Guest Column by Beckita Hesse
In April of this year, Charlie wrote: “I have asked Beckita, the editor of this site and my caregiver during the first brutal 23 days of my battle with Covid, to write an account of all the people who helped – and my attitude in extremis. It was much worse than we let on publicly at the time – and many people were deeply concerned that I was not going to make it. I knew the dangers, but I was convinced that if I would be more useful on the other side of the veil, that is where God would take me – and if I would be more useful here, that is where God would leave me. Blessed be the name of the Lord, who works good in all things for those who love Him.” (ASOH 4-10-22 The Brazen Serpent Prayer)
FINALLY!! As you read, you’ll notice Charlie’s own words in red text, words which spotlight much about who he is and that for which he stands, words which reveal the integrity of the man as he has well integrated into his own life the exhortations and counsel which he expresses to others. But, this is not primarily a tribute to Charlie, rather, it’s a window into the ways he comports himself even when thrust into a very difficult, dangerous situation. For twenty-three days – every morning, afternoon and evening – I saw him and heard him speak while we were negotiating some exceptionally intense circumstances and events.
For longtime readers, who also visit the comments section, it’s no secret that I love Charlie, his mission, his work and the abundant fruit he bears via that work. My love extends to the people – and their work – on the various teams he has put together at TNRS, ASOH and CORAC, and those in the communities which have gathered round Charlie. He IS one of my heroes, and I write this fully aware that God is the center of my being and my worship, my praise and adoration, the answer to my every need and my everything on life’s journey. I was once corrected here for commenting that we need Charlie. Well, I’m more convinced than ever that we *need* Charlie. Surely e.v.e.r.y. single ordinary person is needed to pray and to work for the coming of God’s Kingdom more fully to earth in the renewal now underway. It’s also true that individual leaders ARE needed. With all that Charlie carries – given the mission God entrusted to him when Charlie expressed his fiat, his gifts and talents as well as the unflagging, assiduous work he has leveraged in developing and employing those gifts and talents in his life – we DO need him, in precisely the ways that God intends, as Charlie follows Christ, living and moving and having his being in Him, while co-creating with Him every day.
“I have always had a very blue-collar approach to whatever work I do. I cannot change the world. Most times I cannot even change the day. But I can do the work right in front of me, trusting that if I do that as well as I can, neither giving myself over to pouting when it seems I have failed nor to gloating when it seems that I have triumphed, that the Lord will protect me from the two frauds of triumph and disaster and make what little fruit I bear last.
The Lord is calling each of us. Like Peter after the Resurrection, He is asking us, “Do you love me more than these?” If our answer is yes, He demands that we prove it by feeding His lambs. We are called to be missionaries of the Gospel, not just to oppose the great evil that has come upon the world (though we are certainly to do that), but to effectively call as many as we can to the peace and joy that is in Christ. That is fruit that will last.
You have been invited to participate with God in the renewal of the faith and the face of the world. Take up your cross and follow Him joyfully and you will live to see an amazingly renewed world of true faith, brotherhood and prosperity either from the vantage point of here or of the next world. That is good news, indeed.” (ASOH 5-23-22 Good News, Bad News, Best News)
What Charlie writes, he lives. What he exhorts, he does. And what he expresses in wisdom has been born of living it in his own life choices. May this remembrance with its reflection NOT lead us to set Charlie apart and above us (although he IS very special), upon some pedestal or high horse. I surely honor him in this account, and the ways he has laid down his life for God and His people. Yet, ultimately in this sharing, may we be stirred to live more fully God’s call on our own lives while we embrace the mindsets which have been presented, discussed and developed throughout the last eight years in Charlie’s public writing, both at TNRS and ASOH, and, now, at CORAC. May we find renewed hope and resolve to choose wisely, love more selflessly, welcome new measures of unshakeable trust in God, press on in prayer from our hearts that we remain ALL IN for His Kingdom with fortitude and fidelity, willing to immediately obey Him, never counting the cost, whatever He tells us to do.
