Private Jack Cooney was propped up in his bed in hospital. His mood was black. At a mere 21, he felt he had already reached the autumn of his life. His future had gone in the instant it took for the enemy explosive device to mangle his legs and shred his hopes and spirits. He’d tried to come to terms with his situation, but daily his thoughts descended further into the darkest despair.

He had not seen this Chaplain before. He watched as he walked slowly down the ward. Greying hair, maybe 65-ish, slightly stooped, walking with the aid of a stick. Not in uniform; probably too old. He stopped by various beds, trying to avoid interference with the ward staff.

Jack looked away as he approached, not in the mood for bible-thumping, but he heard the footsteps stop at the base of his bed.

‘Hello, Mr Cooney. You look as though you need cheering up.’

Jack’s frown deepened. ‘Sorry Padre. I’m not in religious mood.’

The Chaplain did not smile but inclined his head towards where Jack’s legs should have been.

‘That doesn’t help. I understand and won’t keep you. I’ll simply leave you with a thought. You won’t remember this, but when I was a boy there was a popular song called ’Turn, turn, turn’. It seemed to mean something to youngsters of your age. Here are a couple of lines from the end; ‘A time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.’

Jack nodded. ‘It rings a bell.’

The Chaplain continued, ‘These words are from the Bible, the book of Ecclesiastes.’ He smiled quietly. ‘You’ve had your time for war and now you’re in the middle of your time for hate. Now it’s time for peace in your heart and a time to find love for yourself and for life. It’s a hard path, I know because I have been down it myself.’ He rapped his legs with his walking stick and Jack was startled by the loud ceramic knock it produced.

‘It was called ‘The Falklands Conflict.’’

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Margarida Brei
Margarida Brei(@margarida-brei)
5 months ago

A good piece of advice without being preachy or over-religious from someone who knew. Well done, Allan.

Sandra James
Sandra James(@sandra-james)
5 months ago

I love the use of the song/bible quote, Allan. It works very well. The padre reminds me of the Baptist minister at the church I attended as a girl. He was a former army chaplain and had a special way of helping you see things in a different light. Your… Read more »

Carrie OLeary
Carrie OLeary(@carrie-oleary)
5 months ago

You’ve tackled a difficult subject very well in this one, Allan. I can remember when I was still nursing, whenever the chaplain came onto the ward, the more able patients used to do a flit into the day room just so they didn’t have to talk to him! Your chaplain… Read more »

Lotchie Carmelo
Lotchie Carmelo(@lotchie-carmelo)
5 months ago

Hello, Allan. I admittedly cried out from your story. The Padre’s advices really brought me to tears, “A time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace”; and “You’ve had your time for war and now you’re in the middle of your time… Read more »

Lotchie Carmelo
Lotchie Carmelo(@lotchie-carmelo)
Reply to  Allan Neil
5 months ago

You’re welcome, Allan. I am currently listening to that song on youtube. I really love it. In addition, I also love this line, “And a time to every purpose under heaven…” What a lovely song. I am looking at how to download it to my phone. 

Lotchie Carmelo
Lotchie Carmelo(@lotchie-carmelo)
Reply to  Allan Neil
5 months ago

Linda Rock
Linda Rock(@linda-rock)
5 months ago

I remember that song well, Allan but wasn’t aware those lines came from the bible. Chosen well by the chaplain and very cleverly used in your story. I felt such empathy for that young boy lying in bed contemplating his future and I shared his reluctance to converse with the… Read more »

Bella Minyo
Bella Minyo(@bella-minyo)
5 months ago

Allan, this was a very interesting story that dealt with the inner turmoil that war can bring. Not all battles last forever and not all feelings are final. The Chaplain emphasized this not only with the quote from the bible but with his own experience making his words much more… Read more »

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