Posted January 15, 2018 by Prairie Wife - 14 comments
For our family it means an early morning spent bathing kids, going to Sunday school (me to teach and the two oldest Cowkids to learn), followed by mass, lunch and naptime…oh sweet naptime.
The routine is predictable, familiar, and frankly…the best way to start the week.
Yesterday we had a teacher meeting, which was a nice change.
Taking some time to get excited about what we’re doing, learn from each other and our Priest and to make plans for the future was definitely needed.
As I left our church basement to stick a few leftovers in my car a gentleman walked past me. Full of Sunday school love and charity I smiled and wished him a good morning as I hustled to the car and then headed back to church to await my family.
As I finished my quiet prayer and sat down I glanced around and noticed the same gentlemen, now residing in the pews across from me. My instincts began to hum a bit and I made a mental note to perhaps reach out to him after mass. The Cowboy soon arrived with the Cowkids and we shuffled around and softy chatted amongst ourselves and gently smiled and nodded at our parish family as they came in.
As mass began I noticed that the afore mentioned gentleman was acting a bit off…and my instinct turned on high alert as he got up and moved into one of the front pews. I elbowed The Cowboy and quietly whispered “Something’s not right with that guy, something is wrong.”
Knowing that after almost a decade living on the Prairie I’m not prone to hysterics, he solemnly nodded and kept an eye on the gentlemen. As the first and second reading finished I was NOT comforted by the words about how we are made for not this life but the life after death…instead I broke out in a cold sweat and silently prayed for the protection of my guardian angel, as my eyes darted from the man to my two oldest children seated mere feet away from him behind the Priest.
As we all stood up for the gospel and began to sing the alleluia, the gentleman darted for a few feet towards the alter, twitched and then clumsily yet quickly darted into the crying room.
I hadn’t seen anyone go into the room during mass so I let down my guard a bit, until I remembered that there was a large sheet glass window between the crying room and the alter. And that my children were facing it.
My mind was in full blown panic now. Was he a creeper that was going to expose himself? Was he going to commit suicide…each thought was more terrifying than the last. My eyes were fixed on my kids, my muscles tensed and ready to spring into action at any look other than boredom (sorry Father) that crossed their faces.
Suddenly the crying room door opened rapidly followed by a bright stream of sunlight (signaling that the door to the outside had been opened) and I saw the terrified face of one of my friends and beloved parish families members as she ran out of the crying room and down the side aisle towards the back.
The Cowboy and I looked at each other and in a fluid moment of less than a second communicated what needed to be done. He headed for the door where the man had seemingly exited and I headed for the back of the church to my friend.
I learned later that his erratic behavior had escalated in the crying room, and while he was not violent, he was acting aggressively and inappropriately. My friend had her husband and children in the room, and had no idea how to get them out safely. As suddenly as he had come in, the man left, and my friend told her husband to get the children out (what an amazing mother) while she got help.
The ushers and I as well as a few parishioners, who had noticed there was a problem, met in the back. We quickly established what had happened, and two other men went outside to try and find him and help The Cowboy if needed.
I ran out and using my Prairie Wife homing beacon found The Cowboy in seconds. He had the gentleman across the street and was talking to him, with old married people sign language we’ve developed over the last almost 14 years, he assured me he was OK and there was no need to call the police.
Another priest from our parish happened by, and let The Cowboy know the man had been in our parish before. The Cowboy, wanting to get the gentleman away from the church and calmed down, decided he was going to take him to breakfast.
I watched him head down the street with the man and sent up some more prayers.
I admit that I was a bit distracted during mass, and it took all of my self control to not glance backwards every time the door opened. When mass drew to a close I texted The Cowboy…no response.
Half an hour went by, no Cowboy, no response to my calls, and no one knew where he had taken the gentleman to eat.
We left church, loaded up in the car and as I started the engine I saw it… The Cowboy’s cell phone.
Fear turned to anger (a predictable pattern for me) as I silently cursed him for not taking it, for not borrowing someone else’s to let me know he was OK.
We headed home and I prayed to see his car in the driveway as we crested the hill.
The driveway was empty.
I repeated over and over in my head, “Jesus I trust in You.” Just as my friend had reminded me to do that very same day during our meeting, unbuckled the kids and headed into the house.
I texted our Priest and Religious Ed Director in the hopes that they had heard some news…just as I set my phone down a blocked number rang.
“Is this Cathy?”
“This is Officer blah bah.” My heart dropped into my stomach…I’d heard about these kind of calls.
“Is my husband OK.”
“Yes. He’s fine he’s taking the gentleman home to his mother, he knew you’d be worried and asked me to call.”
“How will I know he’ll be safe when he’s at the guys home?!” I was obviously in full blown panic mode and feeling less than generous about the fact that my husband not the police (how did they even get involved anyway) were taking this man to his home where gosh knows what could be waiting to happen!
“…Ma’am he just left here, I just saw him walk out two minutes ago, he’s fine.” His impatience was clear and I tried to reign in my panic and mumbled some kind of thank you and hung up.
A few moments later my Priest called…except it was actually The Cowboy using his phone. He told me he’d be on his way in a minute.
When he walked in the door he took one look at me and told me I better not be angry…as calmly as I could I explained that being scared shitless for the last hour had obviously led to anger, as he knew, with me the two come part and parcel…anger and rage helps me function through the fear, and normally it’s pretty handy.
He sighed, gave me a hug and explained what happened.
He just wanted to get the guy away from the church, so offered him breakfast upon the advice of the Priest that knew that man. During breakfast it became clear the gentleman was suffering from a mental disorder that resulted in EXTREME paranoia. Dan convinced him that the police station was the safest place to go, and when they arrived and officers showed up (on Sunday the station is not staffed) it was made clear that his current mental state was not being helped by his recent meth use (at his own admittance).
The only person he wanted to take him home was “his friend” The Cowboy (his mother had been informed and was waiting) so The Cowboy begrudgingly obliged to keep things simple.
This whole incident was so sad and scary and terrifying and unbelievable all at the same time.
My heart breaks for this mentally ill man, for what it must like to be him, to be his mother.
I am upset that our sanctuary of calm peace and love was disrupted today, and yet so thankful that it wasn’t worse.
I am beyond grateful that I trusted my instincts and The Cowboy trusted me, so that we could react quickly to the situation, yet I’m doubting myself for not following him into the crying room…
I am sadden that this is the world we live in (this is not the first time we’ve had to worry about our safety at our church) and yet eternally grateful for the strength and grace of God that was present there today.
It could have been so much worse.
As I type this and reflect on those short two hours that emotionally seem like they lasted a week…the only thing I can think to do it pray.
Pray for that poor man, pray for his family, and pray for my friend that was so terrified.
I send prayers of thanksgiving for our church family that rushed back to help rather than run away, for my strong and capable husband that did what he could to keep our parish family from harm, for the guardian angel that tapped me on the shoulder and told me to look and watch, and for the overwhelmingly strong love that I have for my children.
Because I know that as much as I love them, God loves them…and me more.
Peace be with you all.
And, if you’re so inclined, please send some prayers up for that poor man.