After Joe called home, preparations began to get Mom to the hospital.
Honnah, our only daughter, woke up about this time, wondering what was going on. I recounted the call from her father. She grabbed something to eat along the way and headed for the creek to get the boys.
For a few precious moments, David and I cuddled on the couch. I hugged him and rocked him. His 3 year old innocence inspired me to form a plan. Little did I know that this precious little one would become my lifeline.
I was scheduled to go to a Catholic Women’s Council conference in eastern Missouri as the recently elected president of the women’s group at our church. Earlier that spring, our pastor, Fr. Roger, and I sat down and made some terrific short and long range plans for the group. It was necessary to go to this conference to get ideas about carrying them out and for the fellowship of other women in similar positions in other parishes.
Somehow though, over the last few days, I found myself reluctant to get ready for the conference. Something did not seem right about the trip.
In addition, during the previous week I felt somewhat tense whenever Arif and I went somewhere. He was generally a good driver, so it was nothing about the driving, just an uneasy feeling. The Friday before, on the way to a home school group gathering, while we sat in a traffic jam with a number of big trucks. I got a bad case of the willies, for no apparent reason.
Now, I needed to call the church and tell Sister Ayleson that I would not be able to go to Cape Girardeau until I found out what the story was with my son.
I picked up the phone in a daze. I miss-dialed: 4 - 7 - 5 - 3 - 1 - 5 - 3. The church phone was: 475-3144. My fingers must have been on auto-dial. I reached the treasurer of our home school group, and a dear friend, Jo.
“You’re not Sister Ayleson.” I astutely observed.
“Not last time I checked.” Jo responded. “You sound upset. What’s wrong.”
I told her about Joe’s call.
“That’s terrible. Is there anything I can do?”
“As long as I have you on the phone, we need prayer for the situation. Would you please initiate the prayer chain for the home school group and let them know.”
“You got it. No problem. Is there anything else that I can do?”
“Well ... now that I’m thinking about it ... could you watch the boys for a few hours ... while I find out what’s going on?”
“Not a problem. When do you want me there?”
“As soon as you can get here. Steve and Micah are down at the creek fishing. I sent Honnah down after them.... And we will leave for the hospital as soon as you get here.”
“I’ll be there in 15 minutes. Let me get the prayer chain started.”
Thank God for good friends! I knew the boys would be in good, loving hands. Little did we know that those few hours would last all weekend until my mother-in-law arrived.
Many of our home school group members participate in other support groups besides ours. As the story continued to unfold, they connected with those groups with our prayer request.
Several husbands in the group also pastor churches. They contacted other pastors throughout the county.
Soon, a vast blanket of prayer started forming.
Now it was time to call Sister Ayleson. But the line was busy. So, I took a little more time to call some other people and inform them of our need for prayer.
First call was Bernadette, a shut-in and another close friend. I knew I could always count on her powerful prayers. She offered to call the priests, Fr. Roger and Fr. Joseph. The thought had not crossed my mind.. I gave her the go ahead. She also decided to call a number of prayer ministries she knew.
Next, I called Rosie, my best friend for years and years. Our children grew up together when we lived in Mobile. She loves Arif like her own son. I knew she would want to know. Her family’s prayers carry much power as well.
Rosie offered to call her home school group’s prayer chain. As it turns out, some of those members also had connections with other home school communities. I often gratefully wonder just how much of the home school community throughout the country supported us with their prayers.
Rosie and I prayed together on the phone. At that point, I began losing my concentration and things started to become a blur. I don’t remember exactly what she said, but I felt comforted by her words and her loving attention.
Finally I got through to Sister Ayleson. Certainly, there was no question of my need to stay home from the conference. She, of course, also had words of comfort and promises of prayers – the whole congregation would pray for him.
In our small church, everyone knew and loved Arif. His knowledge and the depth of his faith made an impact on all -- from the elders, to the youth group. Three years ago, he made his Confirmation with several other teens. He sparked lively discussions in his religion classes. The youth group counted him as a vital member, although less so since he started attending Crowder. He frequently served at Mass with a reverence that drew everyone into the heart of worship. Yet, his sense of fun delighted – and sometimes startled – many of his associates.
Jo arrived just as the boys came in from the creek. She loaned me her cell phone with a few hurried instructions on how to handle this new-fangled thing. She thought it would come in handy to keep in touch with those at home.
A quick explanation was given to the boys about the crisis, and we went our separate ways, the whole family in shock. Later I was told that Micah cried off and on all day.
It would be days before I could bring myself to cry. However, there is still probably a wet spot on the carpet in St. John’s hospital chapel.