August 22, 2008

Emmaus Walk / Debra Tomaselli

Following God’s lead and getting all that we need

Debra TomaselliI never aspired to be a Brownie leader.

When my daughter’s third-grade troop leader announced that she was retiring, I slipped behind the curtains, hoping another mom would step forward and play the leading role. Helen and Carol offered assistance, but nobody assumed the leadership.

That’s why, when I awoke one morning, I fought the sudden urge to become the troop leader. Where is this coming from? I thought. I don’t want to be the leader. I tried to suppress the intuition for days, but it wouldn’t go away.

I finally addressed Helen and Carol. “If you’re willing to help, I’ll be the leader. I don’t really want to do it so I hope someone else offers. But if we still need …” I was swept in and inaugurated faster than I could finish the sentence.

“We’ll work with you,” Helen assured me. She mentioned an already scheduled event that I would oversee—a camping trip with a Girl Scout troop. Evidently, they would earn a badge by hosting our Brownie campout.

“Sure,” I said. Inwardly, I cringed. With a traveling husband and two other children at home, this added commitment was daunting. Why was I doing this? What had gotten into me?

Just weeks before the camping trip, I underwent a routine physical. Surprisingly, they repeated the lab work, citing technical difficulties. When Linda, the other troop leader, invited me to grocery shop for the trip, I couldn’t go. The doctor’s office had scheduled yet a third lab session.

Linda began asking questions about my blood counts, and shared information about her former battle with lymphoma. When I hung up, I was thankful that I didn’t have to deal with cancer, just an incompetent medical machine.

The camping trip delivered a friendship that I never would have found in Linda. As she shared her experiences through the cancer diagnosis, her faith inspired me.

Just days after returning home, the physician phoned again. “Due to the abnormalities in your blood report,” he said, “we’ve made an appointment for you with an oncologist. … Cancer appears …” The conversation blurred as I struggled to comprehend the words. The news left me reeling.

Driven by a desire to escape, I drove straight to my daughters’ school even though dismissal was still an hour away. The whole way, I prayed, “Please let Linda be there. … Please let Linda be there.” I knew she’d understand like no one else.

When I arrived, one lone figure appeared in the breezeway: Linda.

Over the following weeks, I was diagnosed with lymphoma. Linda walked beside me, offering inspiration, faith, strength and hope. I thanked God, who called me to be the Brownie leader, not only for the children, but to show me that he would be there for me every step of the way, if only I would follow his call.

(Debra Tomaselli lives in Maitland, Fla. Her column appears in several diocesan newspapers. Her e-mail address is

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