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Sharing Stories of Hope


There are stories to be shared with strangers and people we meet every day. The timing is important because of what we have to share is also very important. The story must carry the message of hope. We are spiritually obligated to share hope filled messages throughout the world.

This simple life lesson was brought to my attention when I found myself sharing a story with a person whose mother recently passed away. She was taken by surprise in the sudden change in her aging mothers health once she caught a cold. With in a few weeks the mother passed away. There was no time to say good-bye and place obligations in order. It struck a cord with me as I recalled my father's passing.

My father was a simple man of faith. He always seemed to know his limits and he knew the end was near. My father was suffering the final stages of prostate cancer. My father’s physician of many years knew it was time for hospice care. My wife, Mary and I were very well familiar with the demands of hospice care. Just five weeks prior to this episode we had lain to rest her mother, Florence. Whom we Home Hospice in our home with our family. The only way to get my father into hospice care at that time was to first have him admitted to a hospital. The doctor made the arrangements to have my father hospitalized for a blood transfusion. Our family made our semi-annual trip to Minneapolis. My father deserved our support during this time of transition and failing health.

The day of the transfusion my father asked the nurse “Is this the end, it must be getting close?” Her quick reply was “You are going for a transfusion and you’ll feel better in a couple of days.” He was transferred by ambulance from the nursing home to the hospital and we as a family were by his side..

This is where the story starts and my father’s condition was turning around for the better and his attitude and alertness had risen to a level unseen in the past several months. My wife Mary and my brother Tom were actively trying to find a hospice care center. The hospital could only keep him for several days. He would then be transferred to a hospice care center that was accepting new patients. We were working against time, not knowing how long his current condition might remain before relapsing. Before having to return home with my family, I was able to share some time and great memories with my father. While conducting our search for a Hospice Center for my father, Mary received a call from her sister in Chicago.

Our family’s faith was being tested as we received the call that Mary’s sister-in-law had a drowning accident in Hawaii while on vacation with her husband. She was found unconscious in a lagoon and was taken to the hospital and placed on life support. This call came at a time least expected. Our family just lost a faith filled loving mother, we our losing a faith filled loving father. Losing a fun loving sister-in-law, the aunt with the “make it happen” personality, just seemed like too much at that time. These loved ones were just all called home by the Heavenly Father in such a short span of time. Our loss was gravely sensed and our mission was to pull together as family and move forward in our faith in a loving and merciful God.

We had to return home to Chicago after spending a week in Minneapolis and make arrangements for Mary to fly to Hawaii and be by her brother’s side. The kids would return to school while I would remain in daily contact with my brother Tom and the hospice nurses. Tom had accepted the role as primary care giver of our father the past couple years. Since the passing of our mother two years prior, he always served our father as an honorable son. He attended to Dad daily, whether it was the senior housing center where Dad resided or the convalescent center as time progressed. This time the hospital or hospice center would be the location for the final chapter to play out.

Everyday I was in touch with Tom, the hospice nurses, and Mary in Hawaii. Holding down the fort at home monitoring the care and condition of dad and aunt Cynthia. My father’s condition was slowly slipping while a team of physicians and surgeons were accessing the probability of our Cynthia’s recovering from such a drowning accident. Mary was by her brother’s side when the decision had to be made to remove the life support system on his wife, companion and love of twenty-two years.

Mary returned home late Monday evening and early Tuesday morning a call came from the hospice nurse. My father’s condition was degrading. I phoned Tom and made plans to be picked up at the train station and meet Tom at the hospice center. The plan was set. My cousin John would meet me and daughter Julie at 10pm and take us to my father’s side.

So the final visit and farewell began. I picked up Julie at school and we headed to Union Station to catch the Empire Builder leaving at 2pm, Minneapolis bound. Julie and I shared some memories of Grandpa or Pop-Pop as we called him as we boarded the train, waiting for departure.

We sat comfortably aboard the train in the coach car, waiting while the departure time passed. We began to wonder the reason for the delay. Trains are generally on time; weather isn’t an issue, as it is at airports. We waited and waited. All of a sudden the lights went out in our car. We were in the dark as we looked into the well-lit cavern of Union Station. I checked my watch and we were running ten minutes late, 2:10pm. The lights came back on but began to flash this time. It seemed rather strange but I never gave it a second thought. The engineer’s squelched voice came on overhead and announced they were having some electrical problems and we would be on our way shortly. The flashing lights stopped. Julie and I were on our way to say good-bye to Pop-Pop.

The Empire Builder moved slowly through the station, heading north on its continuing journey to the great northwest, Seattle. Our destination was Minneapolis St. Paul. As the train pulled out of the station, rain began to strike our windows. Julie asked why it always seems to rain on her train adventures. It was just moments later and the clouds began to move and the sun began to shine. I looked out the window to my right and there was the skyline of Chicago. The bright afternoon sun lit up the buildings. The John Hancock shined as the sun seemed to focus on it with the contrasting clouds. All of a sudden a rainbow appeared, lasting but a minute, a postcard image. Quickly I pointed it out to Julie and asked her if she knew the Bible story of the rainbow.

She remembered a poem. I reminded her of the story of Noah’s Ark and the rainbow that appeared after the Great Flood. The rainbow represented God’s promise and covenant with his people. The promise: there would never be another flood. The rainbow represents hope for the future and life to come. God is always with us. Having shared the story we settled back as we continued our journey to Minneapolis.

It was getting late and I was praying for strength to see Dad for the last time. The train was pulling into the station in Minneapolis and we were looking for my cousin John to pick us up. He would take us to the hospital’s hospice wing. The train pulled up to the platform and we stepped from the train. Much to my surprise, there stood my brother Tom and my sister-in-law Debbie. “What are you doing here?” I asked, but I knew, as we walked to pick-up our luggage.

“Well, Dad passed away this afternoon.” He said with sadness and relief. As we gathered our bags, I asked “What time this afternoon?” “Oh, about 2 o’clock, or a little after.” he said. My jaw dropped and I looked at Julie, who didn’t make the connection. I stopped cold and looked at Tom, and said “You’re not going to believe this!” “Do you remember how Dad always flashed the light at the front stoop whenever we left for the evening as we backed out of the driveway? Remember when he had an apartment and he would come to the window with a flash light and flash it to wave good-bye.” “Ya?”…was his reply as he looked at me, get to the point. He had that look on his face knowing I saw something for which there is no coincidence.

I shared with him, the flashing lights and rainbow on the train ride out of Chicago. He looked like he saw a ghost. We both sensed instantly that the display of lights was Dad saying good-bye to Julie and me. The timing of his good-bye couldn’t have been better displayed. The flash was always given as a signal of love and safe keeping. He always flashed the light to let us we were always in his prayers, and that God was watching over us. Tom and I shared a big brotherly hug and we knew that Dad has passed on. We know we are still in his prayers and he in our prayers. That God is watching over us lighting our hearts with hope gives assurance that little messages of hope can be experienced and revisited.

There is no such thing as coincidence; everything happens for a reason. Recognizing one’s simple story is often hope for others who struggle with on-going issues in their lives. So share your stories with others that they may recognize and be reminded of their blessings.

____ Gerard Nerburn


Gods Yellow Pages


Slavery is repulsive because it treats human beings as property to be
disposed of at the will of another. It was morally absurd in the 18OO'S to
same argument regarding abortion. Slavery was wrong then and abortion is
wrong now.

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