Friday, November 12, 2010

Sentimental Journey -11/11

11/11/05. Five years already?! Wow. Five years ago today I was waiting to see Paul in the emergency room. I know I will never forget how I felt that evening. I remember how my heart was thumping wildly in my chest, how I could not get my leg to quit shaking. My mind was literally racing back and forth, over years of memories of my son and what life might be without him. I could not control my thoughts, I really could not focus. I tried to calm everything inside of me by saying the Hail Mary over and over and over and then would just break into “no, dear God, no dear God, no dear God.”

Today, just as I do everyday, I drive past the accident scene on my way to work. Everyday, I thank God for holding me very close to His heart and for helping me put one foot in front of another. Everyday, I thank my dearest Blessed Mary for her walk along side of me. I never forget to do that, because everyday, I get to talk to Paul and hear his wonderful and loving voice. Everyday, he stops by or calls to say good morning. How joyous the gift of life.

I thought about all my sons today and reflected on the strength they brought to me and continue to do so. I thought about my husband and how he has been a rock throughout these years. I am surrounded by these strong men and I can’t believe my blessings. I thought about my brothers and sisters and how they raced into town to share their prayers and love with all of us. I thought about how friends came to be with us and how so many, near and far began a prayer vigil for Paul, which continues to this day. How joyous the gift of these lives.

Paul has come a great distance. Have we reached California? I would have to say we have crossed over the state line! He is able to drive within a 25 mile radius of our home. He is working 35 hours a week at DTSi. He went back to college for 2 semesters and did very well, albeit with some support from Jon and me. He can play his guitar very well again. He can comprehend anything, with complex issues taking more explanation or time. He has been able to get his eyes to work in unison, which took lots of therapy and exercise. He was so blessed when he got that referral to an eye clinic in Roswell, GA. He will have to continue this therapy for life so that his eye muscles will stay strong. Paul should be able to do anything he sets his heart on doing. It will take hard work, but it can be done.

So, what are the remaining issues? He has been left with a few permanent disabilities that cause him some problems. He is still paralyzed on the left side of his face. He can’t blink his eye and has to manually blink it with his finger. He has to put eye drops in every hour or so. His eye still has to be taped down at night. He has some trouble annunciating words due to the paralysis of his cheek. He will sometimes hold the left side of his mouth to pronounce words more quickly, if he is in a hurry. He can’t always hear very well and has to lean in to a conversation or has to ask for things to be repeated, even though he is using hearing aids. He has a loud ringing in his ears which bothers him greatly. We learned recently from a specialist that the doctors should have replaced the 7th cranial nerve when they did the first surgery to repair his facial bones. Had the replacement of that nerve been done in the first year, Paul would not have suffered permanent paralysis. It caused us great sadness to learn this. We were so preoccupied with solving his hydrocephalus that no one considered this other major issue. That first year was one of unbearable headaches and uncontrolled fluid on the brain, along with a number of emergency surgeries. There were so many serious problems that had to be solved and the paralysis was not #1 on the chart. Whether the doctors even had the knowledge about the time frame of replacing the nerve is anyone’s guess. And so, today, it is what it is. We prayed fervently for guidance and we have to trust that God was with us through it all. We have to move forward with great hope and trust. Heaven is in front of us. Heaven is the end of the journey, not California.

Paul’s faith has remained strong. It remains his most blessed gift from God. I cannot count the times when Paul has helped Jon and me in our own faith/life lessons. We have gone through very tough times emotionally and it was Paul who had the comforting words for us! I cannot count the times I have been in tears, crying over the suffering Paul has endured. It was Paul who had the reassuring and faith-filled words to lift me up. He has a wonderful inner strength that he is able to draw on. There have been many moments when Paul realizes what he has lost. He is very sad at what is going on in his life now - that others will always see him as handicapped. He sees how they look at him and automatically assume he is brain damaged. He knows that he had a brain injury, but also knows he is quite capable of being taught anything. He has had some very rude and condescending things said to him, even by some he considers friends. When he has spoken of it, I have asked him why he doesn’t ‘let them have it’! I get very defensive about anyone hurting him in any way. I have seen what he has had to go through all these years. But he will remind me that it would not serve any purpose to get into a verbal battle with anyone because nothing would be won that way. I have watched him silently endure some very harsh behaviors and let me tell you – it takes every ounce of my self control to keep from calling the offending person to ‘let them have it’. They take his silence as stupidity.

So, this past weekend, he came over to the house quite happy and told us he had just been to confession with his brother Michael. He was really excited that he had been able to talk to the priest about the hurtful behavior he has experienced lately. Do you know what he was most happy about? That he was able to confess the sin of thinking badly about these people who have been cruel to him and how good he felt inside about being forgiven. He said that they just didn’t understand and that it was more important that he stayed kind towards them. I felt so humbled and contrite about my very unholy response to these situations and I burst into tears as I ran over to hug him. Of course, my response pretty much shocked him and he wanted to know what could possibly have caused me to cry. I looked up at his beautiful face and said I realized why God had not taken him home to heaven that day 5 years ago. God needed him to stay here to help save his mother’s soul! I am impulsive and can have a bad temper, which is not a great combination. I cannot bear to see my family be the target of other people’s bad actions and then I totally forget how to respond with patience or Christ-like words or even an ounce of wisdom. While I have learned a lot from Paul, I have a long way to go since I started from so low a point! My Paul is truly a gentle and loving soul. (Well, except when we talk about him needing to eat more nutritional foods. We pretty much ignore that topic altogether! )

Paul will be going back to college in the Spring. He had stopped going a year ago and he did not want to listen to us talk about the importance of graduating from college. (Another topic we learned to avoid.) He just wanted to find a job where he could make decent money. He also wanted desperately to meet a Catholic girl and get married and have children. This, most especially, has been his desire for the last year. He has come to realize on his own, that the chances of his finding a job that would pay well enough are not going to happen without his finishing college. It is going to be a real challenge for him, but what has changed is that it is now Paul’s desire to finish college. We have great hope that he will succeed too!

