After I finished my chemotherapy treatments in the fall of 1986, I teamed up with one of the chaplains at the hospital to help begin a support group for individuals and families coping with a life threatening illness. This group was known as "Make Today Count." The chaplain had a "side-kick" from the oncology floor to help provide support and professional expertise as well. I don't remember her official title at the time, but I came to find out Friday evening that she is back at St. Joseph's Hospital bringing her compassion and expertise in even more profound ways as a hospitalist. It was a pleasant surprise to see both of these individuals walk in the door for my presentation.
The first two people to arrive for the event were people I had met at Make Today Count. We were able to catch up on some memories from our journey all those many years ago, and then we also discussed some heartache of the present moment. In just a few days they will mark the one year anniversary of the death of their son who was killed in a senseless violent act while he was at work. My heart ached for them as they showed my wife and I pictures of the two young children left behind--one of which their son never had the opportunity to meet.
It did not occur to me until after the evening was over that at least five of us in attendance had experienced the sorrow of having a family member being murdered. That startled me. It reminded me to be very intentional about praying for all those who experience such devastating events. God has blessed each of us with free will. Unfortunately, we can look all the way back to Cain and Abel to see that free will is not always used for the best of purposes.
It was a blessing to see some of my former co-workers and friends from Assumption Parish as well. Thank you for making the trip. It was splendid catching up with each of you.
Two of my deacon classmates were in attendance. (I spent many hours in the car with these two guys in the 1990's when we were driving back and forth to St. Louis for our diaconate studies.) They sat in the back of the church on Friday evening, but if they were a distraction to any of you sitting in the same general area, I apologize on their behalf. I can only imagine the colorful commentary they probably added to my presentation. In all seriousness, many thanks to Deacon Bernie and Deacon Jim for your for your friendship and support. You continue to inspire and bless me by your presence.
The pastor of St. Paul's United Church of Christ (a neighbor of Immaculate Conception) was also in attendance. Thank you pastor for being there and introducing yourself to me. It was an honor to have you with us.
Finally, I am grateful to Bill for patiently waiting for all of us to vacate the church at the end of the evening so he could lock up. I am sure he was ready to go much earlier, but he allowed us to visit at length and did not rush us out the door. I also thank Bill for continuing to lead First Saturday devotions. I passed that "job" onto him when I left the parish in July of 2000. He continues to faithfully serve God and His people in this role and many others. Thanks Bill.
In the midst of trials and tribulations, continue to hold tight to Jesus Christ. It is our faith in Christ that empowers us to hold onto hope because we know that Christ has conquered all. I invite you to reflect upon Romans 12:12.
"Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer."