Category Archives: Easter Sunday

My Pal Jumbo Never Went To Mass Until—-Then He Never Missed Mass Again*

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

By Larry Peterson

*This column also appeared in Aleteia on Easter Sunday, 2016

Jumbo Feeney and I grew up together in the Bronx and we have been best friends since “Hector was a pup”. We can go a year without talking to each other and when we get on the phone together it is just like we spoke ten minutes ago. I love the guy. But sometimes he drives me nuts. Why? Because he has an opinion on most things known to man (oops,and woman) and will never admit he is wrong.

When I see his name and number on the screen of my smart phone I usually do not answer right away. I need time to mentally prepare for the impending event. I know that invariably, when I answer, Jumbo will be in mid sentence having been already talking as if I had been on the phone the last minute or two. I will not have a clue as to what he talking about and it takes me a minute or two to figure it out. By the time I do he is already four minutes into his conversation of speaking to no-one.  It is a fantastic dynamic we have. So the first thing I do is  quickly pray very hard for all the gifts of the Holy Spirit to immediately explode within me . I need all the help I can get.

 Yesterday I see Jumbo’s name and number on the screen. (If my phone was truly smart it would wait until I was ready for the call but it doesn’t care). I immediately violate my own rule and answer the phone. Jumbo is talking and already in mid sentence, “—you know what I’m talking about Petie, right?”

I think fast and say, “Uh, sure Jumbo. What was that you said first? You couldn’t do what?”

It was a smart move on my part. Jumbo says, “Oh man, weren’t you listening?”

“I was hanging on every word, Jumbo, but you were talking so fast I missed part of it.”

“Petie, (he has always called me Petie) I am going to Mass this Sunday. What do you think of that?”
He paused and waited for my non-reply. Then he hollered into the phone, “Hey Petie, you there? Say something, will ya? Hope I didn’t give you a heart attack or something.”

Jumbo Feeney had not been to Mass in decades. He would go for a social event like a wedding or a funeral but never on his own. But he sounded different. As if he really meant it.

I recovered and said, “Uh, no, nothing like that. Just some mild chest pains and a headache. They are subsiding.”

I waited a moment and said, Okay Jumbo, what happened? It has been many years since you went to Mass on your own.”

“Okay Petie, here it is. And I ain’t never told this to anyone so keep it under your hat. Every night when Midge and I go to bed she grabs my hand and we say a Hail Mary. Then she says, “God loves you Jumbo.” Then we go to sleep.”

“That’s a beautiful thing, Jumbo. Midge is a great gal. She loves you a lot.”

“Yeah, I know, I know. But I never paid attention and just let her say her prayer and that was that. And she never bugged me about it, ever.”

“So what happened?”

“Well, last night, Midge was acting weird and suddenly passed out. I kind of freaked out. She fell down on the floor and was out cold. Jimmy quickly says to me, “Grandpa, its grandma’s blood sugar. She needs something sweet to eat. You have  to check her blood sugar. “

I said, “Damn Jumbo, so what happened?”

“Petie, I didn’t know what to do. She has diabetes all these years and I didn’t know what to do. I went blank. So, my twelve year old grandson gets Midge’s blood sugar kit out, sticks her finger and finds out her sugar is 39. He gets some OJ and some sugar and some stuff for her to eat and he saved her Petie. My grandson  saved my wife while I stood there like a useless ass. If he wasn’t there I—-.” Then I heard my 6’5″, 250 pound buddy, stifle a sob.

It was a startling story and I didn’t know what to say to him. I can hear Jumbo’s tear filled voice say to me, “Petie, Jimmy and I got her  on the couch and she is now sitting up. She takes a deep breath, looks at me and asks me if I will you please go to Mass with her on Easter Sunday.”

“So, what did you tell her?”

“I put my arm around her shoulder, looked her square in those beautiful green eyes and said, ‘Midge, I swear to you, I will go to Mass with you every Sunday from this Easter on. I swear it. All those times you told me that ‘God loves me’, well Midgie, you were right. The least I can do is give Him some time back. After all, He gave me you back. I owe Him big time.”

“Hey Jumbo, give Midge  a hug for me, will ya. And, Happy Easter. Love ya, man.”

“Yeah, love ya too, Petie. Happy Easter.”

