Thursday, February 4, 2016

Finding True Gold in a Bank Vault

My former pastor Father John Giacopelli, who retired in 1992,once told me about his first Ash Wednesday experience after his retirement, in New Jersey where he retired to. He was originally from NY, but had spent his active ministry years in our diocese. Today, contemplating this Ash Wednesday, and how it is the beginning of our time for cleaning our spiritual homes, I once again got a chuckle from the memory of Father John's story.

Father John was one of those priests who people were naturally drawn to. Even in retirement, he never left the house without wearing his clerical suit and his Roman collar. On this particular Ash Wednesday, he decided to stop by the bank on his way to visit the local nursing home after having attended Mass. Along with his clerical garb, this day he sported the Ash Wednesday ashes on his forehead.

As he approached the teller, she exclaimed: “Oh! My goodness today must be Ash Wednesday. I have not been to church in years! Father, could you hear my confession? “

Father John…never one to miss an opportunity to bring in the stray sheep, of course said; “Sure, is there a quiet place where we can go for your confession?” The woman thought for a minute, and said:”We can use the bank vault.”

So, off they both went to the bank vault for confession. Father John related as how that was not the end of the story though. When they had finished and exited the bank vault, there was a line of about twenty bank employees, including the President of the bank…waiting to have their confession heard.

The rich symbolism of Ash Wednesday still reverberates across the centuries to this present day. May you all have a beautiful cleansing Lent, and everyday experience the Love and Forgiveness of Our Heavenly Father. Chances are you will not find such riches in a Bank Vault, but who knows...with God anything is possible.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

The story of Daniel


Hospital ministry can be such a blessing, but it can also cause a person to lose their focus on Christ if we allow it to. On one particular hectic Saturday a couple of years ago, I found myself seriously doubting the usefulness of such a ministry. The morning began with my running behind schedule, as I was really not feeling much up to doing it in the first place. To top it off, I was late getting to the hospital due to accidentally setting the alarm off at church when I unlocked the door. It was my turn as Team Leader to pick up the Eucharist from the church for our team members in the hospital ministry that week. In my hurried frustration, I could not remember the code.

After several tries, I began to worry about how I would ever get to the hospital on time. For the life of me I could not get the alarm to accept my code and the incessant ringing of the burglar alarm was really starting to make me break out in a sweat.

Struggling to find my code in my purse, I finally located it and discovered I had transposed the numbers. “Drat!” I wondered to myself. “Will I ever learn this new fangled contraption?” Arriving out of breath and full of apologies to the others members of the ministry team, we quickly set to work. After checking the patient logs the receptionist handed us, we split up the hosts and began our appointed rounds.

While riding the elevator to the first floor of patients, I thought to myself: “I can serve Jesus today and take Him to those who need Him so very much.” I was trying very hard to talk myself into being cheerful and enthusiastic. That thought started working as I came to the first floor, but by the 11th floor my spirit was beginning to lag once again. Feeling very dejected, I began to wonder why we even bothered giving up our time on Saturdays to do Hospital Ministry. That Saturday was much like the last few we had experienced. We volunteer our time to bring the Eucharist to the hospitalized and most of the patients are totally disinterested. The usual response was: “No, thanks! I don’t care to receive.”  Some of the patients would even tell you out right they were not happy to be bothered with a visit. That Saturday morning it began to look as if I would have to return most of the hosts to the church again.

As I checked in at the nursing station on the eleventh floor, I was beginning to get the definite feeling that I needed to step back from hospital ministry for a time. It had gotten to be very disheartening to have so many people not interested in receiving. They all seemed to be too busy wanting to see their doctor or involved in phone conversation that I began to feel like the unwanted guest at a wedding reception.

As the nurse handed me back the approved patients list, I found there are only three patients on this last floor to visit, and only two of them could receive the Eucharist. The third patient was marked for a prayer visit only. I had to brace myself mentally for more refusals as I walked toward the first room to meet with a patient named Martha. I was definitely not happy and not in a cheerful mood. I worked mightily to paste a smile on my face and appear cheerful even though I felt like just calling it a day and going home.

