|My dear friend, Susie McAllister, sent me the talk she gave at her church. I read it yesterday. It is an amazing testimony of her faith. It touched me deeply and I asked her permission to share it with all of you on this Easter weekend. For those of you who know Susie, she is someone who always gives the glory to God.
My Faith Journey
by Susie McAllister
I am praying that my journey will help even just one person today.
Our whole life is a journey. It begins with God’s plan. We are all on our own journey and we are NOT the one in control, HE IS. I know everyone knows the footprints in the sand saying. Well after the last 6 months I have realized that there have been very few moments in my journey of 58 years that there has been only 2 sets of footprints.
Baptism was my first step on my journey. Childhood journey is very dependent on your parents. We really didn’t go to church and my parents really didn’t force CCD classes unless it was a sacrament year. But growing up my Grandma Joyce was my Godmother, best friend, role model, and my solid rock. She converted to be Catholic in the 1950’s. When we were with her she always took my siblings and myself to church, we said Grace before meals, and did bedtime prayers. The ROSARY was her favorite prayer, she did pray to MARY. She had a hard journey and never lost her faith. Even when she was dying she talked to GOD and MARY.
To this day I still ask my Grandmother for guidance when I am in need.
When I got engaged and started to plan our wedding we came to the rectory and started the process of classes, compatibility testing and 2 mandatory conferences required by the dioceses. We took our compatibility test with Father Colgan, he went over our answers and thought we cheated because our answers were the same except for 2 questions. I really didn’t have a good knowledge of my faith or church or a good prayer life. You know at 20 years old you know everything or so you think you do. I even got Father Colgan to wear his dark purple stole to marry us so he matched the bridesmaid dresses for pictures!! So my wedding was done with PENANCE stole on. I have the photos to prove it!!
I thought life was grand. Then after 1 ½ years of marriage I had my accident. I spent 3 months in the hospital with several surgeries and lots of prayers.
This is when my “come to Jesus” meeting happened. I realized that this part of my journey was to have my leg removed. I had never seen all of my family cry so much, then I overheard my husband’s friend ask Todd when he was going to leave me because I wasn’t a real woman. Boy, there was lots of crying and praying to God. Then I had to really have faith in Todd. We talked about what I heard and he said that never even came to is mind!
After getting my artificial leg, church began to get more regular. Then we started to talk about starting a family. Then to my surprise Todd went to Father Lesniak and asked to start RCIA classes. So I read his books and learned a lot about our faith and church, which I should have known. I helped quiz him on his classes. I was Todd’s confirmation sponsor.
The journey continues!! Alex was born in 1985 and Ben in 1987. What amazing blessings. They were both baptized here at Immaculate Conception. They took CCD classes here as well. We helped with teaching classes, we also helped the kids study. They both served as alter servers. So my faith journey continued with them. Always, as mom’s we pray for our children for health, safety, and love. Going to church with them was very important, we move up front so our children could see and learn about church.
Then only one set of footprints appeared again. Todd’s dad passed away in December of 1993. It was very hard on him, he didn’t get to say goodbye. I watched my mom take care of Grandma Joyce and we had to help as well with caring for her. This made me comfortable around death and that it was okay to touch our loved ones and say goodbye. I knew that they were with GOD and could hear us. When Todd’s dad died I called the funeral home and asked to have an hour with the door closed to allow Todd and the boys to say goodbye. Our boys were only 8 and 6 at that time, they messed up Grandpa Mac’s hair, touched him, checked out his pillow, checked to make sure his socks matched (they rarely did) they also checked out his magic bed to heaven. The important thing was they all touched him, kissed him and got to say goodbye. Of course I asked Mary for guidance to help my husband. I know she guided me to this alone time. Todd was still having a hard time with his loss. So I gave his 2 choices, attend the WATCH program here at church or get some counseling. He chose WATCH. I prayed for GOD to comfort my husband. After the weekend Todd came home a new man!! He then was on the next WATCH team and got me on a women’s WATCH team! GOD is always in control and builds our faith without us realizing it.
