The caller was upset, flustered.
“My husband is in the hospital. He has had a mini-stroke and will be in the hospital overnight.”
I spent a few minutes seeing whether I could keep her calm. Of course, I’m not trained in this. I’m not a member of the clergy. I’m just a dude. On the other hand, as it turned out, I was the first person at my church who had answered her phone call, as the priest was hearing confessions and so had his phone on silent. (And checking your phone while you’re hearing confessions, it seems, is not a good idea.) So I talked to her for a little while and tried to reassure her everything would be fine.
Then I realized, as I hung up the phone, that I needed to take action quick. For that call was from the wife of the Sunday musician at my main parish, it was Saturday afternoon, the musician was in no shape to play the next day, and the only way I, the only backup, could fill in on emergency notice was to rearrange my schedule, fast, because I was assigned elsewhere that day.
This sort of emergency substitutioning has been happening a lot lately, and I don’t like it one bit. For a couple weeks ago, I filled in on emergency notice at another parish because another organist was seriously ill. Last week, same thing for the same organist at yet another parish, with about two days’ notice. (She’s better now, thankfully.) I had to seek an emergency substitute last week when I got so dreadfully ill. And now the other guy at my main parish, a wonderful man (who is, however, in his 80s) taking ill. (Please pray for him, as he’s still in the hospital as of this writing and his prognosis is uncertain.) That’s at least three occurrences, and according to the rules of journalism under which I was trained, that’s a trend and thus, worth a blog post.
Obviously, this sort of thing will happen from time to time. People get sick. Their relatives die. The car won’t start. There’s some sort of family emergency. They strained their wrists from too much air hockey and foosball. Or, as the music director at the parish I had to cancel for reminded me, “John Lennon said, ‘Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.'” (That’s from “Beautiful Boy”; this may be the only time you ever see a John Lennon lyric on this blog, so enjoy it while it lasts.) It happens. It’s just a matter of dealing with it as best you can.
So for this weekend, I switched my schedule around to cover those two Masses, though it meant I had to drive directly from one parish to my main parish, and I got there with about four minutes to spare. (They knew that and were cool with it.)But I will be out of town next weekend and the other guy is still hospitalized and unlikely to return soon, so my main parish has one week to get all four Masses covered. If I can help, I will. And then I will pray this season of illnesses, emergencies and seemingly everything else under the sun gets finished quickly.