Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Two gallons of gas left in the tank. It takes three to go round trip to visit Mom at the hospital, recovering from what would hopefully be her last surgery. Hurricane Sandy had shut down the gas supply; there was none to be had near home, the hospital, or along the way. Frustration was building.

Prior to the hurricane, I had filled the tank. After the storm, I had made trips to see Mom, none of us thinking the gas crisis would last as long as it had. On my last visit, I gave Mom a Heads Up that my next trip depended on if I could get fuel. She understood. My Dad and sister live closer to the hospital, Mom would have visitors. But still…the surgery was scary, Mom had a plate put into her skull, and I needed to see her.

At church on Sunday, Karen heard of my predicament. She offered me 5 gallons of gasoline. She explained power was back on to her home, so she didn’t need the gas she had bought for her generator. She graciously offered the gas to me. I was deeply touched.

Gas CanCarefully watching the needle on the gas gauge, I followed Karen home. Her husband Bill lifted the 5 gallon gas container and poured the precious liquid into my car’s tank.

They wouldn’t take any payment, only asked me to say “Hi” to my mother for them when I saw her. They had never even met my Mom.

I drove to the hospital. “Hi, Mom!”

Mom beamed in reply and gave me a big smile.

What a blessing the gift of gasoline was.

Diane L. Neuls DeBlasio

Advertisements

“This one…” Mom slowly said, pointing carefully to the Easter decoration with her left hand while tightly holding onto the walker with her right. Dad reached over and added the colorful egg to the collection in his arms; mine were already full of rabbits.

It was July, and the Easter decorations were finally getting put away. Mom was home on a few hours break from the rehab center this sunny Saturday, and it bugged her that the Easter decorations were still up. Mom’s fall and traumatic head injury came just before Easter, and Dad had left everything where it was during Mom’s months of hospital and rehabilitation stay.  It was a good sign in Mom’s recovery that she could articulate she wanted the decorations put away.

Mom adjusted the helmet on her head. The bone wasn’t put back yet, so she still needed the protection. My sisters Tricia and Sue had come up with the idea of decorating the helmet.  Sue came in one day to the hospital and Bedazzled it with colorful plastic jewels. Mom was pleased with the compliments about her helmet that she got from the nursing and therapy staff and fellow rehab patients.

Dad and I were using the search for Easter decorations as part of Mom’s home therapy – a kind of “Where’s Waldo” game. It helped Mom to focus, as she tried to remember where she put the dozens of festive items she places around the house each Easter season.  Dad and I would fill our arms with items,  put them in the back room for temporary storage, then come back to Mom who would use the walker to move to the next room to show us more.

Mom standing and able to move around with a walker, speaking and reasoning: truly a miracle based on her injury.  It took her almost three agonizing weeks to briefly open her eyes after the brain surgery.  There were long weeks in the first hospital, three weeks of acute rehab in another, and still more weeks in the current rehabilitation facility. Each step in Mom’s recovery was a milestone, her progress amazing her doctors and nursing staff. 

Mom says she doesn’t remember most of the first two months, but there was a determination in her even then to get better and back to her full capabilities before the fall. Prayers have been around the clock for Mom, and yes Dad and the family. These prayers are what hold us all up during the dark times and times of  joy, as Mom continues to recover.

Dad has been at Mom’s side every day during these past months. God in the Ordinary is showing through Dad in his offering of support and encouragement to Mom during the visits. And in turn, I can see God in Mom, as she supports Dad in her own way.

Mom’s recovery is looked at as a miracle. She understands that, too, and shares that this is very humbling. We don’t have any explanation, no logical reason, just very, very grateful hearts.

© Diane L. Neuls DeBlasio 2012

“No Bone!”  the words on the bandage covering Mom’s head were the first thing my eyes were drawn to as she lay heavily sedated on the hospital bed in the CCU. Eyes then scanned down to her face, to the ventilator and feeding tube, to the IV lines connected to her neck and each arm – twelve medications dripping into her body. The hospital room noises were jarring: loud swooshes of the ventilator machine, the hissing of the blood pressure cuff, the hum of the cooling pad machine, loud beeps when an IV ran low.

A fall at the beginning of Holy Week had caused bleeding in the brain, a part of Mom’s skull was removed and surgery undergone. Meds had to be constantly tweaked to adjust for pressure in the brain, to adjust blood pressure, heart rate, temperature, fluids, lungs, the list went on. 