                                 ©Larry Peterson2016 All Right Reserved

A Love Story that Embraced God's Love

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

by Larry Peterson

This is about a love story and, I have no doubt whatsoever, God has been involved.   Why I was allowed to be a small part of this story is beyond me.  But I was and I thank HIM for it.  Anyway,  please allow me to share my experience(s) of the past several months.  I was witness to the love shared between Ed and Cathy, husband and wife, both dying from cancer, together, holding hands, smiling at each other and at peace as the days passed by.
Ed and Cathy Caramiglio  had only been my neighbors for a short time, less than a year I think.  Ed was a retired commercial painter and also a master wood carver who had his magnificent creations all around his house.  Ed and Cathy were simply enjoying life together.  I guess the two of them might be considered an unusual couple.  They had  met when Ed was 60 and Cathy was 40 and neither had ever been married.  Now, after celebrating their silver wedding anniversary, Ed’s prostate cancer had returned with a vengeance and was destroying him quickly.  Cathy had been diagnosed with Stage IV Melanoma. She told me about that when ‘maybe’ she had six months to live. ( It was the exact same thing my first wife had died from 12 years earlier.)  So there they were,  three houses down, spending their last months together and making the best of what still was.
They had no children and it was just the two of them.  How did I fit in?  Well, besides being a neighbor, we were all Catholic and they knew  that I was an EMHC (Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion).  They asked me if I might bring Holy Communion to them if they could not make it to Mass.  I told her I would be honored and to “just let me know when.”
A few more months went by and Ed moved  slower and slower.  Then he began using a walker to get around. He would come over and we would just joke around about silly stuff, like  how many cream donuts he had eaten that morning or how much money he lost one night at Yonker’s Raceway in New York. The guy was only about five feet four but he loved to talk and laugh and had a sparkle in his eye that caught your attention instantly. I would ask if they could make it to Mass and he  would always smile and say, “Thanks,  Larry,  Cathy will let you know if we can’t.”  Unable to push that walker for more than ten feet it quickly became necessary for me  stop by and see how they were doing. Hospice was now there on a daily basis but they were still managing to function okay.
My daily routine usually starts at around 5:00 a.m.  with a one-hour walk.  A few weeks ago, I inexplicably decided that I needed  to take another walk. It was around 4 p.m.  I actually tried to talk myself out of taking this walk but finally “talked” myself into it.  (I guess I do talk to myself a lot.)  Out the door I went and headed down the street.  Ed has an F-150 brown Ford pick-up with a cap covering the truck bed.  As I walked past the truck I was dumbfounded to see Cathy standing there on the front lawn supported by her walker.  I stopped short and said, “Oh, Cathy, hi. Wow, I did not expect to see you standing here.”
“I was waiting for you. I need to talk to you.”
I was dumbfounded. “Are you kidding me? I never walk at this time of day and you say you were waiting for me.”
“I just knew you were coming by.  I can’t explain it.”
I had a chill run down my back. I really did.  I leaned against the truck as she leaned heavily on her walker. She could hardly stand up. “You know Ed is dying, right?”
“Yes Cathy, I know. And how about you? How are you doing?”
She smiled and looked me right in the eye  saying, “I have a few weeks left.”
I tightened my lips, took a breath, and asked, “Do you want a priest?”
“Oh yes, please, can you do that for us?  That is why I was out here waiting for you. We need a priest right away.”
It was not necessary that a priest come at that very moment so I told her I would bring a priest over ASAP. She smiled and thanked me and I walked her back to the house. She did not mention herself once, only her husband.  She told me how she wished she could ease his suffering and how wonderful it might be if they could go for a bicycle ride just one more time.  She mentioned how she thanked God for every moment they had had together.
I went inside and she, Ed, and I hung out for about ten minutes just chatting.  Cathy excused herself and slowly walked back to the bedroom.  Ed quickly told me how he wished he could ease her suffering and how God had been so good to him allowing him to find such a great woman to share his life with.  When God is present sometimes it is hard to breathe. So I took a deep breath, exhaled, and  gave Ed a hug and left.
We have a young priest at our parish, Father Scott.  He just turned 32.  I saw him Monday morning of Holy Week and told him about Ed and Cathy. He had to preside at a funeral at 10 a.m. and then go to the cemetery.  He said he would be free in the early afternoon and would then come over.  I headed to the church office and registered them as parishioners, something they had never done.  I went home and told my neighbors Father would be over later in the day and that they had been registered as parishioners at Sacred Heart Church. Ed started to cry.  Cathy hugged him and joined him crying.   Next thing  I knew my forefinger  was swiping itself  under the bottom of my right eye.  I told them I would be back later with Father Scott and left.
Father Scott spent about an hour with Ed and Cathy.  Ed and the young priest both had roots in Roanoke, Virginia, and talked and laughed and had a raucous good time together. Even though  the two of them were  separated by more than 50 years  it did not matter.  It was as if they had grown up together.  It was beautiful.  Father anointed* both of them and told them he would come back the first chance he could.  It was the beginning of Holy Week and he would be busy.  They all hugged and said good-bye
Easter Sunday I was privileged to bring Ed and Cathy Holy Communion. They were lying next to each other in bed, holding hands.  Ed smiled and said, “Larry, we are SO happy. This is the greatest Easter we ever had.”  He turned and looked at his wife who was smiling lovingly at him. She reached over and wiped his wet happy eyes.
Ed died last week.  Cathy is now a patient in Hospice House with little time left.  I will never forget Ed and Cathy because the love between them shined so brightly and was a beautiful, inspiring, God-given thing.  As for me, I just want to thank God for allowing  me to be their friend and a part of their final journey,  albeit for the briefest of moments.  I have been blessed.
                                                           ©Larry Peterson All Rights Reserved