Friday the 13th - A Blessing

Abbie Creed

© Copyright 2023 by Abbie Creed
Photo of the author.
Photo of the author.

Friday the 13th of March,2020 was like a week packed into one day. Realizing I was out of postage stamps and needing to mail a birthday card to my granddaughter, prompted an early morning visit to the Post Office and since I was running low on hearing aid batteries, I decided to make a stop at the nearby drug store where they were on sale 2 for 1 that week. I never like to miss a sale! A trip to the fresh food market to pick up my fresh vegetables for the week was next on the agenda before heading to the Super Market to complete my weekly shopping for staples.

After returning home and unloading my goodies, I had just enough time to make the Noon Mass at my church. Since this was the Season of Lent, I tried to make going to mass a daily event. After Mass I ate a quick lunch at home and left for my weekly hair appointment. When I began teaching school many years ago that appointment was my treat for the week, and I have continued that practice since retiring. This was also haircutting week so my visit with the beautician took a bit longer than usual.

That mission accomplished, I stopped by the bank to cash a check and make a withdrawal for my “play money,” a monthly routine. The teller enjoyed teasing me about needing money for Bingo. She was right. Sunday afternoon with friends at a church Bingo was a favorite pastime for we retired and widowed ladies. I did not have much luck playing Bingo, but the camaraderie and socialization were enough reward. The next stop was the Dollar Store to re-stock my greeting card supply.

On Lenten Fridays our church sponsored a Fish Fry. I stopped by for some of their delicious offerings of fried fish, French fries, and Cole slaw, along with tasty green beans that made for a wonderful take home meal. I didn’t have to cook! After eating a relaxing dinner, I felt incredibly pleased to have accomplished so much in one day. Friday the 13th had been a busy day!

The next day, Saturday, I heard the news that everyone was now ordered to stay home due to the Covid19 pandemic. Friday the 13th truly was a blessing! I had all that I needed. Everything in town was shut down, including our churches. What a drastic change! Everyone who is not an essential worker is asked to shelter at home, especially seniors and those with pre-existing conditions. That meant that I would not be attending church or going to Bingo on Sunday afternoon. Wednesday of that week was my Ding-a-ling Bunco club that meets monthly, it was canceled. My group of lady friends have been meeting on the 3rd Wednesday for over 40 years. We have experienced births, deaths, graduations, weddings, and funerals, shared in good times and in bad times as well, and have been a great support for each other over those years. We jokingly refer to our Wednesdays as our “sanity sessions.”

I have been blessed with good health making it possible for me to enjoy taking friends who can no longer drive to doctor’s appointments, shopping sprees and afternoon lunches. I love working one day a week in the office at my church and watching the school children go to and from the school cafeteria makes my day. I also had a weekly Tai-chi class that I looked forward to. All this activity came to a screeching halt. I have always believed that everything happens for a reason, so am taking time to pray, do some meditation and much reflecting on other “halts” in my life, and have come to realize that this one too, may be a blessing.

I remember as a young child, three of my brothers being drafted during World War 11, that sugar, coffee, shoes, and gasoline were rationed and that many children wore Hirarchies. They were sandals that could be purchased without using stamps. Kids loved wearing them because they squeaked when they walked. Everyone had a victory garden in their back yard. The children‘s job was keeping it watered. Air Raid practices were a common thing. They were very scary because all the lights were out in our homes and on street corners. Everything was pitch black, and until the “All clear” sirens were sounded everyone had to stay inside.

Before the war, I lived with my father, my grandfather, my 5 brothers, and 3 sisters, along with my Aunt and Uncle who came to live with us after the depression of 1929. My aunt was my father’s only sibling. She and her husband lived in Chicago. They had no children, so she traveled extensively with him in his business. They were well off financially until the banks folded and the stock market crashed. They lost everything they had. Looking back in time this was such a blessing. My mother died of Pneumonia four days after my baby sister was born in 1933. I was a toddler at the time and don’t remember much of the happenings, but I have been told by family members of those very difficult years.

During the war, my father had a small chapel in the corner of the living room where he often went to pray. I recall him spending a lot of time praying for my brother’s safe return. He had Parkinson disease that was rapidly progressing and the stress of my brothers serving overseas took a big toll on his life. The victory days: V.J. Day and V.E. Day, to celebrate the end of the war, were exciting. I remember the paper boys shouting “EXTRA, EXTRA” in the streets selling the good news! Not long after the war was over my brothers came home unharmed. Prayers answered! However, during their time away, my father died from his disease.

