The Word of God

We’re Not in Kansas Anymore

field of red poppy near railroad tracks

“One man scorned and covered with scars still strove with his last ounce of courage to reach the unreachable stars; and the world will be better for this.” Miguel de Cervantes

The U.S. Midwest may be the only place on the planet where you can get a sunburn and frostbite all in the same week. In a place like that, remarkably strong and resilient people often surface and give new meaning to the depth of character one can reach. These moments occur daily and all around us, but we may be living such a fast-paced and frenetic life that we miss them. And this is to our detriment. This is why we must, from time to time, move about in our thoughts, and open the doors to the limitless possibilities of the wide spectrum of being human and maybe, just maybe, begin to make soft and tender changes in our daily demeanors.

Take for instance what happened during a powerful snowstorm outside of Wichita, Kansas around the first week of December in 2007. After an unusually fierce and protracted freezing rainfall, some parts of the surrounding areas were coated with two to four inches of ice. In addition to extensive damage to trees, power lines, and poles, travel was understandably treacherous and nearly came to a complete standstill, save for emergency vehicles. Massive power outages affected more than 250,000 people, most of whom were without power for up to two weeks. The long-term damage to the electrical infrastructure alone was later estimated at $136M, making this the costliest ice storm in all of Kansas. As amazing and simultaneously miraculous as this may sound, there were no fatalities, but there was an astounding event that happened late one night in the very thick of the storm and likely during the darkest of all nights.

We start with a small, regional hospital located about twenty miles west of the city. Emergency power generators were in full force keeping all the life-saving equipment up and running, especially for those most critically in need of medical care. A small staff of medical professionals was on duty with some of them being allowed to place their families into some of the vacant hospital rooms in order to avoid what could be literally a killer cold. The most seriously ill patients were situated in the Intensive Care Unit where nurses kept struggling to keep everything working in order and medications administered in a timely fashion. While most patients, their families, and the courageous medical staff were outstandingly kind and cooperative, in the west end of the ICU, there were serious problems emerging with frayed nerves and listless depraved people at their wits’ end.

The man in Bed 8 was totally incorrigible, which was more than problematic, because, in addition to being horribly rude and disgusting with the nurses, he was literally at death’s door. He was not even expected to survive another twenty-four hours, but it seemed that the closer he got to Judgment Day, the more abhorrent he became. Close to one o’clock in the morning, the nurses huddled in the nearby breakroom, totally exasperated. All their options of action seemed to be either out of reach or just not feasible. Perhaps the most tested of all the staff there came forward with an amazing solution.

“I believe I know who could help us right now. He may be our only hope,” she said calmly but seriously.

“But who in the world is going to come out here in the middle of the night during this mini Ice Age?” came the immediate reaction from one of the younger nurses.

“It’s my parish priest and I know if we call him, he will come,” came the wondrous retort. “I will contact him now,” said the head nurse, and with that, she went for the phone.

Father Terry was indeed a truly profound man with a comforting and peaceful spirit about him. His words always settled the restless heart, and his Masses were both uplifting and healing. If anyone could help them in this difficult situation, it would be him. His response to the nurse on the phone was both predictable and quick:

“I’ll be right there. Just give me some time to brave through this storm,” came the words of this respected and deeply loved cleric.

The storm was fierce but no match for the determination of this priest who slowly started his car carefully pulled out of the rectory and made his way at a snail’s pace toward the medical facility. Once there, he was met warmly and even offered something hot to drink to warm his shivering body. However, he wanted to go straight to the bedside of this apparently lost, hateful, suffering man and do what he was put on the earth to do, to hopefully save a soul.

Their first and last encounter was immediately brutal. As soon as the priest walked into the ICU stall, the angry patient hurled a bedpan at him. The priest, perhaps in his mid-thirties who also used to run marathons, was agile enough to dodge the incoming metal container and very calmly stand his ground.

“I am not leaving until you talk to me. Besides, there’s nowhere else to go. Talk to me. What is wrong with you? Let me help you!” said Father Terry.  

“I am beyond help!” yelled the man in bed now obviously losing strength and color, “just leave me alone and let me die!”

The priest continued, “No one is beyond saving. Every soul is precious in God’s eyes. Talk to me. Offer me your confession and die in peace.”

It was at this moment when most likely the presence of the Holy Spirit filled not only that ICU area, but maybe even the entire hospital and beyond. This is where the tide was about to turn. And this was when that extremely sick and dying man may have delivered the most important speech of his life, which was coming quickly to a tragic and atrocious end.

“Look at me! Do you know who I am, Father? he started.

The priest remained silent, still, and focused on the words of this tormented shell of a man.

“Over twenty-five years ago, Father, I worked on the railroad there at the station downtown. You know the place.”

