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Eighteen Months Part 4: My Dad's Darkest Hour

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This part of my past is very hard for me to write about. I guess that is why I haven't blogged for over a month and it has been even longer since I wrote the previous part of this story. I guess I am afraid I run the risk of having people read this story and think I am crazy, just like the people in our church, close friends, and eventually family thought my whole family was crazy. They all thought we had "gone off the deep end." I am not sure what good, if any, these words will accomplish. But like my father, I am a writer, and as such I feel compelled to continue typing and let the reader be the judge.

From Wikipedia:

A miracle is an unexpected event attributed to divine intervention. Sometimes an event is also attributed (in part) to a miracle worker, saint, or religious leader. A miracle is sometimes thought of as a perceptible interruption of the laws of nature. Others suggest that God may work with the laws of nature to perform what people perceive as miracles. Theologians say that, with divine providence, God regularly works through created nature yet is free to work without, above, or against it as well.

A miracle is often considered a fortuitous event: compare with an Act of God.

In casual usage, "miracle" may also refer to any statistically unlikely but beneficial event, (such as the survival of a natural disaster) or even which regarded as "wonderful" regardless of its likelihood, such as birth. Other miracles might be: survival of a terminal illness, escaping a life threatening situation or 'beating the odds.' Some coincidences are perceived to be miracles.

I have heard the word miracle tossed around a lot. It is used to describe someone surviving a bad car crash (I used it myself after I was in a fiery car wreck in California-but that's another story) or a plane crash. I have heard someone talk about the miracle of surviving cancer. I remember the Miracle Mets and the USA Hockey Team and the Miracle on Ice after the 1980 Olympics, but how many people have experienced a "see it with your own eyes" miracle of Biblical proportions and suffered the consequences of such a miracle? Not many in this land. When I was a child I wished for one, I prayed for one and I got one. I had no idea what would come along with it.

The morning after Penni was healed I floated off to school. I figured I could tell everyone about this life changing event. I believed that all who heard my words would believe me and would be just as excited to find out that God is real, just as real as I knew Him to be.

I, being naive, could not have been more wrong.

As I was walking to school, my Dad was struggling with his own thoughts about the night before.

I think it is told best with his words.

I remember the night, every bit of it. I lay facing one wall and Catherine lay facing the other and we didn't say a word to each other all night. I don't know if there was any sleep or if I froze in one position and allowed my body to rest a bit, but I managed to get up the next day and go on to work.

At work, I tried unsuccessfully to bury myself in whatever I was doing. My mind was preoccupied and I don't know what I did. I'm a metal smith and I might have made cornbread that day, I don't recall. In my mind was a turning and churning of "what if, what if? and if it isn't?, if it isn't?" and how to handle it. This went on until about 10 o'clock in the morning.

Finally, I couldn't take it anymore. I got to a telephone, called home, and when Catherine recognized my voice, in tears she said, "It's healed. And it looks great!"

I don't know what my answer was to her, if I answered her at all. I managed to get through the rest of the very long day.

I managed to get home at my usual time about 4:00 P.M. and as I pulled in the driveway, the screen door opened and this little 18-month-old girl came running out. Because of her foot, it had not Penni's nature to run on cement--she had always walked very cautiously. But she came running out and when she got to that little step in front of the house, she just passed right on down, past me and around the car, back up the step and over the door, turned around and came back down the step and around the car and back up a couple or three times before I could get hold of her. Finally she just came running up to me and I picked her up. I don't recall saying anything to her. I just remember picking her up and realizing then a kind of peace--that it really had happened, that this was no fantasy anymore.

I walked into the house and I don't even know what conversation went on between Catherine and me. All I can tell you is that we were realizing that we'd had a visitation from the Lord in our home. It was Wednesday and we were going to church that night.

We only lived four blocks from the church. We would often walk, but most of the time we drove because of Penni. That night when we started to get in the car, Penni said, No. She wanted to walk. As usual, I reached for her finger, but she shook her head and started running on down the street ahead of us....all the way to the church. I saw a whole new personality in the child. She was trying out new feet.