As I tapped on the door gently, I prepared to announce myself. But before I could utter a word, this very weak but beautiful voice said; “OH! Come in please! You have brought me my Jesus! I could see His light coming down the hall towards my room.” As I fully entered, I saw a lady who was eagerly anticipating her visit from the Divine Physician. This woman, I would learn later, had come to the hospital for the last time. Martha was in the final stages of her cancer battle, but Martha’s soul was at peace as she eagerly awaited Her Lord!

Standing in her presence, I felt humbled and quite sure that I was witnessing a little miracle. Martha needed no one to tell her Jesus was present. Her eye’s gazed at the Host with what I can only describe as sheer rapture. It was as if the veil of the Tabernacle opened and Christ stepped forth to hold His dying child in His arms himself. I myself, to say the least, was chagrined at my earlier grumpy thoughts of how useless our ministry was. I left Martha to make the next patient visit with a very contrite spirit and I was full of joy to have been able to bring Christ to one sweet soul that day.

In the moments before I approached the next room, I paused with tears coursing down my cheeks and contritely whispered to Jesus; “I am sorry for being so grumpy about giving my time to carry you to the sick. Martha has shown me Lord how much You care. I know that it is worth every minute of my time. I myself am a very poor instrument to bring you to the sick and suffering. Please forgive me Jesus!”

Checking with the next patient’s nurse, I found that this patient had a whole room full of visitors. Jim and his family members were very warm and welcoming, and they all wanted to receive Jesus! After leaving Jim and his family still deep in their prayers of thanksgiving for Christ in the Eucharist, I stopped outside the room of my last patient. Checking with his nurse I was a bit startled when she replied, “Daniel is probably not worth bothering with but go on in if you want to.” By this time I knew for certain that Christ wanted me to make the effort, even if it would be a waste of time. He had showed me how much He was appreciated by Martha and Jim’s family and I was determined not to disappoint Him again with my poor attitude.

I gently tapped on the door and announced myself to the motionless figure lying in the darkened hospital room. At the sound of my voice, Daniel turned over as best he could. In that instant, I found myself looking into the most beautiful blue eyes I believe I have ever seen. Eyes, which smiled with the brightness of all heaven, as if to say; “Welcome! How happy I am that you have come to visit me!” Eye’s, which mesmerized me with their beauty even though Daniel, poor creature, was covered with the most awful pustules, which had disfigured his face. I could hardly recognize his nose and his mouth was full of the most haphazard gapping teeth I believe I have ever seen. Daniel, it turned out was profoundly retarded as well as very physically misshapen. But in my heart of hearts, I knew that Daniel not only recognized Jesus... to me he became Jesus in this most distressing disguise.
 
As I prayed at Daniel’s bedside, I swear I could hear the angels singing; “Glory to God in the Highest and to all his creatures on earth!” Daniel, even though he was mute and physically and mentally challenged, renewed my spirit more than I can say. I came to bring Jesus to the sick and the suffering, but I found Jesus that day through the love for Christ in the Eucharist of a dying woman named Martha. Jesus was there in midst of Jim’s family, and in the end, I found Jesus was Truly Present in the blue eyes of a man named Daniel.

