High Hopes and Dreams, an Irish Odyssey

Chesapeake Bay

Chapter 1

Brian wept openly as he knelt in earnest prayer at the bedside of Sarah O’Donnell.  She was burning up with fever and her body had become dehydrated and emaciated with its effects.  She was unconscious and her skin had that translucent quality that Brian recognized so well from watching his family members, one by one, as they succumbed to the dreaded fever back in their stone cottage in County Donegal.  Her eyes were closed, but her lips curled up at the corners with barely a hint of a smile, as if, in another world, she was seeing something beautiful, but known only to her. 

He leaned in, close to her, and whispered in her ear, “Dear Mama, please don’t die.”

He looked up toward heaven and prayed, “Oh God, You brought me back from starvation and nearly dying by giving me life and hope with the O’Donnell’s.  You know my new mother, Sarah O’Donnell.  You know who she is.  She has done so much for me and for all of us on this voyage.  You took my mother and my whole family.    Don’t make me lose another mother! Please, bring her back and restore her to health.”

Then, he rested his right arm on the edge of the bunk and lowered his head onto his arm to hide the copious tears that were rolling down his cheeks that would soon soak his sleeve.  Exhausted, he must have drifted off, because when Liam lightly tapped his shoulder, he trembled, jerked himself up straight and looked at Liam who was standing next to his left shoulder.  Through his tear filled eyes, Liam’s face was blurred and indistinct.

Liam bent down and whispered, “Brian, so sorry, I didn’t mean to alarm you.  But, I’ll take over now.  Why don’t you go up on deck?  Stretch your legs and get some fresh air.  But, be careful, it’s nasty weather up there.  I don’t know how long it’ll be safe for any of us on deck.  You should go now before it becomes too dangerous.  Go on, my boy, I’ll watch over Mrs. O’Donnell.”

Father McFadden approached while both Liam and Brian were still talking.  He said, “Good evening.  I dropped by to ask about Mrs. O’Donnell.  Any change?  Is she doing any better?”

Liam answered, “No Father, the fever still hangs on and assaults her body.  She’s fighting for her life and I’m sure that angels are supporting her in her battle.  But she seems weaker by the hour.  The way she drove herself day and night, sewing new clothes for the women and caring for the sick left her completely exhausted.  Her strength was stretched way beyond normal limits.  When the fever struck, she had nothing left to fight it off.  All I can say is that if she recovers it will demonstrate that our Lord has plans for her, here on earth, before He takes her home to heaven.  Thank you for your constant prayers.  Our only recourse, now, is prayer.”

“Aye, and I, as well as many on board, are praying day and night for her full recovery.  God’s will be done.

“But, without prying into your personal business, I’d like to ask a question, if I may.”

Liam said, “I’d like to hear your question.  We have nothing to hide from our priest.”

“It’s only this.  The outcome of Mrs. O’Donnell’s illness, notwithstanding, do you have a place to stay upon arrival in Baltimore?”