The priest nodded.

“Well, I was the one who was supposed to throw and redirect the tracks as different trains came in and out. It was my job to make sure that the right trains were on the right tracks. I was also a drunk, Father, and one night, I came to the station completely wasted. But there I was, pretending I knew what I was doing, and that is when it happened. I steered one very full and fast train into the wrong lane, and my mistake killed a father, mother, baby girl, and injured a young boy who only survived because he was thrown from the car upon impact. After that, I lost everything. I lost my job, my family, my home and most importantly, I lost complete respect for myself. I have been trying to die for nearly three decades now. Get out and let me die. Keep your sympathy and your sacraments and your caring eyes for someone else!”

Father Terry just remained as calm and as quiet as the falling snow outside. He took a long, deep-cleansing breath and then answered this phenomenal life story with this:

“Look at me! Do you know who I am? Look carefully. Those people you killed that night were my parents and my baby sister. I lost them all in one night. And if I can forgive you, you can certainly forgive yourself! Offer me your confession, while there is still time.”

And he did. And he died.

Never, ever underestimate the power of God’s love and forgiveness. In the end, it will be all we have and if we have lived a life that has fully embraced and welcomed such a wondrous love, it will change the way we look at life, death, friendship, and eternity. 

What are you waiting for? Give the Lord your heart right now, wherever you are, forgiving all the ones you need to forgive. Please, do this now, while there is still time.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” 2 Corinthians 5:17

Share your thoughts (24 thoughts)

24 thoughts on “We’re Not in Kansas Anymore”

  • Patty says:

    Beautiful reminder of His forgiveness.

  • Gabriel Estrada says:

    Heart warming story that tells the power of forgiveness. I believe God has the power to forgive the worst parts of our life. He makes all things new again. Nothing we do can every take away the Love God has for us. I am so thankful this. Thank you for this reminder

    • Caro says:

      You are absolutely and wonderfully correct, Gabriel! Nothing nor no one can do anything close to removing or even curtailing the immense love God for us won for us by the blood of His Jesus! You have helped me and our readers realize that compared to this “Wondrous Act of Love,” all of our problems and anxieties shrink in importance and effect on our souls. Thank you for your words and wisdom. Happy Thanksgiving to you!

  • Denise Guerra says:

    I absolutely love this story. I will agree that forgiving someone for past wrongs is not an easy thing to do. I often think about the events that have happened in my life and realize at times that maybe I have not truly forgiven those that have wronged me. This story is a reminder that this is certainly the time of year when forgiveness is needed and that we all need forgiveness from time to time. Thank you for this wonderful story. Happy Thanksgiving!

    • Caro says:

      We can’t remember everything, but the choice of what to remember and to forget is not as innocent as it seems. Today, Denise, you remind us to try to give thanks as an act of surrender to the total, wholesome graciousness of existence, life and being. Thank you for your response and the call to action to be especially thankful for forgiveness, the chance to try again, and again. Thanks for the early Thanksgiving greeting and be ready for a special Holiday story just around the corner.

  • Sylvia Garcia says:

    Another powerful and moving example of God’s unfathomable mercy. It inspires me to add another entry to my daily prayers: That every lost soul will encounter a Father Terry in his/her life and if called to do so, that I may have the grace, words, and actions to share God’s live and mercy.

    • Caro says:

      You are so right, Sylvia, about the power and emotion accompanying the “unfathomable mercy” that Our Beautiful God has for us, every single moment of our existence. Thank you so very much for the time and effort to respond to our latest offering and be assured that we are all praying for one another especially for the grace to comprehend and accept the Lord’s gift of mercy and forgiveness.

  • Mary Ann Ramos says:

    Thank you for yet another beautiful story to help me reflect on how our Lord can transform us when we forgive.

    I have a friend who is a nun. Years ago, she was my spiritual director. While in a session, I confided two separate incidents where I was deeply hurt by two men who were constants in my life. Every month, I would return for another hourly session of spiritual guidance, and she would ask if I had forgiven them yet. It actually angered and irritated me that she would even ask. I had no intention of forgiving either person. As the months passed, she continued to ask if I had forgiven them. Our Good Lord had been gradually softening my stone heart until I was finally able to let go and let God! God allowed me to be free; unencumbered of my long carried hate and anger. I had always hoped to hear their apologies. That didn’t matter anymore. The Lord allowed me to move on, to love these men and to care for them as they aged. I thank God for my dear friend’s loving persistence. I thank you for reminding me of God’s awesome Providence and mercy!

    Romans 8:28 We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.

    • Mari Rodriguez says:

      What a beautiful story and the amazing power of. God and the confession. How wonderful to have forgiveness.
      It is very hard to forgive yourself, but beautifully forgiven.