Monday, December 28, 2015

“Daddy’s Little Girl”


By: Christine Trollinger
Today I find myself musing on the many memories of my childhood and especially memories of my Dad. I remember being little enough that my father would dance with me singing the popular tune of that era, called “Daddy’s Little Girl”. I would stand on the top of his shoes as we glided around the living room floor, pretending we were in a grand ballroom.
How I loved to dance with my father and pretend I was the Belle of the ball. But suddenly, one day I could no longer dance. One April morning in 1955, I awoke to raging fever, pain and muscle contractions. My father scooped me up into his arms and rushed me into town to our little hospital. The diagnosis was one, which struck fear in the hearts of every parent and child during that time of year. Polio had come to our little ballroom and life would never be quite the same.
As we lived far from any major city, our little hospital was ill equipped to deal with polio patients. I rapidly began do decline. Although I was supposedly unconscious, I can remember hearing the doctor speaking to my parents and telling them I would not live through the night. At that moment, my little eight-year-old mind began to pray the Angel Guardian Prayer…”There are four corners on my bed, there are four angels round my head. Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the angels my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.” Suddenly, there in that dismal hospital room, angels surrounded me. I remember their beauty and how my guardian angel reached down and touched me, and told me I would be fine again one day. My life would be changed, but I would not die from the illness that was racking my body.
The next thing I remembered was my dad, sitting beside me and singing to me hour after hour…”Daddy’s Little Girl” became his fight song. A song to cheer me up, a song to help me make it through the night, a song from his heart, which echoed to mine through all of the pain.
You're the end of the rainbow, my pot of gold,
You're daddy's little girl to have and hold.
A precious gem is what you are,
You're mommy's bright and shining star.
You're the spirit of Christmas, my star on the tree,
You're the Easter bunny to mommy and me.
You're sugar you're spice, you're everything nice,
And you're daddy's little girl.
You're the end of the rainbow, my pot of gold,
You're daddy's little girl to have and hold.
A precious gem is what you are,
You're mommy's bright and shining star.
You're the treasure I cherish so sparkling and bright,
You were touched by the holy and beautiful light.
Like angels that sing, a heavenly thing,
And you're daddy's little girl.
God’s amazing grace came with that beautiful song. One day, I began to recover from the worst of the illness and was sent home, crippled but alive. We could not afford big city hospitals and so our little home was quarantined. Through it all, my father never left my side. Hour after hour, day after day, my dad was beside me. He read everything he could find about Polio and treatments, which might strengthen my ravaged legs. From our small town library, dad found a book which was to change the course of my life. It was the autobiography of Sister Elizabeth Kenny, entitled “And They Shall Walk.”
Dad contacted the Sister Kenny Institute, to learn how to do the therapy and doggedly began working with her methods to bring my legs back to life. The therapy consisted of stretching exercise and hot, packs, which burned like fire. I can still remember his big strong hands working with those Hot packs. His gentle hands were red from the heat and as I would cry out in pain, Dad would cry with me and promise me it would be better, all the while singing our battle song to keep me strong and see me through the pain.

When I could not stand the pain of having even light covers touching my body, daddy build a special cage out of chicken wire which formed a frame around my bed, so I could stay warm but the blankets would not touch me and cause me more pain. Dad slept on the floor beside me and never let his tiredness or worries be seen. His ever-present laughter, and faith in God, was our constant companion throughout that terrible summer. Finally his effort began to make the difference. Slowly but surely I could once again stand. Now we began our little ballroom dance with earnest. Balancing me on the top of his feet, he would teach me to walk once again, just as he had taught me how to dance. And of course the song was always the same…”Daddy’s Little Girl” which he sang with relish and joy each step that we took together. And the day that I stood and walked into his arms unaided, well…I know that song was in both of our hearts.
By the time school rolled around again, I was able to walk and to return to a normal life. My dancing legs would never be quite the same, but for the most part all the muscles had come back with just minor weakness in one leg. Polio is still a part of my life, since I later developed "Postpolio sequelae" , but I will keep on dancing and remembering my fathers strength and faith that God will never let us dance alone…if we trust him to see us through. My father will always be my favorite dance partner in my book of memories.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Santa was a Cowboy

Christmas approaches swiftly again this year. The memories of Christmas on the Plains of Nebraska, in the 1950’s comes to my mind. One such cherished memory is of a Blizzard, which struck a few days before Christmas, in 1955.