He went back to college the first time because we pretty much forced it on him. It was really difficult because he was not able to drive and had to depend so heavily on us to go anywhere. Because of this, he didn’t try to make friends with anyone he met because he didn’t have much freedom to make his own schedule. Another problem was that he still had to get more recovery in his eyesight. He had a lot of problems focusing due to his eyes not moving together in unison. Given his disabilities, he needed to gain more confidence too. Most importantly, he needed to understand that things were going to be different for him and accept it. The burden of all these issues caused him to become very negative regarding school and so he quit and said he just wanted to work and try to gain experience that way. That plan has not worked out and he has accepted the fact that maybe God is closing that door to force him towards the pathway God has had in mind all along. We pray daily for Paul to know that path and to have the courage to follow it. We pray for the wisdom and understanding to help him.

Paul continues to work with the therapist at Shepherd Center to excel at driving on the freeway and at night. He hopes to achieve this goal by the end of the year. The woman he works with is a great blessing indeed. When she first tested Paul 3 years ago, she pretty much indicated that he would probably not be able to drive again. There were so many negatives – his eyesight, his depth perception, his peripheral vision, slow reaction time, inability to handle multiple tasks simultaneously, bad judgements/decisions in response to other drivers’ actions. At the time, I was relieved that Paul was not going to be driving so soon. My nerves were still too raw. But as time went on, I started to think she wasn’t judging Paul fairly. One day though, she spoke boldly and truthfully with us. She said that she was not just making sure Paul could drive as well as before. He would have to drive better than everyone on the road because she never wanted to see him back there as a patient. He had to have excellent driving skills because his life really did depend on it. The next accident would impair him for life or would end his life. Her duty to Paul was far greater than just a driving instructor teaching a first time driver. The fact that she was spending this much time with Paul was because she came to realize he could do it. But he would have to have perfect driving skills. We learned that less than 50% of brain injured patients ever drive again and she was one of only a few therapists who have even tried to help brain injured patients, because the odds were not in their favor.

What happened next was incredible. The director of this department that helped the severely physically disabled drive again, was encouraged by Paul’s progress and he decided to work on a system that would address the problems associated with getting brain injured people back on the road again. He and Paul’s therapist decided Paul would be a great candidate to be part of the pilot program and with Paul’s permission, would use him as a case study to further advance this instrument they had developed. Paul needed coaching as he drove, which meant that he might have difficulty in transitioning to driving alone. The instrument had recorded prompts that Paul would hear as he drove. It was interactive in that Paul had to press a particular button after certain occurrences; like noticing the speed limit signs and checking his own speed limit, or keeping good spacing around his car, or using his signals. When he was aware of these things, he had to press the related button on the device. If he did not press a button after 2 minutes, the recorder would play automatically, encouraging him to remember to notice what was going on around him. One of the benefits of this was to keep Paul’s attention in case he became distracted. It brought his thoughts back to his driving. It is common for someone with TBI (traumatic brain injury) to ‘zone out’ if their brain becomes fatigued. After a few months of using this device, it was evident that Paul did not suffer from this while driving. This was a huge advantage for Paul. He is able to drive for long periods of time and he does not suffer from brain fatigue. This past month, we learned that Georgia Tech engineers have become involved with the technology of this mechanism and there is a patent pending, along with a huge national interest in the medical field. Paul is mentioned in the case study by number only, not name. He was part of the initial stages and was very instrumental in helping them move the program further along. Years ago I had asked “to what point and purpose, God? To what point and purpose?” God has occassionally graced us with answers.

In these five years we have changed in many ways and have created some good habits. We pray the rosary together almost daily. Jon and I try to go daily to the 6:30 AM Mass and we have our scheduled hour of adoration once a week at 5 AM. And, logically, we have taken a more vocal and active part in the Pro-Life movement. We have become prayer warriors and feel a strong calling to become more and more involved. We thank God for helping us see how large a battle we have before us. Silence is no longer acceptable for us. Last Summer, we were asked to come take part of a movement called Abortion – free Gwinnett. Our county has its first abortion mill and people have been asked to pray in front of it as often as possible. The first day we went, Jon and I looked across the street and we could see, looming above us a few blocks away, Gwinnett Medical Center. We could see Paul’s room from where we stood. “To what point and purpose did that accident have to happen?” Thank you Dear Lord, for allowing us to be part of Your Point and Purpose.

Our continued love and prayers are with you each and everyday.
Peace, love and Pro-Life!
Jon and Rebecca

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

California, Here I Come

Our lives are definitely getting back to where we were before Paul's accident. We are busy with so much more than just being Paul's care givers! Praise be to God for the fullness of our lives and the joy that brings. So here is the update.

We started the processes of getting Paul relicensed as a driver and that began almost 2 years ago. In between, we have had numerous doctor appointments, another major surgery, driving evaluation appointments, government/vocational rehabilitation appointments and social security/disability appointments. Then there has been the daily driving of Paul to and from work, and then the regular day in and day out routines of our own jobs and responsibilites. Most evenings have been spent working on therapies with Paul and we have also added the extra activities at church that we used to have and even a couple more activities I was not involved in. We also have welcomed one more grandchild in the family, along with another daughter in law and a fiance! While the pace has picked up immensely and I feel 10 years older, I remain incredibly thankful to God for the outpouring of the graces needed to get through all this.