Charlie wrote – in his piece, The Lost Week, at ASOH on 10-23-21, just over a year ago – that it seemed like he had one of his very nasty bugs. He had taken elderberry supplements and slept a lot during the previous week. Then, in Charlie Indomitable Style, duty-bound and determined to keep his speaking commitments, he drove to Rapid City, SD, gave his presentation, and amazingly – some may think foolishly – hit the road again, arriving in Missoula, MT, on Wednesday evening, the 27th, exactly a year ago today. (Quirky as it may seem, Happy Anniversary, Charlie!! It’s a day to remember not only because you were dangerously ill when you arrived, but because it was also the beginning of God’s Love poured out upon you through those who love you so. To me, that’s a goose bumping memory as the people in the communities you have welcomed and shaped generously responded to your needs in typical, potent prayer as well as in the equally potent prayer of doing which every saint worth his/her salt lived in heroic virtue. In my view, what a mighty stamp of approval from God on your work that the communities and people in the organization which you founded were motivated by Him to freely give to you what you so freely have given and intended for all humankind who would be touched by God through us.) By this time, still unbeknownst to me – although perhaps Charlie was beginning to wonder – he was already more than 2 weeks into Covid. Oi. When Fr. Wang and I went to see him the next day, he was was totally beaten by the illness, yet, his demeanor was one of taking pause to wonder aloud if he could actually give his talk, as he continued to hope that he wouldn’t miss the presentation scheduled for the next evening. I’m not kidding about indomitable, yet, without appetite whatsoever, all he wanted to do – and all he could do – was lie in bed, so we left him to rest and sleep as best he could, knowing that it was a fitful venture.
In phone conversations with some key people, discussions ensued around Covid being the likely culprit of the illness, so packages of healing products were already en route via mail. Thank God for Mary Lapchak and Sheryl Collmer who swiftly dispatched the Ivermectin, nebulizer, vitamins and additional life-giving products which were essential to kick off the healing process. Thank God for SteveBC who sent me on a shopping spree to purchase and order supplements – most for which I had no previous knowledge – addressing all the ways that an advanced stage of Covid could well be damaging Charlie’s body, ways such as circulating spikes, clotting, inflammation, immune system derangement, lung damage and iron freed into the blood stream… aye yi yi yi yi. No way would Charlie be able to give his presentation – for the first time ever – but mercy! He was a man in abject suffering, miserable, through and through, with a deeply embedded sickness. His descriptor, “brutal,” is no exaggeration for what he was experiencing.
On the next day, Friday, Father anointed Charlie in the Sacrament of the Sick. There were obvious signs that his lungs were affected and he described some of it on his blog a week later. ”To go to the washroom, I have to make a plan, gather up my strength, do it, disengage, get back to bed, then hyperventilate for 10 or fifteen minutes to recover…” (ASOH 11-3-21 Light a Candle for Me) Bringing in the oximeter from my home, we confirmed that his oxygen sats were dangerously low. When the readings are in the low to mid-sixties, all medical people experience their own kind of palpitations. No wonder. About 65% of a body is comprised of oxygen. Hypoxemia leads to hypoxia and it’s life-threatening. In the words of Charlie, “I was never at death’s door, but death did take up residence across the street, eyeing me like a hungry vulture.” (ASOH 12-7-21 Eager to Return to the Land of the Living) In my own faith and trust, aware that God had been preparing Charlie for a l.i.f.e.t.i.m.e. to do what he is doing, even though he was as deathly sick as he was, it didn’t make sense that God would call him Home at this juncture. Even so, others have succumbed to the Final Journey in such scenarios as this one in which Charlie was contending. That noted, God is God and He has plans and thinking far above the capacities of the most intelligent ones He has ever created, so I continued to give the thoughts which evoked fear into the hands of Our Lady and, instead, dwelled on what could be, and needed to be, done in each moment. “Do the little you can do right in front of you.” (A Charlie quote, ever brimming from the pages of his writing at TNRS, ASOH and CORAC.)
