I don’t pray a lot. I used to. I was one of those kids who knelt by the bed at night to ask God to protect my mom and dad and brothers and sisters and for the Bears to beat the Packers on Sunday.
As Catholic schoolers, we went to mass at least three times a week. Kids nowadays would consider it a complete drudgery. March single file by the lockers, down the stairs, past Sister’s principal’s office, and into the church. No talking. And certainly no grabass. After a while you just get used to the routine and you sit in silence waiting for Father to come and go through the motions.
And it is in the motions that you start to understand the rhythm of life. Stand, sit, kneel, sing, pray out loud, bow your head, get out of the pew and file up to get a little wafer. Day after day. Week after week. Pretty soon you’re an eighth grader with raging hormones and at recess you play basketball and come back into class smelling like a dead wet cat.
The irony is that if I wanted to go down to St. Thomas More right now and go in the church through the sacresty, I couldn’t. Neither can you… or you or you. That’s because church is closed. The spiritual world has turned its back precisely when we need it most.
I went in real early today to start talking about the corona virus. It is the only topic anywhere in the world. I did my duty. I told everyone about the number of deaths and how many people have the virus and flattening the curve and where you can go if you’re symptomatic.
By noon, I was at Gary Airport. We’re setting up an emergency operations center there so responders and federal agencies and state departments and big private companies will have a place to meet to decide what to do next.
And what do we do next? No one – and I mean no one – has a clue. For the first time, corona virus came to Lake County, Indiana. By 2pm, I was back at the WJOB studios interviewing Hammond superintendent Scott Miller about a bus monitor who tested positive for corona virus. This is bad.
Miller told all of us that the school city employee rode the busses with the kids on Tuesday and tested positive six days later. Further, the employee’s husband drives a bus for the district and was driving until Friday. He is under a 14-day quarantine.
It took a while, but with the help of a guy named Paul Goddard I found the guy who is quarantined. His name is Jeff Spencer. He’s a pastor at New Zion Baptist Church in Hobart and lives in Calumet Township. He and his wife work the church together and work on the school busses of Hammond.
You can watch the video interview I did with Jeff. Tens of thousands have. There is so much sorrow that even if you don’t know either one of them, you want to cry.
According to Jeff, Darlene drove on the busses with the kids on Tuesday and started not feeling well on Wednesday. At first, she was diagnosed with a kidney infection. Then she had trouble breathing.
“She couldn’t even walk across the room without stopping to take a breath.”
I’m learning and so are you that that’s how this disease works. The virus creates a pneumonia in your lungs and you can’t absorb oxygen. At first the disease takes over 10 % of your lungs… then 50%... and then if it goes all the way... you know.
According to Jeff, Darlene’s breathing got so bad over the weekend that doctors put her in a coma and are pumping tons of oxygen into her. He’s sitting at home by himself. He can’t leave. He can’t go to her bedside.
So he updates us with Facebook posts. And the one he wrote this evening is downright scary. I’ve never met the man in person but I’d like to give him a hug, if not now, then someday.
My newest update just came from the hospital.
Darlene kidney’s are shutting down and they have called the kidney specialist in. There is a good chance that they will have to put her on dialysis. Her status is now critical.
Hence the thoughts of sitting in church waiting for Father Weiss to come out and start praying, raising his hands, bowing his head. In that silence before mass, you wait, you think, the rhythm of life seeps into your soul. It’s mostly a good time, a peaceful time, even for a little kid.
But sometimes you’re anxious… you can’t wait for Father to come out and get on with it, tell us how it’s gonna be. That’s where I’m at right now. I want to wake up and drive down to the station and start talking into a microphone with the knowledge that Darlene made it through the night and that she’s improving. I know it’s a lot to ask for, Lord, and I know I used up a lot of my chips on Bears games. But if you could, you know, cut these people a break it’d be much appreciated.