There and Back
My Spiritual Journey...
My Spiritual Journey (John V. Connor)
Mere “Coincidence” or Divine Intervention
How do you spell “coincidence”? I believe you spell it like this:
I truly believe that my spiritual journey began before I was born; however, I was not cognizant of it until much later (approximately forty-two years). I cannot tell you I grew up with any hardship or catastrophic events because there were none. I did grow up with love all around me. My family did not have a lot of money; however, we have always had enough and this blessing (having enough money and not wanting or needing anymore) continues to this day. I now understand that I have been blessed from the beginning; however, 20 years ago I would have struggled to draw this conclusion; again it was not to due to any hardship or catastrophic event; it was due to my lack of ability to discern/understand that I am and continue to be blessed more than I can ever imagine.
My parents were excellent in their parenting skills; my father was somewhat removed from church activity; however, he was spiritual (he did survive WWII need I mention more?) and my mother brought me to our Methodist (United) Church, quite frequently, and made sure I was enrolled in Sunday School until my teen years. My parents were the best Christian role models; my brother, my sister and I could possibly ever have. They truly lived out the 10 Commandments (however they were not displayed in our house). When I was 17 years of age I met my future wife (merely by “coincidence” or was it Divine Intervention) while visiting Florida. I literally ran into her at Jensen Beach. Let me rephrase that, I threw a Frisbee in her general direction and I managed to hit her with it. I am not usually competitive; however, I did hurry and got to her side before my friend (Rick) did (not that he necessarily hurried; you see I cannot remember because my attention was somewhere else). Kathleen and I quickly became friends and kept “in-touch” by phone on a weekly basis. I confided to my friends that I was confused because I knew deep in my heart that Kathleen was my ain true love; however, we were from different countries and it was just by mere “coincidence” (Divine Intervention) that we ran into each other.
Perhaps, I should have began to understand that God’s intervention may appear to be mere “coincidence” to the unaware; however, unknowing to me (at that time) Divine Intervention was again being provided. The seeds were planted. We continued to date others; however, both of us would end up comparing our dates significantly short of our experience with each other (deep in our hearts we knew we were meant for each other). We began to set plans. We knew we would not marry until after both of us graduated college. This decision was made not only to respect our parents; but also because deep in our hearts we both knew it would be the right thing to do to facilitate our lives together (was this the holy spirit looking out for us?). Just prior to my college graduation my Father passed on; it was definitely a sad event for my family, friends and I. Although I grieved for my father’s passing, I was also concerned for my mother because she was a devoted wife and was quite dependent upon my father. She had never learned how to drive and was a stay-at-home mother. My father did not have much in the form of life insurance either. However, just by mere “coincidence” (Divine Intervention) a condominium developer came along and wanted to buy my mother’s house and property as well as everyone else’s property on the block. My mother refused to sell at first. The developer managed to buy almost everyone’s property (except five or six places) so he decided to increase his offer considerably; my mother and one other neighbor (another widow) decided it was in their best interest to sell and closed the deal. My mother and her next-door neighbor received enough money to support themselves comfortably for the rest of their lives. They moved into the same condominium (separate suites) in a nice, peaceful neighborhood with bus service to the front entrance. My mother was the last person to sell and receive her money; the developer went bankrupt and to this day her house and all of her neighbors’ houses are still there. No development has occurred, 25 years have passed and the property values are still well below what she was paid.
