I’m sure some of you will remember hearing of Diana, the young gal from El Recreo who had a devastating accident two and a half years ago that completely severed her spine and the recovery and rehab she is enduring since her surgery this past June. Sunday, October 11, was a big day for her as well a milestone in not only her physical, but her mental recovery as well.
Back in June, when we were sitting in her hospital room waiting for the long hours to pass before they came and wheeled her into the operating room, Diana was expressing how she was so ready for this to happen. She was so at peace and was the calming force in the room. She told us that she has been praying with God and that God would be the one who was going to be helping her through the use of the surgeon, God’s instrument. She said that that whatever happened she would be OK with that. At that moment we all knew she had turned her life over to God and we knew what faith and strength that took.
When she came out of recovery and out of the effects of the anesthetic after the long and grueling, eight-hour surgery, everyone around the room was ecstatic as well as relieved that the operation had been successful. Before leaving her room I told her that when she had finished her therapy and was able to travel, that we would go to the beach at the ocean for a celebration. It was then that she informed me “NO!” I was shocked, so I asked, “Why, you do not like the water?” She replied very matter-of-factly, “I love going to the beach but the first thing I am going to do when I am able is to go to my church and have a Mass of thanksgiving.”
So Sunday was the big day. Diana invited her relatives from near and far to attend. There would end up being around 150 in total celebrating with her in the church, The Blessed Heart of Jesus in El Recreo, the small village where she had spent her entire life up until her accident.
Father Danilo, the priest of the church and the celebrant for her Mass, had known her for several years. He had visited her many times during the two years she was lying flat on her back with her severed spine. He had also recently been visiting her in the house in Berlin where she now lives. It was during one of those visits that Diana had shared the whole story about what had happened to her and what life has been like for her before and after the accident and now since the operation and rehab. Her testimony to him that day was so faith-filled that he asked if she would be able to repeat it. He wanted her to share her testimony with the congregation during her Mass.
So the big day arrived. Andres picked Diana and her sister up in the pickup to head to El Recreo. Many of her new neighbors and friends where she now lives wanted to go also to share this big day with her so they all piled in the back of the truck and off they went. You can see by the pictures that the church was full. Actually, Father Danilo commented at the beginning of Mass that he wished every Sunday there would be such a crowd.
As you can see the altar was beautifully decorated with flowers, the seven alter servers were decked out in their colorful cassocks, and even the ever-present dog positioned himself in the middle of the aisle (guaranteeing himself the best view in the house).
Fr. Danilo’s homily was, of course, centered on Diana and her journey. Towards the end of the Mass he invited Diana to share her story. As she spoke, nearly everyone was in tears as she relived all that she had been through, her struggles, her victories, her faith in God and how all was in His hands and that, whatever the outcome, she was OK with that. She shared that while in a coma after the accident she knew she was dead but kept praying with God and the Virgin Mary that if it was to be that she was to be alive again, that she would share their message and her faith. She also told everyone that God’s purpose for her now is to share what happened to her with all the youth. That is when she turned her talk towards the youth there. She told them that at any moment the decisions you make can change your life forever. Even if you are doing nothing wrong, bad things can happen. She said that without her faith she did not know what would have happened to her or if she would even be here. With great sincerity she expressed that she has forgiven the guy who left her for dead on the road that day and that she holds no ill will towards him. She hopes that he gets right with God before his time of judgment. Fr. Danilo told the crowd that he himself doubts that his own faith would be so strong. There was literally not a dry eye in the place, even Andres said, “Now I am crying!”
After the Mass was over, everyone shared sandwiches, drinks, and snacks. There were people eating and talking inside the church as well as outside. I am sure they were all talking about what they had just witnessed.
Diana’s day was not even close to being over though. She was invited to the Evangelical church to celebrate and share with them her story. How cool is that? To top off the day, there was a big soccer game to be played in her honor at the soccer field in El Recreo. As many of you may know, soccer is a big deal there and everything is put on hold if there is to be a game. Before her accident, Diana was an avid member of the female soccer team there.
I would just like to say that Diana has become someone very special to me. Like I shared with my wife, Kathy, at the very beginning of this journey, Diana is like a beacon of light, radiating her smile, her positive attitude, her ability to forgive, and her faith without any hesitation whatsoever. She has taught me more than she will ever realize.
Thanks for listening,
Founder and President of Friends from Iowa Foundation