There have been so many moments since I wrote last that I thought to myself......."this is so a blog kind of moment"! I would mean to sit down and get it written, but then the minutes in my day would run out and I would come to a screeching halt, and absolutely NOT be able to keep my eyes open.

One particular time was last Fall when we were finally able to get Paul on the dockets at Shepherd Center to start his first set of driving evaluation classes. It took the better part of a year to get the necessary funding and at long last we were ready to start. I had gone to the 6:30 AM Mass at St. John Neumann's and was driving back home. I had made this trip home hundreds of times before at this same time and not once had this ever happened this way. It was the morning of the first day of evaluations. I was going to head home to pick up Paul and then head downtown. I left church and as I was making the right hand turn onto Five Forks Trickum, the #3 ambulance that took Paul to the hospital 11/11/05 was going right past me. The road was clear behind it, so I was able to complete my right turn, putting me right at the back doors of that ambulance. Now, the funny thing was, about a year after Paul's accident, they changed out that #3 white ambulance with a shiny new red and black ambulance. I noticed it right away when our #3 was gone and the new one was parked at the fire station, because I had to pass it everyday I drove to Mass. I was really sad when ours was replaced. Not sure why, but I was. I guess the new one reminded me that time was moving on for everyone else and we were still walking at a snail's pace in our private lives. So......of course I took immediate notice of this special big white ambulance as it drove right by me that morning. I quickly saw it was the #3 ambulance. Paul's ambulance. With that big red number 3. I smiled once again as I remembered back to the day of the accident and that moment when I realized that Paul was in an ambulance marked by the same number as the Trinity.......Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I was comforted that awful day by these very little signs from God that He was in charge!

So, here I was, almost 4 years later, driving behind that ambulance again. Since Paul's accident, there has not been ONE time where I have been right behind an ambulance. And now, here I was following it on the very day I was going to take Paul to his first driver's training class. This "Godincidence" was not lost on me. It was like God was telling me it was time to let go of those really intensely sad memories and time to move forward with renewed hope. I was now following that ambulance with a new horizon in front of us and the old memory of following that ambulance was replaced with a much better memory. Following this thought, I remembered right away that I had never gone to the fire station to thank those wonderful men for the help they provided in keeping Paul alive. They worked hard and gave it their all. I always meant to stop by, but I was always on my way somewhere and didn't seem to have the time. I was given the sign that it was time! I followed that ambulance for about a mile and right into the parking lot of the fire station. It did feel strange following it again. I vividly remembered back to that afternoon, when I was driving down the road trying to find Paul's car. I realized too late I had passed him right by. I thought his car was on the street, but it was in someone's front yard, so I didn't see it. I was down 2 blocks and realized from the stopped traffic in the oncoming lane, that he was back behind me. Traffic was piled up for at least 1/2 a mile. I could not turn around and get back to him. Then the big white #3 ambulance came right in front of me at the intersection and I made a u-turn in the middle of that intersection, and followed right behind that ambulance as he cleared a pathway all the way back to the scene.

Yes, it felt so strange to be following it once again. The driver got out and looked at me kind of strangely as I walked over to him. It was time for the shift to change, so a lot of the firemen/paramedics were standing around. I introduced myself and told them that I wanted to thank them and let them know they had saved a life. While they may not remember the accident, we surely remembered their heroic efforts that day. Amazingly one man did remember. He said he had just come on his shift when the ambulance was returning to the station. He remembers the men telling him about the really bad accident and the fact that they didn't expect the driver to live. He smiled a big smile and said it always is good to hear these kinds of stories and how things turned out better than expected. They were also pleased to hear where I was taking Paul that very day!

And the end of this story is....Paul can drive himself into that parking lot next week.........when his license will be valid again. We had our last day of training today and Paul has been given clearance to drive unsupervised during the day. He will need more training for night time driving, given the limitations in his vision. He has had to do nightly vision excercises for the last 6 months and it has helped him a lot to regain more movement in his left eye and also to help him have coordinated movement in both eyes. We wish we had been given these theraputic excercises years ago, but better late than never. We are thankful and know everything has happened in God's time frame. Oh we have learned that lesson!

I wanted to let everyone know where their prayers have taken Paul. He still has a long way to go in some areas, but has come from so far away. He has definitely made it to Gallup, NM......ah,Gallup - that is another great story I will share you with. I do promise it to tell it very, very soon. I have so much to tell you regarding this faith filled story, this "God Story".
Stay tuned. I'll be right back.

Peace, love and happy trails to you,
Jon and Rebecca

Monday, May 04, 2009

As Time Goes By

Today, I remembered vividly, an event that took place the day after Paul woke up from his coma. There were a couple therapists in the room and they sat Paul up on the side of his bed. They wanted to start assessing what was lost and what was still intact. Paul was like a wet noodle, having lost so much weight, strength and muscle tone. He was not comfortable at all and at one point, when he looked at me, I could tell he was agitated with their repeat commands to him. The moment I remember most is when the one therapist kept telling Paul to “move your left leg forward”. He had already moved his right leg forward, slowly and weakly. I knew he was suffering some paralysis all the way down his left side, and wondered why they were insisting on him moving his left leg. I spoke to the therapist in a soft voice that Paul was paralyzed on the left side. She nodded her head at me, with a look that said “Okay thanks, but can you go sit down now?” I did sit down, wondering how long she would keep up her command to move the left leg.

Paul tried to force himself towards the pillow on his bed, letting them know he was done with this exercise in frustration. The therapist said, “You can lie down after you move your left leg forward. Try harder”. Paul realized that he didn’t have the strength to push past the nurses and therapists holding him up, so he moved his right foot behind his left leg and pushed his left foot forward. Everyone laughed and the therapist said, “That is problem solving! That is what I wanted to see.” She immediately let Paul lay back down. She looked at me and said, “He is going to do great!”

