Chapter 22 - Knocking on Heaven's Door
Father Mulcahy was having his early morning devotions when he was interrupted by a small boy holding a letter. The boy held out the letter to the priest, bowed and smiled, "Mail...you!"
"Kam sah mee dah," said the priest and bowed. He patted the boy on the head.
Father Mulcahy looked at the return address on the letter. Crabapple Cove, Maine. He smiled. He hadn't expected a reply so soon. He opened the envelope and two photos fell out on the dirt floor. He reached down to pick them up and his eyes widened. He hadn't realized that anyone had photographed their little charge.
He proceeded to read Hawkeye's letter
"Ah, Klinger, you were always as resourceful as you were fashionable," laughed the priest, looking at the snapshots. One showed the baby in the homemade cradle that Sergeant Zale had crafted and the other was of Hawkeye feeding her from a surgical glove filled with milk.
Father Mulcahy remembered that precious child and the effect she had on the entire camp, especially Hawkeye. He didn't know if there was anyway he could gain access to the child.
He bowed his head, "Lord, You said 'Suffer the little children come unto Me.' I don't know if this is asking a lot of you but this is a chance for a little girl to have a life of happiness. You know that life inside a monastery with a bunch of old men is no kind of life for a child. Did I mention to you that this would be a chance for Margaret and Hawkeye, too? I'm sorry, I don't mean to tell You how to do Your job. In the Name of Christ our Lord, Amen."
January 29, 1955
It was with great delight that I received your letter. Thank you for the photographs of the baby.
I don't want to get your hopes up too much. I'm not sure we'll be able to make contact with the monks. As I've said before they're a very cloistered and secretive group. But I will do my best to, as you said, 'flex my ecumenical muscle.'
One of the problems I foresee, if I can, indeed, gain access to the child and get her out, is that of her being of mixed parentage. As I said when we found her, she is liable to encounter cruelty at the hands of others in the name of racial purity.
I have an idea, but I don't know if it will be feasible for you. What I am thinking is that if I can get her out it would be a good idea for her adoptive parents to be waiting here in Korea to take her to America.
I will wait to hear from you before proceeding.
In the Lord's service,
Father Francis Mulcahy
"I've talked to Dr. Wilkins about taking some time off for this and he's pretty enthusiastic. He said my job would be waiting for me when I return. What do you think, Margaret?" asked Hawkeye.
Hawkeye, Margaret, Daniel and Rose sat around the kitchen table at supper discussing the priest's idea.
"That's taking quite a chance, isn't it?" asked Rose. "You don't even know that you can get this child. Korea is an awful long way to go to be disappointed."
"Sure it would be disappointing to not be able to adopt that particular child, Mom," said Hawkeye. "But one way or another we're going to adopt a child."
"I say we make travel arrangements," said Margaret. "I'll talk to Doris tomorrow but I seriously doubt there will be any problem. Knowing her, she'd be on the plane to Korea with us if we'd let her."
"Well what are you waiting for?" asked Daniel. "Hurry up and make me a grandpa!"
"BJ, telephone, it's Hawkeye," called Peg.
"Hey, Hawk, I thought this was my weekend to call you."
"Yeah it is but I couldn't wait. Margaret and I have some news! You ready?"
"Well, are you going to keep me waiting all day..."
"We're going to be parents!"
"Hold on there, Hawkeye. You're going to be parents? Oh wait...you mean you're going to adopt!"
"Yep and not just any child...Father Mulcahy is going to try to help us find that little Amerasian angel that was dropped on our doorstep two years ago."
"Hawk, that sounds great!...But what if he can't make that happen?"
"We've talked about that...out of all the thousands of Korean War orphans, and too many being Amerasian we think we can find one to give a home to. We're going to be flying to Korea in a couple of weeks."
"You're actually going there?...You know Hawkeye, you might need a pediatrician to give your child a checkup."
"Mill Valley is a long way to go for a checkup, Beej."
"Well, actually, I was thinking that I should accompany you and Margaret to Korea. What do you think?"
"I'd like that, but shouldn't you discuss this with Peg first?"
"Sherman, telephone," called Mildred.
"Aw Buffalo biscuits!" He exclaimed. He'd been sleeping on the couch taking an afternoon nap. He was dreaming that he was taking a nice long ride on Sophie.
"Hello, Sherman," said a familiar voice on the other end of the line. "Am I interrupting anything important?"
"Well hello, Pierce! It's always a pleasure to hear from you. How are things in Maine?"
"Cold and snowy, how about Hannibal?"
"The same," said Sherman. "So what can I do ya for?"
"I just wanted to let you know that Margaret and I are planning a little trip...to Korea."
"Why the hell would you want to go there. Surely you and the missus could think of a better place for a vacation, Pierce."
"Well, it's the only place we know of to adopt a certain little girl whose mother was Korean and her father was a GI."
