Visiting Homebound Elder-Catholics—A Privilege and sometimes, an Unexpected Challenge

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

By Larry Peterson

I have been an EMHC (Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion) for over 20 years. I have had the honor and privilege of bringing Holy Communion to many people in many places: hospitals, nursing homes, hospice centers, assisted living facilities,and, of course, to the homebound. I love being part of this ministry and it has brought me in touch with some amazing people who have lived their Catholic lives quietly, faithfully and without fanfare or notoriety.

Most of those I visit are Elder-Catholics.These are the Catholic faithful who have, throughout their lives, supported their church, been active in various ministries and carried on the faith that was and still is, part of their very being. Some were born into the faith and it was nurtured in them by their parents and oftentimes by nuns, brothers, priests and Catholic laypersons.  They in turn have passed it on to their own children. Some found the faith as adults and converted. (I so admire those people.) And so, as is the way of things, the Church continues.

 I would like to share a story about one of these  people. His name is John. I have been bringing  Holy Communion to John every Sunday for a little more than a year. He is 90 years old, an Army veteran, spent almost 30 years in the Far-East and was married for 60 years. His wife, Mary, passed away several years ago. He loved her dearly and misses her greatly. John is not delusional, or suffering from dementia or anything like that. His mind is sharp and clear. Physically, John is  deaf (hearing aids help a tiny bit) and wheelchair bound.

 When I arrive at his front door, I push the doorbell. I hear a chime, he does not.  Inside, several strobe lights begin to flash notifying him someone is at the door. He is expecting me and the front door is unlocked. I walk in and he gives out a big, "Hey, hey, good morning." I more or less holler back, "Hey John, how you doing today?"  He is always wearing  a smile. He says, "Well, I'm still here."  We both laugh.

John is facing a dilemma.  He picks up the newspaper from a few days before and points to a story. "Have you gotten any feedback on this?" I look at the paper and he has it opened to an article dealing with the church's newly revised guidelines on cremation. I shrug and tell him I have not. He says, "I have a problem and maybe you can help me out. I need some guidance."

I am not "Father Larry" or "Deacon Larry"..I'm just Larry. I immediately feel a bit insecure because I do not like telling folks what they should or should not do when it comes to their personal faith issues. I quietly ask the Holy Spirit to quickly help me out. Then I say, "I'll try, John.  But I may not be able to. I will go to Father Anthony and ask him if necessary."

Being part of this ministry can have unexpected rewards. God was about to bless me with a glimpse into the hearts of two Catholics, a man and a woman,  people of faith who married in the faith and lived it and who shared a love that did not die upon the death of one--rather, it simply continued and still existed. John says to me, You know, I am upset about this article. It says we Catholics must bury the ashes of loved ones in sacred ground."

I said, "That isn't anything new. Some folks are scattering ashes over the Gulf of Mexico or off mountaintops or sharing them among family members. Those kinds of things are not approved of."

Look", he says. "I have Mary's ashes here with me. I talk to her everyday. I'm all alone and I feel she never really left and I get such comfort from that. Do I have to get her over to the cemetery?"

I'm looking at him and tears are filling his eyes. He wants to be a GOOD Catholic man and he loves his wife and wants to be loyal to her.  He will give her up if the Church requires it even though the pain he will feel is unimaginable. It did not matter. He would be true to his faith no matter what. I was looking at  a man who would have gladly embraced a martyr's crown if he had been called upon to do so.

 I knew that cremated remains are supposed to be kept intact and placed in a proper vessel. Nervously I began to answer but he continued. "I have a spot down at the VA for both of us. I made arrangements with the funeral home and when I pass they are going to take us together down to the VA and bury us next to each other."

I breathed a sigh of great relief.  Casting doubt to the wind I told him, "John, that is great. She can stay here with you. She is encased in a vessel and is scheduled for burial. You will make the trip to the VA together. Don't worry about a thing."

