This has been a very difficult week for my family. You probably have heard of my sister Melanie since I have mentioned her often (to the right is a recent picture of her taken by my brother Louis). This last week Melanie suffered a stroke, which affected the right side of her body. It paralyzed her arm; when she lifts it with her left hand, it simply falls back. Also, she cannot walk on her own, but if someone supports her, she can slowly move her right leg. The stroke only slightly affected her speech and her mind is sharp. For example, they did a series of tests, such as seeing how many animals she could name in a minute. She named 22 (the average is 18). Melanie probably did well on that test because she has been reading books to her four grandchildren, who recently spent several weeks with her and her husband Alex. I ask you to pray for Melanie and Alex as they face what will likely be a long recovery process. If you wish to send them a note, you may write to: Melanie and Alex Bloom (yes, he took her last name) c/o Providence Hospital, 916 Pacific Avenue, Everett, WA 98201.
My sister’s stroke has made me look at things a bit differently. This week I was signing the six-month financial statements for those who had made donations to Holy Family Parish. I tried to say a prayer for each family, aware that they might be facing their own crisis: an illness, a financial setback, a drug or alcohol problem, a breakdown of relationships, a time of emotional darkness. Whatever tests we face, we need to support each other with our prayers.
Melanie’s stroke also made me reflect on what I value. The greatest thing which God gives us is this life which we experience in our fragile, but wonderful bodies. That gift makes possible every other blessing. In the case of my sister, we have every hope that she will regain the use of her arm, but suppose we had to place an economic value on it: Who would not trade a million dollars to be able to hug a child, pick up a book and perform the daily tasks of life? Jesus tells us that the things which we anxiously seek - money, reputation, superiority over others - matter very little in comparison to the life which only the Father can give us.
God gives us life as part of a family. My sister’s physical setback shook up my four brothers and me. Melanie is our youngest and only sister. She had none of the warning signs of a stroke: high blood pressure, diabetes, overweight, smoking or lack of exercise. Last November she and her daughter Tonya took part in the Seattle marathon (the picture shows Melanie at the finish line). In recent years she has taken care of her husband Alex after he suffered a heart attack and other health problems. We more or less assumed that Melanie would be the one we could count on in case of crisis. That is probably still the case, but we are more aware that none of us has control of his life. We rely on our family - and ultimately upon God who makes us members of a great family.
In the Spanish section, I have placed a picture from the happy days when we had four generations in our family: my mom, Melanie, her daughter Tonya and grandchildren Rachael and Gabriel. Louis took the picture about seven years ago. All of us probably have such family images which remind us about what our lives are really about. As I pray for you and your families, I ask you also to say a prayer for Melanie, Alex, their children and grandchildren - and for our entire family. I want to express particular gratitude to Holy Family Youth who are participating in all night Eucharistic Adoration beginning this Saturday evening at 10 p.m. and concluding with the 8 a.m. Sunday Mass.* They told me they would pray for my sister Melanie and for the intentions of Holy Family parishioners.
Melanie & husband Alex at June 30, 2003 baptism of their grandchildren:
Final note: Speaking of family, we will have two wonderful events on the weekend of August 19-20. At the 5 p.m. Mass, Frank and Pat Waite will renew their marriage vows and at the 11 a.m. Mass, our school Principal Mr.Glen Lutz and his wife Yvonne will celebrate their twentieth wedding anniversary together with their children and grandchildren. This will be a great opportunity to meet this beautiful family.
Pido sus oraciones por mi hermana Melanie que sufrió un derrame cerebral (stroke). El derrame afectó su lado derecho, paralizando su brazo y causando dificultad en caminar. En la parte de inglés he puesto unas fotos de ella y su esposo Alex. Aquí hay una foto de hace siete años que muestra cuatro generaciones: nuestra mamá (Mary Bloom), Melanie, su hija Toña y nietos Raquel y Gabriel.
Esta semana he enviado cartas de agradecimiento a todos los donadores identificados, es decir, los que han hecho una contribución a la parroquia usando un sobre y/o cheque. El reporte incluye todas las donaciones desde enero 2006 hasta fines de junio. Al firmar las cartas he rezado por las familias individuales, sabiendo que toda familia tiene su crisis: una enfermedad, desempleo, un hijo en la cárcel, oscuridad emocional o depresión grave. Es importante que recemos uno por otro.
*Picture taken Sunday morning after Benediction in the Divine Mercy Chapel:
August 7 update: Melanie is now able to get out of bed on her own and walk around her room. She can also move the five fingers of her right hand and slowly close them to take someone else's hand. Here is a picture of her and Alex:
August 9 update: Melanie continues to make rapid progress. Tomorrow she is scheduled to be released from the hospital and will continue therapy at home and at a local center. Please keep up your prayers for my sister's steady and complete recovery.
August 10 update: Melanie returned home today!
For August 13 parish bulletin:
First of all, thank you for the prayers for my sister Melanie. She is making a marvellous recovery from the stroke she suffered two weeks ago. The biggest accomplishment was being able to get out of bed on her own and walk around the room. Unlike some of her brothers, Melanie cannot stand a messy room so she was anxious to organize the flowers, cards and other things in her hospital room. One by one she regained movement in the fingers of her right hand. When I visited her last Sunday evening, she could already grasp my hand. As I write this on Thursday morning, her right arm is still limp, but she has made enough progress that the doctors are releasing her from the hospital. She will continue therapy at home and at a center in Stanwood. Please continue your prayers for her steady and complete recovery. Also pray for her husband Alex and the others who are caring for Melanie during this process.
People from far and near have offered prayers for Melanie. At the Mary Bloom Center in Peru, the staff and volunteers have been praying a rosary every day for her recovery. Here at Holy Family many people have told me about specific prayers they have said for my sister. Last weekend, a group of youth spent the night in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. The picture (above) shows the group on Sunday morning after the closing Benediction in the Divine Mercy Chapel of our Ailbe House.
Melanie and Louie, Sister-in-law Marianne McGarry Bloom and Alex:
November 27, 2006 Update: Slow, steady progress, able to use right hand for eating, picking up light objects, etc. Continued prayers are appreciated.
The next day she and our brother Louis put chains on my tires so I could return to the parish
Melanie, Louis and Samwise at the top of Manaco Beach Road
May 14, 2007 Update: During the past weeks Melanie has been placing the bricks in front of their new modular home on Camano. She can do many things, but her recovery is still not complete. Prayers appreciated.
July 9, 2007 Update: At the end of June Melanie flew to North Carolina, then with her daughter Tonya and four grandchildren drove across the country. They arrived at Camano on the morning of July 8. Here Melanie and Alex are carrying a board for their house. Between are youngest grandchildren, Sarah and Hannah. Brother Louie in background.
Louie with Sarah & Hannah, picking cherries.
January 2, 2008 Update: We had a somewhat poignant milestone in my family last week. My brother-in-law, Alex, realized that his health problems make it difficult for him to take part in a Knights of Columbus honor guard. He decided to hand over his Fourth Degree sword and uniform to a younger man. Here is what may be the last picture of Alex in that uniform. Next to Alex, of course, is my sister, Melanie. Many of you ask how she is doing after the stroke she suffered in July of 2006. The answer is that she made a remarkable recovery and can perform all ordinary tasks, but they still require greater concentration. Your ongoing prayers for Melanie and Alex are appreciated. They are devoted parents and grandparents, and they serve others in beautiful ways.
Louie & Melanie: Splitting & Stacking Wood, September, 21, 2008