rationale,
if God had wanted him to die,
no machine on earth should have kept him in limbo.
When I’d believed my father dead,
I’d never wept,
but when I saw him alive & dying,
it was then that I finally grieved,
for his death finally became real to me.
My mother was once like me
as I was now,
even as she was now
what she would always be,
& I would never be–
like the unspoken Goddess of Kolob.
She would never change her mind
about the Church,
for the Church had changed her.
It was not the figurative blood of Jesus
that put the scarlet in her cheeks,
but it was the psychological hold
that the Church had on my mother
that removed her scarlet letter
like an old tattoo.
As she drew closer to God,
she withdrew from us,
even as David & I grew closer than ever,
but a part of me still feared losing him
if he lost Mother completely.
Those Mormons were a patriotic sort–
red, white, & blue all over–
for their church had been born
& come of age
in the American pioneer days;
they had abandoned God’s higher law
to bow down
to the less-enlightened practice
What separated the occult
from the Divine?
Was it a matter of whom was sought out–
the God of our mothers & forefathers
or our ancestors & friends gone by?
She left so many pieces of herself behind,
that even as the memory of her body faded,
new memories of her spirit—
as she was at the time of her death—
she posted pieces of her history
& her imagination,
the two converging like rivers on a map,
so that no one knew what was true
& what wasn’t.
When the calligrapher met the typist,
a war of words ensued—
a war where Functionality trounced Beauty in speed & legibility,
but Beauty trounced Functionality in artistry & forgery.