“In the Blink of an Eye” is an expression I’m quite sure we all have heard of over the course of our lifetime.

What does Merriam Webster dictionary online give us in definition about these string of words?  It gives the following:

“In an Instant”

In an instant, in the blinking of an eye, I was given such a beautiful blessing on Christmas Day but not one for my own keeping, but one that would keep a family in the peace of God and give them much consolation.

What Happened?

Well, here is the unfolding of the story, but first I must go back to some years ago.

I believe we all are given many blessings in this life and especially in the form of friendships. There are certainly dear souls who God brings into our paths at certain times and moments of our lives.

Timera was one such person for me.  She was the sister of our dear next door neighbor, Fonda, and we all became close friends.  Timera’s son, Jake, was in grammar school with my son, Nick, and that made the relationship between us flourish even more.  Our sons played “Ghostbuster” together and there were many happy days spent at Point Lookout Beach on Long Island.

We always took very long walks on Sunday afternoons breathing in the smells of fireplaces burning wood that would drift our way in the Fall crisp air. I remember, too, days when we plodded through the snow to get our exercise and have the chance to discuss life and what was happening in the world and in our own personal lives.  

We had a thing about the “Three Kings” and we would wait to exchange our Christmas gifts on that feast day.  It was always, always a “Three Kings” gift of some sort. We always celebrated it on January 6th and we never deviated from this protocol or missed appearing on each other’s porches with gifts in hand for each other.

Then one day came when Timera met me on the usual corner to take our walk together. She had a look on her face that I will never forget. She told me she was pretty sure that she had breast cancer and needed to have a biopsy done. She was sadly correct. Timera was diagnosed with what she had feared the most.  Suffering appeared in her life and in all the lives of those who loved and adored her.

There were treatments, medications, etc. but in the end, the cancer spread to her brain and the suffering intensified.

My dear friend fought the cancer bravely with her family and friends by her side. And, so, this is where Pete enters in. He is the main thrust of this story.

Pete

So who is “Pete?”  Pete was Timera’s high school sweetheart.

Although Timera had married someone else and had a family with 4 beautiful children, Pete did not. He had remained single.

God’s time is always amazing and He is never late, so “Pete” entered back into Timera’s life after her divorce and during her battle with cancer.

It was a true love story. There he was back at her side, being a “companion” on the journey through the suffering that had knocked at Timera’s door.

They spent much time together in the last days of her life.  Many a time it was me and Pete at Timera’s bedside in her home and I just remember he was like a faithful puppy. That “faithful puppy” stood vigil at her side constantly and was with her when she breathed her last breath.

After Timera’s death, I would see Pete at Mass at St. Thomas and he came to visit me a couple of times especially after sadness struck in my own home.  He even sent me Christmas cards! Then we saw each other last year at Timera’s mom’s funeral Mass.

Now that I brought the past into the present, I will take you into the scene of Christmas Day Mass 2019 and the unfolding of a blink of the eye.

Christmas Day 2019

Unsure of what Mass I would attend for Christmas, I went back and forth in my mind with the question:Should I attend the 10:00 pm Mass with Msgr. Michael celebrating or should I go to Mass on Christmas Day?” 

Having our family Christmas celebration at my home, it made more sense to go on Christmas Eve but somehow I felt the promptings from within to go on Christmas Day.

Normally I would not attend Christmas morning Mass but I seemed to have whatever I needed to do for the dinner and festivities pretty much done.  It would be the 9:00 am Mass at St. Thomas that I would attend for the celebration of the Birth of Jesus.

I have to say that the Church was quite empty. I guess people must have attended Holy Mass the evening before and now home opening gifts and eating breakfast.

As I sat in the front pew, I felt complete peace and happiness with the decision I had made to be present at this particular Mass.

 

When Fr. Anthony celebrates the Mass and at the moment of “Elevation,” he holds up the Eucharist for an “extended” period of time and it’s a moment of great silence and adoration.

You have the real sense of  Who is being Held Up, Who is Present, and Who is Before you.