    • Mari Rodriguez says:

      What a beautiful story and the amazing power of. God and the confession. It brought tears to my eyes when the priest said they were his parents and sister.
      How wonderful to have forgiveness.
      It is very hard to forgive yourself, but beautifully forgiven.

      • Caro says:

        Yes, indeed, Mari, the power of the Sacrament of Confession is very often overlooked and underplayed and yet that is yet another miraculous opportunity to accept the tremendous, wondrous love of God in our daily lives especially when we think about the times we have been hurt and have wounded others. You also remind us of the power to forgive ourselves which is rooted in loving the person that God has created in us. Self-love, when properly and gracefully understood, is not vanity, it is sanity!

  • Julie Trevino says:

    Such a great, great story! I gasped when the priest said that he was the boy whose parent’s and sister had been killed that night by the train. God is truly amazing to have reconciled them before the patient died. It’s so sad to think of the number of people that don’t know our Lord, Jesus Christ. He is so loving and merciful…even after we keep hurting Him over and over again…He never stops loving us and forgiving us. There have been a lot of sad cases with this pandemic. Not only people getting sick but people dying alone, the elderly in nursing homes dying from a broken heart of not being able to see their loved ones, people going through a depression, people getting divorced because they can’t live with their spouse day in and day out. This is our time to change our lives. This is our time to stay home and pray more, read the bible, pray the rosary and just get closer to God! This might be the last chance we have. Like the signs you see in so many yards “PRAY”. Yes pray but pray to change and ask for forgiveness. He is listening and waiting for us with His Loving and forgiving heart.

    • Caro says:

      It is always a joy and pleasure to see that you have returned to these pages to add meaning through your own life experiences and spiritual insights. What pulled especially at my heart was the notion that God continues to pull at our hearts every single day and never ever stops loving us. The plight of the sick and dying also call us for a renewed act of love and kindness to all especially the elderly. You have also reminded us that loneliness and despair are also crosses people bear, and in many cases, because of their lack of asking for and receiving forgiveness. May we all be instruments of the Lord’s peace today and always. God bless you, always, Julie. Thank you for the time you took in enriching our understanding.

  • Kris says:

    Alas, we are not in” Kansas” anymore, but humans long for “Kansas” to find peace and respite from the insanity of our time.
    This story is timely, warming our hearts and taking us back to times where life, although harsh like the “Kansas winter”, but it was simpler, kinder and gracious. We seemed to care more for each other.
    The world is a huge field hospital treating variety of diseases. We are like that patient in “the Bed 8”, stricken with much more deadly and vicious viruses that spread faster than Covid-19 – hatred, malice, falsehood, self distraction.
    At least the patient from this story had a conscience and there was a room for redemptive grace of God to do its work, what is contrary to today’s world. The world not only lost its conscience, it also lost its soul. Look around and see the wide spread evil. Conscienceless and psychopathic individuals are “leaders” in all spheres of life. As a consequence we find ourselves in the nuts hospital operated by conscienceless psychopaths.
    Where are true, godly and “braving through the wintery storm” spiritual, political and social champions ? Is “Kansas” gone forever?
    Has even God turned his face ashamed of what has become of us ? It seems like, but
    I hope that human spirit added by God’s grace will prevail. The “nurses” and “priest” from the story will come to rescue “patients from the Bed 8” from the claws of the evil one and restore peace and sanity human race longs for. Actually they are already here in the unsung heroes we encounter daily, who do not give up but live the redeeming and eternal message of love and forgiveness.
    Thank you for this story of hope. May the “Kansas” be ours again soon.
    In spite of pandemics of all sorts let us celebrate life the best way we know how. Happy Thanksgiving to all of us

    • Caro says:

      Amazing, simply amazing! Kris, thank you once again for flooding our consciences with more spiritual food and insights to keep our souls fed and enlightened brought on by the themes and ideas brought forth in “We’re Not in Kansas Anymore.” I particularly enjoy this indeed richly packed paragraph you offered: At least the patient from this story had a conscience and there was a room for redemptive grace of God to do its work, which is contrary to today’s world. The world not only lost its conscience, it also lost its soul. Look around and see the wide spread evil. Conscienceless and psychopathic individuals are “leaders” in all spheres of life. As a consequence, we find ourselves in the nuts hospital operated by conscienceless psychopaths. Those were words that have continued to play and reply in my mind and heart as I hope to gain even more meaning from the story itself for my own life. You are also correct in pointing out the unsung heroes whom we encounter on a daily basis attached firmly to the hope that we will find our “Kansas” once again. Happy Thanksgiving, to you as well. All of our readers appreciate your insights.