 Early one morning that particular Christmas week, we awoke to the sight of blowing and heavy falling snow. It arrived with such force the farmyard became almost invisible. Immediately, Dad called us all together to detail the job ahead. The animals needed feeding and the cows needed milking. Even though most townspeople could safely snuggle in their beds to wait out the storm, as a farm family, we had duties to care for the livestock even in a blinding snowstorm. Dad carefully tied us all together, using rope so that we could reach the safety of the barn for the task at hand. Admonishing us to watch out for one another and stay close, we began our morning with a seriousness born of life and survival on the plains in winter.

 

With each of us bundled in coats, boots and mittens we struggled through the blinding snow out to the barnyard. Slowly feeling our way along the fence posts, we had to shout to keep track of one another as we struggled against nature to reach our goal. After several hours of working with the animals and securing them in the barn, we struggled back through the still swirling snow. As we reached our final goal of the house, Mom was waiting with Hot Cocoa and a warm fire burning in the kitchen stove for us to warm ourselves up again.

 The rest of the morning we spent snuggled in the warm kitchen, making Christmas breads and cookies for the coming Christmas celebration while Dad kept watch over the weather conditions.

  By early afternoon, the snow had stopped and it became apparent we would not be going anywhere soon. The snowdrifts were several feet deep and the road was buried. We knew it could be days before the snowplows came our way from the County Works Dept.  With the visibility improved my Dad bundled up to set out in pursuit of any stranded travelers he might assist. We lived about a mile from a main highway and anyone who might have been stranded would soon succumb to the cold. Firing up the old “John Deer” tractor, Dad left to pursue his goal of checking the roads for possible victims of the Fury of the storm.

 By dusk, Mom was visibly worried and we children became quiet. We joined our hands in prayer and quietly huddled together praying our Daddy would safely make it home. As darkness began to fall in earnest, we suddenly heard the sound of our “Old John Deer” slowly making its way back into the yard. With a collective sigh of relief, we all ran to the front porch to usher Dad back into the warmth. Much to our surprise the first person through the door was a stranger. Dad introduced the man as Chuck. Dad explained that just about dark he had decided to give up the search, when he had spotted a Pick-up truck buried in the snow bank along the old highway exit road.

 For the rest of Christmas week Chuck worked along side all of us and proved himself a friend in deed. Chuck, we soon learned, was an itinerate Cowboy who was traveling from Texas to begin a job on the McGinley ranch, a few miles farther east from us. The next morning, when he entered the barn to help out with chores, our newest horse Toni suddenly began banging the stall and whinnying. Toni immediately greeted Chuck with a friendly but insistent nudge at Chucks pockets.

  Much to every ones surprise, Toni and Chuck already knew one another. Chuck had worked on the King ranch in Texas when Toni was there as a colt. Chuck had saddle broke him and taught him to cut cattle when Toni was just a young colt in Texas.

 Toni had proved a bit skitterish when we first brought him home. Dad was still working with him to gentle him out. Chuck immediately showed us that Toni was a pro with the right stuff. Chuck and Toni were a team in Texas and soon Toni warmed up to us all.
 

 First and foremost, Toni loved Cotton cake, which Chuck always had in his pocket. Within a day, Dad and the rest of us could get Toni to do all we asked of him. Toni was now a real part of our family farm team… thanks to a stranger named Chuck.

 As Christmas week progressed, the roads were still impassable with no sign of the snowplows in sight. The phone lines were still down and we had no way to communicate with the outside world. We were so looking forward to the Christmas Pageant at St Elizabeth’s Parish followed by Christmas Eve mass. There was no way we could get to town in all that snow. Fearing Christmas would be canceled; we children grew quiet and somber. We began to fuss that even Santa could not get to our house this particular year. Our Letters had never been delivered to him because of the snowstorm.

