Saturday, November 11, 2017

Veterans Day at the Vietnam Wall

My brother Bill. KIA Vietnam 1967 

As I approach the wall, in the early morning light, the sky is gently showering everything with dew. Here at the break of day's new dawning, I come much like Mary to visit the empty tomb. 

I come not with spices but with my heart wanting to speak to you once again. Today I come to meet with my brother, my friend. I know deep within me that we are still kindred in spirit, together and yet apart. We have shared the days of our childhood and we have felt the sting of death. Yet, for all of this, nothing can really ever separate us.not even a broken heart. sweet I long to see you once again. Can you hear me? Do you see me as I search for your beloved name? Many years have passed since I last spoke with you and beheld your dear sweet face. Yet it seems like only yesterday that I stood beside your open grave. Brother, teacher, companion and friend,how the memories do ebb and flow. Can you see me? Do you hear me as I search for your beloved name?

Suddenly, as though from a lighthouse.a tiny ray of sun seems to point out your beloved name.Billy.dearest brother, I know that you still watch over me. Can you feel the mist that is falling? Do you see how the dew drops look just like teardrops as I caress your beloved name? I counted 16 teardrops for each letter and character in your name.

Do you remember bat-light, butterflies and fishing in the rain? Do you remember how you taught me to fish and then threw them all back into the lake again? You said: "We should never waste God's beauty or abuse the bounty of his land."

Do you fish the lakes of heaven, still teaching the little ones? Do you walk the fields with Jesus and. OH! Do you still sing slightly out of tune? Here in the misty morning sunrise.I feel close to you once again. I can almost hear you singing."Halleluiah! To Christ our King!" Best of all, sweet sounds perfectly in tune.

William, my sweet William.I shall always love you so. Billy, dearest is time for me to go. I know now, deep in my heart, that you are well and happy. Now not even 16 teardrops falling can take away my joy for you. "Vaya Con Dios," until we meet again.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Barney and the outlaw

I was first introduced to Venerable Father Solanus Casey in the mid-1980’s. I bought a book called “Thank God Ahead of Time” written by Michael Crosby. As I read through the book I found I was very much in awe of this gentle servant of God. I soon came to think of him as my friend Barney. That was his given name before he became Father Solanus Casey OFM.
Reading about Father Solanus early life I was intrigued that he once was a prison guard in Minnesota. Reading further about this part of his life the book mentioned that he had struck up a friendship with Jim and Cole Younger. The Younger brothers of course were notorious outlaws. They were members of the notorious “James Gang” from Kearney, Mo. Both of the Younger brothers became prisoners in the Stillwell, MN prison where Barney was a prison guard. Jessie James eluded capture and met his demise in St Joseph Missouri trying to hide from his past.
I lived in the very town where Cole Younger moved to after his release from prison. As I read further I was startled that Michael Crosby had written something to the effect, “No one could ever understand this life long friendship that Father Solanus developed with common thieves and murders like the Younger brothers.” That really got my attention and interest. 
Cole Younger is buried in our cemetery and our town had always celebrated our famous citizen each summer with “Cole Younger Days”. We did not celebrate his notoriety as an outlaw and murderer. We celebrated the good that Cole did in our little Missouri town until the day he died. In our little town of Lees Summit, Missouri Cole Younger was known as “Uncle Cole” to young and old alike. 
I read and re-read that part of the book several times. As I thought about it I decided perhaps the rest of the world needed to know more about Cole’s life after prison and the fact he became a model citizen and a mentor for the youth in our town until his death in the early 1900’s. I felt certain that Barney Casey knew that Cole, although notorious for evil, had the grace of God in him. He repented of his youthful life of crime and spent the rest of his days trying to keep other youngsters on the straight and narrow. Cole became one of the leading men of the “Youth for Christ” movement in the early 1900’s. Maybe Father Solanus had been a remarkable influence in Cole’s life, which the world did not know about was my thought at the time.
I soon made a call to the guild and a very sweet lady named Leona Garrity answered the call. After speaking briefly to Leona she advised me to speak to Brother Leo Wollenweber to see if he might be interested in more information about Cole Younger. As I spoke with Brother Leo, I explained about the connection of Cole with our town and his conversion to Christ after he left prison. Brother Leo suggested I research it some more and see if we could find any historical information, which might be of help. Thus began my first adventure and experience with Father Solanus intercession. 
Going to the library I discovered a few old microfilm news articles which gave scant information on Cole. The articles made mention of his stint in Wild West Shows all over the country, of his service to the community, his work with young delinquents, etc. but little else. As I made calls and inquiries I discovered that most of the recorded records of interest on Cole had been stolen from the library several years before. The only thing I found that might help was a reference to a book, which Cole wrote later in life. It was a self-biographical book listed in the Library of Congress. Our library copy was stolen with the other artifacts so they did not have it. From there I made calls all over the country to the Library of Congress, out of print booksellers and libraries trying to locate the book. Everyone told me the same thing. Yes, Cole had written a book but it had been out of print for more than half a century. There were no copies still in existence as far as anyone knew. 
After much effort and little hope for success, I finally began to speak to Father Solanus about this particular problem in prayer. My prayer was pretty simple and direct. I just said: “Well, Barney looks like we cannot vindicate your friend Cole. Unless I find a copy of the book I am at a dead end.” 
A few days after this less than confident prayer I decided to give it one last try. I took the afternoon off from work and drove to Kearney MO to visit the “James Farm Museum.” When I entered the gift shop and museum I was beginning to feel pretty foolish. I browsed through the Museum and actually felt pretty sickened by the memorabilia glorifying the life of the notorious “James Gang.” The main thing I noticed was there was little to no mention of the Younger brothers. I decided I was just wasting my time trying to find the book here. A book written by a former gang member lamenting his life of crime with the “James Gang” was hardly gong to show up in this museum dedicated to glorifying the life and crimes of one such as “Jessie James.”
As I turned to leave and go back out through the gift shop, some small nudging thought made me hesitate. I decided I should at least speak to the manager of the museum and inquire about the book after such a long day’s trip to get there. I found her in the gift shop and asked her if she knew where I could find a copy of Cole’s Biography. The woman just shook her head and said:” No, I have never heard of it. We don’t have anything on the Younger brothers here.” As she finished her sentence, another worker came out of the back room with a very puzzled look on her face. She came over to the manager and said: “I was just unpacking the box of gift items we ordered and found this strange book in the box. I called the supplier and they have never heard of it. It’s not on our order manifest. They said it’s not theirs so what should I do with it?” The manager took the book and let out a bit of a gasp! There in her hands she held the very book I had been inquiring about. They were both so awed by my tale of Father Solanus they gladly let me purchase it for the princely sum of $7.00. Today that little book is in the possession of the Father Solanus Guild. 
Minor miracle perhaps, but to me it was the beginning of a friendship, which I treasure. My friendship with Solanus and his marvelous Irish sense of humor. Today I think Father Solanus smiles down as he looks over the new center which everyone worked so hard to build. I think that little area, which relates the prison cell and his friendship with Cole, must make him smile. From this little adventure I have learned to “Thank God Ahead of Time.” Barney looks after his friends