Life continues with bumps and pot holes and my praying continues for my children, family and friends. We moved our sons to St. Edwards Catholic School. So my learning about religion continued thru the boys. Confirmation preparation was intense. I really loved learning with the boys. Off to Notre Dame for High School, religion classes continued. Our sons got involved with Snowball and TEEN ENCOUNTER CHRIST (TEC) They were on the helping staff at TEC. Then they got Todd and I involved in TEC. We did 2 girls TEC weekends. It took months to prepare our talk and teams. We did the marriage talk for the girls TEC weekends. During our prep Todd and I had to talk frequently and we both told the girls marriage only works with GOD in the center.
The journey continues! I quit working while the boys where in high school and started to babysit 2 of our nieces. As they got older and in school I was the person to help with home work when I could. They went to St. Vincent DePaul. Yep 3rd time around for doing religion classes. It was so cool to help open up religion to the kids. I would work on prayer with them. If we lost something we would pray to St. Anthony. My brother in law said I had him on speed dial and that St. Anthony put me on call waiting because he was tired of hearing from me. I know St. Anthony still listened because now my brother in Law prays to him and he’s not Catholic! I also got to be my niece’s confirmation sponsor. I was so honored.
The journey continues! God sent me a challenge and humbled and blessed me with a phone call from my Dad. He asked me if I would please help him join the church and be baptized. I called Father Tom and he said if we did double classes we could join at Easter. So my father in his late 70’s and I started RCIA. Yep more learning and praying. Well dad made it. My brother and I were his godparents and his confirmation sponsors. Our whole family attended and we took up 6 pews! Just parents, us kids, spouses, and our children. My father has grown with his faith and has given me strength.
My faith has also been increased with my son’s marriage to 2 beautiful Christian women. So the journey continues now with grandchildren. The 6 of them came fast it seems. So I chose to babysit again. And so it begins again MORE RELIGION CLASSES and homework for the 4th time. They go to St Edwards School and 2 of them are in CCD classes at St. Edwards.
I cannot leave out another very important person of my journey. This special young lady is from our church and she has increased my knowledge and faith. She has been instrumental in bible study and expanding my knowledge and that of many others in our parishes. Katie Bogner is not just a role model for me but for all those lives she touches in her own special way.
God has Blessed me so much I felt like it was unbelievable. But it is true Life goes on in many ways. Then my journey went way off course. I pray that none of you have to experience the pain of this journey. The week of Mother’s Day 2017 our son Alex and his wife Jessica sat us down and told us he had stage 4 pancreatic cancer. I just cried and cried. Alex said no more tears he wanted his life to be normal especially for his children 4&5 years old. I prayed and prayed to GOD for healing Alex of his cancer. Watching him go thru getting a port in and Chemo was surreal. Trying to help him, show no tears and knowing his children didn’t understand why Dad was sick and tired. We asked everyone to please pray for him. We even asked for a man to pray over him for healing. I prayed for a miracle for Alex and at the end of my prayer it was “ if it is your will FATHER”. Little did I realize it but he did answer me. A study was found at Northwestern in Chicago. Alex took 3 pills with little side effects. He didn’t look sick at all. He worked 3 jobs, was a full time Daddy making memories with his children.
Praying continued frequently and daily! They were gifted by Jessica’s work with a trip to Disney at the kids birthdays. Alex built them a 2 story playhouse, he made a raised garden for his wife and worked on the house. We got to thinking he had beat his cancer. Then at the end of May of 2018 Alex started to have more back pain. He went to NorthWestern June 18th and got his scans done. He had just got back into town and he got a call they wanted him to come right back or go to the ER immediately. He had bloodclots in both lungs and a back fracture.