As I sat here smiling at the remembrance, it struck me that it helps explains the delay in my posting a blog. I have been mentally and spiritually paralyzed. I believe it started after the elections and has gotten worse as I have watched, in horror, the dismantling of all the hard work of those who believe in the sanctity of life. I had been praying very hard as we got closer to the election in November, and after the election, even more fervently. I held onto hope that our new president would have a conversion of heart and would be open to God’s truths. As each month passed, my hope slowly eroded. My daily prayers were filled with pleadings that we would not continue to lose ground in the fight for the sanctity of all life. I sent faxes and emails to everyone I could, hoping that our voices would be heard. And each month brought nothing but one huge disappointment after another as our politicians have shown they are not listening. They have their agenda and it is bulldozing its way into our lives. I kept thinking of all those people who have worked tirelessly for 30+ years in the pro-life movement and how they must be feeling as they watch all their work gush away like water through a broken dam.

During Lent, when I finally felt spiritually dead, I went to Confession. I received some advice that opened the spiritual floodgate. I was reminded once again that everyone is a child of God -even those who seemed to be without God. We are all sinners and we are all responsible for each other. We are all brothers and sisters in Christ and now more than ever, we need to take care of each other. Especially those who are in most need of God’s mercy. My priest’s parting bit of advice was to not forget that Jesus left us with a sign of His everlasting love - The Holy Spirit. He is the “bomber“. Father explained that he likes to picture the Holy Spirit as a bomber that flies into enemy territory and lets loose a bomb of graces for those who are calling for God’s help. I had come into church feeling ’shell shocked’ after all the months of defeating headline news, but I left church renewed in hope. I smiled up at heaven above while asking the Holy Spirit to ’bomb away!’

In the first week of Easter, I received even greater clarity when I read what Bishop Finn in Kansas City wrote:
We are at war.

Harsh as this may sound it is true – but it is not new. This war to which I refer did not begin in just the last several months, although new battles are underway – and they bring an intensity and urgency to our efforts that may rival any time in the past.

But it is correct to acknowledge that you and I are warriors - members of the Church on earth – often called the Church Militant. Those who have gone ahead of us have already completed their earthly battles. Some make up the Church Triumphant – Saints in heaven who surround and support us still – tremendous allies in the battle for our eternal salvation; and the Church Suffering (souls in purgatory who depend on our prayers and meritorious works and suffrages). But we are the Church on Earth – The Church Militant. We are engaged in a constant warfare with Satan, with the glamour of evil, and the lure of false truths and empty promises. If we fail to realize how constantly these forces work against us, we are more likely to fall, and even chance forfeiting God’s gift of eternal life - The ultimate promise of the Gospel.

Before I go any further I must proclaim a most important truth – a truth that we have just been celebrating throughout the last week: Jesus Christ, in His life, death, and Resurrection, has already won the war: definitively and once for all. He has conquered sin and death and has won the prize of life on high in heaven forever. We know the final outcome, but the battle for eternal life is now played out in each human heart with a free will to love or not, to be faithful or to walk away from the life which has been offered as God’s most wonderful gift.

Every day the choice is before us: right or wrong; good or bad; the blessing or the curse; life or death. Our whole life must be oriented toward choosing right, the good, the blessing; choosing life. If you and I fail to realize the meaning and finality behind our choices, and the intensity of the constant warfare that confronts us, it is likely that we will drop our guard, be easily and repeatedly deceived, and even loose the life of our eternal soul.

What can we say about this constant warfare? Our battle is ultimately a spiritual battle for the eternal salvation of souls – our own and those of other people. We are not engaged in physical battles in the same way military soldiers defend with material weapons. We need not – we must not – initiate violence against other persons to accomplish something good, even something as significant as the protection of human life.
But it is true that we might have to endure physical suffering to prosper the victory of Jesus Christ. He carried the Cross. He promised us that – if we were to follow Him – we also would share the Cross. We must not expect anything less. When you stand up for what is right – you will be opposed. The temptation will be to avoid these attacks. But through our responses we must see what kind of soldiers we are.

Our enemy is the deceiver, the liar, Satan. Because of his spiritual powers he can turn the minds and hearts of men. He is our spiritual or supernatural enemy when he works to tempt us, and he becomes a kind of natural enemy as he works in the hearts of other people to twist and confound God’s will. In our human experience people deceived by Satan’s distortions and lies may appear as our “human enemies.”

But, in his Letter to the Ephesians, St. Paul makes, for us, a very important distinction. “Draw strength from the Lord and from His mighty power,” He tells them and us. “Put on the armor of God, in order that you can stand firm against the tactics of the devil.” “For, our struggle,” St. Paul tells us, “is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the rulers of this darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens.” (Eph 6:10-12).

So let’s be clear: Human beings are not Satan, but certainly they can come under his power, even without their fully realizing it. When we, in our sinfulness, put something in the place of God: pleasure and convenience; material success; political power and prestige, we open a door for the principalities and contrary spirits who war against God. They want you and me for their prize. When we forsake God and outwardly reject His law and what we know to be His will, we make an easy victory for our supernatural enemies. We fall right into their hands.