The Park Bench

I am sure that anyone who has ever needed desperately to sell a house can relate to how hectic and exasperating an experience it can be. During the summer of 1989, we had been in just such a predicament. My husband was very ill and we were financially strapped to the hilt.

I had asked Venerable Father Solanus Casey to intercede to help us sell our house and find an affordable home we could rent when ours sold.
One of the lovely things I have always appreciated about Father Solanus, was his rich Irish sense of humor. Being Irish myself, it certainly kept me amused as each new obstacle came into the mix that summer. At each new challenge, some amusing thing would happen to solve the problem. And it was always as a result of a direct prayer to Venerable Father Solanus. When the A/C broke, and we had no money to fix it, Father Solanus promptly came through. A bolt of lightening struck it one night and melted it. The insurance company paid for a brand new one. From then on, I grew to expect an answer with an impish Irish twist to it.

Whenever our friends would ask,”Where will you move to?” I would reply with a smile…”Knowing Solanus, it will be a Park bench, but it will be a nice one.”
By mid August our contract with our realtor was running out. My faith was getting a bit shaky by then. On August 14th, I exclaimed to Father Solanus in my nightly prayer…”Times running out. You better ask Our Lady to intercede, because Gods not listening to you. “

Early the next morning…on the feast of “The Assumption,” we received an offer and sold the house. It was such a good offer that, we only had 30 days to find a rental house and move. In the weeks that followed we were having no luck finding a place we could afford. On September 5th, I said one more prayer to Solanus. I simply said…”Solanus, we are indeed going to end up on a park bench if you don’t do something quick. Within 30 minutes the phone rang. The man on the phone said he had received my call on his answering machine, but he exclaimed he was very puzzled. He said he didn’t have an ad in the paper. He had just decided to rent his new town home that very day instead of selling it, so he had no idea where I got his number. In the end, Father Solanus once again came through in our need. The house closed and we were able to move on schedule. And the icing on the cake was that the home was on ‘Park Drive.” Solanus I know punctuated his answer with his Irish sense of humor once more. WE lived on that Park bench quite comfortably for the next seven years.