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.”

Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Rocking Chair

Today while sorting though some boxes, I found a beautiful crochet tablecloth made by my grandmother. Instantly I was transported back in time, back to the idyllic days of my childhood and special visits with my Nanny, as we children referred to my mother’s adoptive mother.

As a young woman, Nanny emigrated from Germany and arrived in the States in the late 1800’s. She and her sisters originally settled in Wisconsin; later they moved to a small town in eastern Nebraska where she met and married my grandfather, William, in 1903.

          William was the love of her life. He died when my mother was only eight years old, but through Nanny’s stories I felt as though I knew him. In the first several years of their marriage they had given life to eight precious souls – eight “little angels,” as Nanny referred to her children. But life on the plains in the early 1900’s was hard, and illness claimed all but one of their children before they reached adulthood. How my Nanny mourned the loss of her babies! But she and William had big hearts, which embraced a little orphan girl who arrived on an orphan train one summer day in 1923. That little orphan was my mother, Margaret.

Mom was just two weeks old when her birth mother placed her in the Foundling Hospital in New York City. Twenty-two months later, Mom was placed on a train full of orphans and sent out across the United States to be placed with adoptive parents. Nanny and William were in their late forties and had one grown son, so by today’s standards they might seem like an unlikely couple to adopt. But in the days before adoption agencies and child services, it was a common practice.

The orphanages in the East were overflowing with abandoned children, and the Foundling Home, run by the Sisters of Charity, together with the Children’s Aid Society, had set up an adoption program through their respective churches. They would send out fliers to the churches announcing the date and time that the trains would be passing through. Anyone wanting a child was to come to the station on the appointed day.

          When the day arrived for the orphan train, Nanny and William were there to receive their baby girl. They didn’t know anything more about my mother, but Grandma said that when the train pulled into the station, and the children were placed on the platform, my mother reached out for them. It was love at first sight – and I think it was also the beginning of my Nanny’s love for train travel.

Nanny entertained me for hours with stories about her travels across Europe as a young girl, and the places she had visited in her lifetime. She would sit in her rocking chair, and I would stand on rockers holding onto the back of the chair. This was our own private “train” from which we would travel all over the world. With a child’s enthusiasm and imagination, she made the sounds of a train whistling and wheels clacking along the railroad tracks.

Just like a professional conductor, she would announce each stop and then we would go on an imaginary journey to visit the sights of Germany, France, London and all points in between. Nanny would often point out of the window beside her rocker, and describe the scenery of these exotic places to me. We picnicked on the banks of the Danube, shopped in Paris, visited London’s famous bridge, and hiked through the Alps of Switzerland and the Black Forests of Germany.

          I vividly remember the last time I stayed with Nanny. We had played our train travel game for hours on end as she made that lovely tablecloth I found in the box today. Just before bedtime, Nanny got very serious and said: “Come with me, I want to show you a special dress I have saved for my funeral. It’s my wedding dress, which I wore when I married my beloved Will.”

Opening the trunk in her bedroom, she lovingly took out the most exquisite bronze silk gown I have ever seen. Her eyes grew dreamy and she described the day she wore it when she married Grandpa William. Her face glowed with anticipation and joy at the thought of seeing him once again.

          At first, I could only understand that my grandma would be leaving, and I would never see her again. As I sobbed and begged her to stay, Nanny lovingly held me close and told me that whatever I should do at her funeral, I was to watch how the candles would wave as they flickered in the breeze. Nanny said that would be my sign that she was still watching over me, and that I should be happy and not sad.

          Shortly after that visit, Nanny died. I was adamant that Nanny said she was to be buried in her wedding dress. All the adults of course said the dress didn’t exist … no one in the family had ever seen it. They looked in the trunk at my six-year old insistence, but it was not there. All that was in the trunk was a thick braid of Nanny’s hair, which she had clipped off and saved from her younger days. Her beautiful locks had once upon a time crowned her head and reached to her knees.

Inside the trunk, Nanny’s braid was fashioned lovingly with beautiful tortoise-shell combs, a candle, and a photograph of her and William on their wedding day. The picture was of the very dress Nanny had showed to me.