By this time, phone calls, texts and emails were piling up as people were verrrry concerned and, in the midst of it all, I had the responsibility of alerting the out-of-town people to the current dilemma: if they were going to be disappointed not to be able to hear and meet Charlie, they might want to skip the drive into Missoula, although the evening would go on in an adapted way… and so it did. Remembering the intensity of scrambling through these circumstances brings to mind Charlie’s exhortation to remain flexible: “As society continues to break down, you need to be nimble and not get bent out of shape when plans don’t go quite as you hoped. It will be happening more and more frequently.” (ASOH 5-23-22 Our Hope Is In God) I had viewed enough of Charlie’s presentation videos so that I readily made notes of what I perceived as highlights of his talks and opened up the evening with my, then, version of what we’re about in CORAC. Sue Paroski, our regional coordinator at that time, greeted us and spoke about the Sustainability Committee which she headed. Fr. Wang, whose faith and long-suffering courage were refined as gold when he escaped his homeland on the heels of communism, gave a heartening talk, promoting endurance and holding fast to hope. About fifty of the nearly hundred people who were originally coming from all over the western part of the state were there. And through all of this prep and presentation, in my heart of prayer and on my mind was Charlie, his state of illness and his care, as I mulled over incoming new knowledge, opinions and insights from various sources.
In the duties of these days, as I was busy with things like bagging up daily doses of those golden beans known as supplements for morning, noon and, evening consumption, my mind would wander to the Lord in pondering and prayer. I was keenly aware that the heart and soul of TNRS, ASOH, and CORAC was in my care AND this was an extremely serious situation. A Covid surge was overwhelming the city and, although Montana is a state where there was nearly nil oppressive governmental over-reach compared to many places in the country, local people were affected by the obsessive fear-mongering all around us and they were skittish in their efforts to avoid contracting Covid. I weighed getting someone to assist, but I knew that once the presentation part was complete, I could devote the days and evenings to whatever was needed. Fr. Wang, who had been the recipient of such care in the various health crisis episodes which have been part of his winter years, was completely on board for the focus given to caring for Charlie. I felt guilty to the max that I was leaving him alone while he was so weak and miserable when I was prepping and executing the presentation tasks, even though he was mainly exhausted, had no appetite and lay pinned to his bed by sickness as he tried to soak up the therapeutic value of sleeping and resting.
From another dimension, there really was intensity in a sense of urgency during the initial work of communicating and working with the wonderful array of people – each with expertise in his/her particular health discipline – to coordinate and implement the various remedies and regimens with these dear ones most willing to set Charlie on a path to healing. Thank God for the amazing medical doctor (who wishes to remain anonymous, so she’s known as “BB” in this account), a CORAC member who continuously guided and taught me while constantly asking questions about Charlie’s condition and then voiced potential care steps which would encompass honoring his wishes. BB, too, made an abundance of phone calls when we were in the tough spots, such as when we needed a doctor on board who could write scripts in this state. She coached me through an examination of Charlie’s lungs when we were concerned that pneumonia had likely become a complication. I did find, after much searching and asking, a local doctor willing to prescribe two drugs which BB knew would provide a boost for healing the lungs, but we ran into the problem of filling those scripts right away because the city’s pharmacies close early on Saturdays. Through a period of pressing on when doors were closed, we discovered a friend willing to supply us with a Z-pak from his home stash. These kinds of blocks happened right and left in the little and critical details which were part of the initial setting up of Charlie’s care. Frankly, the blocks were often daunting, yet determined to not give up and, instead, trust God to make a way for us proved fruitful at every turn. Shades of Charlie’s piece, republished at ASOH on March 5, 2018, were coming to life. “When you are sitting on a placid lake in a canoe with a paddle, you can use the paddle to steer, to choose where you want to go. When you are in that canoe in a fast-moving, frothy, rapid river, you do not choose where to go. In fact, if you try to steer, you capsize. Rather, the paddle can only be used to react to the current and the rapids…and every bit of skill you have must be used to keep from capsizing as the river takes you where it will. We are in the rapids. We are not in control. But if we are humble and skillful, we can dramatically reduce our odds of capsizing.” (TNRS 10-3-14 What the Next Right Step Really Means)
I’m grateful to acknowledge the pivotal role our reader and frequent commenter, HTTP, played in the earliest stage of this adventure. First, she made the initial connection between BB and me. Then, on Sunday evening, October 31st, HTTP and her husband drove the hour and a half distance, in the night, from their home to Missoula, making a delivery of homeopathy remedies, since Mick, leader of Health & Wellness at CORAC, and Jacquie had put their heads together to provide a homeopathy regimen for Charlie. HTTP and I huddled at a table in the tiny lobby of the motel as she gave me a crash course, initial training in the wonders of homeopathy, with instructions for administering and caring for the remedies. Jacquie, too, was ready at the phone with tips and further instructions about observing and responding to the patient. Oh how relieving and sweet it was to have support from both the gifted, allopathic doctor and the also gifted expertise of the homeopathists, because, at this juncture, the continuing lack of appetite seemed at the root of the inability to consume the number of supplements which, indeed, had fantastic healing properties, but simply couldn’t be swallowed without provoking the gag reflex. The potency of the supplements’ role in healing would be unleashed later in Charlie’s recovery.
