A few days ago, I posted a tribute to my parents’ late friend, Fr. Gregory Leopold (I had set it up in advance last summer), for the anniversary of his death. Fr. Leopold’s parents were the couple who introduced my parents to one another. Once, when Mom was pregnant with me, they expressed the common concern of parents about bringing a child into such an evil world. “Maybe your child will be the one who makes a difference,” Fr. Leopold said. At times, in recounting this story, I’ve been told it’s a common statement, but it’s always meant something in my life.
I have had few visionary experiences I can recall. One time, though, when I was about 2 years old, I came down from my nap and said that, while I was lying in my crib, God smiled at me. Once, when I was in high school and seriously ill, my mom was sitting in the observation room while I had my first MRI, and she saw a vision of Jesus appear over my heart.
Another Fr. Greg who’s a friend of my parents, Fr. Gregory Kirsch, is currently battling cancer (please pray for him through the intercession of Ven. Demetrius Augustine Gallitzin). My parents were talking to Fr. Kirsch while in Erie a few months ago, and he talked about how he never realized how important he was to my life.
You never realize how important you are to people, especially in the spiritual and psychological realms. To a Christian, it is important to know one has been effective in bringing others closer to Christ. I hope this post doesn’t appear as prideful or arrogant. I have always battled self-esteem issues, and my disability often causes me to feel like a failure.
I hope that I will be able to finally write at least one book, fiction or non-fiction, before the Lord takes me Home. Following my aortic dissection, death looms that more ominously over my shoulder than it ever has before. Yes, I could successfully undergo surgery to replace my aorta. Yes, I could live many years (I’ve communicated in the past couple days with Marfans who have survived 7 years with the same dissection I have and haven’t had surgery). Or the next time I get a little too stressed out–as I did on New Year’s Eve–my aorta could dissect again and finish the job this time.
So I’m going to be even more disabled than before, and death is more imminent than before, and either prospect leaves me with the age old concern that, in a worldly sense, I haven’t done much with my life (granted, I’ve produced and begun the education of 4 amazing children. I have theses on C. S. Lewis on reserve at two university libraries, and my book article on Till We Have Faces should be forthcoming. I have my other magazine and book articles. Then there’s my daily prayer CD, Hide Me In Your Wounds (click here for MP3 version), which, while it has not sold as well as I might have liked, really has made a difference in people’s lives. I know I’ve touched people along the way. So I shouldn’t feel down on myself, but I do.
Last Monday, my dad said, “Knowing the people you’ve impacted with your blog and your Facebook page, I am proud of you enough for that alone. If all you do from here on out is write your blog and Facebook, even if you don’t get a book written, I’ll be proud of you.”
I’ve received some wonderful comments from people this past week and a half, and both for my own archival purposes and to thank them, I wanted to catalogue many of the great e-mails, phone conversations, blog responses and Facebook messages I’ve received.
My profound thanks go out to all who’ve reached out to me in these trying times, and to all who’ve been praying for me.
On Monday, I finally spoke with Allie’s godfather, one of the most pious men I know, and he told me how Hide Me In Your Wounds has profoundly changed his prayer life. A gave him a bunch of copies to distribute after Allie’s First Communion, and he said everyone he’s given copies to has found it inspiring–mainly because of Allie’s participation in the project. Last year, Sr. Martha, a friend of my mother who has been a nun for over 50 years, said the CD changed her prayer life as well, and she bought 10 copies for her family.
On Facebook, a long-lost cousin came out of the woodwork.
Hi John its your cousin [M] from Ohio. Your family is beautiful and I hope you all are doing well. I’m glad your surgery went well. My prays are with you always. . . . I will keep following your posts. I’m glad I found you on here, you have always been in my thoughts and prayers. I think about you a lot. I will have to send you some pictures of artwork that you and I worked on together. You have made a good lasting impression on me over the years. Please tell your Mom and Dad hello for me. I Love You All.