Upon my college graduation, by “coincidence” (Divine Intervention), I was provided with an excellent career position at Kimberly-Clark, Inc. as a Forest Engineer. Kathleen would have one more year until she would graduate with her teaching degree. Upon her graduation we would get married in her hometown, Altamonte Springs, Florida (Church of the Annunciation) and I would travel with my bride back to Longlac, Ontario, Canada. This is exactly what happened. However, realizing that I wanted my future children to grow up like my wife I gladly converted to the Catholic Faith (this was also interesting because as of 2006 we have 3 daughters (and in there own way they are all wonderful and similar to their mother, Kathleen Mary). So we were married in front of the Alter and received the Sacrament of Marriage. After our marriage, I brought my bride back to Canada; however, because she was not bilingual (neither am I, nor are the vast majority of Canadians) she could not obtain a teaching position in Longlac, Ontario. Kimberly-Clark hired her as a Shipping Clerk out of concern for her and to assist in retaining me; however, deep in her heart and mine I knew she wanted to teach (she did not complain; she accepted the clerk position and pretended to be content). Again, God was speaking (would I listen?). I convinced her to go back to Florida and try to find a teaching position; if she found one I would ask for a Leave of Absence and look for a comparable position in Florida. John McMahon, of Kimberly-Clark, furnished me with a Leave of Absence immediately; informed me that they were willing to pay me for 6 months and I could come back and continue as if I had never left. Any anxiety that tried to set-in quickly evaporated again. Kathleen subsequently received 5 teaching offers; so I received my Leave of Absence, received legal alien status (we were already married), drove down to Florida, and found a position within two days. The United States embraced me immediately, Florida felt like home to me and I was thrilled to be living in Florida. I remember writing a note to my friends stating, that down here, they even had hockey rinks for me to play in (maybe, H-E-double hockey sticks is hot and heaven is a sufficiently cold ice rink?).
Well, life sailed on for our family with very few noticeable coincidences (three: Divine Interventions) for quite some time. Our family grew from two to five without incidence (Kaitlan was born in 1990, Kelsey in 1992, and Kiersten in 1994). We were both teachers now and with three children we were beginning to understand the term “financial struggle”. No need to worry though because it was time for another “coincidence”. I was enrolled in a college course when I began to talk with and get to know our professor; he was a school psychologist. Even though I was a teacher, I did not know that this position existed. Well, my path was suddenly set, defined, and apparent. I would become a school psychologist. Somehow I knew it would happen, but how? Through Divine Intervention, I was admitted into the University of Central Florida (UCF) School Psychologist Program. I applied two weeks prior to the deadline and received an invitation for an interview from Dr. David Mealor. I was informed that they only accept 15 students; however, over 200 applied. I was accepted into the program, although I do not know why I was accepted and so many others were not. I was informed that I could continue to teach while pursuing this course of study; and, that I would qualify for a Leave of Absence for the last year of the program so that I could complete the paid full-year internship. I realized and remember saying to Kathleen it would work out (and deep down inside realizing that there was no need for anxiety/worry and I began to give thanks to God; instead of allowing anxiety to set in). I was beginning to learn how to truly live (how appropriate is it that our state motto is: In God We Trust).
It all worked out so conveniently it was truly amazing. I became the President of UCF Kappa Delta Pi, graduated with High Honours in 1998, was offered a position in Volusia Schools as a School Psychologist, and subsequently declined the position (because of divine intervention). Daytona Beach Community College (DBCC) offered me a position as Assistant Professor of Education and Psychology; and, DBCC would allow me to begin to evaluate college students for learning disabilities and other disorders (In other words, I was wanted and needed). My wisdom gained from UCF would now provide a dual purpose. I would be able to practice school psychology (which was important to me) and teach future teachers how to teach (which was also important to me; especially since I gained significant insight from studying school psychology about how people learn; thus how to properly train student-teachers). I began to believe my prayer was more than answered because now I could earn enough money so that we could provide for our family, was given the insight/wisdom to properly train teachers to be effective and I could continue to practice school psychology. Life was great. Our children were excelling in school and they were happy. They were attending wonderful schools. Kathleen was content and happy. I became a tenured faculty member and was offered the Program Manager position for Teacher Education in 2000 by Dr, David Miller and Dr. Frank Wetta. During the course of all of this, we had settled in Altamonte Springs (where Kathleen had grown up; she was working for her mother’s business; our children were in excellent schools and I found myself living very close to two ice hockey rinks where I continued to played hockey with my friends).
It was New Years Eve 2002 (and I was completely content) and we suddenly received a call from the wife of one of my closest friends. Don had been rushed to Florida Hospital and had been diagnosed with a brain aneurysm. He was only 39 years of age. They scheduled him for emergency surgery and operated on New Years Day. Don was built like a gladiator and was in great shape; I was speechless. I said a prayer, my wife gave me her scapular and I proceeded to Florida Hospital (it was pouring rain). The nurses allowed me access to Don; I prayed and left the scapular with him (I had never prayed so deeply). He underwent surgery and was induced into a coma to enhance the probability of recovering.
