By Barb Arland-Fye
In a conversation about heaven with my older son, Colin, he listed some of the people he hopes to see: Martin Luther King Jr., Jesus Christ and the (deceased, I presume) presidents of the United States. “That’s who I want to see when I go to heaven,” said Colin, who is 28 and has autism.
“Anyone else,” I asked. Yes, he said: his paternal grandparents, Bill and Marlene; Msgr. Leo Feeney, our former pastor; Father James Conroy; and John Kiley.
Colin’s list revealed one more clue about how his mind works and how personal relationships impact his life. While he was born 19 years after Rev. King was slain, Colin has gotten to know the civil rights leader on the printed page; books are like companions. The same logic applies to the deceased presidents of the United States. Colin has worn out more books about the presidents than I’ll ever read.
To Jesus Christ, Colin would say: “I miss you very much. I love you so much. I’d like to spend time with you in heaven.”
Bill and Marlene, my husband Steve’s parents, loved Colin unconditionally. This is what he’d say to them: “You used to live in Minnesota and your son Steve (your husband, Mom) is doing a good job. And that Colin Fye is doing a good job of taking care of himself while you are in heaven.” He would remind Bill and Marlene that Steve is the father of Colin Fye and Patrick Fye.
I didn’t ask Colin why he wanted to see Msgr. Leo Feeney, who died 6-1/2 years ago. My son loved Msgr. Feeney because he was a pastor who reciprocated the love of his parishioners. Msgr. Feeney always said hello to Colin. He’d tell Msgr. Feeney “that Father Joe Wolf (the present pastor) is doing a good job.”
Fr. Conroy gets special mention because “I remember meeting him in his house in Buffalo, Iowa, when Patrick was a baby.” I hadn’t realized what an impression that left on Colin. Fr. Conroy once made arrangements for Colin and Patrick (then about 11 and 3, respectively) to ride a neighbor’s pony. We almost got a boat ride, too, but the motor wouldn’t start!
John Kiley was social action director for the Diocese of Davenport when he died in 2009. But Colin remembers John for something else. “I want to see John Kiley because he was my favorite guy from United Way of the Quad Cities. He helped me to succeed.” John allowed Colin to serve as a volunteer at United Way, which required a good deal of patience on John’s part. Colin would tell John “It was great of you to work with me at United Way of the Quad Cities.” Colin also told me that John had the same voice as a New Choices staff member my son really admires.
With this interview about heaven concluded, Colin wanted to set the record straight with me. Even though he thinks heaven will be a lot of fun and he’ll enjoy hanging around, he doesn’t anticipate these heavenly reunions until “I’m a very old man. Right now, I want to have some time to think about it.”
Meanwhile, he’ll continue to get his taste of heaven during the Mass every Saturday night at Our Lady of the River. He likes to go to Mass because most of the time, “I get to be with my family.”