May 4, 1916
"Good-bye, my love," said Grace Gifford Plunkett to her husband, Joseph Mary Plunkett. "Wait for me at the gate. I'll see you when I cross over." Grace had only been a wife for seven hours, and now she was about to become a widow.
"Good-bye, my darling," said Joseph, giving his sobbing wife one final embrace. Grace clung tightly to him until a prison guard pulled them apart roughly.
"It's time," the guard said gruffly, grabbing Joseph by the arm and pulling him away.
The sun was just now rising, turning the sky brilliant shades of pink and purple. With a pang Joseph realized that it was the last sunrise he'd ever see. The walk to the execution site seemed endless. Joseph tried hard to concentrate on Grace's smiling face, blocking all other thoughts from his mind.
At last Joseph was being strapped to a post, and a blindfold was being tied around his head. All was quiet for what seemed like hours but must have been mere seconds. Then Joseph heard the gunshots and felt a searing pain in his chest.
The next thing he knew, he was standing in a field of dazzling white. He looked about himself in wonder. Never had he seen light so bright, and yet it didn't hurt his eyes at all. A moment later he realized that he wasn't alone, that in fact, this wondrous land to which he'd just been transported was quite well populated. A very regal-looking man standing beside a beautiful brunette smiled at him.
"Welcome to heaven," the man said, extending his hand. "I'm Louis, and this is Anne."
"Joe Plunkett," Joseph mumbled, still somewhat disoriented. "So am I then to gain entrance to heaven without first passing through Purgatory?" Anne thought that Joseph's Irish brogue was absolutely charming.
"Of course," Louis assured him with a smile. "Actually, there's no such place as Purgatory. Penitence is taken care of up here or, if necessary, but a temporary return to earth."
"Are you not then of the true faith?" Joseph looked alarmed.
"I am, or rather, I was," Louis replied. "Although that doesn't matter nearly as much up here as it does on earth."
Joseph was very surprised. "But it was the true faith for which I died, that and love of my country."
"You're in good company," Louis said. "Many here have died defending their faith and/or country, including some very good friends of mine."
"I belong to the club of deposed and executed monarchs," Louis said sadly. "Charles I of England is here as well, and from the way things look in earth, I expect we may soon be joined by Nicholas II of Russia also."
"At least you had a country to be deposed from," Joseph said mournfully. "My beloved Ireland is still under the rule of the English Protestants. My countrymen and I shed our blood so that she may be free again."
"Ever since my own time, there's been conflict between my countrymen and yours," Anne told Joseph. "It's the fault of my husband, King Henry VIII. He's the one who broke away from your faith and established his own. I supported him in it, as that was the only way he could leave his first marriage and marry me."
"But marriage is for life," Joseph insisted. "Unfortunately, my own lasted but seven hours."
"What?" Anne was so shocked that she completely forgot the discussion about religion.
"Grace and I were sure that my mission would be a success," Joseph explained. "We planned to wed and spend the rest of our days together in a liberated Ireland. Instead, I was captured and sentenced to death. My captors allowed us to wed the night before my execution. We didn't have time to consummate our union."
"How horrid!" Anne gasped. She felt terribly sorry both for Joseph and for the widowed bride Grace.
"It's all right," said Joseph. "Some day she'll arrive as well, and then what a reunion we'll have!"
November 21, 1920
Fourteen men, women, and children entered heaven looking very lost and bewildered.
"We didn't do anything wrong," said one man. "All we did was go to a football game. How'd we end up here?"
"Twas the bloody police that killed ye." During the four years he'd been in heaven, Joseph Plunkett had watched as a number of his countrymen came to violent ends. "I seen 'em do it. Shot right into the crowd, they did. Didn't even watch where they were aimin'. Just out to kill."
"There's a war goin' on," the first man agreed.
"Much sufferin' and death there's been," Joseph added. "But we won't stop until our beloved Ireland is free at last."
"You have to admire that kind of determination," Louis, who'd overheard the entire conversation, said to Anne.
A/N: I got a couple of dates mixed up, which is why some of the events in this chapter take place before those of the last three or four chapters. Sorry about the confusion.