I think it was around 3am when the phone rang.  It was Roger.  Then he said it, “We just lost Wendy.”  All I could say was “What?!”  She was only in her 30’s with three young boys.  There had been no warning — heart related.  Wendy was uniquely gifted.  She could do many things and all of them well.  She was in the thick of the life of the congregation.  She taught part time at the Parochial school sponsored by our congregation and two others. 

I, of course, went to the hospital for a while to provide some support for Roger.  First thing in the morning I went to the school to help in any way I could with the Staff and Students.  The boys went to school there (the older two).   I remember as I was walking out of the office at the school, someone said something about a plane hitting a building in New York City.  I thought little of it since our attention was on what had happened here, on that September 11, 2001 morning.

I think it is fair to describe the next few days as surreal.  It was hard to get our minds around what was happening.  The magnitude of the 9-11 terrorist attack and the intensity of the grief over the loss of Wendy converged on our congregation.  It was hard to pull apart the various elements of what we were feeling.  One compounded the other.  In some odd, irrational way, it almost seemed as if Wendy had been one of the casualties of the attack. 

We had a service that evening to provide a place for people to come together in the face a national tragedy.  The experience in Oklahoma City after the bombing there helped inform what we did in response to 9-11.  Again, I urged that contacts be made with the homebound who were only seeing the television and not the world outside their house, the one that was still standing.  There were resources for families and children and teachers in the education programs at church as well as at the school.

Wendy’s funeral filled the church upstairs and downstairs.  In the face of two tragedies of such significance, the message of the church became clearer and more important.  The year that the congregation reached an average attendance of 650, was the calendar year following 9-11. 

It was during those years that Mary Ann had a dramatic decline.  After four years of controlled symptoms, our Medical Insurance carrier insisted that we switch from the KU Med Center clinic to a new local Neurologist if we expected them to cover her visits.  The new Neurologist had spent time training with the KU Clinic.  She was caring and competent.  She tried her best, but Mary Ann’s expression of Parkinson’s demanded more than she was able to give.   Oddly, the doctor admitted to Mary Ann at one point that she suspected she might have Parkinson’s herself.   By January of that year, Mary Ann was no longer able even to feed herself.  I think that was also in 2001. 

We decided that we would go back to KU Med Center even if we had to pay out of network costs.  The local Neurologist at the very same time wrote a referral to KU Med Center, realizing that she did could not find the right mix of meds to deal with Mary Ann’s symptoms.  Also at that moment, the Medical Insurance changed, again allowing the use of KU Med Center’s Parkinson’s clinic.

Mary Ann was not only unable to feed herself at that time, but she could not manage the bathroom without help.  She also struggled to keep from falling.  She could not be at home by herself.  I had a full time 60-70 hour per week job.  I was to young to be able to survive were I to retire.  We did not have enough income to be able to add paid Caregivers to cover the hours I worked.  The options dissipated like the morning dew when the sun comes out. 

After all the obvious options were gone, a new one emerged.   That is for the next post to this blog. 

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