Tonight, I got a PM on Facebook from none other than Dawn Eden:
Dear John – I just read about your illness on your blog and want to let you know that I’m praying for you. Am not on Facebook much, so if you respond, please write [email address]. Attached is an article I wrote on Father Daniel A. Lord that you may find inspiring. The recording by Father Lord that I mention in the article is online here: http://playlist.citr.ca/podcasting/audio/20090310-130319-to-20090310-134522.mp3 . Asking St. Teresa of Avila to intercede for you and your family. Thank you so much for offering up your suffering for others and helping people to accept God’s will for their lives. God bless – Dawn
A Facebook friend wrote on her wall (can’t retrieve the post right now) that even though we’re only virtual friends, she considers me one of her dearest friends in the world, and an important spiritual guide, and several mutual friends responded to that wall post with very kind words.
In response to one of my posts, the same person wrote,
It is my firm opinion that we don’t need a new saint up in Heaven anytime soon, at least not one who was born in my home state, so you should come through this, but just in case, I’ll be praying for you times a million anyway.
From Bernadette, a Carmelite friend: “John..I mentioned you to our good Lord at Mass today..I know He hears our prayers..esp at His Holy Sacrifice..I told Him to please help you out and do what is best for you according to His Will. Also for courage..You have fought the good fight John..you are a brother Carmelite..always in my prayers. Thank God for Seculars.”
You have the great ability to be honest and forthright in your discussion of your challenges, but you are never despondent or “whiny.” It’s very inspiring.
From a really nice lady named Margie:
Hi John, glad to see all is going well, look forward to seeing you back on facebook regularly….I have no one to argue with…..Just kidding….love ya! God bless
I have been worried about you since I saw your post about going to bed after some tears. I had no idea of the mega cross you are carrying my brother. Thank you for keeping us privy to your state. I have to say that my late husband and I wen…t through an experience similar to yours and by the Grace of God he pulled us through it. I thank God for the many years of having my beloved husband with me after the fact. I lost him 2 years ago and he is still with me every moment of the day. I trust God will pull you through this and you will be on the other side giving another person some strength and words of wisdom from Our Heavenly Father to guide them through their period of darkness that you will have gone through my dear brother. I am praying so diligently for you and your family. I trust God will be there for you each step of the way. God Bless you, John. +++
From a fellow named Ed:
Just want you to know, John, that you are in my prayers daily, and I think about you often during the day and send up a simple ejaculation for you and Mary. You are a very special person, one that God had used quite effectively to further His Kingdom. When you reach your final home, though we have never met, please remember me there to our Creator.
Perhaps the most amazing thing about Facebook feedback has been how many people who never directly reply to my posts are replying and talking about how much my statuses mean to them, etc.
To Mary, from a mutual FB friend named Stella:
Mary, you are a strong person to be able to support John and your children throughout this uncertainty. Please God that you all get the strength that you need right now. God bless you all.
To Mary, from Deacon Tom, a fellow admirer of the Keurig Machine (tea, in my case) whom I helped with a repair he couldn’t figure out a while back:
Yes, prayers continue…always. Tell him I think of him each morning…I got a new Keurig Coffee Machine for Christmas from two of my sons. 🙂 God bless.
From one of our best friends:
Well honestly you two are on my top ten list of favorite people in the world. It’s just a good day when I get to hang out for a while with one the Hathaways. So for purely selfish reasons, I am not pleased at the prospect of one dead and one grieving. Plus I hate it for you guys, too. (And I double hate the combination of inevitabililty and unpredictability — though I really really like this spell of unpredictably good.)
From the president of my Carmelite (aka Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites, aka OCDS) community:
Thank you so much for sending the information via your blog. I just have no way of imagining what you are going through.
I do know God ordains every moment though, so whatever choices we make are just what makes up our life. Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow is not here. For all of us, we only have the present. So regrets have no part of our lives. it sounds like you have more than come to terms with that. I am only affirming what you have stated in other words. I pray each moment of the present will be special gift. The prayer “Jesus I Trust in You” is what I hear.
For your extraordinary courage and faith in all you have tried to accomplish, the word valiant comes to mind. I pray that God will bring a peace only He can give as you go through all of these changes. Sometimes when we give up utterly, God can do very good things.
From another friend from my local OCDS Community, in response to my blog post:
We have been praying for you, John and will continue to do so.
Your writing was excellent, you still have it.
And, in honor of humility and humor, the following from another sister in Carmel whom I don’t know very well:
this is embarassing but is John the one in the wheelchair at our meetings?
So, again, my profound thanks to all of you who have shared such sentiments. It really does mean the world to me, and I can only say likewise. I’m praying and suffering for all of you!