“See, I am sending an angel ahead of you to guard you along the way…” – Exodus 23-20
I remember meeting a new resident who had glaucoma in both eyes. By then the disease had effectively damaged her eyesight, and now no vision remained. Still, with great enthusiasm, she announced her name and said, “And I am blind.”
I quickly welcomed her and said, “I’m Father Meinen, the chaplain, and I’m very handsome!”
Her family members quietly giggled, as I hoped she wouldn’t test that by doing a hand-scan of my face. Once I must have done something to please her, and this sweet lady from New Jersey told someone I was full of “jars and jars of wonder!” In the midst of her suffering, she never doubted the Lord’s love.
Several years ago I met a resident who had ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis), also referred to as “Lou Gehrig’s disease.” It is a disease of the motor nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. ALS is caused by progressive loss of motor nerves in these areas and affects approximately 1 out of 100,000 people. Neal and I had many great talks since he was in the Navy and me in the Coast Guard.
I also loved to hear his many exciting stories of later when he was a fireman. One time the heat from a steak I was cooking tripped the alarm and brought fireman to quickly check out my apartment and me. Neal saw the trucks go by and wondered what the problem was. When he found out I was the problem, he chuckled and sent his wonderful wife Vickie down to my apartment with his trusty fire helmet, for protection.
He got to see the beautiful Christmas tree Vicki had set up, and he enjoyed its beautiful lights every night. I asked Vickie and Neal if they were going to give me the same thing they got me last year. They both said yes. We didn’t even know each other then.
He and I prayed the other one would be healed first, and soon we both would be walking down the halls. Neal, I rejoice that the Lord healed you first. Now, you are in the kingdom where there is no more suffering, tears or sorrow, just a joy no one will ever take from you.
Now you can see what St. Paul thought heaven would be like when he said, “What eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, and what has not entered the human heart, what God has prepared for those who love him, this God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit scrutinizes everything, even the depths of God.”
Vickie, maybe Neal is the angel God is sending ahead of us to guard us along the way. Rest in peace, Neal.
Father Dennis Meinen serves as chaplain at Holy Spirit Retirement Home, Sioux City, for Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts in the diocese and Calix; and Faithful Friar of the Garrigan 4th Degree Assembly of the Knights of Columbus, Sioux City.