On Monday morning, I thought to bring Charlie the oxygen concentrator which we have in our home. (Think of it: we were starting the sixth day with oxygen sats in the tank, and who knows how long they had been dropping in the days leading up to the, honestly, miraculous entrance into Missoula. Really, only God’s grace could have allowed Charlie to make that Olympian drive from Rapid City to Missoula.) However, I ran into the problem of the concentrator suddenly not working. Another knot – among many – to be undone! Thanks to BB’s husband for doing some research to get it going, yet, even then, it wouldn’t keep running once set up in the motel room. I was starting to wonder about interference from the dark side, but chose to dwell instead on the Lord’s Goodness rather than the enemy’s nasty nonsense. I hauled that heavy machine out of the motel, just as surely as I had lugged it into the room with some puffing and sighs, and heard Charlie ask: “Beckita are you having a bad day?” My reply: “No, Charlie. It’s just a bad moment.” Once home, while I was busy with other things, Fr. Wang applied his magic touch and voila! The machine was working again. Pressing on, back to the motel went the concentrator with its supplemental oxygen raising those oxygen sats to a healthy level!! I could only pray in gratitude: O Sweet Breath of the Spirit thank You for blowing through Charlie’s lungs!!
During the first week of November, Charlie experienced a breakthrough in healing, even if not – by any means – a quick turnaround, as the antibiotic, supplemental oxygen and steroid were bringing measures of relief to his body. He, further, made contact with his old friend and physician of many years who prescribed a new med and suggested the addition of Pepcid since it had been found to be effective in killing the virus. The curious thing was that the oxygen’s effect was not constant. Even when titrated up or down – depending on the oxygen sat reading – it was sometimes too much and sometimes ineffective in bringing the low sats up. This business of low sats for so long brought me and others to a fearful juncture. Of course, the goal was to keep Charlie out of the hospital, but everyone, including me, was concerned because it seemed the only chance of getting the oxygen problem rectified was hospitalization. Even the doc who was Charlie’s good friend did not want to touch prescribing oxygen, saying that it was a tricky problem to assess from afar because it required in person evaluation and constant monitoring until the patient’s breathing, with healthy oxygen sats, was stabilized. As further discussions continued, I spoke to Charlie about potential hospitalization and his reply was to talk with me about his fundamental principles, just as he later shared on his blog: “Alas, since Obamacare, our hospitals have become the primary support system for the culture of death. Oh, they still do some good things, but that is not their primary purpose anymore. Their primary protocols are three now: 1) to enforce government narratives 2) to punish dissent from same and 3) above all, act as primary support system for the culture of death. Thus, no longer will I participate with them.” (ASOH 11-9-21 Weak but Willing)
From the get go in Charlie’s care, I hit a rhythm of visiting in the mornings, afternoons and evenings, bringing food, administering remedies and/or supplements, setting up drinks, changing linens, etc. while taking on whatever else needed attention each day. Early on, I asked for my own key to save Charlie the belabored breathing torture associated with breathlessly hobbling to open the door and even more breathlessly hobbling back to, literally, drop into bed, huffing and puffing to regain some sort of equilibrium. Since I never knew what kind of sleep he had had during the previous night, rather than waking him, I just softly slid into a chair near his bedside and it was a perfect time to soak him in prayer until he awakened on his own. From this habit came the Stealth Ninja Nurse moniker. And, daily, when Charlie awakened, I would give him communion. Oh how sweet is the Goodness of the Lord!
