After being ordained as a priest for eight years, I was assigned as the Executive Director of Catholic Charities for the Catholic Diocese of Arlington, Virginia. I was in my thirties at the time and going into the new position I felt alarmingly unprepared. From the moment I received the assignment I wondered about the sanity of my superiors. After the call telling me of the new assignment I asked for twenty-four hours to mull it over. I spent the next day weighing the pros and cons and in the end I felt a strong sense that my father, who had recently died, would have been so proud of me serving in this particular role, so I contacted the diocese, shared my reservations and ultimately accepted the position.
On my first day in the office, I met my associate directors all of whom were in their fifties and sixties. They were all licensed and credentialed and I was none of those things and inexplicably assigned as their boss—a young boss with zero understanding of how to run an accredited non-profit social service agency and one with no idea how to manage satellite offices in eight different counties serving at that time over 40,000 people a year across twenty-one counties in Virginia. When my associate directors and I met, each of us shared our personal stories, quickly confirming my greenness.
Michael O’Rourke, my sainted Associate Director in charge of Finance and Administration, shared that when he was in his thirties he could do just about anything and he warned, “Just wait until you turn sixty when everything starts to fall apart!”
Truer words have never been spoken and Michael’s forecast rang true when I recently found myself in Fairfax Hospital—six months past my sixtieth birthday — recovering from my second open heart surgery. The incredibly talented people of Fairfax Hospital gave my heart the emergency renovation it so desperately needed by 1) taking my heart and my lungs out of my chest, 2) performing some kind of magic on them, 3) and then sticking them back inside my chest. This process of putting back together what had started to fall part ushered me into what is now, essentially, my “Third Life.”
Since December 6th, I’ve been recovering at home after being discharged from the hospital. My dear friends Erin and Kevin, along with my trusted canine friend, Max, have been taking very good care of me. A special thank you to all the wonderful meal train folks who have been keeping us well fed. Thank you for your delicious generosity and care—all much appreciated.
During my recovery, I have spent time contemplating what exactly I want to do with my “Third Life.” Of course, I want to return to my work at Emmanuel, and as soon as it’s reasonable I will resume my duties as rector. I also want to continue working on my health as I will try to live a life a little more balanced between work and the other aspects of my life. I’m back to walking between three to five miles a day and I have been approved to start riding my stationary bike too. Over time we’ll see just how well I do with the balancing act—something we all try to do in our lives — but I am hopeful and determined to make a few necessary changes that will ensure me a continued healthy life.
Thank you too for the many cards you have shared cheering me on during recovery, as well as the end of the year Christmas and New Year cards. I’m one of those rare people who love the end of year letters and I read every word and enjoy every picture sent to me. Thank you.
One of our awesome parishioners shared with me a prayer from our Episcopal Book of Common Prayer. On page 461, it reads:
This is another day, O Lord.
I know not what it may bring forth,
but make me ready, Lord, for whatever it may be.
If I am to stand, help me to stand bravely.
If I am to sit still, help me to sit quietly.
If I am to lie low, help me to do it patiently.
And if I am to do nothing, let me do it gallantly.
Make these words more than words,
and give me the Spirit of Jesus.
Isn’t that a great prayer? I just love it. It’s the perfect prayer for me to read daily during my recovery. EVERY day I found this prayer applicable in one way or another. Thank you NK for sharing it. I will forever love it and think of you when I read it.
Interestingly enough, I received a call from the Cardiac Rehab at Fairfax Hospital informing me that the rehab is closed until further notice, that they just don’t have the nurses necessary to staff the rehab due to the surge in COVID cases following the Christmas season. In the meantime, I will continue to do rehab at home and look towards returning to EEC, depending on when I can get discharged by my cardiologist. God bless our front line workers and God bless all those affected by the pandemic in one way or another.
A special thank you to Joani, Janie, the staff and wonderful volunteers who have all worked so hard to love and serve the people of Emmanuel and those who visited with us during the holiday season. Keep doing all you’re doing. Everything you do matters to God. YOU matter to God. And YOU matter to me. I look forward to being reunited again with all of you soon—probably virtually at first, and then one day, post-vaccine, in person. I look forward to journeying with all of you during my Third Life, particularly through remaining connected to God, serving all of you at Emmanuel, and living a more healthy balanced life. Wish me luck. Please keep and join me in prayer.
Please forgive this rather clunky segue so that I may address on some level the insanity and desecration we all witnessed on January 6th, as the US Capitol building was overtaken by members of the radical extreme — the likes of which we have not seen in hundreds of years. I think you would agree with me that we continue to live in the greatest country in the world, but we obviously still have some major work to do to better shore up our cherished –and sometimes fragile — democratic way of life. I know you’re keeping all of this in prayer. Thank you. So am I. I too join you in prayer. God bless us all.
I look forward to being reunited again with all of you soon — probably virtually at first, and then one day, post-vaccine, in person. We’re almost there everyone. Stay strong. Stay healthy. Stay smart.
Peace and love, chuck.
The Rev. Joani Peacock, Editor for Emmanuel Voices: A Parish Blog