My Dad, my sisters Sue and Tricia, and I had taken turns sitting by Mom’s side 24/7.  Clergy visited daily. I personally was exhausted and terrified. I couldn’t see God.

WHERE ARE YOU AND WHY ISN’T MOM GETTING ANY BETTER?! I asked again and again.

He wasn’t working fast enough; Mom’s status went up and down like a yo-yo. I was going through the motions of Morning and Evening Prayer and Holy Week services, yet I still couldn’t see God or feel His presence and I was scared that I had lost my faith that He would heal Mom.

It was Easter Day, four days after the surgery. Dad, Sue and I were around Mom’s bed with our family friend Mother Ann and her husband Jason. Ironically we were all supposed to have Easter dinner together, but the original plan was to have it around Sue’s dinner table with my brother-in-law, niece and nephews. Mother Ann brought out her hospital communion kit and prayer book and began to gently lead us in prayer.  I tried to focus, but fear and doubt had my mind racing. 

“…have confidence in your loving care…”

“…help them with their faith…”

The words of the prayers broke through my wanderings. How did she know about my doubts? I wondered, somewhat embarrassed. We all received communion together, and gradually everyone left. I stayed in the room, it was my turn for the night shift. The prayer service was on my mind as I settled in.

Fitfully dozing in the chair the nurses had given us for the overnights, I was awakened by the sound of one of the nurses as she was changing out an IV line. After the line was changed and the other lines checked, the nurse gently took a cloth and wiped Mom’s swollen eyes and bruised face, carefully stretched Mom’s arms, put pillows under her swollen hands, readjusted the sheets.  As I quietly watched her in the dimly lit room, I was filled with warmth as I finally saw God, in the gentle caring of the nurse.

 My heart and eyes were now fully opened, and then I realized where else God had been: in the gentle hug of a church friend who had 60+ years experience as a nurse telling me that healing is happening even though I couldn’t see it; in the faithful, literally world-wide, with their prayers for Mom’s healing and for our family; the phone calls, texts and emails of support and encouragement from so many family and friends; in the maker of the prayer shawl  and writer of the prayer it came with; the nurses and doctors and in the hospital worker who got Tricia and I into the staff dining room for breakfast when the coffee shop was closed; the chance meeting in a municipal parking lot of a coworker who reassured me that her father had the same surgery and complications and was fine now; in the clergy as they made daily visits to Mom and to whichever family member was at the bedside; in my brothers-in-law, niece and nephews as they held down the fort on their respective home fronts;  in my sisters as they sat with Mom and kept encouraging Dad to take care of himself; and in Dad as he gently patted Mom’s hand at the end of each of his visits reassuring my sedated Mom that he’d be back the next morning.

Thank you, Lord, for this Easter Blessing of finally seeing You, and for those around me who held me up when I was unable to was my quiet prayer.

You’re welcome, came the gentle reply.

© Diane L. Neuls DeBlasio 2012

The conversation had turned, and God was to show me that the world was small and about to get smaller.

A vendor and I were at a breakfast meeting to review outstanding items for a recent project. We knew only a little bit of personal information about each other, keeping to business tasks during the two year high-pressure project. This meeting day was different: it was at a diner and it involved food. Conversation was a luxury not to be missed. Before we got to business, she shared a little about her weekend, which included visiting a restaurant near the neighborhood I had grown up in. Coincidentally, so had she.

Stepping outside my comfort zone, I told her that when I was very young I attended a church up the street from where she lived. To my astonishment, she share that her grandfather had been the Priest at that church. When she told me his name, I said I knew that Priest from the parish where I attended in my elementary through college years. “Yes, that’s him” was her reply; he moved from one parish to serve at the other.

I shared that her grandfather was one of the reasons I was a Postulant for the Ordained Ministry. I told her stories about his pastoral ministry and how he helped many people. She was grateful to hear them: it was Valentine’s Day; he had died years ago and she missed him.

We were remarking at how small the world was. Then she shared that she, too, had attended that parish. Somehow her age popped into the conversation, and I did  the math. To my astonishment, I realized that when I was in high school, she had been one of my Third Grade Sunday School students.  We were both taken aback at how, after over 30 years, our paths had reconnected.

A wonderful God in the Ordinary Moment:  God took two people who knew each other only in a professional sense, to show the both of us how small the world was, and how much we have in common. We only had to step outside our comfort zones and share.

© Diane L. Neuls DeBlasio 2012

Labels

“You’re kidding me!” I said to the Postal Clerk when he told me how much the Halloween Care Package was going to cost to send to my daughter the grad student in New Mexico. The price was $8 more than last year’s package to upstate New York where she had done her undergrad work.

“The price is based on weight and distance” the guy patiently explained. “If you use a Medium Flat Rate box, you’ll save $5”. He pointed to the display of boxes in the back of the Post Office.

“Can’t you just give me that rate with the box I already packed?” I asked. He said no, that the box had to have the proper label on it to get the lower price. Mulling my options, I took back my package, went to the display and pulled out a Flat Rate box.

Standing at the counter in the back, I put together the Medium Flat Rate box, then went to open up the one I came in with to move the contents over. That one was simply labeled  ‘Mailing Box’ and was also medium-sized.  Just before I opened it, I gave the sizes of the two boxes a closer look. “It can’t be this easy” I thought to myself as I gently pushed the expensive-to-send carton inside the Flat Rate Box. With a little coaxing, the care package, still inside the original carton, fit inside the Flat Rate box. I sealed the edges and returned to the line.

I brought the now heavier double carton to the counter,  where the guy rang up the fee, $5 less than before. All because of a label.

You can’t make this stuff up.

Reflecting on the label scenario later on, I realized I’m guilty of relying on labels at times when I meet or interact with someone. I’ll judge that person, consciously or unconsciously, based on a label I or society gave them. Yet Jesus didn’t care about labels. He saw the face of God in each and every person he came across, befriending all, instructing everyone to do the same. Not easy at times for me to do, but something I’m working on with His help.

Take care that you do not despise one of these little ones; for, I tell you, in heaven their angels continually see the face of my Father in heaven. Matthew 18:10

I smile as I think about my daughter opening the Care Package only to find another box inside… a bonus Halloween Trick and sure to generate conversation!

© Diane L. Neuls DeBlasio 2011

Blue eyes sparkling, he moved his right arm into an upright “L”, bent his wrist, and then touched his four fingers to his thumb.  He turned his hand toward his face, opened and closed the fingers, and without speaking pretended to have a conversation with this creative goose he had made.  The shy child smiled.

It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon, and Nursing Home Courtyard was filled with families enjoying the sun, visiting loved ones who were residents or Rehab patients. The entertainer continued his show for a few more minutes, until the child’s attention was drawn elsewhere.  Watching the child return to her mother, the entertainer’s eyes continued to sparkle and he smiled as he rolled his wheelchair across the courtyard toward another resident, sitting alone. His antics continued with her, until she dozed off.

He turned his chair around, and then wheeled over to a woman sitting next to her sleeping mother. The daughter was holding tight onto a tissue, which she used to dab her eyes every now and then. The entertainer’s eyes softened, and he gently took a pen from his pocket. Without speaking, he caught the daughter’s attention. Using a wide-eyed expression and his mouth in an “O”, he held the pen upright between two fingers, and moved it to make it look like it was rubber. The daughter smiled, and thanked him. He smiled back, turned his chair around, and headed toward another corner of the yard.

A gentle face of God in the Ordinary: an elderly resident with no visitors of his own, unable to speak, had communicated volumes about the love of God to the lonely and afraid.

Diane L. Neuls DeBlasio 2011

The activity level was high in the middle pew on the left side of the church. Two toddlers were in church worshipping with their mom on a warm summer Sunday.

Kiara had just turned one. Not quite walking yet, she stood on the floor, holding onto the pew seat, cruising up and down the pew, singing in her own language. Her brother, Kaeden, a month shy of three, fluctuated between crawling along the pew on the seat following his sister, asking questions of his mom, reading a board book, looking around the congregation, requesting something to drink, and poking his sister. Occasional crashes were heard from the pew when the board book would drop on the wood floor. A squeal from Kiara jolted those around her when Kaeden tried to thoughtfully clean her nose. Patiently the mom would separate the kids when necessary, redirect Kiara back into the pew, or pick up the board book for Kaeden.

The activity level in the pew grew as the service progressed. Then suddenly, the fidgeting stopped as the first words of the Lord’s Prayer began: “Our Father…” The toddlers moved next to their mom, clasped their hands, and joined with the congregation in praying the Lord’s Prayer. Kaeden’s soft voice prayed each word clearly, Kiara’s louder voice with her own interpretation. The congregation, accustomed to setting the pace of the prayers with those around them, slowed down slightly. It was a God in the Ordinary moment, the voices of the children praying with the community of worshippers.

Amen”, said the congregation. A moment later was heard the “Amen” from Kiara.

Amen indeed.

© Diane L. Neuls DeBlasio 2011