After the war and my father’s death, big changes were in store for our family. After several of my siblings had married, the next sister who was 5 years older than me was graduating high school, moved with two older brothers. My younger sister and I moved to an apartment with my aunt and uncle and her father, our grandpa. Other than moving locations and missing the comings and goings of our neighborhood, our lives remained the same. We continued to worship at the same church, attend the same schools with our friends, and experienced the same love and care as before. We certainly were abundantly blessed to be able to continue our schooling in a happy environment with the same loving family. Most nights after dinner and homework was finished, we listened to the radio and played board games with our aunt and uncle.

When I was 21 years old, I married my best friend. We were gifted with six children, a daughter and five sons. We had been happily married for almost 30 years and my youngest son was a senior in high school, when my husband was diagnosed with three cerebral aneurysms. He underwent two very lengthy brain surgeries, spent seven weeks in intensive care, and had two near death experiences. Dramatic change!

My husband had owned a small Insurance Agency and taught music part time in a private school. I too, was teaching school. Some of our children were already married and had children of their own. Even though our lives were turned upside down, and many adjustments to this new life had to be made, my children and I relied heavily on our faith and a new normal was in the making.

After a month of physical and occupational therapy, my husband came home and with help from the children, continued to improve for the next 24 years. Our decision to bring him home proved to be a wise one. He was confined to a wheelchair but lived a happy and stress-free life.
Remembering how the whole family pitched in to care for him at home, after having been advised to place him in a nursing facility, is mind-boggling to me. I was able to continue to teach and that was a blessing because when I was with the children, I was free of stress. Those children were lifesaving for me. Keeping our life as normal as possible helped my husband become more independent as time went by.

All but three of my 17 grandchildren learned to walk using “Grandpa’s” wheelchair. He enjoyed many times playing board games and having special treats at the card table in the living room, especially since eating in the living room was usually forbidden. He enjoyed outings with the kids and monthly birthday celebrations with the family. He had always been active in our church as Minister of Music and did miss that, but he was the first to compliment the present minister on a job well done. His love of music was ever present, especially when our oldest son, an accomplished musician came to entertain him.

After 24 years the children had all left the nest, my husband was diagnosed with Lymphoma. He tried taking chemo treatments, but they were unsuccessful. When it was determined that the Lymphoma was terminal. I prayed for guidance to make the right decision for him. I contacted Hospice. With their support, along with our strong faith, the help and assistance of our family and friends, our church community, and the many pray-ers, who lifted us up with their prayers and support, we were brought comfort and peace. The children and grandchildren visited often to play games and share stories. Six months after the diagnosis, my husband died a peaceful and happy death in his own bed. Prayers answered again!

After his passing and having spent 25 years on duty as caregiver 24/7, I knew that I was facing a big change and would need to create another new normal. The first week was difficult. I had retired after 34 years of teaching and coordinating religious education in our parish school and though there was much to do around the house, it was not what I needed. I talked with a good friend about looking for something to do to fill the void. Her words are with me to this day. She said, “You don’t have to look, God will look for you. Be patient, let go and let God guide you.” Was she ever right!

The very next week, I was asked to substitute in the church office for the receptionist so she could take a vacation. It was a perfect fit for me since I knew most of the church families because I had taught their children. My own children had graduated from the school, making me familiar with that generation of families as well. When that week ended, I began volunteering there one day a week.

I had planned my husband’s funeral and created a funeral program for his service, so it was fitting that I volunteer as Funeral Coordinator for other church families. Meeting with them and helping them choose scripture readings and make music selections for the services for their loved ones is the most rewarding thing I have ever done.

After recalling the past, I wonder, could Covid 19 possibly be considered a blessing? I see Families spending time together, no carpooling to sports activities or practices during mealtime. Children and parents have fun times together at home. Parents have even become teachers. Neighbors sitting on porches are greeting the neighborhood walkers. People are noticing others even with masks on, and kindness and caring abounds as businesses and churches are beginning to open.
Praying and reflecting on God’s presence in and through the many changes in my lifetime and the new normals experienced, I have come to realize that this pandemic is just another “halt,” a time for change, one that is requiring the creation of a new normal. What that new normal will look like, is a mystery to be lived!

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