(here with his wife, AnnMarie)
Our dear friend, Joe came to visit us this weekend. I've mentioned Joe in the past. He's been such a good friend to Shaun & I over the years and was even in our wedding party.
(here escorting my Maid of honor, Katie with Shaun's good friend, Bob)
(Joe is on the far right)
Before I knew Joe as a friend I remember him from church. I have a strong memory of singing in the balcony and looking at the church below. I remember this man who would sit off to the right with his son and would literally drag himself up to communion using two braces. I was always moved by this.
Joe and I eventually became friends and Shaun and Joe also separately befriended each other. I'm sure part if this is also because Joe is a "social butterfly". We often joke that Joe knows everybody. People joke the same about me, so it was inevitable that we would meet and "hit it off". Joe even acted as a bit of a matchmaker for Shaun & I. I remember he would call & invite me for dinner and then when I'd accept would say in a low voice, "...and Shaun's coming too"
A few years back, Joe recieved a miraculous healing through the intercession of John Paul II. He took the opportunity after many years of being unable to walk to witness to anyone and everyone of God's goodness to him, walking everywhere. He always said that he never asked God to heal him. He just asked to be able to have peace in God's will. (He had been previously been struggling with being unable to provide for and care for his family due to his lack of mobility.)
He had always been a man of prayer and took the opportunity of his healing to really "get out there" and "live life" getting involved in the church in many different capacities. I even recall him walking with our youth group on our annual Pilgrimage walk the year of his healing and being so moved thinking about how he just a year before would have never been able to do this.
(Joe is at the top behind Shaun)
(Joe is on the left in the Vikings hat)
(Joe is at the top left with his son David sitting at his feet)
I would often cry when at Mass I would see him WALK up to recieve communion now and kneel before taking the host.
He would say to us that his physical pain had never been taken away from him, though. In some ways he was MORE in pain now than before he could walk, but he would say it was as if he was being "held up". Some days you could see the pain on his face. Still, he was filled with gratitude.
Recently, Joe came to visit us. Something had happened. We ushered him into the house and he told us that on the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe he had woke up without ANY pain! He was in disbelief! He walked to Mass at a nearby parish and told his good priest friend, "LOOK! NO pain!" He jumped up and down and in playful spirit showed how good he felt! He continue to thank God and later when he went to Adoration a friend of his found him in tears of gratitude.
He prayed telling God how much he loved him. He then felt very strongly like Jesus said to him in prayer, "No matter what? You love me no matter what?" and he replied back, "Yes. No matter what."
The next morning, he woke and could not walk without assistance. Everything had gone away. Yet... this weekend he still managed to drive himself in his scooter over to visit his mother and then to visit us with peace in his heart. He is praying for his family and for all those who need his prayers and trying to accept that somehow God was permitting this to occur at this time. He continues to love him, "No matter what". ...And the thing to remember is that God also loves Joe, "No matter what". Walking or not. Able to serve him actively or only able to offer up this condition... no matter what.
I watched him hobble down our stairs, legs wobbling, cane in hand and crawl into his scooter, Shaun helping him on his right side. I thought for just a moment of all those who had not been inspired by Joe's healing and instead had been jealous of him that God chose at that time to heal him ...and maybe not them or those who didn't believe in his healing. I've since been thinking of how God sees SO differently than us and that at times it is difficult to understand his will. I thought of a story that I heard years ago about a tapestry. It compared our lives here on earth in the "Church Militant" to those looking at the underside of a loom, the strings seem a colorful mess, with no beauty evident while the weaving continued.
And God sees from his side the front of the tapestry. The beautiful image unfolding itself to his loving gaze. In the "Church triumphant" we will see as he sees and the image of our lives will make sense. All the things that we didn't understand while looking at the "underside" will then reveal themselves to us.
I gazed after my friend as he drove away and thought of all that he had done with the time he could walk. I was inspired to use my time better and thank God for all his blessings... even those things that didn't seem like blessings. Thank you Joe for your life... it inspires me still!