      • Caro says:

        Sometimes we do most things out of respect. But others will think otherwise. On the other hand, respect is earned. Trust has to be earned and easily broken too. We are only HUMAN after all. Only GOD can judge us the things we do, for what we need/have done. God is all so forgiving. Why can’t humans do that too? There’s this saying, try stepping in my shoes and walking/wheeling a mile. You’ll see how hard it is to hold back tears and fake a smile.

  • Tony Montez says:

    This beautiful story reminded me of the temptation to believe there’s always plenty of time. A friend of mine made tremendous sacrifices to care for her aged mother. As her mother’s health began to fail she chose to spent most of her time at her mother’s side tending to her needs. Consequently, she experienced business losses despite having competent, trustworthy employees. One day she asked a sibling to relieve her while she ran a quick errand for their mother. Her sibling agreed as long as the errand wouldn’t take more than 30 minutes. No sooner had my friend left her mother’s house, her mother died. My friend’s grief was exacerbated by not being at her mother’s bedside when she died. It somehow seemed cruel that her, generally unavailable, sibling was present when their mother died. Her story struck me as profound and mysterious; as in, the Lord works in mysterious ways. I thought my friend gave her mother a beautifully loving gift of compassionate care. Her sibling gave their mother a different gift at her moment of death. I was left thinking how 91 years was 10 minutes too short for my friend to be at her mother’s bedside when she died. I wondered what supernatural healing took place for both siblings? The situation and circumstances presented opportunities for both siblings to transcend and walk more near with Jesus.

    • Caro says:

      Hello again, Dr. Montez, and thank you for the invested time in responding with your own take to “We’re Not in Kansas Anymore.” Your perspective, as always, is wonderfully unique and telling. Your companion illustration about the siblings and the care for their mother as she approached death was indeed moving and provocative. From one point of view, it seems so cruel and unfair. However, on the other hand, among many, I am sure, there is this remarkable notion of mystery especially when it surrounds death. In a way, it reminds me of the Gospel parable about the workers in the vineyard, all starting work at different times of the day, but in the end, all being paid equally. All received the “usual daily” wage because, in no small part, they all agreed to it. Your friend may be in that lot as well. She asked God to help care for her mother as she transitioned her way into Eternal Life, and although she had hoped and wanted to be there at the moment of her mother’s departure, she can rest assured that she will be there for her arrival. God is like that. Time stops at the moment of death and all things no longer surrender to the rigors of time and space. Perhaps there is more mystery a play here and I hope that all of us, your friend especially, will bathe in it and come up smiling. Thank you once again for these thoughts. I trust our readers will appreciate the article even more now. I know I have.

  • Gabriel Gonzalez says:

    What a moving article and blessing it is to embrace one of gods many gifts to us such as life. Very thankful for this reading tonight and how closer it has gotten me to the lord above. Very happy to read yet another great reading.

    • Caro says:

      Anything that can bring us closer to our loving, living God who loves us so very much with an ever-present shield of both protection and encouragement, is worth every minute of labor! Thank you, Gabriel. Have a very blessed week ahead!

      • Caro says:

        Our life is short. Make it a point to touch lives and hearts, give and forgive. Channel your energy to that which matters. Make it worth it.

  • Ron says:

    Forgiveness to those who have deeply hurt us is one of the most difficult things to do. It requires a surrendering of a natural emotion, be it hate, fear, or resentment, and replacing it with a supernatural, selfless Christ-like love of neighbor and, sometimes, of self. Our heart is a vessel and we can choose to fill it with soul-destroying hate or soul-saving love. The damage that hate does to you is far worse than the vengeance you seek when you’ve been offended or hurt. That hate destroys from within and metastasizes throughout your body and soul. It pulls us away from Christ and draws us towards darkness and puts son a path of long-term bitterness. Forgiveness is not always easy but it is essential as a Christian. An image that comes to mind is Jesus’ words of “forgive them, Father. They know not what they do.” This is our example.

    • Caro says:

      Welcome back, Ron, and thank you for taking the time to respond to “We’re Not in Kansas Anymore.” I have to say that my favorite line in your response has to be your take on the two-sided requirement and difficulty of the place of forgiveness in the life of the Christian: “It requires a surrendering of a natural emotion, be it hate, fear, or resentment, and replacing it with a supernatural, selfless Christ-like love of neighbor and, sometimes, of self.” Indeed, it does. What you have reminded us is that walking the path of Jesus, while may not be easy, does, in fact, provide the most eternal of all returns on our spiritual investments. This applies to the here and now, and also to our eternal life because while we can experience great peace and calm with the forgiving heart, our souls are made ready for the Heavenly Banquet which never ends. God bless you always See you next time.

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