Sunday, December 15, 2013

A God Moment

Here's a picture of Fr. Daryl Olmstead giving my daughter, Grace a hug after Mass this morning. Today was the first time Grace had participated as an Altar Server in Mass.

Right after taking the photo, I gave Fr. Daryl my own big bear hug. He has had the knack of coming into my life at a wide variety of times - at just the right time. I first met him when I was growing up in Logan and he was the new young Catholic priest. We weren't Catholic, but in such a small town with a large number of Catholic families, I ended up going to youth activities and even church with many of my friends.

He was the priest who baptized my sister into the Catholic faith when I was in Junior High.

He was the priest who officiated at my high school classmate's funeral a few years ago and it was so nice to see such a familiar face and hear a soothing voice from behind the pulpit at the funeral.

When my wife decided she wanted to join the Catholic church and then we decided to raise our children in the Catholic faith, her church of choice was St. Nick's in Hays - where Fr. Daryl is the priest.

Now, I'm not Catholic. I was baptized about 10 years ago in the Methodist church and I'm fine with my faith as I sit in Mass as a non-Catholic. But God keeps bringing Fr. Daryl back to me and that's where my story ties into my open-heart surgery.

Four weeks ago today, I was sitting in a hospital bed at the DeBakey Heart Institute of Kansas and it had finally hit me. I had experienced a heart attack the previous day and I was going to have open heart surgery tomorrow.

Open heart surgery! They were going to crack open my chest, cut my sternum in half, take a vein out of my leg, cut it up in pieces and sew it around my heart.

My parents, my sister and Dana had all been there that morning for my heart cath procedure and would return again tomorrow (along with my brother and brother-in-law) for my surgery. Dana was still trying to get all of the stuff settled in our new home and said she would be back sometime early evening.

But I was having my meltdown now. I realized that, yes, I was going to have a life-changing surgery in less than 24 hours and I was scared to death. I called the house and Gracie answered, seeing my name on the caller ID. She was all excited about talking to Daddy on the phone, but I needed my wife. By the time Dana got to the phone, I was hysterical and in tears. "I need you to come out here, now," I pleaded to her. She said that she was leaving right now.

As I hung up the phone and looked up at the foot of my bed, there he was. Fr. Daryl was just standing there with a smile and simultaneous look of concern. He was the person I needed to have in my room right then and there. I remember him dragging over a chair next to my bed and just sat and talked to me in that soft, soothing voice. I told him in the same sentence about my irrational fears and my rational knowledge that my heart was strong and my doctor said I was the perfect candidate for this surgery.

They still were going to cut me open!!!!!

He did what he does best. He listened. He calmed my fears. And in a few minutes, in walked Dana and he calmed both of our fears. Then he prayed with us and blessed me with holy water. I joked with him that I was concerned it might mix with the Methodist oils my Uncle Dink had anointed me with earlier in the afternoon. He laughed and said, "No, it shouldn't burn!" and we all had a good laugh.

Although I'm not Catholic, I'm blessed that I have Fr. Daryl in my life. He has been a spiritual influence to me throughout the years and God keeps bringing us together. I guess God knows what he is doing!


DJ Urbanek said...

Oh my gosh! Your post brought me to tears! Isn't it amazing how Jesus comes to us through so many people throughout our lifetime? Thank you for sharing your personal thoughts and feelings, Andy. Thankful that you are doing well and healing. Merry Christmas to you and your family.

Carol Haberman said...

I'm sitting here in tears, too. What a beautiful expression of how God works in our lives all the time and especially when we need Him the most. Thanks for sharing, Andy.

Annie Diederich said...

Well, make that three of us in tears. I love Father Daryl and look forward to our trips to Hays so that we can go to Mass and hear him share the message. Andy, thank you for sharing this. May God continue to bless you.

Larry D. said...

I got to know Fr. Daryl in his initial posting crosstown at IHM so many years ago. Great guy, great priest, great friend. Glad he was there for you.