What about the persons who wish to establish a path of living which contravenes God’s law: promoting abortion; unnatural substitutes for marriage, and all such distortions of true freedom? Here Jesus is clear: “But I say to you, love your enemies: and pray for those who persecute you.” ( Matt 5:44)
We cannot hate these human enemies, and we must find a way to love them. But we need not show them any sign of agreement. We pray for them. We do not lie to them – and we seek that which pertains to their conversion – not to their worldly comforts, but to their eternal salvation. To ignore their destructive errors, particularly those that cost the lives of others, is to shirk our responsibility to attend to their eternal salvation.
So, in between helping Paul study for his classes in college, driving him back and forth and working, I began to pray for all souls to go to heaven. I started to visualize people’s souls being physically attacked by satan and I found a tenderness in my heart for them. I know how often and how effective satan's attacks have been on me and my family, so I feel genuine compassion for everyone who is suffering from these attacks. Hate the sin, love the sinner. Additionally, I have set my cell phone to sound off at 3 PM so that I don’t miss the hour of death of Our Lord Jesus, when I offer up all the suffering of my family, friends and our world to The Divine Mercy. Armed with the Rosary, Divine Mercy Chaplet and frequent attendance at Mass where we receive the Body of Christ, we have heaven on our side and that is reason for great hope, faith and love.

By now you must be wondering if this blog is about Paul. Yes it is, but I said it at the beginning and I will repeat it now. This is and always will be God’s story and we are but a small part of it. As our personal battles continue, we struggle to not lose sight of God.

Paul finished the Fall semester with an A, but needed 95% input from Jon and me. We had to practically write all the papers for him. Full of worry, I called Dee Huggins and she said that they had to help their son for the first few semesters before he was able to do everything on his own. So, with that bit of information, we had some hope and encouraged Paul to register for 2 classes in the Spring. He was registering late and had to take what would fit in with my work schedule. He took Sociology and Computer Science. He was blessed with a teacher who gave weekly tests in Sociology. That would be bite size pieces of information to retain and we felt Paul could handle that. He got off to a rocky start, and after failing the first test and barely passing the next one, he was quite discouraged. We literally shut down our lives to help him study 2-3 hours every weekday evening, and 5 hours on Saturday/Sundays. Memorization was very difficult for Paul. We realized too that his limited verbal skills made it slow going as he read the chapters. We told him to stop at words he did not know and look them up. Then we would have him summarize what he had read each evening to make sure he understood the concepts. That part went well, but when it came time to take the test, his memory would fail him. After 7-8 weeks, we found an online study guide with practice tests and flash cards for the textbook and things started to improve immensely. He called me the day he got his first 100% and his excitement was over the top. He talked about it for days. He was able to give a 50% effort on his mid-term research paper, so that was great improvement as far as we were concerned. He received his final exam instructions and it was going to be a 5 page paper. He had a couple weeks to finish it, so we asked him to start the paper. We wanted to see what he could accomplish. He met the challenge and wrote 100% of it. He asked us to proof read it and there were only a few minor corrections. He had a low A average from his combined mid-term and weekly exam grades, so we felt it would be good to let him do all this on his own. He needed to keep a B average overall to keep the Hope Scholarship. He got his grades this week and he received an A in Sociology and an A in Computer Science. (We provided no help in Computer Science as it was all in class work and tests. He has remembered a lot about computers since his accident, so this was an easy A! )

Along with great grades, Paul met a wonderful friend. He had said before that he would not be able to meet people, since he was now that ‘handicapped’ person. He felt that with his facial paralysis, people would assume he was mentally deficient. The first day of class, a woman (she is married, in her 30’s, has 2 children and wanted to finish her college degree) asked to borrow his textbook. It turns out, she had both classes with Paul and they struck up a friendship. She has been a huge help for Paul. She provided the encouragement Paul needed to work really hard in both classes. She would call him to ask questions regarding Computer Science class and Paul called her about questions in Sociology. Early in the semester, Paul started to talk about maybe quitting college and just finding a job where he could maybe grow with the company. This became a battleground for Paul and us. At the end of the semester, Paul and Mary Jo went to celebrate over lunch and she mentioned to Paul about the importance of a degree. On the way home, he was conveying all the reasons why he needs to continue in his attempts at college. VoilĂ ! God’s hand at work! Battle over. (What do parents know anyway?)

Paul and Jon play guitars almost nightly. We have struck a deal with Paul. No summer classes as long as he continues to work on some form of academic study and plays his guitar/piano every day. Jerry is going to help get him swimming as often as possible for aerobic exercise. We have coordinated our ‘attack’ as we continue to sell Paul on the benefits of a nutritious diet. Some battles may not be won! Paul loves to go out to eat.

We have been working since last November to obtain the funding for Paul to take at least 10 hours of driving coursework/skills at Shepherd Center. The cost is $150 per hour of training, with a minimum of 10 hours needed. We finally got the approval and funds will be available in July. Shepherd Center has already finished all its processes getting the state approved vision tests done. Paul will start his driving course sometime in July and we hope that he will be driving by Fall. Almost 4 years since his accident and he will have made great strides towards a higher level of independence!

While Paul has not 'made it to California' yet on this journey forward, James did. He finished his year of training as an officer in the Marine Corps and will be there until July. Then he will be stationed in Japan. It was not his first choice, needless to say. But if you ask him how he is, he is still responding, “living the dream”.

Jon and Marie welcomed a baby girl, Isabella, into our world in April. Let me tell you, I can see how people can be addicted to shopping! After 4 sons and my first grandson, I am thoroughly enjoying browsing in the baby girls department. Now, if we could just move closer to all of them!

Michael finished his sophomore year in college and will continue his cross country team in the Fall. He runs 10 – 15 miles daily and amazes us with his discipline. He hopes to transfer to Georgia Tech next Spring. He wanted one more season of cross country running with his current school, since they are finally funding this athletic program. Michael was the first person ever to win a conference race for the school and that started their real interest in this sport.

Jon and I can see a very small light at the end of the tunnel. We were able to take a little trip by ourselves to Virginia to be with James as he graduated from The Basic School (officer school). We drove so that we would have plenty of time to enjoy the ‘pocket of peace’ the long drive provided. We feel more comfortable making plans a month or two in advance since, praise be to God, we have had the relief of no hospital stay for over a year.

