Chapter 45 ~ Miracles Happen

Chapter 45 ~ Miracles Happen  

Father Oscar asked Joe, Jody, and Sam to come with him to room off of the lounge area. They walked into a conference room. There were three black leather soft, living room type chairs, a similarly covered sofa, and a long coffee table in the center of the room. A Bible and a book on coping with loss sat askew on the table. Father Oscar pointed to the sofa and an adjoining chair. Sam quickly stepped toward the chair. Joe gave him a look and shook his head. Joe and Jody sat on the sofa.

Father Oscar said, “We use this room to talk with family members. It’s hard watching someone you love die. My mom and dad are still alive. My younger sister drowned ten years ago. We were close. I don’t think I’ll ever get over it. I can’t count the number of men and women I’ve seen die here. I see suffering on the face of the dying. I see suffering on the face of family who feel powerless to change events. Every day I’m asked why and I don’t have an answer. The men and women who work here and volunteer to be here bring a deep sense of compassion to the dying and living. The work is so intense we schedule communal prayer sessions three times a week to support each other and pray for strength. It’s the only way we regain our strength to push on.”

Jody slid a bit closer to Joe and held his hand. Her eyes filled with tears as Father Oscar’s words triggered a memory. Father Oscar said, “You okay, Jody?”

“I’m okay, Father. I remember going to see my grandma in a hospice. She really raised me. It was hard. You’re right, you don’t get over it.”

Joe squeezed Jody’s hand. He said, “What about Ritchie? What’s his story?”

Father Oscar held Joe’s eyes for a moment, then spoke, “I met Joe a little over four years ago. It was right before I got my assignment to Sister Jean’s. It was early in the morning. I don’t remember the exact time, three or four. Brother George and I were working with the homeless in a park two blocks away from St. Rose’s Hospital. My iPhone vibrated. I answered it. Sister Joyce asked me to come to St. Rose’s Hospital to give the last rites to a man who was expected to die within the hour.  I left Brother George and ran the two blocks to the hospital. When I entered the ER room, they hurried me into a room where I saw a broken, battered body. The man’s eyes were closed and swollen, his nose literally pointing down his cheek. His lower jaw hung agape off to one side. Three doctors were working on his legs and arms. They all were broken. A doctor looked at me and said, “His name is Joe Ritchie. It was in his wallet. I made a guess he’s Catholic. We’re trying to save him. It will be a long shot if he survives. I’d put it at one hundred to one against him.”

“What did you do?” asked Joe.

“What I’m supposed to do. I walked behind the doctors and began praying over Joe. I didn’t have the oils we usually use, but I knew the prayers the church uses in administering the last rights by heart. Are you all Catholic?”

Joe nodded. Jody nodded. Sam shook his head.

“The last rites are a sacrament given to people in danger of dying where we pray for their soul. When I saw Joe, I was sure he wouldn’t be alive when the sun rose. After I administered the last rights, I left and returned to the park where Brother George was playing a guitar and had four homeless men singing with him. I wish you could meet him. He fits in wherever he is. I’ve never met anyone quite like him. He is the holiest person I’ve ever known. You’d never know it. He doesn’t wear it on his sleeve. There’s something about him that makes you know you’re in the presence of a special person. Brother George and I drove back to the Franciscan house. I told him the story. He looked at me and said, “He’s going to live.” That’s all he said. I didn’t question him. There are five of us Franciscans and two lay men who live at the house. We’ve learned not to question Brother George. Every once in a while he’ll tell us something that doesn’t make sense until it makes sense. You know what I mean?”

Sam shook his head, “I do, Father. Harry Daniels had the same gift.”

Joe gave Sam a look. Father Oscar said, “I believe you, Sam. The Spirit touches people in ways it’s hard for most of us to understand. Why someone gets the gift and others don’t is a mystery.”

Sam smiled and nodded.