 
  On the day before Christmas Eve Chuck, our newfound guest came up with a plan. A plan that would make Santa and his reindeer proud. Chuck went out to the barn and saddled up Toni. He admonished us all, not to give up. He would set off for town and guide the snowplows to our farm to clear the roads. Dad was a bit hesitant, but Chuck assured him that he and Toni had traveled many miles together in Texas dust storms and could get through the snow on the plains of Nebraska. Dad warmed to the idea eventually, and saddled up our faithful old mare, ”Lady”, to make sure Chuck and Toni did not get lost. Dad knew the plains and the land well, even when it was buried in snow.

 With a cheerful wave they set off, loping belly deep through the snow drifts. Later that day, the sound of snow plows brought smiles of joy and relief to our faces. With Chuck and Toni leading the way, the plows cleared our roads and made it possible for us to get to town the following day. Chuck was able to get his truck out of the snow bank and be on his way to his new job.

 Early Christmas Eve night, before we went to town, the front door of our little farmhouse opened with a bang! In came Santa to pay us a personal visit. In his bag were all the very toys we children had lamented that Santa would not bring this year. Even if he could have made it through the snow, we were sure he would not have gotten our Christmas list. This particular year though, Santa was wearing cowboy boots, and seemed to have a very distinct “Texas” drawl when he exclaimed; “HO HO HO! Merry Christmas Ya’all!” 

 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Love Thy Enemies as I have loved You


My father was a Marine and he served in the Pacific during World War II. For the most part, dad rarely spoke about the war. Like most soldiers who served, the subject was one with too many painful memories. Dad generally would keep the subject light and entertaining whenever he did speak about the war. There was one story though, that my father loved to tell my brothers and I whenever we would ask about the war. It was a story dear to his heart.
During the winding down of the war against Japan, dad was serving in the Pacific theater. One night he drew night patrol and was assigned to scout for enemy troop movements in the rough jungle terrain. He had just climbed a tree to conceal himself, when seemingly out of nowhere the entire area beneath the tree was filled with enemy Japanese soldiers. Dad found himself trapped in the treetop for hours on end, as the enemy decided to camp right beneath the tree.
Barely able to breath, for fear of giving away his position, dad said he spent the time praying for God’s protection and asking God to help him. Every prayer he had ever learned, swirled through his mind and heart, as he waited silently in that treetop. He prayed that he would not be discovered, and as time went on he began to pray for the enemy soldiers beneath the tree. He said he could see, in his minds eye, our family back home and he imagined these soldiers were missing their loved ones too.
Up close, the enemy soldiers looked very much like the men in his unit. While their physical appearance was not American, and he could not understand their language, he knew from observing them that they were Gods children too. Men caught up in a war, which had brought them all to serve their country. Each one standing for what they thought was right, according to their upbringing and nationality. Like him, they were ordinary men with families and friends in a country far away. Men who might never see their loved ones again should they perish in the jungles of war. As he prayed and watched them, they sat relaxed around the jungle clearing, laughing and sharing letters and photos from back home, the same as my father and his fellow soldiers did when not on alert.
As night began to give way to the first light of the morning, my father accepted that in the end, he would probably not be returning home. The odds were stacked against him and he knew he could not remain motionless and undetected for much longer. Having made his peace with God, my dad began his final silent prayer. He prayed for the men beneath the tree and their families. He prayed for courage for the necessity, which might mean he must fire upon and kill his enemy. And for forgiveness also, as my father never took Gods commandment, “Thou shalt not kill,” lightly.
Just as my father gave the outcome over to Our Father in Heaven and made the sign of the cross, an enemy soldier spotted his hiding place in the treetop. As my father signed himself with the cross, their eye’s locked upon one another in the instance of war and the struggle to survive. To my dad’s utter amazement, the enemy soldier silently made the sign of the cross on his own forehead, and put his finger to his lips as if to say; “Be still my brother. I shall not betray you.” Almost in that very instant, the enemy soldiers began to move out as silently and as quickly as they had arrived. My dad never ceased Thanking God for his protection on that day. And dad always remembered to pray for his brother in Christ whose name dad never knew. Copyright: 2015

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Mary My Mother


My mother and I had not always had the best of relationships when I was growing up. Mom was born in New York City and placed in an orphanage at the age of two weeks. Even though she was adopted at the age of twenty-two months by a wonderful German immigrant couple, her birth circumstances had left her a bitter person growing up. In those days, being an orphan was something that other children would torment you about, and it left deep scars in my mother’s life. It was a bitterness, which made it difficult for her to love and demonstrate affection to others, especially her own children.  Mom was verbally and sometime physically very abusive to us when we were growing up. Thankfully, we had a very loving and gentle man for our father. About the only maternal love my mother was capable of sharing, was her love for the rosary and Our Lady. Both Mother and I had taken Mary as Our mother from early childhood. It was a shared devotion that would eventually blossom into a mended Mother-Daughter relationship, in a most mysterious way.

 

In September 1992, I had a dream about visiting my mother and praying the rosary with her. Just before I woke up from the dream, a voice very firmly said; “Go home and see your mother.” I thought that it was a very strange dream indeed, but somehow, in my heart, I knew it was God telling me something very important. When I got up the next morning, I packed a suitcase and called Mom to tell her I would be home for the Labor Day weekend. It would be the first time I had returned home to Nebraska since my beloved father had died seven years before.  After my dad’s death, I found it difficult to be around my mother for any length of time. Her sharp tongue was not something I had ever learned to overlook. I called her weekly of course, and she visited me many times…but actually returning to my childhood home was something, which I found impossible to do after Dad’s death. It just conjured up too many painful memories.

 

When I arrived late Friday, Mom was happy to see me and we planned to attend my cousins wedding together the next day. The wedding was a perfect excuse for my unplanned visit. Mom and I went out to dinner and visited with friends that Friday night. It was such a wonderful evening and I was sure God had planned a very special weekend for us. Before it would end, I would know that Our Lady had obviously planned a very special “wedding miracle once again. A Miracle of healing only her loving heart could obtain for us. 

 

On Saturday morning we went to garage sales, as it was something we both enjoyed and ended up at an Estate sale. We laughed as we picked through all the bargain items for sale when Mom picked up a statue of Our Lady of the Immaculate Heart. The poor statue had seen better days, and really should have been discarded. Mom insisted she was buying it for me as a birthday gift. I fell into peels of giggles over that one, let me tell you. It hardly had any paint left on it and it had no nose. But it would become, one of the most precious gifts my mother ever gave me. After lunch Mom and I went to church and prayed a rosary together in Our Ladies chapel. Suddenly, I could sense that this was a special visit indeed. The scent of roses permeated the air.

 

That evening after attending the wedding, Mom and I returned to her house and settled down for the evening. I was reading my bible before going to bed, and Mom was watching a TV program about child abuse. Suddenly my mother turned the volume way up and asked me if that bothered me. I was puzzled and replied, “Well, it is pretty loud. Are you losing your hearing? “ Mom instantly turned the volume down and with tears in her eye’s said, “NO, I meant the program and what you think about parents who abuse their children.”  Without really thinking, I responded,” Mom, I think it is very sad indeed. You were abusive to us. I forgive you and love you. It’s in the past and doesn’t really matter any more.”  In that instant Mom and I finally came together in a closeness we had never before been able to achieve.  And before the visit was over, I would know that Our Lady had indeed been the Motherly mentor for us both.