I was on a mission trip to Miami with my niece with Notre Dame high school students. My husband got a hold of me on Monday a 1 pm and told me about the clots. I had been in the chapel praying. The mission staff and kids prayed with me. My sister was with Alex, she is a nurse and his second mom, she got the details and said that I needed to come home. Her husband booked a flight for me to get home. Alex’s liver had become blocked and stopped working. He was scheduled for surgery on Tuesday at 1:00. My brother in law picked me up and got me to the hospital at 12:15 in time to see Alex and give him a kiss and tell him I loved him. Praying was non stop.
That poor child had blood clots in both lungs, both legs, his liver duct blocked and L1 vertebrae shattered. All of his abdomen was full of cancer and in his lungs. He had 5 surgeries in the next 3 ½ weeks. We had our normal family vacation planned and the kids had been looking forward to it. Alex had bought them their own fishing poles and even put new fishing lines on them while in the hospital. Todd and I took the kids on vacation for 4 days then they stayed with the rest of the family while we came back for his major back surgery. After his surgery he was not able to see the kids for 2 more weeks. He had lost 20 units of blood and unable to control the pain. More praying. He was in ICU for a couple of weeks. July 4th the kids got to come down for a visit. Alex came home for about 10 days then had to go back to the hospital due to abdomen swelling and pain. He had to have a drain put into drain the fluid. The drain was to allow the fluid to be drained while at home.
On Wednesday July 25th we were told that he had only 4 months left. More Prayers. Alex came home on the 26th at 8pm and was able to visit with his kids. We stayed at the house so Jessica could get rest. He was up most of the night with vomiting and pain that was uncontrollable. He kissed his kids at 7 am on the 27th as they went to day care. He requested after they left that he go to hospice and was there by 11:30. Alex had been so mad at GOD! And I understood that. But Jessica and I wanted a priest to see him. Alex had a special bond with Father Verrier when he was here at Immaculate Conception church and had even married Alex and Jessica. I asked Alex if he would like to see a priest and he said he was ready. I contacted Father Verrier and he came right over. Father Verrier went in and talked to Alex and then all the family went in the room and prayed together. Then Father asked if Alex wanted confession and he did. I was in the chapel praying for GOD to please take him home so he did not have to suffer anymore.
Alex told my mom, "MaMa I don’t know why God wants me to leave but I am ready.” I went and brought the kids to see daddy around 5, they had a good visit and gave hugs and kisses and I love u’s. Jessica took them home to tell them Daddy was very sick. I called her back around 2-3am, he was unresponsive!
I realized now my heart was broken and will never be the same. I prayed for guidance, strength, and comfort for all of his family and ours. My faith gave me the strength to tell my family to please tell Alex the last few hours to go home that it was ok we had it handled for him. I know GOD provided that when I needed it. All of the family was by his bedside when he passed at 10:28 am.
Now, I am going thru the motions feeling numb. I prayed for strength for me to help Jessica and the kids along with his brother Ben and his family. It was so hard but my faith gave me my strength.
Now, we had to deal with all the FIRSTS, Alex’s birthday, wedding anniversary, kid’s birthdays, Jessica’s birthday, Thanksgiving, Christmas without Alex.
And so my faith journey continues knowing I will never be the same. But everyday I thank GOD for his unconditional love for me, the birth and death of Jesus, the chance to ask for forgiveness and a chance to live with our Father. Thankful for all that he has provided me and choosing me to be Alex and Ben’s mom and the joy they and their families have brought me. I also talk with Alex and tell him I will kiss and see him again one day.
I haven’t blamed God for Alex’s illness but I wish I knew WHY he had to leave. I just have to continue to keep my faith and trust in GOD’s will.
I went to confession last Saturday for the first time in a long while. It was a weight lifted from me. My faith journey is a work in progress. I know it is stronger but it can always be increased.
In closing. Please don’t waste one day on earthly things. Family and GOD is all that matter, by the time you realize that you could have lost so much.
Trust in GOD he loves us all!
God Bless all of you,