Father Oscar continued, “The next afternoon, I went to St. Rose’s Hospital. I expected to hear that Joe died regardless of Brother George’s comment. I asked about Joe at the receptionist desk and was told he was in intensive care and critical not expected to survive. I went to intensive care and spoke with the nurses and the hospitalist, they all shook their heads. A week later he remained in a coma, but began to show slight signs of improvement. They moved him to the neurology unit. I started visiting him each day around three. I read to him. I told him stories. I have no idea if he heard me. I stayed a half hour then when back to my work.”

“How long was Joe in a coma?” asked Jody.

“Joe looked like a sci fi movie. Tubes were in his nose, mouth, and arms. His legs and arms were in traction. Doctor’s still needed to operate on his jaw and nose. They couldn’t because of his condition. They reset his nose the best they could. The swelling in his eyes was gone and the deep black and blue was turning yellow. He’d scare most anyone.”

“When did Joe wake up?” asked Sam.

“I know the exact day. It six weeks later on October 4th.”

“What made that day so special that you remember it?” asked Joe.

“There were two things, Joe. One, October 4th is the feast day of Saint Francis of Assisi, the founder of my order. The other thing was Brother George. We have a small chapel in our house. That’s where you will usually find Brother George if he is not out working with the homeless or drug dependent people or lost kids. I came into the chapel to pray. I sat down in the rear row. Brother George was in the front row. There were only three rows. He was kneeling in deep prayer. I sat on a chair and began to pray. Maybe it was five minutes later, maybe longer. I don’t recall. I remember Brother George saying without turning around, “Oscar, go to St. Rose’s now. Joe is going to wake up.” That’s all he said. I got up and went directly St.Rose’s hospital. I went to Joe’s room. He looked comatose to me. I held his hand and said, “Hi Joe, it’s Father Oscar. For the first time, he squeezed my hand. I started to cry. Not out loud, but I couldn’t stop the tears from running down my face. After a moment, I prayed the 23rd psalm with him. He squeezed my hand again when I finished. He wouldn’t let go of me. I stood there. Then he opened his eyes and tried to speak. He couldn’t with all the tubes in him. I smiled and told him, everything was going to be okay. He was going to live.”

“And then?” asked Joe.

“Miracles happen, Joe. Miracles happen,” said Father Oscar.


Tomorrow – The conclusion of Searching for Dad


Chapter 32 ~ Gloria Confronts Her Past

Chapter 32 ~ Gloria Confronts Her Past

Joe, Sam, and Gloria sat staring at their water bottles in front of them as if the water bottles held an answer. Joe glanced up at Gloria and turned his eyes away. He saw the painful memories now etched deeply on her face that turned her pale skin to an ashen gray. Sam was rubbing his salt and pepper grunge, he turned his head toward the tabby peacefully asleep on the cot. Gloria now stared vacantly off into a distance far beyond the four walls of the small room and journeyed   into a time that no longer existed. The dungeon where she locked her painful memories no longer held the memories captive. One after another they fled down the labyrinth from her subconscious to her consciousness. Her lips moved as if she were talking to someone, but no sound came from her mouth. 

Joe tapped Sam on the thigh and made a motion with his head to leave. 

Sam tilted his head toward Joe and said, “You go and sit in the car. I’ll be a few minutes.”

Joe stared at Sam. He whispered, “Let’s go.”

“Git,” Sam said with an insistence to his voice.

If Gloria heard their brief conversation, she didn’t let on. She was in another universe with a powerful, deadly attraction for her. Joe took hold of his water bottle, pushed his chair back, rose, and said softly, “Thank you, Gloria.” She didn’t acknowledge his words or look at him. Joe turned and walked through the beaded curtains. 

Sam listened. He heard Joe’s foot steps cross the floor. He heard the door creak open, and the noise of the highway entered the store. He heard the door close, the tin sign tap against the door window, and the highway noise gently recede to a low background rumble.

