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 morn.
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. He had given Kelly the last rites. 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. Roads, which would stretch our faith to the maximum and then some.
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 her favorite saint, “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, Kelly came out of coma and made remarkable progress. We were all relieved and elated of course. As for Sadie, she took it in her usual stride. After all, St. Theresa had told her it would all be just fine.
In August, just as things were beginning to look up, another tragedy struck. My son Randy was in a car accident and also seriously injured. Again our family circle gathered in prayers and support for one another. Sadie’s “St Theresa” was our prayer companion as well. Sadie’s beloved Saint Theresa was again listening to Sadie’s childlike prayer it seemed. 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. Randy was completely well and life looked wonderful again.
No one gave much thought to the minor surgery coming up for Sadie. It was just a routine Tonsillectomy so the family prayer chain just said a little prayer. 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 that she would have to wait several days for the Fries, 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 just 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. Sadie was covered with blood and so was her room. It appeared she had tried to get out of bed and get to her parents in her last moments of struggling for life. But the hemorrhage was so massive; she never made it out of the room.
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. A mistake, which would take my family to our knees once more in prayer. This time the prayer was one of grief with out 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 suffered and we have been blessed. 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 for our family members in need. 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. The mission she accomplished much too soon for any of us. We are now the family of a Saint.” For this we shall all continue to “Thank God.” Sadie’s mission in this life has blessed us all.