 

The following day, as we were getting ready for Mass, Mom suddenly was overwhelmed with a terrible fit of vomiting. As time passed I got very worried and called the ambulance against her wishes. This was the beginning of a painful journey in our lives. But a journey, which God would bless at each crossroad, we would encounter. By the following day, in hospital, Mom suffered a stroke, which destroyed her eyesight. The next day, an abdominal aneurysm almost killed her. Following surgery for that, she suffered blood clots and more surgery. By the time the medical crisis had concluded, Mom went from a healthy vibrant woman, to being blind and a double amputee. Through the many nights of waiting and praying, I began to work on that poor battered statue. I could not really believe I could fix it, but it gave me something to do. I so wanted Mom to see it repaired. I think in my heart of hearts, I wanted God to repair Mom, but I knew that was not to be. Suddenly, as I painted the face, a nose mysteriously appeared. Then with a few strokes of the brush, the statue became a beautiful and a perfect image of Mary once again. Mary, Our Mother, had miraculously repaired the image of our Mother Daughter relationship and also left a tangible sign of her love for us.

 

While Mom would never fully recover her eyesight, she would lovingly feel the contours of that little statue, and exclaim how beautiful it was. And together, in the remaining four years of mother’s life, we knew that Our Lady was truly our Mother indeed.

 

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Sadie’s Rose Petals

Happy Feast Of Saint Theresa. Here is a story I wrote about our little Prayer warrior Sadie in 1999. She loved St Theresa.