I knew that one of the things we had to do was deal with Derrick about it because he didn't totally understand what had happened. He had seen us through the hassle of Kam's leg in a cast, for the same situation. He had also seen us ministering to Penni with corrective shoes, putting them on the wrong feet, and always helping her across the sidewalk, and holding onto her finger and so forth.

When we did sit down to talk, Derrick explained in detail what had taken place when he had gone in that night to pray for her. He related that he had picked her foot up in his hand. Penni's foot had had no instep at all; it was twisted in at almost a 90-degree angle toward the other. He held her foot in his hand, which was similar to the therapy we had done before. In his hand he felt the muscles shape and move back where they were supposed to be. As he held Penni's foot firmly in his hand, he said it was almost like it wanted to force his hand open. He knew it was God because he had been exposed to a healing a few moments before on television. For a fourteen-year-old child this was a tremendous experience.

We talked about it, and yet we knew we had to put it into perspective. We had to figure out what we could do with this, what we were supposed to do. I guess my question was Why? Why me? What had I done to deserve this? What was God looking for in my life that He would come and visit my home? What was it all about? What was my obligation now?

I had not been taught this; I had not been exposed to this type of thing. It was not something that one could just get up before the church where we were going and testify about. I realized that there would be some problem with their accepting it, and yet there would also be a lot of problems with my denying it.

I finally said to Catherine, "I don't know why, but God wants our attention and we'd better give it to Him. Above and beyond all other things that might happen in our lives at this point, we'd better give God our attention."

So we pledged to do that.

I found out real quick that some people didn't want to hear about this miracle. I found out at school the first time I tried to tell my friends in study hall. Some looked at me like I had gone crazy; some told me to shut up. One said he didn't believe in God so he could not possibly believe my story of a miracle. After telling me this, he got up and moved to the other end of the table.

It wasn't long till the word got around the ninth grade that Derrick Parker was now some kind of religious nut. It was like being back in Denton, sharing stories of my traveling to Washington and being told "No one has ever been to there, it's too far away!"

The hardest part was being cold shouldered by my friends who knew my sister, who could see for themselves but still said there is no such thing as a miracle.

I didn't get it. How could one deny what one could see with one's own eyes?

Apparently it was pretty easy to do, even if you attended church with the people who "claimed" to have had a miracle. It was even easier to deny what your eyes told you if the pastor of that same church didn't believe in miracles either.

I wish I could tell you all the things that transpired after the people in the church saw my sister running up and down the hallways, climbing steps and being a normal, active eighteen month old. The things that transpired were shocking to me. We became the epicenter of a controversy.

This controversy erupted out of the maelstrom of questions this miracle created. These questions were about the power of God and what our church believed.

Let me some up the questions this way:

Is God real or does the church just give lip service about him? Does God use His power through His Son Jesus like it says in the Bible or are we coming to church every Sunday for a Mythology-History lesson?

The church split into two groups, those who believed what we told them and believed their own eyes. The second group, unfortunately the larger of the two, was composed of those who thought we were some kind of troublemakers and denied what their "lying eyes" told them.

The pastor of our church was the leader of the second group as my Father soon found out.

We were totally aware that God wanted to get our attention, so we were leaning in that direction like we never had before. Above and beyond anything that our church was teaching, above and beyond anything we had been taught in our lives, we were seeking the will of the Lord. By doing that, we were getting involved in home meetings in our house where we had prayer and studied the Full Gospel. We could feel the tension in the church growing like an epidemic. It wasn't just us, but we seemed to be the center of it.

The word was getting out about Penni's healing. Anytime something like this happens, there's an aftermath. In an aftermath, there is some good and there is also some onslaught from the enemy. Our little Baptist church was very conservative in its doctrine with gracious, lovely people; but this was not a part of their program.

