"Somewhere Under the Rainbow" - reflections by Colin Sutton
We moved into our brand-new home with five children and a dog. Enthusiasm was high.
A parish council was started at Our Lady of the Rosary and Fr. Baulman invited me to join. At one of these meetings I suggested we commence weekly novenas to Our Lady of Perpetual Succour. I remember not really knowing what they were but was somehow urged to present the matter to the council. Fr Baulman who had a great love for Mary readily agreed (when he spoke of her from the pulpit his voice broke up). So started another extraordinary step in Our Lady’s way in my life.
Life presents us with many moods, twists, bends and surprises. Without planning or notice, in January 1969, I was in hospital for an operation which resulted in the removal of a cancerous Testis. This was not in the plan, but it had to be dealt with. A course of very unpleasant cobalt treatment was carried out. Boy, was I sick! This went on for six weeks. At this moment I am mindful of how difficult this would have been for Val. However, we survived and after some months I was back at work. 15 months later, it appeared to return in the form of a lump just above the line where the cobalt treatment stopped. The diagnosis was bad. The doctors told us to prepare for the worst, an urgent operation was planned, and they suggested that I could have a mere three months to live. The message was: get your affairs in order. Too sick to care all that much, I did experience a large faith challenge. I didn’t want to die. The challenge was that, as a Christian, to die and be with the Lord was the ultimate. Here was paradise. I would be going home. I didn’t want to go! This I saw as a failing, if not a sin.
I can’t remember exactly how it happened but it was suggested I make my confession and receive the last rites before the operation. Val had been told I may not come out of it. So we asked a Franciscan priest, whom I had met a few times while on parish retreats at Mt. Alverna to come. Among other things, I confessed that I didn’t want to die. He asked me some questions, so I told him about my thoughts as, explained above, but the big reason was that I wanted to see our daughter Megan grow up. I loved our four sons but to have a gorgeous little girl was this father’s extra delight. The day she was born I was unable to speak when the doctor told me. So great was my joy. I see that this over the-top affection I have for our children has been quite a burden for them and, maybe, especially for Megan. The priest told me that this indeed was not a sin as life was a precious gift from God and that it was good to enjoy life and my family. He asked me if I wanted to be healed. I said yes. He said, “Ask the Lord to heal you!” This was something new for me. Another priest had told me that it looked as though I was being given the gift of suffering something of which I now have a greater understanding but which, at that stage of life, I didn’t understand and wasn’t too keen on.
After the priest left, I called Val and asked her to write a petition to be placed before Our Lady of Perpetual Succour at the next novena. This was the novena that I had previously suggested to the parish council. Now, here it was as the blessing of prayer used by God to bring about my healing. God is good. The parish had a triduum of Masses for me.
So off I went to hospital to have an operation. I don’t remember all that much and I really didn’t care too much as I felt very sick. Patients are given medication before the operation that makes one feel good. Some days later while lying in hospital I felt a strong movement inside my body. It was like something letting go, something springing back, possibly like something that was tied down being let loose. It felt good. Sometime after the surgeon visited, he said “ It’s unbelievable! Your going to be allright “.
My recovery was underway, but strangely I became very depressed. I think that, somehow, I had been prepared to die. Now I was going to live and I couldn’t cope with it. It was an overpowering depression. Maybe it was because of the operation but at the time I didn’t know how to get back to normal thinking. Maybe it’s harder to live than to die! Strange how things work. I started reading jokes from the Reader’s Digest and this brought the humor back to my life. I have often thought that there is a risk of taking ourselves too seriously. I wish I could always remember this. It would save a lot of unnecessary pain, worry and stress.
Born again, so to speak
Well here I was in reality, born again and, after a recuperation period, full of life and raring to go--- and go I did. After an experience like this one has a very positive, down-to-earth approach to life, a greater appreciation of the important side of life. I certainly had a fresh approach and new energy, which showed in my business life through selling real estate and significantly increasing our income. It was around this time that we became more financially secure. I changed the direction of my real estate career by moving into the development side, working for a large development company buying sites for home units and subdivisions. I loved this because it led me to project housing, shopping centers, industrial commercial development. From here, I once again went into my own business.
These were also wonderful family years. I honestly can’t remember any unhappy times: the children were marvellous, Val and I thoroughly enjoyed their school years and were very involved in school and parish. These joys and what we learnt about loving the children could fill another book. Family life is wonderfully rich, something we are forever grateful for and see as our first priority after God. How sad it would be to see a breakdown in society of this intimate community of parents, children, grandparents, cousins, uncles and aunts. I see God as family, He is interested in family, and He cares for us as his children, something that is so beautifully portrayed in the story of the Prodigal Son. I believe that He wants us to be family, both in the human and spiritual sense, where he is equally present. This whole concept was eventually to lead me into Christian Community, and to see and experience God as Father.
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