I have always been a church member. My parents, and grandparents were lifelong active members in their Presbyterian Churches in Ohio, Illinois, and New Jersey.
My favorite memory is of the whole family sitting in a row in church with a parent between some of the kids, so we would behave. I also loved the music: choir, organ, bells.
I went into nursing school right from high school; so I was 18 when I started. I had always wanted to be a nurse. I worked as a candy striper for several summers in high school. But it was an all-encompassing three year program; so that you were just thrown to sink or swim. I also went to a nursing school in which they had college classes. We were bused over to the college for courses like anatomy, chemistry, and labs. Then we were bused back to the hospital for work.
There were very few Sundays that I had free to go to church. There was a church three blocks from the hospital, and I would walk over to go to church. The problem was that one of the first times that I went they were calling for people who were saved to come up front. That was not my thing at all. So I would babysit in the nursery and listen to the service.
What I found early on is that I had been so science oriented that I had to come to an understanding of how you could have both science and faith. I never really found that as difficult as some people because I decided that God gave us the gift of medicine – of learning and understanding and wanting to know. If you trial and experiment, you will find the things that God has left for us to discover. I never really questioned how creation began because behind all of it there was God. I understood that the Bible was not literal.
What I found early on is that I had been so science oriented that I had to come to an understanding of how you could have both science and faith. I never really found that as difficult as some people because I decided that God gave us the gift of medicine – of learning and understanding and wanting to know.
My folks had moved from Ohio to Illinois to Minnesota (where my nurse’s training began in 1957). Then they moved to New Jersey and took Mac and Pat with them. Marty was starting his senior year in high school, so one of his closest friend’s parents offered to have him stay with them. The family sort of split up, and I really credit my parents for being able to do that. I don’t know that nowadays we think of letting your kids be really off on their own.
My father was one who greatly believed in having children grow up learning to express themselves, but also to be independent and have independent thoughts. My parents never said, “This is what you should believe, or this is what you should do.” It was more like these are choices you’ll have to learn to make them at some point. That has been an exceedingly great gift from my parents.
After graduating I decided I wanted to be closer to my folks; so I went to work for Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in New York City. It was there that I met my husband. We were married in 1965. He had four children, and we added two more.
My next door neighbor belonged to the nearby Presbyterian Church. She really became a surrogate mother to me and took me with her to church. That started my 50 some years at German Presbyterian Church. My husband was Catholic but who had no intentions of practicing. So, I took the kids to my church. I soon got involved teaching Sunday school when my kids were young and taught for 20 years.
I’m really a lifelong believer. I never questioned anything to do with faith until my cardiac incident.
I was in California in 2008 visiting my daughter and everything had started to bloom. I got into real trouble with my allergies. So I ended up in the emergency room.
They put me on an intravenous drip and got my breathing problems solved. Then they did an EKG and asked whether I remembered having chest pain? Apparently they thought that there had been a previous heart attack. They made me promise to make a doctor’s appointment soon. I was due to go home at the end of the week. So I promised and, of course, my daughter was not one to let me get out of it.
I began going to a cardiac doctor regularly. I got my cholesterol down, got my blood pressure under control, and I was fine. About four years later, in 2012, I had been making lunches at church, and then we delivered them. I returned home and felt no pain, but very restless. I tried to sit down to watch TV but couldn’t stay settled.
I called my neighbor and said, “I think I really ought to go to the emergency room.” I got there and can’t even remember now what I told them was wrong. Within half an hour of sitting there waiting to be seen, I started having more trouble breathing. They started working me up and I got into more and more trouble. When they did the chest X ray, the doctor said it looked like a strange kind of pneumonia.
He had no idea what was going on and told me I needed to stay overnight in the hospital. Normally, you couldn’t have gotten me to stay in the hospital for anything, but I didn’t fight him at all. I just said fine, you know.
On Sunday everybody at church found out about it. I kept getting into more and more and more and more trouble oxygenating. The interesting thing was that all of the stuff I’d learned as a nurse began coming back to me. (I can now appreciate the people with COVID who can’t breathe, because that was exactly what happened to me.)
At that point I said, “I can’t do this myself. It’s in your hands, God.” That part I remember clearly. It turns out that it was really, really was up to Him (and a good surgeon).
They moved me into the ICU. My daughter-in-law who’s a nurse was said keeping tabs on things. She finally called the doctor and said that he needed to come see her. By this time I was not comprehending what was going on. They finally decided something was going on with my valve, and they intubated me and transferred me to a hospital where they did cardiac surgery.
And by the next morning they had me in the emergency Operating Room. I had completely blown my mitral valve; so it wasn’t functioning at all. The doctor told my daughter, Karen, and the other family members that my prognosis really was not good; maybe 70/30 that I would not survive.
They put me on a heart-lung machine and operated. I managed through the surgery and they kept me vented for three days. The doctor told the family they wouldn’t know until I awoke if there were any complications and brain problems. When they finally woke me up, everything started working again.
The significance to me was that this experience offered me a personal time. I had never done lots of prayers and things. I began to understand that God has a plan for me and something more to do. My faith seemed a lot more personal and now. I can understand people who say they have moments in their lifetime when things become very personal, a very close exchange.
For many years, my sister, Pat, and I had vacationed together. We also visited each other back and forth. We realized how much more alike we were then different, and how much we wanted to do things together. My oldest brother, Martin, had lived in Delaware for 10 or more years. And so Pat and I bought a house in Middletown in 2016.
Right away I connected with New Covenant Church. One thing I missed tremendously was having a church family. For now, I serve as Worship Elder and serve meals at the Our Daily Bread soup kitchen. As far as my faith, I’m still working on that. I do know that Bethel Bible Series has interested me because I never really touched the Old Testament part. I think knowing the context and knowing the history makes me realize what’s being said and what’s being meant by those kinds of events.
Since my heart surgery, it has struck me that there’s more to the idea that God knows the birds and the flowers. When something happens to me, I believe that He knows me personally. I am his. I think that describes the feeling I have now with my faith.
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