Less than one week later (January 6, 2003) I was to end up in the room next to Don. A majority of the details, which follow, are not of my memory, but of my wife and family’s remembrance. I had spent the day at DBCC (it was a pre-term planning/workday). I had taken our middle daughter along for the day. As I was driving home from Daytona that afternoon, I called my wife to tell her I was really tired and not to work too late. By the time my wife arrived home, I had cooked some spaghetti and was very tired. I had told my wife I did not feel very good and was going to lie down for a while. During the next 2 hours, I spent my time between the bed and the bathroom. My wife thought I was experiencing the stomach flu (our daughter had just recently been afflicted with it). At one point, my wife went to make me some tea and dry toast, to settle my stomach. However, upon her return with the tea and toast, I was not to be found…until she discovered me on the floor of our bathroom, aspirating and in seizure.
Immediately, my wife called her parents and 911. The squad quickly rushed me to the emergency room at Florida Hospital (Altamonte). The staff at Altamonte determined that they were not equipped to handle a situation such as mine. I was diagnosed “brain-dead” as the result of a hemorrhage of the right ventricle and was on full life support. Within just a few hours I had been transferred to Florida Hospital South (by the Orlando Science Center).
At this point it was no mere “coincidence” that another Divine Intervention was at work. Dr. Christopher Baker was on call that night (I thank God for this). His neuro-nurse Marsha was on the floor, as was Darlene, an amazingly talented neuro-nurse. They had to relieve the pressure in my cranium and when they drilled a very small hole (yes, I had a hole in my head) they said that they had never seen so much blood come out of someone’s head. And, here was I, in a natural coma, being placed in the room immediately beside my friend Don Elderdice (who was in a drug induced coma) in the Neuro-Critical Care Ward (5th Floor) of Florida Hospital South, Orlando. By Tuesday afternoon, I had been administered the Sacrament of Extreme Unction (Last Rites) by Father David Scotchie (who I have, on a few subsequent occasions, “coincidently”, referred to him as Father Christie). No one ever dreamed that I would someday walk out of that hospital (except me). The staff tried diligently to illicit a reflex response from me. My wife had been told that each day would be taken one at a time but that if no response had been documented by the fourth day, a decision would have to be made. However, on the morning of the fourth day the staff was quite thrilled and it was decided that I stood a chance for I had moved one of my “pinkie” toes (perhaps, you may recall a relatively old record album: Feets Don’t Fail Me Now). The next two months were spent in the hospital and followed by another 5 months of rehabilitation therapies. Even though I had a long road to travel, it seems to have been an easy and short journey (was it not just like a sabbatical, perhaps?).
There are many pictures of Jesus Christ and other religious figures on the walls of what I consider a sacred place of Divine Intervention. A place (a “business”) where the administrators are not too proud nor ignorant to realize the extraordinary influence that God can have when we are inclusive of Him. Don and I both fully recovered. I have subsequently served as the Director of our Educator Preparation Institute. However, although I still profess full-time at (the former DBCC); Daytona State College, I have come to realize a more Thoreau-like existence is my ideal. One in which there is ample time to serve other purposes (i.e. Ministry to the Sick at Area Hospitals and becoming Carmelite-laiety).
Don and I run into each other at least once a week as we continue to play ice hockey and reflect on our Good News. Once a month we skate with his son, Ryan and teach him the game of hockey; Don shines during this time and does not take his presence here for granted. We also visit Florida Hospital around the New Year Holiday, each and every year, to give thanks to where Divine Intervention continues to occur.
I have been fortunate to be infused with significant insight via this journey. It is now apparent that someone significant has been beside me throughout my life (even though for most of it I was completely unaware of this phenomina). I truly believe our ideal role-models are people like Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Teresa and yes even a non-Christian; Mahatma Gandhi. I believe another significant revelation that has been discerned from this experience is the profound experience of peacefulness when you are close to God...