          Now, stroking Nanny’s beautiful tablecloth once again, I smile as I remember how Nanny taught me to see sights and sounds and smells that others were not able to see. She was totally blind, but she could paint vivid memories that transported a child through space and time. As to whatever happened to Nanny’s wedding dress … that has always remained a mystery. Perhaps Nanny’s description allowed my six-year-old eyes to “see” a memory that was so powerful, it seemed physically present at the time. My Nanny could see beyond the ordinary things in this world as she prepared for her journey home to Our Lord and to her beloved Will. She created adventure and memories in her heart, and Nanny’s rocking chair traveled farther than most trains ever could in one small child’s lifetime.



Thursday, July 2, 2015

Last Mass

Lost and Found
Back in the 1980’s I found myself very frustrated with God and church in general. Nothing seemed to be going right. What’s the use, I asked myself, in believing in a God who never answers prayers. Is he really out there at all?

After much soul searching I had decided to forget the whole religious idea and just get on with life. Work and family were the important ingredients for life I had decided. Things continued to go wrong but at least I wasn’t depending on an unseen God to direct my future. I was in charge and would plow on alone in my quest for my ideals.

By 1986 I had muddled along on my own just fine and was sure I had made the right decision. But one day as Christmas approached I felt a sudden nostalgia to attend one last Midnight Mass. The feeling lingered all week long and gradually became an obsession, so on Christmas Eve I decided to go to confession and attend the Midnight Mass at the local parish. I knew I had to confess my sins to participate and so off I went that Saturday to make my first and what I thought would be my last confession.

When I arrived at the parish at the appointed time which was listed on the sign outside the church, there was no one around but a lone workman. He asked me if he could help me and I told him I was there for confession. He gave me a very strange look, and said we don’t have confessions on Holy Days. We did general confessions last Wednesday. 

I was very embarrassed as I knew he must know I had been gone from church a long time as I had no idea the rubric’s had changed and I was truly a duck out of water as my father used to say. Quickly sputtering that I was sorry to have disturbed his work, I turned to leave as fast as I could. Suddenly I found myself running out the door and straight into another workman. I almost fell over from the collision. The man steadied me on my feet and asked if he could help me. By this time I was so embarrassed I just wanted out of there. I told him I had mistakenly come thinking there would be confessions and to that he replied: “No problem, I’m Father Mike and I can hear your confession.” Then he whipped out the ole Roman collar from the back of his overalls. Egad! I thought, now I am well and truly stuck, I’ll have to go through with it, so I followed him to the confessional and began my first confession in over twenty years. It wasn’t easy as I forgot how to go through most of the prayers so I began with “Bless me Father for I have sinned, it has been twenty years since my last confession and I don’t remember how to confess. You’ll have to help me. To which he replied: “No problem and lead me through the process. It all went smoothly until I told him I had just come to attend one last Mass before I left the church for good. Suddenly he let out a chuckle and said; “Well we are glad you came for one last Mass and we hope you’ll decide to stay. I told him that wasn’t very likely but thanks anyway.”


With that ordeal over with, I proceeded on my way. When time for Mass came I got dressed up in my finest Christmas attire and off to Mass I went. I was supremely confident in my decision and all was well with the world. At church the old childhood memories flooded in. The sights, the smell, the magic of it all seemed to return as it had in days of my childhood. I chuckled to myself remembering how I fell out of the pew fast asleep when I was five years old at Midnight Mass. I remembered how we used to have a Chili supper after Mass and then open our gifts. It all came flooding back to me as I sat in the pew listening to the music and readings of the Mass. As time came for communion to begin I panicked a bit as things had changed drastically since I had last received communion. Gone were the altar rails and kneelers. Now everyone just formed a line and went up to receive. I kept trying to peek around to the front of the line to see what they were doing. As I got closer I could tell they cupped their hands and said: “Amen” as they received the host in their hands. OK! I thought to myself, I can do that. When my turn came I confidently stuck out my cupped hands to receive and said “Amen! And the instant the host hit my hands it felt like it weighed one hundred and fifty pounds. I hit the floor on my knees so embarrassed I wanted to crawl under a pew. As I got back up with help from Father Mike…he was grinning ear to ear. Good Lord, I thought to myself…”What was that about?” I quickly went back to my pew and sat down utterly befuddled. Then all of a sudden I heard Christ’s voice speak to me. “It was I, I am truly present in the Eucharist and I am here for you. Welcome Home!”


Needless to say I came home to my faith. Christ set me back on the road to belief and love for Him. It is a decision I have never regretted and even though I have not heard Him speak to me since that day, I know He is real and loves us all. I was lost and He came to find me, just as the bible says.