I fully entered into that moment and instantly my eyes filled up with tears.  I composed myself enough to go up and receive Jesus in the Eucharist but back again in my pew, with eyes closed, tears seemed to be brimming over and gently falling down my face.

What does one do when that happens? 

Naturally, you open your eyes so you can wipe the tears away!

 

In the Blink of the Eye

And as I did so, a man walked in front of me who looked mighty familiar.  “Who was he?” I asked myself.  “I know this guy!”  Then I realized it was Timera’s Pete. He looked different, like he had gained a few pounds but I knew it was definitely Pete.

We didn’t get a chance to speak.  He had received Holy Communion and had gone back to his seat.  The final blessing came at the end of Mass and I then found myself driving home to finish what still needed to be done for Christmas Day.

Days later, a text came from Fonda, my old neighbor. She was wishing me greetings for Christmas and the New Year but then stated she had some sad news.

She informed me that “Pete” had died on Christmas Day.

“Yikes was my reply!”

“What!!!!  I just saw him walk in front of my pew after receiving the Eucharist on Christmas morning at St. Thomas!”

Fonda, of course, got back to Pete’s family immediately to tell them that he had been spotted on Christmas Day at the 9:00 am Mass at St. Thomas after he had just received Holy Communion. There are no words to describe that news!

Surprised by Grace

Pete had lived alone.  He would be found on Christmas Day by one of his brothers who went to pick him up for the celebration. There were many “unanswered” questions for Pete’s family! When did Pete die and when was he seen last and by who? Those questions certainly were answered by a “blink of the eye.”

I will never forget this past Christmas nor the grace that was granted to me after I opened my eyes at the precise moment that Pete walked past me as I sat in the pew.

The timing of that moment blows me away. Had I left my eyes closed, I would never have seen him nor been able to report to the family that “yes, Pete was alive and well on Christmas morning! He was alive and well enough to make it to 9:00 am Christmas Morning Mass and receive Jesus in the Eucharist.

The Aftermath

Arriving at the Funeral Home, I was greeted by Pete’s siblings asking questions about the “siting of their brother” that I experienced.

Yes, I had seen him!  It was Pete! I had no question in my mind about it!  Pete had walked by me as I sat dripping tears in the front row.

It’s funny but only the day before Pete’s wake, my friend Ana, had stopped by for a visit.  During our conversation, we spoke of a book that she was interested in reading. I found myself running upstairs to retrieve a copy from my desk for her. Rummaging through the drawers to find the book, I left quite a mess on my desk and ran back downstairs with book in hand.

After coming home from the wake the next day, I went to my desk once again to find something.  There was Timera’s framed picture lying there that I had left in a hurry only the day before in my searching for Ana’s book.

Yes, my dear friend Timera was giving me a “wink” from Heaven. “Her” Pete was now in the eternal and I had been given such a beautiful gift from God to be the last person  to see him on earth!

 

God’s Timing

This whole experience has struck me profoundly.

It was God’s timing!  “His” timing is always exquisite, perfect, and full of detail. What a gift for me to receive on Christmas morning! I was able to see Pete and then to offer peace and consolation to the family with the news that he had attended Christmas morning Mass.

What also struck me as well was that, again, in the blink of an eye, Pete was gone!  

He was before the Living Christ no longer concealed in the Host.

Our Own Time

As we begin this New Year of 2020, let us not waste “one more instant of time” that we are given! 

Let us use the time that we have been given wisely!  It seemed Pete had done that especially with the “vigil of love” that he kept at my dear friend’s bedside until Timera’s last day.

It’s all about “Love” isn’t it? 

It’s about loving Jesus  first and foremost and then everyone else that comes into our path, even the path that Pete took before me in the pew as I opened my eyes in that “blink of an eye” on Christmas Day 2019, at St. Thomas the Apostle Church.

 

Wishing you all a Blessed, Happy and Healthy New Year of 2020

and

Dedicating this Blog

to the Memory of

Timera and Pete!

 

One of Timera’s “Gifts” to me

on the Feast of the Three Kings!

 

©2020 Anita Guariglia

Featured Image/and Three Kings/Pinterest

St. Thomas photos/Anita Guariglia