I will never forget the smile that broke out across his face. I'm not sure if I gave him  proper 'guidance'. No matter, in this case I am sure the Holy Spirit helped me out. I will check with the priest when I see him.

                                             ©Copyright Larry Peterson 2016 All Rights Reserved

     

The Grand Finale to the Jubilee Year of Mercy is Upon Us—Thanksgiving*

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

By Larry Peterson

The Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy began on December 8, 2015, and Pope Francis gave us a quote to coincide with the Holy Year; “It is a favorable time to heal wounds, a time to offer everyone the way of Forgiveness and Reconciliation.”
On November 20, the Solemnity of Christ the King, The Holy Year will officially end. We will have focused on mercy and forgiveness for a year and received the graces that came along with it. It seems so fitting that the beauty and meaning of this entire Holy Year can now be encapsulated by the impending holiday season. The Holy Father wanted us to direct our actions and attention “on mercy so that we may become a more effective sign of the Father's actions in our lives . . . a time when the witness of believers might grow stronger and more effective".

Four days after the Holy Year ends we celebrate our great American holiday, Thanksgiving, and this year the holiday presents us with an extraordinary opportunity. What better time to show mercy and love, on a nationwide scale, from sea to shining sea, than Thanksgiving. It can be our grand finale to this grace filled year.

Thanksgiving is the one day of the year where we pause and simply give “Thanks” for all that we have, even if it is just a “little”; a job, good health, a cancer in remission, the subsiding of a three day old migraine headache, connecting with a long lost relative, the birth of a child, surviving a natural disaster...there are so many things that we can be thankful for. Most importantly, there is that great intangible that spreads across our nation on this day and it ties right into the culmination of the Holy Year of Mercy. That intangible is the abundance of mercy, forgiveness and love that explodes within the hearts of so many millions of people.

No-one in America needs to go hungry on Thanksgiving Day. On this day people all across the country and from every economic situation can have a turkey dinner. Homeless shelters and soup kitchens and prisons serve turkey. Folks who have little or no money are able to receive turkey baskets from various charitable organizations so they can have a turkey dinner at home with their families. You do not need to purchase gifts. All you have to do is show up, hang out, eat and enjoy the uplifted spirit of family and friends that are with you, even if they are strangers turned friends you just met in a soup kitchen.
In my parish alone, we manage to supply complete Thanksgiving baskets to about 250 families, feeding about 1000 people for the holiday. All of the food is donated by parishioners. Some folks donate money and that is used to purchase the frozen turkeys. In effect, virtually all the parishioners participate in the Giveaway. (I am sure many of you have similar programs in or near your own parishes.)
On the Sunday before Thanksgiving we distribute the turkeys and all the trimmings to people of all denominations in our area to take home for “turkey day”. Everything has come from the hearts of parishioners and is joyfully given to strangers so they might enjoy the day. How cool is that? And doesn’t it also speak to the Holy Father’s call to evangelize?
All across the United States, Catholic parishes, churches of other denominations, soup-kitchens and shelters, etc. show Christ’s mercy and love to strangers on Thanksgiving. It is a wondrous thing and such a beautiful way to finish up the Jubilee Year of Mercy. Unexpectedly, in the year 2016, the end of Holy Year of Mercy collided with our Thanksgiving holiday. If we listen we may even hear the “Drumsticks” smashing cymbals of mercy which resonate nationwide with sounds of love.
As we cross the finish line of the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy we thank God for having allowed us to be part of such a grace-filled year. We also should thank Him for Thanksgiving. We can consider it the Grand Finale to the Holy Year just completed. It is a beautiful thing.

                       *This article appeared in Aleteia on November 18, 2016   
                                     ©Copyright Larry peterson 2016 All Rights Reserved.
     