During the first week, Charlie was hardly able to be awake or communicate much at all. By the end of the second week, there was the delight of hanging out with him for some lovely chats with each of us sharing life stories and experiences. In the discussions centered on dreams of a New Beginning, I surely couldn’t hold back the quiet tears when Charlie spoke, with his own eyes misting, of a world renewed, a world where families would be firmly knit together as a foundational element of a culture of life with children protected and their innocence secure. It was also in this week when Charlie slowly began to eat a few things. This was a tenuous thing because his altered palate rendered food to taste much differently than usual. Testing various foods, we did hit the jackpot on some cuisine which featured heavily into his daily menu during the remainder of this part of his convalescence.
You may recall Charlie’s writing which reflects his complete trust in the Lord, his genuine sentiments and mindset, and the truth that Charlie lives what he professes and counsels, even when the going gets massively tough: “The thousands of prayers going up for me daily constitute a great treasury I gladly ask the Lord to direct as needed and as He will… Now we know that a simple nod from God is sufficient to blow any disease completely away. He has chosen to let this one play its course through me – and draw forth a large bank of prayers through it… It is time for God to make all things new and to renew the faith of the world. The face of the world is ugly and mutilated, celebrating what is false and artificial, what offends God and defenestrates man, what brings bareness and cold rather than life and light…” He went on to reflect further, in a way one often does when fierce, nearly overwhelming suffering places a person in a state of vulnerability, thus, that one often thinks about and speaks about those things that deeply matter in life: “My feet have borne the burden all my life, even as no one else knew there was a burden to be borne. Our Lord has sometimes affectionately called me the little boy who is willing, for that is what I have been – when it has been against every temporal interest I have, I am willing. When I have been believed to be a delusional fool (including privately, by myself), I am willing. When it hurts so hard my feet bleed and I can’t catch any breath, I am willing. I may be a fool, but I am the archetype of the true believer: I love the Lord with all my heart, will, and soul – and I love His people and want us all to banquet joyfully together in heaven. The joy of this vision is worth a world of suffering…and I have willingly done much of that in the Lord’s service. Truthfully, I haven’t suffered much these last few decades. The meetings and visits are more like a foreshadowing of the joy of the fellowship of the family of God. So now I get an invitation to a little late-in-the game votive suffering. Don’t want to miss that honor, for whenever God wraps a package that gruesomely, He’s got a doozy of a present inside.
So join me. Go forth and light a candle for me. What we are doing, I believe, is boldly proclaiming the Kingdom of Christ here on earth – that they may keep peddling their cheap kingdom of lives, but it has no power over us anymore and we are sent to proclaim it need have no power over anyone anymore. The Lord is sending us out to proclaim His great day: Good news for the poor, to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives, release from darkness for the prisoners and the restoration of sight for all those who have been spiritually blinded, lo, these 30 years.” (ASOH 11-3-21 Light a Candle for Me)
At the beginning of the second week, Charlie had expressed: “It is time for God to make all things new and to renew the faith of the world. The face of the world is ugly and mutilated, celebrating what is false and artificial, what offends God and defenestrates man, what brings bareness and cold rather than life and light…” (ASOH 11-3-21 Light a Candle for Me)
Then at the end of the week, the most amazing thing happened just before Charlie said that he thought the Lord was taking him “down to the foundation” and might build him anew. That very morning before he spoke those words, when he awakened and we visited while I went about the tasks of tending to him, I was distracted by his countenance. It’s actually somewhat hard to describe. His face was glowing and completely smooth; it revealed a much younger man than we usually see. It was remarkable. His hair remained gray, but his face was somehow made fresh. Charlie fit the description of young David in the Book of Samuel, minus the ruddy skin, for Charlie’s face was most predominantly luminous with a unique light. Also on this morning, there was vigor in his ways of expressing himself. I have my own ideas about what was being shown, but it is an image I can never forget.
By the time we were moving into the third week, Charlie was able to integrate the supplements with the homeopathy remedies and, still, the extreme fatigue lingered and the blood oxygen levels continued to be erratic. Charlie, himself reflected: “The thing is, God knows what is best. I don’t. So I bumble along the best I can, trusting that He will help me as I go. I don’t have much patience with ‘would have, could have, should have’ scenarios. What’s done is done and I mainly seek to know, in the moment, what I should do – and use my many failures as opportunities to grow in the moment as I continue my pilgrim way. Jesus, I surrender myself to you. Take care of everything.
