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A worldly trip through the eyes of postcards!

As many sheltered in place during the onset of COVID-19, Sister Marsha Speth sent out prayer requests to all for her 13-year-old great-nephew, Caleb, who in early March, had been diagnosed with liver cancer.

Sister Marsha said many sisters and Providence Associates not only prayed for him, but also sent him cards and notes to “boost his spirits. Caleb and his family have been very touched by this outpouring of support.”

She also mentioned one particular Sister of Providence who added to her long list of ministries by coming up with a unique way to support Caleb through his trying time.

Sister Barbara Ann Bluntzer’s long list of ministries have taken her to many places and during those visits, she collected postcards. Upon hearing about Caleb’s situation, Sister Barbara Ann sorted through her cards and began sending them to Caleb as inspiration.

Sister Marsha Speth with her great-nephew Caleb and great-niece Lydia.

What transpired was a travel journey she shared with Caleb, who also enjoys traveling.

“Caleb’s mother noted that even on days when he is sick from treatments, he can still read the postcards,” Sister Marsha said.

Sister Marsha added that Caleb returned home recently with a new liver and is responding well following the transplant.

By the way, Happy Birthday Caleb!

The following from Sister Barbara Ann depicts the journey she and Caleb took as he nears completion of his treatments.

“Picture yourself as a 13-year-old boy: Active in sports, enjoying all kinds of music, being popular and a good student, loving to travel. Then you are diagnosed with liver cancer and have to go through a round of chemo and stay at home. And, also be away from friends and activities as you wait the next decision to be made about your life.

It was in March when I read Sister Marsha’s email to us: “Please pray for Caleb, my great-nephew. I ask you to send him greetings and wish him well as he goes through his cancer treatment and possible transplant surgery.”

Right away, I thought since this young man will be spending a lot of time away from his usual crowd of friends and would possibly be facing boredom, why not help remove those four bedroom walls and take him on a journey to visit places I have been over the years; ones in the United States and in different countries where he can go in his imagination. Places that I have had the good fortune to see, enjoy and hold fast in my memory.

So I was excited to think that there would be a purpose for me to go through my travel albums, take out the postcards I had there and get them organized so when Caleb was “ready to go,” and I had the route lined up. I could describe the places “we” would be seeing, events that happened to me along the way, etc. So I sent him a letter introducing myself, telling him what we would be doing, and to “be packed and ready to go!”

Here is a photo of many of the postcards Caleb received from Sister Barbara Ann Bluntzer.

At the beginning of April, we left from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods since he had been here before and was familiar with the place. The first stop was at the Indianapolis 500 to see the track and the winners’ trophy; then we went south to Columbus, Indiana, and saw a unique mechanical piece in downtown before heading to “Angel Mounds,” not far from the Ohio River. On each postcard, I explained a bit about what was shown, with a word of anticipation of what was coming next.

We continued down the Ohio to the Mississippi River with a picture of the wildlife along that river; we stopped at New Orleans long enough to board a ship to Jamaica. There, we saw many unique things and rode a glass-bottomed boat. Back to the Texas Coast, we went north to Austin, and west to Big Bend National Park. Soon, onto Fort Worth to see cattle yards and then to Grand Canyon and the Petrified Forest! One scenic card a day … five cards a week on this exciting “trip!”

On occasion, and when an explanation is in order, I write a letter to Caleb, doing a bit more elaborating and telling of an incident that happened at that particular location. There was no space on the card for any stories, etc. This is a unique way for him to see and enjoy the world!

I wondered if this “traveling” was important to him. Was this getting boring? Is it serving any purpose other than for me to relive my own experiences? So I was especially thrilled when I got a letter from Caleb! “Each day, I love getting to read your postcards. It makes my world feel bigger …” And he concluded: “I can’t wait to get the next card.” And for sure, I can’t wait to get the next one, written, stamped and mailed to him.

We continued from Arizona on to San Francisco, Hawaii and China. We returned by way of the Oregon Coast, Rocky Mountains and Alaska! We have flown, sailed and ridden trains and planes! I have been so fortunate myself to have been to those cities and countries. Of course, this was not my original route: These trips were made over a period of many years … sometimes as part of my ministry, sometimes as a guest with friends, but many times as a tour host working with a travel company. But always with a spirit of adventure and appreciation of the scenery, beauty and culture of the place and people.

We, Caleb and I, are along the Eastern Seaboard now, going north from Florida and stopping at many locations along the way to see those interesting places I was privileged to see. Then, it will be further traveling to other places he hasn’t seen yet. So, as he recovers at home from the days in the hospital, he will have even more postcards to look at. And, I will have refreshed my memories of my days, seeing this marvelous world with all its beauty and culture.

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Jason Moon

Jason Moon serves as media relations manager for the Sisters of Providence. Previously, he spent more than 16 years in the newspaper industry.

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7 Comments

  1. Connie SP on August 1, 2020 at 10:10 am

    Wow! What a neat way to companion Caleb. Thanks Jason for sharing this touching story with us and thanks Barbara Ann for sharing your post cards and your heart with Caleb too.
    Connie SP

  2. Denise on August 1, 2020 at 1:48 pm

    What a wonderful idea, Barbara! What a gift … to give Caleb something to look forward to!

  3. Joni Luna on August 1, 2020 at 5:57 pm

    What a neat way to continue connecting and serving Sister B.
    You have always inspired me with your creativity.
    Blessings Caleb upon your continued healing.

  4. Rosemary Nudd SP on August 1, 2020 at 6:24 pm

    Barbara your terrific idea & the postcards/: etters/ adventures behind them are truly co-creation with Providence at a crucial time in a young MSN’s life. Blessings and love to you both!

    Roe

  5. Paula Modaff, SP on August 2, 2020 at 9:18 am

    Barbara, thank you for sharing your journeys with Caleb and us! What a unique gift certainly inspired by the Holy Spirit. As you recall, our Theodore kept a detailed report of her travels as well.

  6. Editha Ben, SP on August 2, 2020 at 11:13 am

    am so impressed, Barbara, how you have creatively engaged with Caleb and how you are persevering in that journey of his healing. Blessings on both of you.

  7. PAULA DAMIANO, SP on August 3, 2020 at 3:19 pm

    Barbara, This is absolutely not surprising to me~ It’s who you are….always connecting, always creative, always thinking of someone else. Thank you!

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