Peggy Stewart, (one of our church Bible study friends) came to me one day and said, "Clay, you must tell the pastor." Well I knew already that I had to tell him because the evidence was there. I knew he was not the type of person who would understand with a lot of sympathy what was going on with us, so this was not going to be an easy task. He and I saw things a little differently and he knew anytime that I approached him that "Here comes the thorn in my flesh."

I sought the Lord and prayed, Lord, You know where I'm coming from and You know what I'm facing, so if You really want me to tell him, tonight when we go to church, let him be available. This was not normally the case; he was very reserved and did not come out and mingle with the people a lot.

That night when we went to church, we started down the hall and looked into the Sunday school office and there sat one person: the pastor, looking through a new Sunday school quarterly. It didn't seem like he was too engrossed in anything, so I stepped inside and said, "Pastor, may I talk with you a minute?" He said, "Sure you may." I imagine he already had some idea of what was taking place.

I started from the beginning. I didn't hide any of the terminology and I didn't pull any punches. I told him that we had been watching The 700 Club with Pat Robertson and we saw a healing take place before our eyes on the television. Without taking a breath, I added, "and Jim Bakker turned and explained to the audience what God had done and we all heard. Derrick then went down to Penni's room and prayed for her and her foot was healed. We don't know why, but God has visited our home and we know it's real and we're gonna lend ourselves to Him and we're concerned about this church. I would like to have an opportunity to stand and tell the whole thing to the church so that there will be no rumors". I just spit all this out without giving him a chance to make any comment in return.

Finally, when I gave him the chance, the pastor said, "We've not known your little girl that well, so we can't be sure of wha's happened. Since you haven't received a confirmation from the doctor and we plan our services quite a ways in advance, there's really no time or room for this type of thing, so I couldn't allow it to happen. And another thing, I need to talk to you further about what's going on at your house. We don't want any trouble in this church, so I want you to make an appointment when we will have more time to talk about this."

That was the end of this conversation. I still had a lot to say. I made an appointment to came back.

I thought that I was prepared to take my stand and to be firm about what I was going to say to this Baptist minister. It didn't take courage; I was anxious now. I wanted to go in and tear things up. When I got in his presence, I was ready to take my stand.

The pastor has his own stand to take.

"Clay, you know we're a Baptist church around here. I don't know how much you know about our denomination's background, but the Baptist church is a well-established church, one of the largest in the nations, led by men of many years of Bible research with many degrees and awards, men that stand strong and tall and are well-versed in their field. They are heroes of our time in the entire church world. They've set up the bylaws and the doctrines and of them we can be proud. They're our heritage."

He continued, "What you are saying to me is not for us today. The healing as you've described it, is not a part of our doctrine. We Baptists, of course, believe in healing, but through the modern means that God has provided in this day. You see, in earlier times, doctors and hospitals and nurses were not available, so certainly Jesus intervened and He met the needs of His people just like we're meeting the needs of our people today, but through modern medicine means."

He was very polite, very precise. He had done his homework, no doubt about it.

"So, you see, Brother Clay, you're being swept into an emotional fantasy which is not for us and it will bring trouble, not only to your family, but to the church. And I will not allow it to disrupt things herere while I'm the pastor. It will bring nothing but trouble, and I'm asking you to be careful if you want to continue as a part of this church."

I was starting to boil a little bit, I guess, because I knew what I was after and I was being careful what I was listening to-very careful. I was finding things in the Bible that confirmed all I was hearing from Pat Robertson and other Full Gospel ministers, so I was waiting for my turn to lash back. Just before I had a chance, the telephone rang.

The pastor turned and talked for a few minutes and when he got off the phone he said, "That phone call requires me to leave. But we'll pick up right where we left off in a few days."

A few days, a lot can happen in a few days. You can loose friends, your church, maybe even your family.

I have to admit that of all the thoughts that could go through the human mind, I was battling with "What have you gotten your family into? What is all this that you have done?"

I was getting letters from my family saying, "It's okay to be religious, but you can go off the deep end." I was getting letters and calls from Catherine's family that said, "What âre you two into? What's going on? What's happening?" I was trying to be very discreet in my explanations to them. They were Baptists too, you see, and I knew I had to be very tactful in any explanation that I gave. Fact and truth are always the best measures to take, so I wasn't denying anything, but I was being very careful in the way I approached my explanation.