February 12, 1955
Dear Father Mulcahy,
It's all set, we have tickets in hand and will be coming your way next week. We'll be making a stopover in San Francisco where Beej and Sherman Potter will be joining us. They both insisted on coming along. I hope there's a place for four wayfaring travelers to lay their weary heads.
Sherman has used some of his army clout and we'll be coming by army transport from Tokyo into Seoul and then I guess it's chopper from there to Uijongbu. No doubt this will bring back some memories for us all.
We're looking forward to seeing you on the 26th.
Thanks for everything,
Oh dear, thought Father Mulcahy. Today is the 24th! The mail is so slow in getting here," he sighed.
"Sister Theresa," he called to the nun who was surrounded by children. They had just served them lunch and now she was reading them a story.
"What is it Father?"
"We have guests arriving from America the day after tomorrow. There will be four."
"I hope they don't mind sleeping with children."
Father Mulcahy laughed, remembering the times they'd taken the orphans in at the 4077th. "No I don't think they will mind."
Father Mulcahy got out of the old truck and went up to the door of the old mission. It was ten o'clock at night. He knocked on the door, but as he suspected would happen, no one answered. He tried several times more but to no avail. Then he was struck with an idea.
He went over to the revolving cradle where they had put the baby two years ago. He took a pen and a piece of paper from the truck and wrote:
I am Father Francis John Patrick Mulcahy. I am currently the priest at Sister Theresa's orphanage in Uijongbu.
I know that this is highly irregular and that you want your whereabouts to remain a secret. I have the utmost respect for this. But I am in a predicament that I think only you are able to help me with.
Two years ago a child was left in this very same cradle, a baby girl of mixed parentage. I was the chaplain for a MASH unit then. There was no way we could get the baby out of the country so we left her here as a last resort.
I urge you to please open the door and talk to me. I have an American couple coming for the child to adopt her. These people also served in the same MASH unit as a surgeon and a nurse. Surely, as decent God fearing men you can see the advantage of the child being placed in a loving home with a mother and father over living out her young life in a cold, cheerless monastery. You have chosen your life but this was not the child's choice.
I will be waiting outside your front door until you decide to open it. I have no intention of leaving until you grant me audience. So you can open the door or have the death of a priest on your doorstep on your conscience.
In the service of Christ our Lord,
Father Francis Mulcahy
He folded the note and placed in on the cradle and sent it on its way, ringing the bell to get the attention of the monks. He then looked up to heaven. "Lord, I'm knocking on your door."
No sooner had the priest delivered his letter than it began to rain. It was a cold winter rain. He pulled his coat up over his head and sat in the doorway of the old monastery. Five hours later, Father Mulcahy still sat in the doorway. He was cold and tired, but most of all he was determined. He started to doze off when he thought he heard the old door creek.
A tall thin man, anywhere from sixty to eighty, with a long gray beard, wearing a monks' robe looked down at the priest.
"Father Mulcahy, I presume?"
Father Mulcahy stood quickly and offered the monk his hand. The monk stood with his hands at his side. The priest abruptly retracted his hand.
"I'm Brother Joseph. Please come in."
The priest looked about the room. The atmosphere was stark and austere. The room was lit solely by candlelight. He couldn't imagine how it must be for a child in this place.
"Please sit down, Father."
"Thank you," said Father Mulcahy.
"We are a frugal order, Father."
"Yes, I can see that."
"Now you say in your letter that you brought a child here two years ago?"
The priest nodded and handed him the pictures. The monk looked at them and smiled. Father Mulcahy thought how strange the smile looked on the stern face of the monk.
"Yes, I recognize her," said Brother Joseph. "We named her Catherine but some of the Korean monks call her 'Yumee' which means 'beautiful dawn' because we found her in the early morning hours."
"Is there a chance that the American couple could adopt her? They are on their way here from the states. I know it was presumptuous of me to invite them. Now I fear they may just have their hearts set on this little girl."
"Father, I know that this is no place to raise a child. We didn't ask for the child, but it was our duty to protect her from certain death. I'm a reasonable man and I won't stand in the way of a better life for her. And I must say that I respect a man who is stubborn enough to sit out in the rain for five hours to receive an answer. The orphans are fortunate to have you as their 'father.'"
Brother Joseph called to another monk in the next room. "Brother Thomas, go bring Yumee to me."
"But, Brother Joseph, the child is sleeping."
"Yes, I'm well aware of that, as it should be...it's just past three o'clock in the morning. Bring her and her belongings."
A few minutes later, the monk appeared with a child wrapped in a blanket. Brother Joseph handed Father Mulcahy the sleeping child. She opened her eyes briefly. The priest's heart skipped a beat. He knew in a heartbeat that this was the same child. He'd never forget those eyes. They were almond shaped but yet large and round enough to know that she wasn't purely Korean.
"I can't thank you enough, Brother Joseph."
"May the Lord bless you in your work Father. And please, don't come back."