four years following a loss…

“Mostly it is loss which teaches us about the worth of things.”
Arthur Schopenhauer,


(engadget.com)

I caught the following story on a newsfeed Saturday afternoon.
It was a rainy afternoon and I was bouncing between watching college football games and
peeking in on the day’s news.

The following story is one of those types of stories that catches you from out of the blue
and in turn, leaves you speechless.

I tried to tell my husband about the story but the words wouldn’t come.
Finally, I sputtered that there was a story he’d need to read but that I was
unable to read it out to him nor could I even recap it as it was just “that” kind of story…
because the lump would not leave my throat and the tears were becoming heavy.

Maybe I had the reaction I did because I understood this story.
I understood it on a level that goes beyond simply reading the tale of another.
I knew, as I know, that this is due to my own experiences.

How many of us who have ever lost a loved one yet still had a recording of their voice
lingering on our answering machine or phone’s voice mail?

How many texts or letters do we continue to cling to…reading their words,
reliving conversations, tracing the letters of their individual personal script?

And how many of us have taken painstaking steps to ensure that those recordings
or writings reside in our lives forever…never wanting to lose the sound of the voice
or the written words of the one we have loved and lost….
because if we dare lose that recording or those words, we lose that person all
over again…as the sound of their voice or their written words and
their personal cadence slips aways forever from memory.

I know that when my sister-n-law’s phone fell off their boat this past summer, late one
afternoon when they were at the lake, she was frantic and beside herself with panic.
Her late daughter’s final voice mails were on that phone.
The laughter, the “I love yous”—that surreal sense that she wasn’t truly gone
from her life was dependant upon that phone.

She called us from her husband’s phone frantic to know if we knew how or if she could ever
retrieve those voicemails on a new phone.

We didn’t.

I was almost 26 when my mom died.
I mourned and grieved albeit very stoically on the outside…yet on the inside
I was a wreck.

I grew angry, as I still can find myself doing after all these many years later,
angry that she is not here…not here to listen, to help, to offer me her advice,
her love…

She missed the birth of her only grandchild.
She missed his growing.
She missed so much, as I missed her so much…

So the story about a 23-year-old Arkansas gal who would text her dad’s cell phone every
day after his death, just to text him her thoughts…
talking and texting into a phone with no voice or words responding back…
but a continued effort of reaching out to his phone,
as she desperately needed to connect to her dad…well, her story left me speechless.
She still yearned for her dad… his wisdom, his strength, his presence in her life.

I could understand that yearning.

She would text and share her ups and downs.
The milestones he was missing…

Little did she know that there was someone listening and reading on the other end of that phone.
For four years he read yet never responded with a word.
He let her just talk or write about her world without her dad.

This went on for four years.

And the twist to all of this turns out that the person on the other end of the phone
was a father who had lost his own daughter.

And so now here was a daughter reaching out to her dad…
and here was a dad who had lost his daughter…

who knew that one phone number was now another’s number.

A number of one grieving reaching out unknowingly to another who was grieving.

Below is a portion of the story along with a link to the full story at the bottom.

I text my dad every day to let him know how my day goes,
for the past Four years! Today was my sign that everything is okay and
I can let him rest!
❤️

A 23-year-old woman in Arkansas lost her father four years ago,
but she continued to text his phone every day to update him about his life.
She never got a response from the number, until this week.

Like she did every day, Chastity Patterson, of Newport, texted her father’s number on Thursday,
the night before the fourth anniversary of his death.

“Hey Dad it’s ME,” she said. “Tomorrow is going to be a tough day again!”

In her texts, Patterson recapped all of the highs and lows she had gone through over
the past four years without her father by her side.
She talked about how she beat cancer and has been taking better care of herself
like she promised her father she would.
She talked about how she finished college and graduated with honors and how she’d fallen
in love and had her heart broken,
“(you would have killed him),” she told her father.

“I’m sorry I wasn’t there when you needed me the most,
but one day we will [sic] our chance to watch that game!”
she wrote in her latest text.

This week, Patterson received a response from a man who had been receiving her
daily messages these past four years.

“My name is Brad and I lost my daughter in a car wreck August 2014 and your messages
have kept me alive,” the response read.
“When you text me, I know it’s a message from God.”