Catherine called me one day at work and I knew something was not right. She said, "We've got to go back and see the pastor."

So we had another conference with him one evening and in that conference the conversation that Catherine had with him was not connected with reality and I finally reached over and asked her to be quiet and I said, Pastor, we'll end it here. We won't bother you anymore. We'll just do what the Lord wants us to do."

He made some request that we not bring this back to the church anymore. I said, "Well, if the Lord asks us to stay here, we won't have any choice."

The next night the deacon board came to our house.

"Can we talk to you for a while?"

I said, "Sure, sit down and make yourselves comfortable."

"The pastor has asked us to come and to make sure that you not bring any more of this Full Gospel issue you and your wife are involved in back to our church. If you can't get yourselves uninvolved with this and just be a good Baptists,"

One deacon would start to talk for a minute and he'd ask another one to explain. It was like they had a final blow, a package, that they were to deliver and no one had the courage to lay it on us. Three or four of them talked. I had asked them to sit down but only a couple sat down and the others were kind of pacing around.

They continued to gave me a pretty good spiel about how much trouble we were causing....followed by "we may have to ask you not to come back."

Finally I said, "Are you trying to tell us that the pastor has sent you asking us not to come back to the church unless we deny what has happened?"

They said, "Well, that's pretty much the story."

"Go tell the pastor he has no problem, we won't be back."

They left our house.

I can't exactly describe the realization that this was God. It was a heartbreaking experience but at the same time there was peace.

After the deacons walked out, Catherine and I didn't discuss it a whole lot, but we went on to bed.

It was now about Thanksgiving week and my wife's family was coming up to visit. I think what was bringing them to visit was curiosity more than need to visit with us. To be perfectly honest, I dreaded this visit, because it was not a time when we needed outsiders. There were many things that we needed to face.

A few days efore the family was to arrive, Catherine called me from work and she said, "I need some help, I can't handle it. I don't know how to clean up the house."

I came home and realized that, emotionally, she was not able to handle the very basics. I knew something was seriously wrong. I started relating back in my mind the break that she had had in the pastor's office and I realized that she had not been herself since.

I took her to the emergency room at Boone Clinic and we got no consolation at all. I took her to see our friends Bob and Peggy Stewart and they prayed and Bob called me upstairs and said, "Clay, you need to get some professional help. We can't do anything. I didn't want to admit that there was something wrong, but yet I knew there was. I called and explained the situation to Pat Robertson and he said, "Get her out of town. Take a trip, go somewhere."

My car was in trouble, so a neighbor let us have his car. We went up to Richmond and it was a night of horror. I had not slept Friday or Saturday night because I was attending to her. She locked herself in the bathroom. She attempted to somehow open the windows of the Holiday Inn on the sixth floor. Driving home, we came through Williamsburg and the boys wanted to go in and see a movie. While Catherine and the boys were watching it, I slept through the whole thing.

It was a terrifying time in Richmond. The trip there was mostly quiet, the kind of eerie quiet before a storm. We checked into the hotel and then went next door to a Chinese Restaurant. I loved Chinese food, and I still do, but that dinner was without taste that night. We went back to the room and Dad gave me some change and told me to take Rod downstairs to the game room.

We played some pinball, and some kind of computer quiz game, roamed around the lobby for awhile and then went upstairs. I don't remember sleeping much that night. The next morning I woke up to my sound of my mother screaming.

"The world is gone!....Open the window and you will see that there is nothing there!"

I ran and pulled back the drapes from the big window and told Mom that everything was just the same. Rod started to cry.

"What's wrong with him?" Mom wanted to know.

"He had a nightmare Mom, don't worry about it."

We were all having a nightmare.