If you are still checking this blog, thank you so much for your prayers. You know well the power there is in prayer. Now that school is out for the Summer, I hope to fill in some of the blank spaces of these past months, while keeping you up to date on what Paul continues to accomplish. Paul knows well that it is all in God’s hands and he places all his trust there. His prayer continues to be “help me heal completely, but if it be Your will that I have to suffer longer, I will do this”. Paul’s love of God is a daily lesson for me. He truly becomes the teacher.

Come Holy Spirit, renew in our hearts a greater love of God and each other. May our lives be ‘a tour of duty for God’.

Peace in Our Risen Lord,
Jon and Rebecca

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

WAKE UP LITTLE ................

I had that song, 'Wake Up Little Susie' in my head this morning as I reflected on this date, 11/26.
Jon and I were at Mass this morning and I whispered to him that this was the date when Paul woke up from his coma, 3 years ago. During Mass, I remembered the huge joy that erupted in our home that day. It was 6:30 AM when the phone rang. I was frozen in fear when it rang, since it was too early for family to call us. I will never forget Jon running out into the hallway shouting, "Paul is awake! Paul is responding!" The boys came racing out of their rooms and joined all the yelling and laughing. Within 10 minutes they were bolting out the door to go see their brother.

So I sat there this morning, in the quiet of the sanctuary, with that song going on in my head. The words of the responsorial after the first reading brought me back.


"Let the sea and what fills it resound, the world and those who dwell in it;
Let the rivers clap their hands, the mountains shout with them for joy."
(Psalm 98)

As I sat there, I dwelled on the fact that I too needed to wake up from the darkness that I can slip into. I remember wanting to be the most holy person on earth that day, after God had done such great deeds for our family. I was determined to show Him my love and devotion all the rest of my days. As I sat in church this morning, 3 years later, I reflected on the fact that I had not kept my promise very well. At this time of year, when everyone takes stock of all that they are thankful for, I was thinking how long my list is. With all the blessings we have - our faith, jobs, health, home, family - I wish I had been able to keep my promise to God on that day, 3 years ago. I prayed that I too would be woken up to see with greater clarity, the Light of Jesus.
The end of the Gospel from today states, "You will be hated by all because of my name, but not a hair on your head will be destroyed. By your perseverance, you will secure your lives." So, once again, with great prayerfulness and hope, I will work at being the holy person God so wants me to be.

After Mass, I read the meditation of the day, written by St. Paulinus, a friend of Sts. Ambrose, Martin of Tours and Augustine. Paul's accident was on 11/11, which is the feast day of St. Martin of Tours and today's meditation was written by St. Paulinus. Very cool, I thought to myself.

Perseverance as Service
" From the beginning of the world, Christ has been suffering in all His people; for he is the beginning and the end, veiled in the law, revealed in the Gospel, the Lord ever wonderful in His saints, in whom He both suffers and triumphs. In Abel He was killed by his brother, in Noah mocked by his son, in Abraham a sojourner, in Isaac offered in sacrifice, in Jacob a servant, in Joseph sold, in Moses exposed and put to flight, in the prophets stoned and sawn in two, in the apostles buffeted on land and sea, and in the many varied torments of the blessed martyrs put to death time and again.

And it is the same Lord who endures our sufferings and sorrows today. He identified himself with the human race and so has continually borne the mal-treatment inflicted upon us; for He knows how to endure suffering, which without Him we cannot and know not how to endure. It is He, I say, who continues to withstand the world in us and for us today, so that , overcoming it by His patient endurance, He may bring His power to perfection in weakness. He it is who suffers the taunts you endure, and by hating you this world is hating Him.

Consider the position from which we fell in the beginning and you will realize that it is by the design of God's wisdom and love that we are being restored to life. In Adam we were destroyed by pride and therefore, we are humbled in Christ so as to wash away the guilt of that ancient crime by practicing the opposite virtue, having offended by arrogance, we win approval by service."

I will continue in service by helping Paul move closer to all God intends for him. As always, I continue to learn from Paul. His humility, his incredible love for everyone he comes into contact with, his acceptance of his disabilities, his patience with the pain he has each day. And today, I am most thankful for his example of hope and joy, knowing that God woke him on that day after whispering in his soul. Paul knows this with a certainty and this knowledge moves him forward each day. As we prayed the other day, he told me that he knows God hears his prayers and that he has to wait for the answers. He is hoping that there will be a day when he can be a great husband and father, but also that if God has a different life for him, he wants what God wants.

Oh God, hear my prayer today.............wake me up and help me continue in humble service, with a greater desire for holiness, so your love will be known to all I encounter. Wake up our world and those who lead our nations, so that your light and love will be the example all your children can follow.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you. We are blessed with your prayers and your lives.
God bless you and keep you awake and aware of His great love.

Jon and Rebecca

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Take Me To The Highway

Paul is waiting to lead the rosary service
at St. Stephen's on the 3rd anniversary
of his accident date.
How far he has come!