“I have listened to you for years and I have watched you grow more than anyone,”
Brad said.
“I have wanted to text you back for years, but I didn’t want to break your heart.”

He said he wished his daughter would have become the woman Patterson is.
“I’m sorry you have to go through this but if it makes it any better,
I am very proud of you!
P.S. I think your father would be happy to know you bought another dog instead of having children.”

Patterson posted the exchange to Facebook.
“Today was my sign that everything is okay and I can let him rest!”
It has since gone viral.

In a later post, Patterson revealed that the loved one she’d lost,
Jason Ligons, was not her biological father, but she called him dad.

“Jason was not my ‘biological’ father, but blood could not make him any closer!”
she said.

“He never missed a school dance, prom, my games and YES he would give me long talks
about my mouth and attitude.
I had to introduce my boyfriends to him (If I was allowed to date)
and he would act like a normal dad and give us the long talk,” Patterson said.

“I shared my messages for my friends and family to see that there is a God
and it might take 4 years, but he shows up right on time!” she added.

https://www.foxnews.com/us/arkansas-woman-texting-father-every-day-response

How do I contact you in Heaven?

If you tell God no because He won’t explain the reason He wants you to do
something, you are actually hindering His blessing.
But when you say yes to Him, all of heaven opens to pour out His
goodness and reward your obedience.
What matters more than material blessings are the things
He is teaching us in our spirit.

Charles Stanley


(my godpoppa and me on the day of my wedding–with Mother looking on,
he was the priest who presided over my wedding in 1983)

I use to write letters.

Real letters with a real pen and real paper.

Real words.

Real scratched out mistakes.

Numerous misspellings.
Typos.
Grammatical errors.

There was no spell check—only a dictionary.

Sometimes your letters were typed, sometimes written by hand.

Mine were always by hand.

I use to write you so many letters.

You use to write to me as well.

I still have a box with so many of those letters and cards.

If the truth be told, we really meet through a letter, you and me.
In 1975.

I still have the card you sent.

When I went away to college, I use to sit at the bus stop writing feverishly before the bus arrived,
whisking me off to yet another class miles across campus.

I’d sit in the park, back propped against an ancient oak tree, writing.

I sat up late on the night before my wedding, writing.

We wrote one another long before there were computers…
ages before there was texting.

We wrote on paper and cards.
We put stamps on envelopes and we put letters in a post box.

We would each excitedly spot that telltale script…written and addressed
with our name—
it would arrive in the day’s mail.

I checked my box at least twice a day.

Wonderment and even excitement filled our thoughts.

We’d each steal away…to a quiet private place as we’d tear open the postmarked envelope.
Savoring the “Dearest Jules” or the ‘Dearest Godpoppa”

Apprehensive and anticipatory wonder mixed with anxiousness…
coupled with a deep sense of joy…
accompanied the arrival of each letter and every card.

What was the word?
What was the news?
What was the need?
What was the advice?

We wrote for nearly 40 years…back and forth…just you and me.

The subject matter growing often hard and difficult with time.

Those letters…the writing and the receiving.
The intimate words shared between a surrogate father and his adopted goddaughter.

The pouring out of the most sacred and secretive thoughts from the novice to the wizened
sage.

Confessions.
Encouragement.
Idle chatter.
Hope.
Love.
Compassion.
Warnings.
Advice.

You were born in 1922
You were adopted in 1923.
I was born in 1959
I was adopted in 1960

Lessons taught and lessons learned.

And yet now, now when I need to hear from you the most, how do I write to Heaven?
How do I address such a letter?
What would you tell me now…how do I proceed?
What should I do?
What would you say?

I’ll be waiting…and I’ll be listening.
Somehow I know you know.

“Out of the heavens He let you hear His voice to discipline you;
and on earth He let you see His great fire, and you heard His words from the midst of the fire.

Deuteronomy 4:36

Something about that date…

“But no one can tame the tongue—a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God.
From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this ought not to be so.”

James 3:8-10


one of the side chapels in Santa Maria sopra Minerva / Rome, Italy / Julie Cook / 2018

I don’t know about your phone, but my phone displays, on the home screen, a banner
notification alert to emails, breaking news, missed calls, texts…etc…
One notification kept reoccurring, despite my having already opened and read the email—
weeks ago.