For Alzheimer’s & Dementia Patients, November is National Family Caregiver Month*

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

By Larry Peterson

My wife, Marty (Martha) has Alzheimer's Disease and I am her primary caregiver. Since November, 2016, is National Family Caregiver's Month sponsored by the Alzheimer's Association, I thought I would share a slice of an average day she and I experience together. At the same time I can also leave some links to information about dementia (there are many kinds--Alzheimer's is just one) and give a "shout-out" to all the millions of Americans across the country who are caregivers.
Until Marty actually became an unpredictable, uncertain and sometimes obsessive Alzheimer's victim, I did not understand Alzheimer’s Disease. I thought I did but I did not. Meeting folks at the Alzheimer’s Caregiver meetings allowed me to learn that what I write here is not unique to me. It is more or less part of the norm within an Alzheimer home and I am just one of a vast multitude of caregivers living alongside this illness.
Alzheimer Patient--Wikipedia commons
I never imagined the confusion and fear that slowly and relentlessly fills the vanishing mind of the person under attack by the Alzheimer demon. I never knew until I shared her physical world. I wish I did not have to know. What follows is a brief conversation that Marty and I had last evening. She was sitting on the sofa and it was about 6:30. I had just walked in from the other room. The conversation went like this:
"Oh, I'm so glad your back home. Are you going to stay here?"
Not having been anywhere, I was caught a bit off guard. I answered, "Uh--um--Of course I'm staying."
"Do you have any of your things here?"
I reply, "Why don’t you walk back to the bedroom and check the closet."
She sighs and smiles. She is faking because, even though she has lived in the same house for many years, she has no idea where the bedroom is located.  She tries to “play it off’ because she doesn't want me to know that she doesn’t know. But I do know and she knows I do.
So I nonchalantly point and say, "Back that way, where the big bed is."
She shakes her head and says, "Oh, of course, sometimes I don't know where my head is."
I simply say, "That's okay. No problem."
"Well, are you going to sleep here tonight or go to the other place?"
There is no other place and I have no clue where her mind has taken her. I just go along.
And then it is temporarily over and the evening continues. More is on the way such as telling me she really wished she did not have to work tomorrow even though she has not worked for almost ten years. You get the idea.
For the caregiver it is a two-edged sword. You are watching someone you love, mentally evaporate while at the same time trying your best to be as patient and as kind as you can be to that person. As the caregiver it can sometimes be a bit overwhelming. Redundancy can push your patience levels to extreme borders. As Marty's caregiver I can say, unequivocally, that my greatest strength comes via my Catholic faith. I lean on it like a man with two broken legs needing crutches. Without them--well, I would fall hard and often.
There are many types of dementia but Alzheimer' is the primary cause.  Vascular dementia, Parkinson's Disease, Huntington's Disease, Mixed Dementia and others are a few conditions on a long list of illnesses that cause dementia. Alzheimer's is a progressive disease and it continues to worsen as time goes by. There is no remission or leveling off. Eventually the patient will lose the ability to even carry on a simple conversation, or even remember to use the toilet. The end result is always death. It is truly a dreadful illness.
I could go on and on but I have provided several links within this article that will take you to more detailed information about Alzheimer's Disease and dementia. As people live longer the illness is seen more and more. More resources have been allocated for Alzheimer's research. Prayerfully we will find a cure. 
Here is a sidebar to the above: The patron saint of Alzheimer's patients is St. Dymphna. Ironically, St. Dymphna has had a profound involvement in my family's life. My daughter's middle name is Dymphna. (See  Aleteia for more). When I discovered that St. Dymphna, the patron saint of nervous and emotional disorders, was also the patron saint of Alzheimer's and dementia patients, I could only smile. I love St. Dymphna.
Please remember to keep all Alzheimer's and dementia patients and their caregivers in your thoughts and prayers, not just during the month of November, but all year long. 
St. Dymphna, please pray for them and for all of us.