After we checked out of the hotel, we walked down the street to a breakfast place. I knew I needed to eat something, and thinking this may be my last good meal for awhile I ordered a big omelet. We said a prayer and I ate with gusto, like I was worried someone would take it away before I could finish. Dad reached across the table, grabbed my hand and told me to slow down and taste it. I looked up at him and with a shaking hand grabbed my glass of water. I knew it wouldn't help anything if I lost control

The drive home was not so quiet as the trip up. After we left Williamsburg we crossed the James River Bridge. As we reached the high drawbridge, Mom screamed that the bridge was out and dove to the floorboards.

That was it, for me. I burst out in tears and then Mom became calm.

"What's wrong with him?" She asked.

What was wrong with me? I was watching my whole family come apart.

After we came back home, I took Catherine over to Portsmouth Naval Hospital on the pretense that we were going to visit a friend who was there. I went in first to the emergency room and pleaded with the doctor.

"We've got a problem. My wife is having a nervous breakdown and I need some help bad."

"Well, bring her in."

I don't know whether or not you've ever dealt with someone who's going into a total nervous breakdown, but one moment they're perfectly normal and the next moment they're someone that no one knows and the next moment they are normal again.

In the emergency room Catherine talked with the doctor and she seemed perfectly fine so he looked at me as if to say, what are you trying to do to your wife? I walked up the hall and prayed, Lord, there's nobody else that can help me but You.

At that point, Catherine made a statement to the doctor that was totally disconnected from reality and he said, "Wait a minute." He started making some arrangements and gave her some medications and said, "Take her on home. This medication will cause her to sleep. If you need to sleep, you take some also." I said, "I don't need a thing."

"If you have any problems, call me back." said the doctor.

We went home. Our folks came and it was a horrible two days that they were there. I cooked the Thanksgiving dinner and I wouldn't have wanted to eat that turkey because it might have had the marshmallows inside and the stuffing in the banana pudding. We got through the days but our relatives couldn't communicate with Cathering...They realized something was seriously wrong.

On Saturday morning they left, didn't say a word to me, but on Monday afternoon two of her sisters were back with a whole different attitude. They didn't come back questioning and trying to slaughter me, they said, "Clay, something is wrong and we came back to help." In the meantime, I had already called the hospital and made arrangements to have Catherine admitted.

One of the sisters stayed with the children and the other sister and I took Catherine over to the Naval Hospital on a Monday afternoon during the peak of the rush hour traffic. It was rainy and foggy and a setting for a mystery movie is the best way I can describe it. They gave me the paperwork and we headed from Portsmouth Naval Hospital to the psychiatric hospital.

Bayberry Psychiatric Hospital sat way down in the deep woods of Queen Street and there was moss hanging down all around and a swamp that surrounded three-quarters of it. Its physical surroundings couldn't have been worse. It was the longest, hardest trip of my life through all of the traffic and the rain and every red light was red in my favor. I finally pulled up to this great, big steel-barred door and rang the bell and somebody came out and opened it his deep low voice said, "Y-e-e-e-s-s?"

I gave him my papers and he said, "Come on in."

They talked to us and finally they completed all the paperwork. When they asked Catherine if she would sign herself in, she looked at me for direction. By now, she would do almost anything I said and nothing else. If I said, "Comb your hair" she would comb her hair. If I said, "Put a little lipstick on she'd put a little lipstick on. I wasn't always sure where she'd put it, but she'd put it on. If I said, "Wear this" she would put on her dress. She might put it on backwards, but she'd put it on. So I was tending to a person who was almost a robot. So when they said, "Mrs. Parker, will you sign yourself in?" She looked at me and asked, "Is that all right?" and I said, "Yes, sign your name right there. Sign yourself in."

They took her back to the back and came out with all of her clothes, her hairpins and everything, and handed them to me. That was my darkest hour.

To be Continued of course.

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Blessings to you, thanks for having the courage to share your story in this unexpected setting. One moment I'm reading the adventures of motorcoach-extraction-via-bulldozer, and the next confronting the deepest questions of the heart. I had momentary confusion until I realized the alternating voices of you and your father. Your story resonates with truth and touched me deeply, the Peace of God be upon you all your family.

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