Day after day, the same notification kept showing up.
Despite my having opened it, read it, and closed it.

Glitch?
Power the phone off.
Power on.

The problem was that it kept happening, again and again.

But first, let’s back up a tad…

I subscribe to The Catholic Company’s Morning Offering.
Each morning, bright and early, I receive an email with the day’s quotes, daily office readings,
the saint of the day meditation of the day…etc.

It’s where I find many of the quotes and meditation (observations and writings) excerpts that I use.

I usually save them, only sending them to the trash once I’ve accumulated about a month’s allotment–
making certain I’ve read, savored and pulled out what is needed in my sharing.

Well, I did such for December 18th’s offering…
I didn’t use it that exact day but the following day…I used it when I felt “called” to do so.
I had used the morning of the 18th’s quote by Archbishop Fulton Sheen,
as well as the meditation excerpt from Fr. Basil Maturin.

“There are two ways of knowing how good God is:
one is never to lose Him, and the other is to lose Him and then to find Him.”

— Archbishop Fulton Sheen

It is, then, in following the will of God,
in spite of all the difficulties that may arise both from within and from without,
in the constant offering of ourselves to God as the creatures of His hand to do and to be what
He would have us,
in the surrender of one thing after another that comes between us and Him and holds us back—–
it is in such acts that we unite ourselves with those glorious beings who cast their crowns
before the throne and with those unfallen creatures who have never known what it is to have
a wish or thought apart from the will of God.
Amongst those glorified saints there are, indeed,
many whose wills were for a long time in revolt against God’s will and who brought themselves
at last into subjection, many to whom the will of God here on earth meant the sacrifice of
everything the heart most loved, many to whom it meant the sacrifice of life itself.
But all that is past and over, and its fruits remain—the eternal life of oblation and union
with God, where one will rules those countless multitudes and binds them together and to God,
where each one of those countless millions lives his own complete and perfect life yet never
jars on any other, where each is perfect in itself and all together compose one perfect whole—
the Body of Christ.”

Fr. Basil Maturin, p. 47
An Excerpt From
Spiritual Guidelines for Souls Seeking God

My godfather, who passed away 3 years ago December 29, 2016, was the Episcopal priest
who I often reference in many of my posts.
He was instrumental in my life…
especially during my youthful Christian journey…
as he watched and silently prayed as I ebbed and flowed when beginning a life of my own.
He was the Dean of the Cathedral of St Philip in Atlanta from 1966-1984…
His birthday was December 18th.

And so ironically, oddly or divinely I kept having that errant notification on my phone from the
Catholic Morning Offering for the day of December 18th.

(and you know I don’t believe in coincidence…only prompting by The Spirit)

Day after day the notification was showing up on my phone despite my having read the email.

After powering down the phone multiple times, closing all apps, yada yada, yada…
it would keep popping up.
So I went back to the original email and moved it to the trash…
of which removed it from all of my devices…
I was suspecting my migrating of old to new computers might be to blame but doubted it.

So that was that.
The email was trashed and I hoped the popup notification would leave me alone.

So then out of the blue on December 17th, I received an errant text message from a dear old friend
from out in Billings, Montana.

He was a former priest at the Cathedral when I was in high school and was our priest for youth.
He and I were always very close friends even following our taking separate paths in life.
He moved back home to a small Montana town in order to pastor a small Episcopal Church
while I went off to college.

We’ve stayed in touch sporadically throughout the years…my husband and I even stopped in Billings
a few years back when we were on a driving adventure to Glacier National Park and met up for a bit of
face to face catch up.

But our contact is usually relegated to the yearly Christmas card…

And so I was really surprised when his text popped up out of the blue.

My friend wrote that He and David (Dean Collins) had had a good conversation the evening prior while
my friend was driving back home from church.

I wrote back a tongue and cheek response that their conversation must have been of the divine…
I then asked how he was besides being delusional…

He told me that sometimes he finds that he still needs to run a few things past the Dean, his former
boss, and mentor, as only the Dean would understand.

I get that…as I wholeheartedly agree.

I can’t count how many conversations I still have with my godpoppa…
I deeply miss that twinkling eye and sly smile and rich melodic soothing voice of his
as he’d take me in his arms offering my angst-filled heart comfort or lovingly place those
gentle hands upon my head calling for prayers of healing.