On a glorious morning in June of 1999, I was admiring God’s amazing handy work and daydreaming about the warm summer days ahead. Roses and all the glorious summer flowers were just bursting into bloom. I was enjoying the fruits of my labors by sitting in my small patio garden and planning for the summer months ahead. Pictures of the
family gatherings and outdoor summer BBQ’s were dancing in my head.
The ringing sound of my telephone would change those thoughts in an instant. Never in my wildest imaginings, could I have envisioned how very differently that summer would be. It would begin a family journey of great trials. A journey that would be filled with fear, heartache, and tears that none of us could have foreseen on that early summer morning.
As I strolled into the kitchen to quickly catch the phone call, I had expected a cheery greeting on the other end. Immediately though, I knew by the sound of my Aunt Dories voice, something was very much amiss. Her voice was tense from struggling to control her tears. She quickly explained that her daughter (my cousin Terry) was on the way to a Trauma hospital. Her sixteen-year-old son Kelly had been in a terrible car accident. He had flat lined several times on the way to the first hospital they took
him to. Their parish priest had jumped in the ambulance as it sped away. It was touch and go as to whether Kelly would survive. With a quick goodbye, we began a summer’s journey, which would take us over roads we never would have planned to travel.
In the days and weeks following the accident, Kelly remained in serious condition. In July they moved him to the “Children’s Hospital” in Denver, CO. Kelly was still in coma, but in Denver he was close to a larger part of our extensive family. Terry’s brothers and sisters all live there. It helped ease the burden somewhat. Terry and Dwaine (Kelly’s parents) had a large support base to help out with Kelly’s care and the hospital visits. Terry’s sister Pam, and her family were a large part of the support team caring for Kelly. Pam’s little daughter Sadie was the littlest Prayer warrior for her cousin Kelly. She
and Kelly were very close, and even though Sadie was only six, Kelly had always been her hero.
Through all the weeks of Kelly’s remaining in coma, Sadie made it her project to pray to “St. Theresa the Little Flower.” Sadie was adamant that Saint Theresa would gain a miracle for Kelly. She knew her cousin would be well again, because she said; “St Theresa had told her so.” In return, Sadie had promised God that she too would help the missions, just like Theresa had always wanted to. We were
all amused at her Mission fervor and her faithfulness to prayer.
Sadie’s vigilance paid off. In late July, Father Peter Mary Rookey, arranged a phone conference of prayer. The phone was placed next to Kelly’s ear, and Father Rookey prayed and spoke to Kelly even though he was in coma. Kelly came out of coma and made remarkable progress. We were all relieved and elated of course. By the last week of September it appeared as though our worlds were finally coming back to normal once again.
Kelly was home and in rehab and progressing quite well. No one gave much thought to the minor surgery coming up for Sadie. It was just a routine Tonsillectomy after all. We giggled at how Sadie was so brave and said St Theresa was going to make sure she could eat French Fries when she got home from the hospital. She wasn’t very happy, later when she was told “No French fries,” until the Doctor said it was ok. But she did like the fact she got ice cream whenever she wanted it. The surgery was on Monday morning and she was home by that afternoon. Sadie, was one of those children that nothing seemed to phase much. She
could entertain herself for hours talking to her imaginary friends, to Saint Theresa and to Jesus.
The following Friday began with a check-up at the doctor’s office. After that, Pam and the girls (Sadie and her sister Laney) went shopping. Pam and the girls kept finding Rose Petals on every aisle they turned into in the store. No one seemed to know where they came from. Sadie took it in stride as only a six year old can…She was sure St. Theresa had sent her Rose Petal’s for being such a
good patient and dutifully not eating any French Fries when they had stopped for lunch before going back home.
Friday night, the girls played until bedtime in their playroom. Sadie drew pictures for her Mommy and Daddy. They were the kind of children’s art, which all parents know are better than any the artist Picasso could ever create. At bedtime, Glenn and Pam listened to the girls say their nighttime prayers and everyone dutifully let Sadie say her favorite prayers to Saint Theresa and to her guardian angel. All in all, the day had been quite ordinary, except for the mysterious Rose Petals.
At the time, I was in Marytown, IL at the retreat center. I was on a pilgrimage to offer our thanksgiving for God’s marvelous mercy and answer to our prayers that summer. From place to place in my travels I also kept finding mysterious showers of Rose Petals. On the Feast of St. Theresa, I attended a special Memorial Mass for her Feast Day. I was in awe that I was the only one allowed to take a picture of the statue. It is very old and precious, so
cameras are not allowed. As I snapped the picture I found a shower of Rose Petals at my feet once again. I decided it must be a picture meant for Sadie. St. Theresa would want me to give it to her I was quite sure.
Just as I came in the door from the airport on Sunday morning, my husband told me I needed to call my Aunt Dorie. By the way he quickly turned away with tears in his eyes, I knew something was very wrong.
With my heart in my throat, I quickly dialed the number; all the while thinking Kelly must have had another crisis. Instead, my Aunt delivered the terrible news that our
Little prayer warrior Sadie had died. Sadie’s scab had come off during the night and she had hemorrhaged to death. Pam found her on Saturday morning, when she went to wake her up for breakfast.
Through the days that followed, we all clung to Sadie’s beloved St. Theresa to give us comfort. Losing a child is a nightmare beyond belief. Losing a child so unexpectedly has got to be even worse. For the first week Pam and Glenn were not allowed to make arrangements to bury Sadie. The police cordoned off the house as though it were a crime scene. It took and autopsy and the doctor’s surgical records to get the body released for burial. The doctor had accidentally cut the carotid artery during surgery and lasered it shut, along with the normal wound of a tonsillectomy. The doctor never mentioned the mistake that she had made during surgery. It was mistake, which would take my family to our knees once more in prayer. This time the prayer was one of grief without the hope of physical
healing. They were prayers of anguish and heartbreak. We had no ability to even ask…”Why God? Why Sadie?” Although I know we all must have thought it from time to time.
Sadie, ever the faithful prayer warrior would not have been pleased if we had.
As if to punctuate Sadie’s happiness and trust in God, my Aunt found a seemingly heaven sent sign, while cleaning up the playroom before the funeral. There on the play table was Sadie’s last drawing she did of herself. She drew herself with angel wings. It was covered with those same mysterious Rose Petals and it was signed; “Sadie – I am so happy. Jesus Loves Me!”
In the end, we have grieved and we have mourned, but we know nonetheless, that Sadie is safe and warm. Sadie is enjoying the vision only she could see when she gave us the courage of her little prayers. As Pam and Glenn testified at the rosary vigil the night before the funeral…”She was ours but for a little while. God gave her to us on loan. He gave us a beautiful child to return to
Him as a saint, when she was finished with her mission.” Sadie’s mission in this life has blessed us all. We are the family of one of God’s “littlest Saints.”