I don’t go to church very often, but the other day I felt a hunger to publicly connect with God, to be infused with and blessed by the Spirit. As a card-carrying Episcopalian, and with a new friendship with the local priest, I thought I’d darken the doors at St. Philip’s Episcopal Church in Beeville.
I took my place in the pew and began to review the program. When it came to the announcements, something stopped me in my tracks and brought tears to my eyes. In the list of prayers for those with particular health and other needs, there was my name. It touched my heart that for probably almost two years, the Lord has been hearing my name as offered by the members of this congregation. I had no idea.
When I moved home to little bitty Beeville from big, dynamic San Antonio two years ago, I couldn’t know what the future held. My intuition told me that something big was going to happen…lo and behold, here came cancer. That’s big.
For the record, I ascribe intuition to the voice of God trying to talk to us…if we will only listen. Maybe one of these days I’ll write an entire blog on my beliefs; for now, let’s say that I listened, and every time I do it is never wrong. I think much of the human dilemma is somehow quieting the outer and inner harangue long enough to let the voice of God into our consciousness. It seems to be the least we can do for God, and for ourselves.
I’ve written about my cancer experience quite a bit, but I haven’t named names as to who was there for me. To begin, my dear and lifelong friend Jimmy Jackson, from Beeville, took me to San Antonio the morning of my surgery, to be there with me before, during and after.
I recently found the hospital bracelet from that fateful day, with his name and phone number as the contact in case something was discovered during surgery that required some kind of permission to proceed. That was a big responsibility, and I couldn’t think of anyone more worthy to care for my best interests than JJ.
When cancer was found, he got the call from the surgeon. JJ said when that news came, he was stunned, speechless, and upset. It is true and loving friends who respond like that when they learn you’re in harm’s way.
His job was to call my family and let them know, which he did. He called my brother Tom, who was at his office that July morning. In turn, Tom let our brother John know, and then our other brother, Dickie. In short order, Tom and Dickie were on their way to San Antonio.
A few of you know, most do not, that in 1990 I was the victim of an aggravated sexual assault in San Antonio. It was a Friday night, and by the time I arrived at University Hospital to be treated for my wounds and talk to detectives, it was past midnight. Somehow the word of what had happened reached my brothers in Beeville. While receiving treatment at about 2 am, I was told that my family was in the waiting room. I was given a gown to wear to go see them; I will never forget the vision of them, huddled together, looking at me as I came around the corner, still in shock and in pain, melting into their arms as they took me into their hearts. It was as though I had gone from the grip of the most heinous evil to the embrace of the greatest good imaginable, and was the beginning of my recovery.
That was the first distress call bringing those valiant and loving siblings to my side. The next was the cancer call, some 23 years later.
At Methodist Hospital Stone Oak in July 2013, when I finally attained some level of consciousness after being unexpectedly heavily sedated for an aggressive surgery, I realized that there were some people I wasn’t expecting, namely, Tom and Dickie. Also there was my wonderful niece Beverly, and my dear friend Raymond Butler. I expected them, but not the brothers.
Even in my groggy state, I had a sense that something was wrong because they were there. I remember they all left to go eat dinner, and I went back to sleep. When they returned, both brothers kissed me goodbye before they left to go home to Beeville. That was a first. I still didn’t know about the cancer, and I thought those kisses meant something must really suck! Well, it did.
As soon as they left, through contacts they made, my name was added to prayer lists far and wide…including that at St. Philip’s in Beeville. As I’ve learned, the list of folks needing prayers for illness and other concerns either did or does contain my name at every church in Beeville.
I have a Post Office box where I receive a lot of my mail, and I wander down there a couple of times a week to check the box. Every single time I visit the PO, I am warmly greeted, and give and receive at least one hug and inquiry into how I’m doing. Same thing when I go to HEB, or go for a walk on my street out here in north Bee County.
My neighbors are my friends, and I am theirs. One day during chemotherapy, I decided to mow my yard. I was out front on my little tractor, and the neighbors walked by. When they saw me, the Hairless Wonder, sweating on the mower, they raced over and insisted that I allow them to finish the job. I loved them for that, but I really needed to do it, to know that even in my diminished state, I was capable of doing something demanding and physical. It wasn’t fun, but I did it; they cared enough for me to offer to help, and respected me enough to allow me to do it my way.
When I was too tired to go to the store, I had angels there at my call…sweet niece Laura Ottensman and her gallant husband, Nick, were there for me at all times, no matter what. Taking me to chemotherapy was another amazing niece, Shannon Juilleret and my dear friend Louise Cook, who has done battle with cancer and has been my most ardent cheerleader…many calls and messages came from Julie Burke, a fishing buddy who has become a real “catch” of a true friend! Much of this support has to do with Beeville; all of it has to do with love.
Beeville is just a little town, with limited resources of just about every description…especially compared to San Antonio, which was my residence for many years. But, when it comes to help in times of need, love in times of sorrow and worry, no other place can compare to the riches that awaited me, and that bless me here. What an awesome and humbling testament to the loving soul of a small town.
I wish you all a Christmas of love, warmth, caring, and abundance. For as much as you and so many other have prayed for me, I also pray for and thank God for you. I hope you will find the quiet that will allow the voice of guidance and peace to let you know where to find that which you seek. Merry Christmas!