September 30, 2016

Emmaus Walk / Debra Tomaselli

Who’s looking out for you? Our awesome God

Debra TomaselliI finished packing my suitcase when the phone rang.

It was my daughter Lynn calling to say she’d just heard from Katie, an old friend she hadn’t spoken to in years. “She was sobbing … just sobbing,” Lynn said.

Katie’s aunt had died unexpectedly the night before.

“Katie said she keeps thinking of you, and those stories you used to write,” Lynn said. “She has family coming to town and wants something to give them. … She thought maybe one of your stories?”

“None of my stories are appropriate,” I said. “They are all so personal. I didn’t even know her aunt.”

Lynn agreed.

“I’ll pray about it,” I said. “Maybe we can find something online.”

Honestly, I couldn’t help. We were heading out of town. I didn’t have time to write. Besides, I recalled Katie’s family didn’t go to church or believe in God. Why me?

But a nagging inner voice insisted I do something.

Early the next morning, I found stories I wrote years ago when my brother died. One talked about how distraught I was at Jim’s death, and how the mere presence of a priest walking by delivered a wave of indescribable peace. I’d been away from the Church, but that led me back.

Another was written when I was questioning my faith. Was Jim really in a better place? My doubts vanished when I spotted a sign flashing “Happy Birthday” to someone with Jim’s exact full name. The timely message that he was happy and celebrating strengthened my faith.

I sent those articles to Katie, knowing they weren’t quite right.

She thanked me, adding that her aunt had a huge fight with her dad recently. They hadn’t spoken, so Katie was concerned her dad would be consumed by guilt.

I promised to pray for them.

Later, another thought surfaced.

Hadn’t I written about the irrepressible guilt that consumed me after my brother’s death?

I scanned my documents. … There it was. … Reconciliation. … Addressing the difficulties of sudden death. There are lost dreams. No goodbyes. No closure. I wrote about drowning in a sea of guilt, and returning to reconciliation for the first time in years.

That story asked the same question of the reader that my confessor asked of me: Do you think God can forgive you?

I wrote about my response to that question, and how faith changed my life.

I e-mailed the story to Katie, knowing my job was done.

Days later, Katie texted: “I read your story [at the funeral] and was stopped by many people afterward that I didn’t know. They wanted to thank me for what I read. I had a girl tell me that she had been filled with regrets after losing her aunt, and it helped bring her closure.

“Your words were perfect,” she added. “Thank you. It served the exact purpose I was hoping for.”

I paused, pondering the events. What made Katie reach out to us? What nagged me to help when I didn’t want to? Who knew they needed that particular story, or that I’d even find it?

I know who.

Our God really is an awesome God.

(Debra Tomaselli writes from Altamonte Springs, Florida. She can be reached at

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