Judy and her son, Jerry were there too.
Praise God for their never ending
love and support for our family.
We could not have done it without

Regarding Paul ever driving again, it feels like we have been on back wood trails for way too long. Paul had an eye exam a couple of months ago to test his peripheral vision to make sure it was within the standards set by the state of Georgia. Shepherd Center could not help Paul until they knew he even qualified in visual category. His driving skills were 'rusty' but they told us that he would be able to get additional training to get him back up to good driving skills and quick reaction times. They did not doubt he could master that. We had had seen one opthamologist and he did not have the equipment to do the Goldman test, which is the best way to determine Paul's visual field. After seeing another opthamologist downtown, we waited for them to share the results with Shepherd Center. After many phone calls to each place and finally my tone of voice giving a clue that this whole process was beyond ridiculous, the doctor's office finally provided all the information on the required form and they faxed it to Shepherd Center today. As all of you probably know, customer service is a thing of the past in America. This test of patience that God keeps checking me on, is starting to make me lose my patience! I can see it now. After I die, I will be met at the doors to heaven and St. Peter will tell me that I am being sent back and as a final test of whether I am ready to enter, I will need to go back and get copies of my medical records.

So, with the form filled out, we are working our way out of the woods and to the highway. We are waiting to hear from the Vocational Rehabilitation office (Dept. of Labor) for an appointment for Paul. Don't say it.................I know.............from the frying pan into the fire! A government agency is next on our list. They are supposed to help Paul with the costs of the driving program, which runs about $150/hour and he will need a minimum of 10 hours. We were told that this office will also help Paul with being successful in school and gaining more skills for re-entry to the work force. Paul has been blessed in that area. He is still working part-time at DTSi and he believes he is working quickly and efficiently at the clerical duties he performs. This company has been very kind to Paul by allowing him to return to work when he was ready. He started out with only an hour or two every couple days, and has worked up to around 20 hours/week. Some weeks are not as much due to his school schedule and papers he has to work on. It has been one of the biggest blessings Paul has received. He has been able to work in a place where everyone knows him and what he has been through. He works with people who love him! So wonderful and such a gift from God.

So, once we can meet with a case worker, we can get the driving course started. I am hopeful it will be sooner than later. I know it will do Paul a world of good to get more of his normal life back. It will be such a huge step towards more recovery. He was thrilled when I called him this morning. I was able to catch him before he went into his class. He called me right after it was over to discuss it all some more and to also let me know the grade on his last paper he had to turn in before the final exam essay was a very good one. It was an A. Paul also said he was able to participate a lot in class in the discussions. He does not do as well on pop quizzes and he had one today. He got 3 out of 4 correct, which is a 75%. He did not remember an author's name. His memory is funny. If it is of high interest to him, he will remember the most minute detail forever. With other things, he needs to be told over and over. Very quirky.

Paul did really well on Tuesday at church. He made sure he had a list of everything he needed to do. He led those attending the rosary service in song and read all the scripture passes without a mistake. He was quite happy with himself when it was over. He said he had a great "Happy Life Day" (what we named his 3rd anniversary date) and was really happy his brother's called him. He said Jon told him he would always remember 11/11/05 as the worst and best day of his life. It is a true statement for our family. The blessings definitely out number the difficulties. I am being very honest about that too. We have had some really tough days these last few years. There were times when I was so emotionally and physically drained that I wanted to give up and tell God enough was enough. And there were days that I said it out loud to God! There have been days that I learned just how far down despair can take you - and learned that your body will keep producing tears no matter how long you cry. But there have been far more days where God has sent little signs of His love, His mercy and His light. So many days that brought the love of family, neighbors and friends into our lives just when we needed it. The number of tears I have shed with joy are close to the mortgage bailout figure! I will repeat what I have said. I would not trade this experience in for an easier one because I have begun a journey with God that is hopefully going to bring me out of the woods and onto the highway.

Blessings to all of you,
Jon and Rebecca

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Three years and counting...................

I have to start with great thanksgiving to our God who has graced us with more love, laughter and recovery than I could ever have imagined we would experience since 11/11/05. How the power of pray has moved a mountain! I will never forget those first few months in the hospitals, nor the hours spent wondering where this would take us. We prayed with an intensity we did not know was within us and we were graced with an answer far beyond our hopes. So many prayers sent up to heaven by so many still amazes us to this day.

Paul is doing well in school in that he understands what is being taught in the classroom. He has participated on a number of occassions and is very happy as he relates how his teacher will agree with him and then expound on Paul's comments. It is interesting that some of Paul's comments are related to his music background and how in depth he remembers his theory. We are still prayerful Paul will rekindle his passion for music. As of now, it is dormant.

We have to help Paul a good deal with his 3-6 page essays that he has written for his class. He understands the material, but has difficulty starting the paper and keeping his thoughts organized. I have been blessed to have as my friend, the mother of another brain injured young man. I have written of her often and we still stay in touch. A month ago we met for lunch and she shared the path that her son has taken since his accident almost 5 years ago. She said that Paul is following the same path in a number of ways and that she too had to help her son a lot in the first 3 semesters he was back in college. He is now in his 5th semester and has taken a full load and is doing everything for himself. He lives in an apartment near the Atlanta rail system and uses that to get to class each day. He lost the sight in one of his eyes, so is not able to drive. But that has not stopped his progress and he is blessed to have a lot of his friends still near him to help him get around. Dee also said that her son was so much more like his old self and that even he realizes he has continued to recover in his mental abilities. She said that they still see improvement in so many ways and for us to remain very optimistic about the future for Paul. Hearing all of this helped me squelch some fears that had cropped up, especially in the area of school. Lately, I felt we had hit a dead end as we saw Paul struggle through this coursework.

I read something recently that reminded me that I have to let it go and trust God is guiding us along. I took a spiritual inventory and realized I am still battling my tendency to 'take control'. I was praying hard for God to help me because I really felt far away from that relationship I had been building upon all this time. I had a real battle going on inside. I would pray for a greater love of God and greater trust, but still felt very empty. I finally called out to God while in Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament -"How long Lord? What do you want from me?" The following week I got an answer.

