When my 26 year old daughter, Mariel, was waiting for her 3rd liver transplant, Ron and I were living at the University of PA Hospital (HUP). We were so scared, so stressed out and though wonderfully cared for by family and friends, each day was like a mountain as we waited. Mariel's room in the ICU didn't have a window and as the days dragged on I thought a Nature poster might help elevate my mood and may be hers.
Jeff called me and said he didn't have a nature poster but he had a cool poster his cousin in Italy had designed for an event. He even framed it for Mariel. She loved it and it still hangs in her house in Fishtown.
Fast forward a few days. Jeff calls and says "Your brother Barry said it was ok for me to call". I was so happy to hear from him. He asked if he could bring food to the hospital and whether there was anything else he could do.
We all know that Jeff was a devout Catholic and I knew he would understand my request. "Please take me to the shrine of Padre Pio in Vineland, NJ. He agreed and when he picked me up at the hospital, he said "Would I want to go to the National shrine in Pottstown instead?" I said that I hadn't heard of it but sure let's go.
On the ride there I was stressed. Could Mariel die while I was off with Jeff? I figured it was worth the gamble and besides I was losing my mind. Jeff talked to me. I felt like I could say anything to him and he would not judge me.
When we arrived at the huge church, I wasn't sure what to make of it but we both lit candles, prayed, toured the museum and the gift shop. We learned more about Padre Pio, his life, the miracles he performed. Jeff bought me a rosary with a relic of Padre Pio.
I am "Culturally Catholic", raised in a family where we went to Mass every Sunday, my Dad sang in the choir and I played the guitar at Mass, my siblings and I went to Catholic schools, we confessed our sins and marched in May processions. How could I not be shaped by Catholicism?
When we got back to the hospital, Jeff came up and ate with us. He had made a delicious Italian l lentil dish and trout which soothed our souls. Later that night, we heard that there was a liver for Mariel. Did Padre Pio intervene? I believe YES!
I will be eternally thankful to Jeff for taking me to the shrine when I was feeling so hopeless Being present with me in a time of great sorrow and helping me have some hope.
Mariel is fine. Before the pandemic she was working full time. She has a loving committed fiance, a wedding date of 9/2021, and a plan for a beach wedding in Ocean City. She was hoping Jeff could come as were we all.