My friend in Montana has since retired as the rector of the Episcopal Chruch there in Billings
and now enjoys fishing as well as keeping up with the families of all of his now grown foster boys.

I told him that it was funny that he text me out of the blue regarding Dean Collins the day before the
Dean’s birthday which would have fallen on the 18th.

So fast forward to earlier this week.

I’ve written about my crazy dreams before.

I don’t always sleep well due to the vivid dreams I often have.

Some are slap crazy.
Some are weird as hell.
Some are troubling.
Some have me walking up my husband as I’m mumbling loudly while thrashing about as I seem to be
struggling in my sleep.
Some are so vivid that I can actually wake with tears rolling down my cheeks.

Well, the other night I had a dream that seemed to last most of the night…going on and on.
And of course, it made absolutely no sense and it was crazy… but…
the Dean was in the dream.

He was as he was when I was in college, but I was as I am now.
We were seated at a large table or maybe it was a long bench but we were seated side by side.

He was right by my side.
And despite the dream making no sense, there was however a sense of peace having him right by my side.

So when I woke up… I figured I needed to go back in and pull up that Morning Offering from Dec. 18th
that kept nagging me.
I wanted–needed–to see if I was missing something.

Or was I simply suppose to repost the quote and excerpts again…maybe someone esle needed to read
them…maybe again.

The bible verse is listed above—James 3:8-10

The quote was by Archbishop Sheen which is listed above along with the same
meditation by Fr. Basil Maturin.

And the saint for the day was–
ST. WINEBALD
St. Winebald (701-761 A.D.) was a Saxon prince born into a holy and royal family in England.
His father, St. Richard the King, and his mother, St. Wunna of Wessex, are both saints, as well as his brother,
St. Willibald, his sister, St. Walburga, and his uncle, St. Boniface.
After making a pilgrimage to the Holy Land with his father and brother,
and then spending many years in Rome, Winebald was recruited by his uncle, Boniface,
to join him in evangelizing Germany.
Winebald was ordained a priest and worked as a missionary across Germany, Holland, France, Austria,
Belgium, and Luxembourg, leaving behind many flourishing churches and monasteries
under the Rule of St. Benedict. St. Winebald was an important figure in laying the
foundations of Christianity across much of Europe.
After his death, his tomb became a pilgrimage shrine. His feast day is December 18.

So now let’s look back at today’s picture I posted up above.

Back in October when I was spending a reflective afternoon exploring the beautiful church of
Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, the Chruch of Sanit Mary over Minerva,
I was slowly walking from side chapel to chapel taking in the paintings, and the statuary—
all of the man-created beauty complimenting the Divine offering of peace.
When I found myself stopping, noting an odd little sight.

Something that I don’t think many of the passing tourists even noticed let alone understood the significance.

Someone had tied a scallop shell to the gate in front of the chapel.

Some of the chapels have gates and are locked most days as many of them contain priceless works of art.
These churches are open to the public with little to no security, so given our day and time,
some areas are simply locked off to a wandering public.

The shell is a symbol of St. James and is associated with Christian pilgrims…
Of which you may read here:
https://followthecamino.com/blog/scallop-shell-camino-de-santiago/
(Lynda I hope you have your shell)

And so I knew that a pilgrim had been here before I had been.

Our paths had crossed…unbeknownst to either of us…all but for the breadcrumb of a simple shell left behind.

And so since I feel as if my blog is often a pilgrimage of sorts, I also believe that my blog is
in turn a place for pilgrims to visit.

And thus since there was obviously something about the day’s devotion from Dec. 18th that
needed for, or rather longed for, me to revisit and reshare. I have done so.
It is for whoever may find themselves stopping by for a bit of a respite during their pilgrimage.

“And he began, “What chance or destiny
has brought you here before your final day?
And who is he who leads your pilgrimage?”
“Up there in life beneath the quiet stars
I lost my way,” I answered, “in a valley,
before I’d reached the fullness of my age.
I turned my shoulders on it yesterday:
this soul appeared as I was falling back,
and by the road through Hell he leads me home.”
“Follow your star and you will never fail
to find your glorious port,” he said to me”

Dante Alighieri