It was these words from Father Jean-Pierre De Caussade (1751 - a French Jesuit) that helped me:
"I experience impetouous desires of acquiring the gift of prayer, humilty, gentleness, the love of God; to this I reply: Let us not think so much about our own interests. My duty is to occupy myself simply and quietly with God, to accomplish His will in all that He asks of me, at the moment. That is my task; everything else I leave in the care of God; my advancement is His business, as mine is to occupy myself ceaselessly with Him and to execute His orders. It occurs to me that I am still so imperfect, so full of defects and meannesses, of infidelities and weaknesses; how long will it be before I am delivered from these things? I reply at once: by the grace of God I do not love my faults, I am resolved to combat them; but I shall only be delivered from them when it may please God to deliver me. That is His affair, mine is to hate these faults and to fight them with patience, penitence and humility until it pleases God to give me the victory over them. This is what God demands of me; He will give me more light and knowledge when He thinks it well to do so. That is His affair. I have placed all my spiritual progress in His hands."

Pretty much hit the nail on the head, wouldn't you agree? It not only applied to my relationship to God, but also my responsibility to Paul. God will bring to us all that we can handle in the day and we need to wait with patience for the next step. What will be, will be. I am to stand by and take orders from God, not give them...............such a tough lesson for this pitiful soul!

We still see the roller coaster recovery pattern. Paul is in a low spot these days. These are the times when I feel impatient. It is the time where the brain shuts down so he can get some repairs done. He has been very forgetful lately and not quite as sharp in his thought processes. I am not sure how long it will last, but we have been graced with recovery each time.

One huge thing he did was to go on a retreat with the Catholic Students Association at GA State this past weekend. He has been back in touch with the director of the program and has been going to the noon Mass on Tuesdays and Thursdays when he can. Rudy told him about the retreat in the North GA mountains and Paul made the decision to go. He had a very good time and came home exhausted. He tried to tell us all about it on Sunday when we picked him up, but he suddenly said he was too tired to talk. We could tell he was in overload. He was quiet for a little while and then continued to tell us more about it. He stayed a bit sluggish through today. He and Jerry went for a long swim this afternoon to get an "oxygen" fill up in his brain. The aerobic excercises are best for Paul and we felt it would help him a lot. Jerry is on vacation this week, so he hopes to get Paul to the aquatic center at least 2 more times.

Right before the election, our pastor organized a nightly rosary to be said at church. There is so much to pray for in our country and he knows the power of prayer is the answer. Needless to say, there were so many of our friends and parishioners that were so saddened by the outcome of this election, as it relates to the hard work of the Pro-Life movement. Our priest's response is perfect. We have gone almost every night and it brings us so much joy. There is a sign up sheet for people to take charge of leading it each night. They can choose the opening song and then they lead the congregation in the recitation of the rosary and then the Litany of the Blessed Mary. Then they lead us in a closing song. Tonight, Paul has signed up as a way of remembering so many parishioners who came to church one night and prayed specifically for him while he was still in a coma. Our family was shocked and overjoyed at how many people came. Three years later, our family is shocked and overjoyed at how many people are coming every night to pray for our country, for the unemployed and for an end to abortion. A sign for the times that God's truth will be carried from this generation to the next.

As I reflected today on these past 3 years, the title just popped into my head. God's response to His people, our response to God and to all of you who have prayed, our efforts to help Paul recover is summed up in those words. ALL FOR THE LOVE OF YOU. It will be this shared love that will move us through any difficult days ahead. Always and Forever. Praise be to Our Loving Father in heaven.

With much love and gratitude, we keep you in our hearts.
Jon and Rebecca

Monday, November 03, 2008

Power of Prayer

I have been praying with great fervency as this election day approaches and tonight, as I sat here awake at midnight, it occurred to me that it was the power of so many people's prayers that truly saved our son Paul from death on November 11, 2005. I have never been very public about my political views, but felt called tonight to ask everyone to pray once again for LIFE.

While there are many points of view regarding this election, I believe it is important to speak out when evil tries to prevail in our world. While social justice, capital punishment and the economy are important issues, these become moot points when the very source of life is the battleground. While I have never intended to use this format as anything other than a way to keep everyone updated about the progress of Paul and to ask for continued prayers for his recovery, I cannot stay silent on so important an issue. As I have begged for your prayerful help for these past 3 years, I beg for your prayerful response to end the holocaust taking place each day in America. There is no other way to end abortions than through prayer and fasting. The lives of millions of innocent babies are in our hands and we, a holy people, need to unite as one and pray without ceasing. It is interesting that so divisive an election is taking place in this year of St. Paul. It was this disciple of Jesus who urged his brothers and sisters in Christ to pray without ceasing and that message still holds true today. Please listen to the voice of Jesus in your heart. Vote and pray that America will continue to be One Nation Under God. In a study of St. Paul I learned that to believe in God means to be obedient to God. It is not as easy as it sounds, especially when faced with adversity here on earth. But once again, I have asked myself if my behavior will allow me to hear Jesus say, "Well done faithful servant". I don't believe being silent will help me hear those words when I die. We have to speak for those innocent souls that cannot plead for their lives. Just as I spoke for Paul when he could not ask us to pray for his life, I must speak for these innocent babies. Please pray with all your heart and remember that if we had the faith of a mustard seed, we could move the mountain into the sea. There is still time to cry out to our Father in heaven for this battle to be won. Once again, I plead for your prayers and fasting through election day.

"The fruit of the womb is a reward." Psalm 127:3
"...nor shall you stand by idly when your neighbor's life is at stake. I am the Lord." —Lv 19:16
"If you remain indifferent in time of adversity, your strength will depart from you." —Prv 24:10

Come Holy Spirit and renew the hearts of your people on earth.
God our Father, have mercy us and hear the prayers of the faithful.

In the name of Jesus,
The Fidero Family