A Catholic Monthly Magazine

The Phone Calls

by Anne Kerrigan

I’m in the ninth decade of life and it has become clear to me over the years that God reveals himself to us in many and varied ways. Since our God is a God of surprises, I have also learned that I must always be reflective, trying to be mindful of when and how God is revealing himself, lest I miss hearing his voice. I have recently experienced a unique chance to recognise his presence. Let me explain.

I have lived on my particular block, a long winding street, since 1963. I knew my close neighbours and I also connected with the parents on the block whose children were close in age to my own. Then, I met others through church and the various parish organisations. These friends and neighbours were just wonderful, adding richness to my life. My own five children, as well as my friends and neighbours, kept my life full and busy. 

Then, life changed a bit. I had started going to nursing school in the evenings, and my available time for socialisation and neighbourhood interaction became greatly compromised. Once I finished my nursing programme, I started working full-time even while continuing additional night school classes. It was a very busy time in my life. There was little time or opportunity to meet the rest of the people at the other end of my block.

As the years went on, life changed again. The children were now married and I was starting to work part-time. Through church activities, I began to meet people from the other end of my long and winding block and they became a bit more than just nodding acquaintances. Some had even become widows and circumstances changed for them.

Then, I learned that one particular gal, Peggy, had moved to an assisted living facility. She had become a widow and her two daughters worked full-time, unable to provide her with the help she needed. Assisted living was the only possible solution. I dropped her a note to wish her well, and we began a long-distance relationship. Occasionally, she would call me to chat and I learned that her deep faith was sustaining her as she began to lose her independence. My notes continued because she said she loved to receive mail, saying it brightened her day. It made me happy to know that I was able to bring some sunshine into her life. As seniors, it seems that we are all on that long winding road which will ultimately end in the arms of the Lord!

Eventually, Peggy was transferred to a long-term care facility. Then, Covid-19 hit! Peggy has not been able to receive visitors since March and, as I write this, it is January, 2021. Undoubtedly, it has been very difficult for Peggy.

While my notes continued, Peggy’s phone calls increased. She would call once a day, and it became very clear to me that Peggy was calling to check on me and my family to make sure we were all right. She knew both my husband and I had been very ill with Covid and that our son had been the caregiver for us. The call would start with “How are you?” Then she would ask about my husband and the rest of the family, including the grandchildren. She had become the consummate and loving caregiver via the telephone.

During those brief calls, I learned a lot about Peggy. She accepted her situation, expressing gratitude for the care she was receiving. She spoke about gratitude for her family, her friends, and her faith. Peggy’s loving acceptance of her difficult situation -- who wants to be in a nursing home? -- was inspiring. It really was a joy to get to know her on a deeper and more personal level. We even discovered that we attended the same high school! So, over the course of the many telephone calls, we came to know something about each other, and I hope it brought her as much pleasure as it did me.

In fact, one day Peggy said to me, “I wish I had known you all my life.” It gladdened this old heart to hear her kind words!

As Peggy’s calls continued, it became evident to me that my new friend was becoming a bit more confused. She would repeat herself, even stating that she feared her memory was failing her. Then, the telephone calls started coming twice, three, even four times a day. One day she called me five times, each time asking if she had already called, but each call was filled with concern for me and my family.

At this point, I have lost track of how often she called. Actually, I didn’t mind the calls. I was fully aware that the telephone was her only real connection to the outside world, and I was glad to be able to help her bond with a friend. As I reflected on this situation with Peggy and myself and the telephone calls, I began to see a real parallel to my relationship with God.

So often, God connects with me, reminding me that his love and care is ever present in my life. He ‘calls’ me often, in so many ways. He has sent me a loving family, wonderful and supportive friends, marvellous physicians, and countless other gifts, all an indication of his boundless love for me. He calls again and again, even again. He is persistent in his care for me even as Peggy is persistent! As I reflect on the similarities between God’s care for me and Peggy’s continued and persistent telephone calls, I feel overwhelmed with a sense of wonder and immense gratitude. Our God truly is a God of surprises, revealing himself in so many different and unique ways.

Peggy remains in the nursing home, still restricted by the pandemic. Our phone calls continue and I love the opportunity I have to brighten her day. I am not sure Peggy understands how much joy she also brings to my day. Now, I anticipate her frequent phone calls and I look forward to that brief but loving interaction. She inspires me due to her unfailing faith in a loving God, no matter how much she wishes her circumstances were different. She said she is ready for her room in heaven whenever God calls her. She sees the positive in it all, and she really is an inspiration. I wish I had known her all my life.

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