Sam waited a minute. He said, “I’m not gonna leave until you snap out of it and get a grip. What happened to you was bad. There’s no denying it. You got a right to feel angry. You said it yourself. You gave him ten years and now you’re giving him the rest of your life because you’re afraid to move on.  You’re running away from something that can’t hurt you. You’re carrying your anger like it was a priceless treasure. That’d be like me carrying a rattlesnake all day and thinking it wasn’t going to bite me. Hell, scratch another man or woman and they kin tell you how many times they been hurt. Maybe not hurt the same way as you, but they been hurt. If life hasn’t whacked them a good one yet, it will if they live long enough. It’s the way things happen. Don’t think you’re so special everything is going be the way you want it to be. The worse part is you let him stop you from using your God given gift. You got a gift few people have. You still got the gift.”

Gloria moved her head. She blinked her eyes and rubbed them with her fists. Sam stood bowlegged all five feet five inches, his ball cap tilted backward. Gloria, who was three inches taller than Sam, came out of her chair and wrapped her arms around him as if he were a life preserver and she was cast off from a boat in the middle of a raging sea. At first tears ran silently down her cheeks, then her body began to shake, and she let out sounds of a mother bear who witnessed a mountain lion killing her cub. Her sounds came from a place deep within her, traveling up an emotional canyons and echoing of the canyon walls. She sucked in large gulps of air with each breath filling her lungs and letting it out with a savage howl. Sam held steady. His arms held her the way a mother holds a child who fell and is crying unconsolably. 

Slowly, not all at once, but as the way the tide rises, the emotional storm that ravaged her body began to give way. Her flood of tears slowed to a trickle and she opened her eyes and looked at Sam and said, “Thank you.”

Sam led her to the cot. The tabby jumped to the floor, sat on its haunches, and watched, wondering what was happening. Gloria sat on the cot and Sam sat next to her and held her left hand. The tabby crossed in front of Gloria and jumped on the cot and settled next to her on her right. Gloria began to stroke the tabby with her right hand. 

Sam said, “It’s time to move on, Gloria. Do it. Do it for yourself. It’s time.”

Gloria turned her head slightly to Sam. “Thank you, Sam. How can I ever thank you?”

Sam smiled and said, “Two things. Vegas is a big place. Do you have any idea where we can start looking? The other is start singing again.” 

Gloria closed her eyes. After a while she opened them, “I really don’t, Sam. I want to keep it that way. Maybe I will start singing again. I’m tired of this life. You were right, it’s a big con.”

Sam said, “Thank you for hearing me out. Think about it, you got a voice the angels want.”  Gloria’s eyes followed him as he walked through the beaded curtain.

Sam opened the passenger door and slid in. Joe looked at him and said, “What happened?”

Sam said, “Nothing happened. I’m hungry. It’s been a long day. I don’t want to talk about Gloria. Let it go. I need a good night’s rest. We might be at end of the road, Joe. Ritchie went to Vegas ten years ago and we have no idea where to start.”

“If not Vegas, where?” grunted Joe.

Sam didn’t answer. He stared out the passenger window at the closed sign on the Psychic Healer’s door.

Today’s Quote by Martin Luther King, Jr. on Love

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Love ~ A Poem by Czeslaw Milosz


by Czeslaw Milosz

Love means to learn to look at yourself
The way one looks at distant things
For you are only one thing among many.
And whoever sees that way heals his heart,
Without knowing it, from various ills
A bird and a tree say to him: Friend.

Then he wants to use himself and things
So that they stand in the glow of ripeness.
It doesn’t matter whether he knows what he serves:
Who serves best doesn’t always understand.

Forgiveness ~ Poem by Sri Chinmoy

Forgiveness by Sri Chinmoy

If I cannot forgive myself
For all the blunders
That I have made
Over the years,
Then how can I proceed?
How can I ever
Dream perfection-dreams?
Move, I must, forward.
Fly, I must, upward.
Dive, I must, inward,
To be once more
What I truly am
And shall forever remain.