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Where I’ve been, and what I’ve learned (A Lenten journey)

These past few days and weeks have been quite an experience. It all started sometime in late January…  I was hospitalized with aspiration pneumonia, for 40 days. 40. The season of Lent had begun when I came home. A Dominican friar who came to visit me in the ICU Jokingly remarked that had already fulfilled my share of Lenten penance! But as Easter hadn’t arrived yet— it’s almost here— there was a bit more in store!

Those days in the hospital were a difficult time. They drained liters of fluid from my lungs. I would have been released sooner as the great doctors and nurses, as well as CNAs took great care of me. And how can I forget the fact that my parents drove 30 to 40 minutes to Georgetown University Hospital, back and forth, every single day. Also, my sister came from Philly to be with me. And then, of course, I had so many extended family members and friends come to visit. Surely, that would help the healing process… But it wasn’t that easy! While I was there in the hospital, I went into what they called ICU Delirium.

I basically went a little crazy from being laid up in bed and from the strong medication. Sometimes I would imagine crazy things, hallucinate, and say all kinds of things I wouldn’t normally say or even dream of saying to people. Even when I came home, I had all these strange memories, feelings, and all sorts of frightening, nightmarish dreams. I thought that people were out to get me and that they were all the devil in disguise. To my embarrassment, I even acted like they were. Anyway, because of the delirium, I couldn’t do the swallow test to see if I could safely eat without aspirating my food. That set things back. I was given a feeding tube, which had some complications.

So now, I’m getting better, I’m cleared to have liquids and puréed foods. The next step would be the swallow test at the hospital. Making progress. Something else happened though, sometime when I was delirious, probably at home, I broke my arm somehow… I guess a nurse pulled my arm the wrong way? Don’t know exactly when it happened but I had been complaining of serious pain. So… Lent really continued for me beyond the hospital, haha.

In spite of it all, I feel that God is sustaining me. It’s just a piece of his Cross that he is sharing with me. Jesus is here with me even though it’s hard to see sometimes. I have learned again how much God loves me personally, as he does each person reading this. I have experienced it through the great outpouring of love that I’ve received. Friends have been visiting, telling me that they are with me; family members have been coming to help, bringing food so that my mom does not have to cook; my sister and the Sisters of Life keep sending me letters and notes and cards reminding me that God loves me very much and that my suffering endears me to him, providing a means of union with him. It is all the voice of God speaking to me. He speaks, we just need to listen.

It is still difficult. Sometimes I wonder. I wonder, “why suffering.”  Jesus has transformed it… But, “Really, Jesus, you would be willing to suffer to show us that you are with us in our suffering, Father, you would allow the heinous crucifixion to take place to bring about a greater good… For my sake?” Jesus died such a humiliating death, for me, for my sins and yours. The only words that I can say are, “thank you.” But why suffering at all? It is an occasion of love, the means of expressing love, showing it concretely… And, interestingly, it is the occasion of receiving love.

While I struggle, and life is difficult— and yes it’s difficult, today I got the message that the division of nursing services of the state of Maryland will not grant me the 4 hours from the 16 that I was originally receiving and need  (my medical needs necessitate even more)— the Cross of Jesus Christ, my Savior and Life-Giver, is my hope. Through  Good Friday comes Easter Sunday… Easter is coming…  Lent is giving way to Easter… Finally and definitively…

4 thoughts on “Where I’ve been, and what I’ve learned (A Lenten journey)”

  1. Coincidence ?
    Absolutely Not ! I felt compelled to tell my ten year journey the same as you are sharing your recent hospitalization Harold.
    And why is it important, why does it matter ?
    Our personal stories are the “ties that bind” us together. From your experience Harold I’m given freedom. Your cross, yor crucible of pain means I too can endure my personal afflictions… .Because He Lives ! Jésus Rabbi Elohim !

    You and your family will forever be etched in our/my heart. We love you Harold
    Earl and Wanda

  2. Dear Harold and family, we are very moved by your testimony above as to how the love of God came to you as you joined your suffering to our Lord’s. We love you, and you and the Gomes family are an inspiration to all of us in being faithful to our Lord despite the trials and affliction that come to us. Thank you, Harold, for sharing. We continue to pray with and for you, and we know that you pray for us. Keep in mind in particular my brother, Tom K., whose Parkinson’s is worsening. (He had to stop teaching in December after 51 years.) God’s blessings be upon you. Jack and Patty

  3. “My suffering endears me to him, providing a means of union with him. … But why suffering at all? It is an occasion of love, the means of expressing love, showing it concretely… And, interestingly, it is the occasion of receiving love.”
    Well said, Harold. You are a model of faith and dignity. Thanks for your inspiration.

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