When I was at my worst, laying in my sickbed, I told Beckita that if God decreed that I would be more useful to the work before us in purgatory or in heaven, He would take me. If He decreed that I would be more useful here, He would leave me. Whatever happened to me, the will of God would be advanced since I was a willing collaborator, trusting in whatever He decreed. I did tell her that I thought the Lord was taking me down to the foundation, that He might build me anew, but that was just my speculation. That trust did NOT mean that I forsook all temporal efforts at healing. I took many supplements and such. But it did mean that I would NOT violate any matters of fundamental principle – either that I had publicly articulated or privately vowed. I did fail once. In panic over one very painful symptom that lasted a few days, I ordered some supplements that I knew I should not have. (Perfectly licit supplements – but not for me…and I knew it.) Amusingly, when the expensive supplements arrived and I took them, it turned out that I was allergic to them. I laughed. Such a gentle and amusing way of God chastising me for briefly giving in to my panic. I regarded it as Him swatting me on the nose for not trusting to Him completely as I had vowed and then patting me on the head and telling me I was still a good dog who just had a bad moment.” (ASOH 5-3-22 Good News Bad News)
In the third week, I told people in my chapel family, who would ask about Charlie and how they might help, that there was a need for meals if they would like to offer support in this way. I was only thinking of Charlie, but our friends began cooking for three so that not only Charlie, but also Fr. Wang and I would benefit from their kindness. Most of the ones who assisted during this time were able to meet Charlie when he made a return visit to Missoula in August. Mightily grateful for those of you who helped in tangible ways, including Fr. Wang who not only anointed Charlie, but also offered Mass in his hotel room on two consecutive Sundays. Who gets that kind of treatment when falling into sickness while on the road? Thank you so very much: Fr. Wang, Dave & Julie, Elizabeth, Gail, Gwen, HTTP & Hubby, Karen, Leslyle, Pam, Peter, and Priscila. Please forgive me if I have forgotten anyone.
In May, Charlie expressed so well: “God wins. I say that not in a superficial, chirpy way of whistling past the graveyard, but as the simple, immovable reality of human history. Whenever any of the lesser conflicts before this have happened in human history, the forces of darkness have exacted a terrible toll in human lives and misery before the assault is repulsed. I expect nothing to be significantly different about this most great and terrible confrontation between good and evil. The history of western civilization is the history of Christianity – one that progressively gave the greatest benefits to mankind. But it is a history of constant struggle. Times of peace and prosperity have been the times when we must struggle hardest against our own cupidity. I think God is not seeking to change our minds: rather, He is in the midst of changing our mindsets. That is part of this process of renewal He has initiated and is a pre-requisite to the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart.”
And here we are, a year later, ALL of us bumbling along esprit de corps! May we continue to pray and work together, encouraging and building each other up in the development of mindsets… mindsets which have been featured all over the pages of Charlie’s blogs during the last eight years, mindsets which will anchor us in trusting God and keeping the faith even when it seems all is lost, mindsets which find us embracing an ALL IN attitude towards living God’s Will, mindsets that allow us to suffer well as we give God the freedom to s-t-r-e-t-c-h us in virtue, mindsets that compel us to contemplate and ask questions which launch us into dreaming of new possibilities, mindsets that welcome all people of good will into sharing the chopping of SO very much wood, mindsets that find us nevermore remaining silent or inactive when Gospel values are threatened and denied, mindsets which reflect that we know who we are as children of the Living God and we know who HE IS as we rise each day, ready to serve and partner with Him in the re-birthing/re-building of a culture of life, a true civilization of love, bringing His Kingdom more fully to each locale wherever we may live.
Now, as we carry on in this Storm of storms, I close this account and reflection, confident that I speak for the folks in our communities, Charlie: Thank you for caring for us with the heart of a shepherd, for teaching us, encouraging us, fortifying and challenging us. True to Sherpa form, you are incredibly focused, precise, resilient and tough while you foster the traits of a hero in others. And we love you, man!
CORAC Joy in the Teamwork