Sunday, June 21, 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.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Daddies Irish Wake

Late in January of 1984, I had driven 750 miles, to be with my father as he underwent his latest Cancer surgery. Each mile of the trip, my mind was clicking off the years, which had been spent at my father’s knee. Years of always knowing my Dad was there for me. Years that now threatened to come to and end. 

Just as my heart and mind had feared, the surgery did not go well. The doctors quickly opened my father up and closed him again. As the surgery was much shorter than predicted, I knew the news was not good by how quickly the doctors came out to talk to my Mom and I. 

Parting with a loved one is truly one of the hardest things we must do in this life. But, in my family, we always had a clear perspective of the beginning; middle and end of life on this good green earth, as my Dad like to call it.  

It was a perspective, which my father had learned from his father, and generations before them had handed this Irish Wisdom down to each succeeding generation.  

My Dad was always such an inspiration. He possessed a special Irish sense of humor, which contained wisdom, love and great trust in God and His care for us all.

When the Doctor told my Dad he could do nothing more to stop the cancer spread, my Dad pondered this for a moment, looked the Doctor in the eye and with a weak, but familiar grin, said: “Well now, It’s January and Saint Patty’s day would be a perfect time for an Irish wake don’t you think?

I have always thought it was such a sad thing that the poor bloke who died, never got to enjoy his last party.”

With this seemingly amusing statement, the doctor just agreed, but silently shook his head later, as he told us; Dad was very weak and probably would not last but another week or two at most. Obviously, the doctor did not know my father well. Dad made out a list of final things he needed

to get done. On the top of his list was to throw his own Irish wake on Saint Patrick’s day – which was more than two months away. Even more startling, to those who did not know him, was a list of things Dad wrote on his personal calendar covering the whole year of 1984 until Valentines Day of 1985. The doctors of course humored my Dad and all the while were busy planning Dad’s hospice care and the end of his life, which, they were certain, would be just a few short days away.

With a week of recovery from the last surgery gone by, my Dad had enough of doctors and hospitals. He decided he wanted to go home to die. The doctors agreed and so we took Dad home, for what we thought would be a short time.

Even we could not envision that Dad would live much longer. He was so frail and weak the end looked imminent.

My father was to surprise us, one and all. One day, a few days after he returned home, he disappeared when mom was shopping. Now that was no easy feat, since he was bedridden and on oxygen, but Dad had gotten up, dressed, and walked over to the funeral home to plan his

his Irish wake. He expected his good friend Randy, the undertaker to help him pull it off. And while he was at it, he made sure to make all of his funeral arrangements and have Randy take him to pick out the gravestone. My Dad never let the moss grow under his feet in good times or in bad, and this situation was to be no different.


As the weeks passed, Dad seemed to grow stronger just by anticipating his goal of spending one last Saint Patrick’s day with his friends. Never mind it was to be his own wake…that thought didn’t faze him at all. If anything it seemed to give him strength and joy to be checking each item off his calendar, which he felt the “Good Lord,”


wanted him to get done before heading Home, as Dad called it…”Home to Heaven after finishing his mission.”


To everyone’s amazement, Dad made it to Saint Patrick’s day. His “Irish Wake” was one which none of us shall ever forget. Forget about tears, Dad would have none of that. There was joy, and story telling and remembering all the good times of our lives together. With my father’s special love of the bizarre, he also had his casket placed properly in the living room, with himself ensconced, as any self-respecting deceased should be. His best friends from childhood played up the Irish wake to the hilt, with Irish toasts and general foolishness born of the spirit of love. One of Dad’s buddies reached over and stuck his hand in Dad’s pocket to turn it inside out. It was an old joke among friends, that whether they were rich or poor, they would always stick together. And in the end, they would all go out with empty pockets, except for their rosary and an abundance of trust in God’s love and Mercy. 


All in all, it was an Irish sendoff, which was better than any Saint Patrick’s Day we had ever celebrated in past


years. From that day to the day he died, my father remained optimistic and happy. Of course, his doctor’s

were a bit stymied to say the least. Dad lived right up until the day he had marked off the last “to do,” item on his calendar. The only item not crossed off was Valentines Day 1985, the day he died. Dad passed away shortly after midnight and as if to punctuate his love for us, his grave marker, when it came, was heart shaped and engraved with Roses and Butterflies. I guess the “Good Lord” must have agreed with my Dad, that he had a few loose ends to tie up before heading “HOME.”