Every year we try and gather as a family to laugh, reconnect, and relax. Family members converged on our location in Utah. This was not our first choice of vacation destinations. Rather a drivable secondary option due to the original destination having quarantine periods.
The first morning we woke up to a light snow and howling winds. An ominous sign perhaps? It was early September, but weirder things have happened this year. I opted to stay inside. When temperatures rose the following day to a brisk 50 something we ventured downtown to discover Park City. After an hour, the fun had worn off for me and I volunteered to go back with the grandkids. Later that afternoon a few of us were going to take the older girls, five and seven respectively, for their first ever ice-skating adventure. Having grown up in Colorado I felt sufficiently trained in the art of gliding over ice. Sure, it had been a few decades, but it was just like riding a bike, right? Okay, bad analogy, since that one didn’t work out for me either. Thankfully, their dad and aunt came along for the fun.
Upon my first steps on to the ice I was immediately reminded of its slickness and unforgiving nature of those who land on it. I determined to skate like an old lady. Cautiously, slowly, and with great care. No antics for me, remaining upright was my singular goal.
That was the plan.
I have no memory of how I ended up sprawled on my back with strangers looking at me once I regained consciousness. The familiar faces of family could not join me as I was loaded into an ambulance heading to Salt Lake City University Hospital.
There have been only two times in my life when my clothes had to be cut off. Both times in an ambulance, and this was one of them. Blood dripped from my left ear as I was rushed off for a CT scan revealing a sizeable skull fracture and subdural hematoma. Neuro ICU became home for the next few days as we waited and watched. I kept busy being a human pincushion and getting scans, as they poked, and prodded determining the next steps to take. Covid-19 restrictions allowed for no visitors. Eventually my family returned home leaving me in Utah.
Prayers poured in once again from my amazing family, friends, and parish. Thank you all for your diligent prayers over the years as God has taken me on this sometimes challenging, painful, and bizarre path to holiness. He always takes me through whatever crosses I need to bear, and your prayers make them more manageable.
It appeared that I was making progress, but scans showed the bleed continued to grow. Surgery was inevitable. This would make brain surgery number three for me.
Do you ever really get used to someone drilling into the only source of any intelligent thought or memory you have ever had?
Good old-fashioned self-pity was the first to stop by, followed by anger, trust, and finally resignation. As I look back at those moments just two weeks ago, I see that God was right there in the people he placed in my path to help lighten the heavy burden. This hospital was ground zero, Mormon country. However, everyone was joyful, helpful, and kind. “You can see the Temple from here” they would say as they pointed out my window. My day nurse Crystal made a point of coming in and sitting with me as we processed the news of the surgery over a Snickers bar. Frank, the quintessential face of Chez UU’s food department was quick with a joke and delicious meals to lift my spirit. And finally, on day five, the arbitrary, magical Covid number that allows you a visitor, Mark flew in.
With surgery just a day away, I asked Mark to see about having a Priest come and do an anointing. For the first time I realized it may be useful to check into my patient religious rights. Mark was blessed to have found a Priest who was willing to come on his day off and provide the Sacrament for me.
I assumed the woman in my room announcing that an “unknown visitor” downstairs, was an overzealous volunteer. She detailed the new Covid restrictions which now were becoming obstacles in my path towards receiving the Sacrament I so desperately needed. Knowing that the solution to my problems was just a few floors down, I prepared for a battle.
I may have needed to have my head put back together but I was not brain dead yet. I dare say stories of a certain insistent psycho Catholic woman may float around the sterile halls for years to come. After her third trip to my room, she was accompanied by Fr. Dominic. Thank you Jesus!
Fr. Dominic had only been a priest for a month but had all the credentials and faculties to bring me the peace and grace of the Sacrament of Anointing. For his generosity I am so grateful. Later, Mark informed me “that woman” was actually the Chaplain at the hospital. The healing and hope that only Christ the Divine Physician can bring is vital to those suffering and in need. Her efforts to allow Christ through the actions of this young priest, at a time I needed it the most, made all the difference.
I am pleased to be finally back in the desert complete with fourteen staples in my head.
What can I take away from this unplanned, so-called vacation?
1. The experience of God’s love through the care, prayers, and love of those around me.
2. My clothes cut off again, so I guess I still need to grow in humility.
3. Further refining beyond my limits and fears as I learn to continually entrust God in all matters.
4. Finally, and least important, I got a crazy story to tell. Next time however I think I will just watch from the bleachers, clapping and calling out encouraging statements when appropriate.
I share my stories not because I want pity, bragging rights, or to give credit to myself for anything superhuman. Rather, to point to God as the source of all my strength. I have had to come face to face with some of my worst nightmares, were it not for my trust that God had a plan for my good or the good of another in the senselessness of it all, I would have ran away years ago and stuck my head in the sand with the tumor still in it. I pray that within my stories you can find hope and encouragement to live out yours. You are not alone.