Five years ago, in an Adoration Letter article titled “A Prayer for a Beating Heart,” I asked for prayers for my wife, Georgette. In the article, I wrote about a genetic condition that she had that caused the wall of one of the ventricles of her heart to become so thick that her heart was unable to supply her body with a sufficient amount of oxygenated blood. Her health was quickly deteriorating and the only way to correct the problem was through open-heart surgery, which was scheduled for June 16, 2010.
The heart surgery was performed at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Georgette’s doctor performed a “septal myectomy,” a surgical procedure that required him to cut away part of the muscle inside her heart. By the grace of God, the surgery was successful, and, after a long recovery, Georgette was able to regain her health and vitality.
Three weeks after Georgette’s surgery, I wrote about the following experience I had with one of the adorers at the St. Philomena Adoration Chapel:
[W]hile I was in the adoration chapel, one of our daily adorers, Beth Fuson, walked up to me and handed me a holy card and a medal to give to Georgette. The holy card had two prayers to Saint John of God, and a short biography of his life.
Saint John of God was born in 1495. As an adult, he devoted himself to assisting Christian slaves in Africa and later started and ran a hospital for the poor and sick in Grenada. He died in 1550 from heart disease and was canonized in 1690. He is known as the patron saint of people who suffer from heart disease.
The week after I wrote about Beth and the holy card, I ran into her in the parking lot outside the adoration chapel. As soon as she saw me, she said, “Thanks for the 15 minutes.” Since I didn’t know what she was talking about, I asked, “What?” She replied,
Thanks for the 15 minutes. After you wrote that article last week, I had several people ask me about Saint John of God. I’m 94 years old and I finally got my 15 minutes of fame. (She was referring to the phrase that became popular after the famous artist, Andy Warhol, wrote in 1968, “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.”)
I got to know Beth Fuson because she stopped in the adoration chapel every day to visit with our Lord. Since I was also in the habit of visiting with our Lord every day, I frequently ran into her at the chapel.
Last fall, Beth sent me a handwritten note in the mail that said,
Harry, I can no longer go to the chapel or Mass. At the age of 99, it’s hit and miss. I guess those days — that I enjoyed — are over…. The good Lord knows where I am. I’m thankful. Well, I know you are busy, but would you please take time to mail your adoration letter to me. Say hello to your mom and dad for me. Miss seeing you. Beth.
In the envelope with the note were several postage stamps and return address labels. Of course, I immediately started mailing my weekly adoration letter to her.
On Wednesday, June 10, 2015, at the age of 99, Beth Fuson passed away.
The day before Beth died, June 9, 2015, another one of our faithful adorers, John Wagner, passed away. He was 86.
I didn’t know John as well as I knew Beth, but I knew of his reputation in the Catholic community. John was a devout Catholic who attended daily Mass with his wife, Margie, at Saint Philomena Church. I know because every time I attended the 8:00 a.m. Mass, I saw John and Margie.
There was one occasion four years ago when John sent me a typewritten letter in the mail. The letter arrived a week after I wrote an article titled “Mean, Mighty, and Deadly.” In the article, I discussed the group of young American military men — Navy SEAL Team 6 — and their success in taking out Osama bin Laden.
John’s letter began with, “Hi, Harry, Thank you very much for all your adoration letters. I have kept many of them and frequently refer back to them. This helps me to reinforce some of the methods and practices which you have voiced.”
He then went on to say that while he thought the article about the Navy Seals was good, he strongly disagreed with one particular thing that I had written. He closed his letter by commenting on the heroic and noble work of the Navy Seals and signed off by saying, “Best to you, John Wagner.”
I later learned that John was a veteran of the Korean War.
After I read about John’s death, I found the letter that he sent me. On the outside of the envelope, I noticed that his return address label had a picture of the American flag on it.
John had a great love for God, his family, his friends, and his country. He had an abundant supply of energy, which he tirelessly used to serve his fellow Catholics and the members of his community.
I’ve written before that, in my opinion, Catholics can be divided into four categories: 1) lapsed Catholics, (2) cafeteria Catholics, (3) committed Catholics, and (4) devout Catholics.
A committed Catholic is a person who believes in the teachings of the Catholic Church and willingly and unequivocally follows and abides by all the teachings and rules of the Church. A devout Catholic is a committed Catholic who willfully and regularly engages in acts of worship and service that go beyond the requirements of the Church.
It is my contention that only about 5% of all Catholics are devout Catholics. Beth Fuson and John Wagner were members of the top 5% of all Catholics. They were both devout Catholics who were fiercely loyal to our Lord and His church.
We were very blessed to have Beth and John as members of our Catholic community. They touched countless lives with their engaging smiles, friendly demeanor, unique sense of humor, and love for our Lord. Their deaths have left a void in the lives of everyone who knew them.
Beth enjoyed her 15 minutes of fame and, because of his contributions to the Church and the community, John had several occasions in which he was able to enjoy “15 minutes of fame.” Now they both get to enjoy eternity as guests at Almighty God’s banquet table.
May they rest in peace.
DEAR HARRY AND GEORGETTE –
I DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT THE HEART SURGERY, BUT AM HAPPY ALL TURNED OUT WELL! LOVED YOUR “BIOGRAPHIES” OF BETH AND JOHN. I DIDN’T KNOW EITHER OF THEM, ALTHOUGH I DID ON OCCASION GO TO ST. PHIL’S TO ATTEND MASS WITH MY SISTER MARY. WE HAVE SOME WONDERFUL SPIRITUAL PERSONS/FRIENDS, FOR WHOM I AM GRATEFUL. EACH HAS MUCH TO OFFER BY WAY OF EXAMPLE TO THE REST OF US. I BELIEVE GOD PLACES THE PERSONS IN OUR PATHS, AND GIVES THEM MESSAGES FOR US BY THEIR EXAMPLE!!!
TOMORROW, TWO OF MY SPECIAL FRIENDS – HARRY AND GEORGETTE – WILL BE CELEBRATING THEIR 35TH WEDDING ANNIVERSARY, IF I AM CORRECT !!! MAY GOD GIVE YOU MANY BLESSINGS AND MUCH JOY!!! LOVE, SISTER ROBERTA
So very well written, Harry! We lost 2 great people, but God already knew that!
Funny thing is that John and I would mail or take your columns to Beth. They were special to her.
Dear Harry,thanks for this wonderful narration and a touching brief on the two devouts. May their souls rest in eternal peace, even as they pray for us who are still on this torturous journey.
Harry, your article is a beautiful tribute about two people who left legacies that far exceed the norm. Though I didn’t know Beth, John Wagner was one of the greatest men anyone could wish to know. His humility and level of generosity were modeled to everyone he met. Father David’s eulogy and the closing tribute made by John’s son summed up this remarkable man’s life. Perhaps what each of us can now do is to pay forward John’s many acts.