*This article also appeared in Aleteia on Nov 8, 2016

                                 ©Copyright Larry Peterson  2016

     

3 BOOK GIVEAWAY—The Demons of Abadon; Grave Obsessions; Roots & Wings at Loonstone Lake

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

By Larry Peterson
________________________________________________________________________

THREE BOOK GIVEAWAY;  NOVEMBER 7, 2016 THRU NOVEMBER 11, 2016

"The Demons of Abadon" Vol 1; Shadows & Light  
by Larry Peterson

Joey insisted he kept seeing and talking to his dad. He had told his brothers and sister and they thought he just did not understand Pops’ passing. But then Beeker and Joey went to stay with Charlie and Eleanor Winters for the summer. They lived on an old farm in the Abadon Forest . But so did the “Darkened”. They did not want Joey anywhere near the Abadon. Why? They feared his innocence.

@slipperywillie #YAParanoral #YASuspense #YAThriller "The Demons of Abadon-V1-Shadows and Light" FREE 11/7 until 11/11 on #Amazon! Grab it while you can!



Helping Hands Press and Larry Peterson hope that you enjoy the story.

Starting Monday November 7 and running until November 11 Larry Peterson's "The Demons of Abadon - Volume 1 - Shadows and Light" will be FREE on Amazon Kindle!!!!!!!

If you do take the time to read the story, please leave a review for the author on Amazon, Goodreads, the authors blog or website or here on the HHP blog. We would love your feedback! Thank you in advance! 

Here is the Amazon Kindle link to the story and what it is all about: https://www.amazon.com/Demons-Abadon-Shadows-Light-ebook/dp/B0146QWGB4/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1478184028&sr=8-3&keywords=larry+peterson+the+demons+of+abadon

http://amzn.to/1SdW5gS  (link to complete novel)

"Grave Obsessions" Vol 1; Chiseled head" 
by Patti J. Smith

He noticed a strong odor as he moved the curtains to look inside. A vile liquid surged up his throat and spilled out on the grass. He grabbed his cell phone and called 911.
Thus begins the case that unnerves the most seasoned veterans on the force. A witness interview leads Detective Dallas Keegan and her partner to evidence that puts the investigation into overdrive. HE IS NOT DONE. Her personal life unravels as she hunts down this demon while fighting her own.


Helping Hands Press and Patti J. Smith hope that you enjoy the story.

@gridirongranny5 FREE! FREE! FREE on #Amazon 11/7 until 11/11 Patti J. Smith's #Crime #Thriller "Grave Obsessions-V1-Chiseled Heart"!

Starting Monday November 7 and running until November 11 Patti J. Smith's "Grave Obsessions - Volume 1 - Chiseled Heart" will be FREE on Amazon Kindle!!!!!!!


If you do take the time to read the story, please leave a review for the author on Amazon, Goodreads, the authors blog or website or here on the HHP blog. We would love your feedback! Thank you in advance! 

Here is the Amazon Kindle link to the story and what it is all about:https://www.amazon.com/Grave-Obsessions-1-Chiseled-Heart-ebook/dp/B00K39BRS2/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1478183492&sr=8-2&keywords=patti+j.+smith+grave+obsessions 






"Roots & Wings at Loonstone Lake--Vol 1; Call of the Loons"
by Sue Badeau

Louanne and Frank Hubert are two school teachers and almost empty-nesters getting ready to enjoy summer when an unexpected call from their past rocks their world. Will re-opening a long-neglected campground provide opportunities to realize new dreams? Or will mysteries from the campground’s past scuttle their plans before they can begin? A budding romance for the Hubert’s daughter provides help and hope for moving forward.



Starting Monday November 7 and running until November 11 Sue Badeau's "Roots and Wings at "Loonstone Lake" - Volume 1 - Call of The Loons" will beFREE on Amazon Kindle!!!!!!!

Helping Hands Press and Sue Badeau hope that you enjoy the story.

If you do take the time to read the story, please leave a review for the author on Amazon, Goodreads, the authors blog or website or here on the HHP blog. We would love your feedback! Thank you in advance!

Here is the Amazon Kindle link to the story and what it is all about:https://www.amazon.com/Roots-Wings-Loonstone-Lake-Loons-ebook/dp/B00LFWP1NS/ref=sr_1_8?ie=UTF8&qid=1478182517&sr=8-8&keywords=sue+badeau