I recently spent 18 days in the hospital.
It started off as a simple 15-minute ultrasound on my abdomen. The tech there spent a little extra time checking things out when, by God’s grace, she noticed fluid in my lungs and around my heart.
I wasn’t really in pain, just some recent lightheadedness and shortness of breath. And out of the blue, I needed open heart surgery. Being it was the pandemic, it was also the last I would see my wife for a long, long time.
COVID-19 has created this isolation that is hard for those who sheltered at home, but as you are laying in a hospital bed, waiting for open heart surgery, the loneliness is overpowering
That first day as I laid in the emergency room, it was around 3 p.m., and I sang to myself the Divine Mercy Chaplet. God was with me.
The next day was my 29th wedding anniversary and my wife stood outside the parking lot, looking up at my third-floor window. Great way to mark such a blessed occasion! And on Father’s Day, no visits. And God was with me.
I withheld requesting from any clergy a visit in order to receive the sacrament of anointing of the sick, because quite frankly, I was concerned for their safety.
On day seven as I was wheeled into the operating room I sang the tune, “Jesus, remember me, when you come into your kingdom.” I thought it was appropriate being that I was unsure as to what my future here on earth would hold.
Your health, depression, isolation, politics, COVID — they start haunting you after a while when you have too much time to think.
On days 16, 17 and 18, I was getting lost. Remember I was not allowed to have any visitors for the entire time and I didn’t have a date when I was getting out, and at times, it was tough. Our own actions try to separate us from God.
I remember Archbishop Perez always reminds us, “Never underestimate the spirit of God working in you, through you and despite you.”
So I was fortunate to be healthy enough to watch Mass online, to participate with spiritual communion and to pray my daily prayers with my wife by phone.
Others are not that fortunate. We know God is always with us, but in our physical frailties our emotional and spiritual lives can suffer as well.
The nurses and doctors were fabulous. They offered the best of care, comfort and compassion. But without the touch and physical closeness of your loved ones, it is easy to feel alone.
We live in very strange times. We have a lot of turmoil in the world, and this disease seems to be lurking around every corner. We are losing our loved ones, we are losing our jobs. We feel, in many ways, we are losing hope.
We don’t have to be in the hospital to experience all this dread. Even at home, we are isolated. We may feel we are having trouble remaining spiritually uplifted. “No man is an island; everyone relies on others.” God is always with us. We need to rely on God first!
And we, those who are physically and spiritually strong enough to do so, pray to God and all the saints to help get us and others through these most difficult times.
Looking back, I found that the grace of God was upon me; that even though I would struggle to keep up my spiritual strength, I would remember we are all connected, and that is a miracle. A miracle only made possible by God.
My wife and family, friends and parishioners, were all praying for me, and I know God is always with us.
Deacon Michael Kubiak is a permanent deacon of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and assigned to St. Matthias Parish, Bala Cynwyd.
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