By Larry Peterson
I left church on Ash Wednesday and, just like everyone else, I had freshly smeared ashes on my forehead. I was ‘ready” to embrace the Lenten season. There was one difference. Four of us had small vials of ashes in our pockets along with our pyxes which contained the Holy Eucharist. We are EMHCs, (Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion) and, besides Holy Communion, we are privileged to be able to distribute ashes on Ash Wednesday.
My three friends were going to different places: one to the hospital, and the others to different nursing homes. As for me, I make individual home visits and I had five to do.
Three of the people I saw were in their mid-nineties, and one was eighty-six, Then there was the “baby” of the group; TERRI. She is all of fifty-nine. This poor woman, because of a botched hernia operation last May, almost died, has had several surgeries since and faces another eight-hour operation in April. Through it all, when I arrive, she always has a ready smile on her face. How uplifting that is to see.
So please; come with me as I stop at the homes of a few more of these “hidden” Catholics. You might enjoy the change of venue; (I will just use their first names).
EVELYN My first stop is at Evelyn’s. She is 94 years old and is always impeccably dressed when I arrive. Her hair is done, her makeup is on, and her lipstick has been perfectly applied. Evelyn is from New Jersey, and we get along great. I have been seeing her weekly for three years. She always asks, “Larry, when do you think God will take me. I’ve lived long enough.”
I always tell her she is only “upper middle-age” and God needs prayer warriors so that is her job and to get out her Rosary and get busy working.
She smiles, reaches over to the table, and lifts her beads. “What do you think these are. I’m wearing them out.”
We both laugh, I hug her, and it was on to see Marie.
Marie is 95 and is “all business.” She is waiting at the door for me, and it opens before I even knock. I ask her how she is, and she will answer, “Oh, I’m fine, thank you.” I am usually only with her for about five minutes. She smiles and tells me to have a nice a week and asks me to pray for her son who is having car trouble. I tell her I will even though he has “car trouble” every week.
“BIG JIM” Jim is an 86 year old ex-Marine, former Greyhound dog trainer and a baker. I arrive at his place, and after about fifteen minutes, I will leave with three packages of freshly baked cookies and a loaf of still-warm banana bread. Jim has been sick since Thanksgiving with a deep infection that went into his lungs and caused blood poisoning; I know he is better because he is baking again. Praise the Lord.
VIRGINIA The highlight of my entire Lenten Season may be what happened next and I just wanted to share it with anyone who might read this. It just shows how little things can mean SO MUCH to someone.
My friend Virginia rarely has any visitors. Sunday she told me that her birthday was March 6, and she was going to be 97 years old. I knew she would spend the day alone. So Tuesday night I stopped in the supermarket and got her a small red-velvet cheesecake topped with cream and a cherry.
I walked into Virginia’s small apartment and she was just sitting there as she always is. I said to her, “Before we do anything I have something for you.”
I took the small cake out of the container, placed the candle I had in my pocket in it, and lit it. Then I said, “I can’t sing Virginia but this is for you.”
I began to sing ‘Happy Birthday,’ and the biggest smile broke out on her face. This was followed by tears running down her cheeks. They began running down mine too. It turned into an unexpected special moment and her reaction demonstrates how sometimes the tiniest kindness can mean so much to someone, especially a lonely person in her late 90s.
Wishing everyone an uplifting and spiritually rewarding Lenten Season.
copyright©Larry Peterson 2019