By JULIE PRIOR GAGNON
Have you ever wondered how it came to be that this relatively new to the Islands, redneck girl began writing for The Islander?
Before I started writing for The Islander, I shared my stories on Facebook.
Yup, it was on Facebook that my “Today’s Story” posts intrigued publisher Tonya Poutry and she believed that others might enjoy them as well.
Here’s a favorite of mine that I posted exactly a year ago this week.
Today’s Story: October 30, 2018
Today is Tuesday. 3 days after this story’s events happened and I am still having difficulty finding the words to share.
I am not sure why it’s so difficult. Maybe it’s because of being in so much pain that my brain has a harder time working or maybe because the story is so deeply touching and freakishly connected to both me and my new friend’s past and present. Actually as I write this, I am sure that it is option 3, “all of the above.”
Saturday was spent cleaning my room and closet, which had become a disaster area. By about 3 p.m., I was stir crazy and had to get outside, knowing by 4 p.m. or so (each day), I have to start taking muscle relaxants in order to help deal with the head pain. That all being said, I told Carl that I was going for a Jeep ride and was on my way.
I headed to South Hero to drop something off to a friend, but in typical fashion…I couldn’t figure out which house was hers. On my way back home , I had a strong urge to head up the East Shore for a change instead of the West Shore, which is my favorite route.
I was so very happy that I was out for the ride! Not only do I love cruising in the Jeep with the radio cranked, but I had the added beauty of the gorgeous foliage and lake to take in.
I was almost home, less than a mile away, when I was driving by the bay where Carl keeps the Landing Craft in the summer. As I approached the bay, I saw a car pulled over, and a man waved as I drove by.
Assuming that I knew the man and just didn’t recognize him at first, I stopped and backed up to say hi.
It turns out that I didn’t know him, but he was very pleasant as he told me that he just stopped there to take some photos of the scenery. When he spoke, of course I had to comment, “You talk funny, where are you from?”
It turns out that he was from West Virginia and is now living in the Islands.
Of course I lit right up when he said West Virginia! I spent two weeks down there whitewater kayaking and absolutely loved it. I always said that if I didn’t live in Vermont that I would live in Maine or West Virginia.
We continued to chat and found out that we had a couple other things in common, the first being a love of baseball. It turns out Thomas was a very good baseball player. He shared some stories of his favorite player Roberto Clemente, and I shared my stories of Yaz.
Then Thomas said, “wait a minute, I have something in my car for you.” He went to his car and came back with a beautiful Dinger bat. He handed it to me and said, “Here, I want you to have this.”
Honestly, I didn’t know how to react. It was such a random act of kindness but how could I accept something like this from a stranger?
But then as I gripped the bat, it fit my hands like a glove. It just had the perfect weight and balance. I had to get out in the open area and start swinging. As I did, I was brought back to those fantastic days of neighborhood baseball games and competitive softball. Looking back on it later, I realized that I wasn’t feeling any pain at the time. I was so happy and so engrossed in my gift that I was like a kid on Christmas morning.
Thomas asked if I wanted some pictures with the bat and I enthusiastically replied, “Yes.”
We then talked a bit more and he shared how much kindness he has received from strangers since moving to the islands. He was so appreciative and truly touched deeply. I wasn’t surprised, as these are the same people that accepted me when I was new to the area. But it made me smile ear to ear to hear his story.
As I was about to leave he said, “wait, I have one more thing for you.” He went to his car, took out a card of St. Pio and handed it to me.
Now, I am not a participant of an organized religion, yet I do wholeheartedly believe in Saints. My favorite Saint is St. Anthony, but I had never even heard of St. Pio of Pietrelcina.
I thanked him, wished him the best and headed home.
When I got home I looked up St. Pio on the internet. Believe it or not, he is well known for his “Prayers for the Sick.”
Finding that extremely ironic given my personal health issues, I sent a message to my mother asking her if she had heard of him. Her reply was, “My mother prayed to him. I had one of his relics when I delivered one of you kids but I don’t remember which one. I held it all through delivery.”
After all of the coincidences of this chance meeting of my new friend…I have no doubt.
I have a renewed courage and faith (very much needed) and know in my heart that I was that kid Mom brought into this world as she prayed to St. Pio of Pietrelcina.
Julie Gagnon Prior
Julie Gagnon Prior resides in Grand Isle with her partner Carl and their 5 dogs. Prior has been battling Lyme Disease for several years, which she