Sunday, November 1, 2015

Pleasure and Pain, Italy and return to the U.S.

Our last week in Europe started out quite normal.  We attended our family Halloween party by internet, before heading to the airport to leave for Italy. We arrived in Venice, Italy late Saturday night, October 24.  Lucky for us, daylight savings time was changing, so we got an extra hour to sleep.  We then went and participated in Church meetings in Italian.  Once again, they were without a piano player, so Debbie got one more chance to play the piano in sacrament meeting.  There were other tourists there at Church, so they did English translation of the Sacrament meeting, which was presented by Young Women leaders and their one Young Woman.

We then spent the next few hours visiting with our SRS manager in Italy and preparing for our participation in a bishop's training meeting later that afternoon.  Our manager is assisted by a local missionary couple, which happen to be his parents.  They don't speak much English, but they are a wonderful couple.  They prepared a nice meal for us to eat at the chapel, so that we could keep the Sabbath Day holy without going out to eat.

The training meeting went well.  A full hour and a half was dedicated to Self-Reliance.  The majority of the teaching was done by the Stake Specialist and the Agent bishop.  Perfect!  After that training we spent additional time with our manager and the missionaries, discussing several subjects that we would usually cover over a few days if we had the time.

We then went back to our hotel, with additional food for our dinner.  It was a short visit with our manager, but was worthwhile and finished our goal of spending time with each of our 11 managers during our pre-mission.

Due to higher plane fares on Monday, we elected to stay until Tuesday, when the plane fares were better.  That also gave Debbie and I an opportunity to have a P Day in Venice, which turned out absolutely wonderful.

We boarded a bus that left from near our hotel (which is on the mainland) to the 118 small islands that comprise Venice.  It was pretty easy, since we stayed on the bus until the end of the line.  At that point, no vehicles go any further in Venice, as all travel is by water, water taxis, water bus, water gondolas, etc.  We bought an all day transit pass for 20 Euros each and got on the first water bus going down through all of the Grand Canal.  Rather than being the last ones onto a crowded boat, we waited 10 minutes until the next boat and were in the first of the line, which allowed us to take some of the chairs at the front of the boat.  Perfect!  We were able to see everything and take pictures all of the way down the Grand Canal.  Couldn't get better.

The weather was beautiful, in the 60's and a clear, sunny day.  When we got to the end of the Canal we got onto the land and took some time to meditate in a beautiful little park.   Then we proceeded to the St. Mark's Basilica.  This is where they had buried the bones of St. Mark, the evangelical writer.  The Basilica had been first built in 832 AD, burned in a rebellion in 976 and rebuilt in 978.  Further constructions were added in future years, with the majority of the church being completed in 1093.

There is a large plaza around the Church and we spent several hours around there, including eating lunch with authentic Italian Lasagne and Gelato (ice cream).  We went through a tour of the Church and paid a few Euros to see the Pala D'Oro, a large altar piece with many inscriptions and pictures in gold and 1927 jewels throughout.  It was pretty impressive. This was added to the Basilica in 1343.

We also took an elevator up to the top of the San Marco Campanile, the bell tower next to the Basilica.  It was a chance to go to the highest point in the city and get a better view of all of the sites, especially of the 6 domes of the Basilica.

We returned by taking the water bus back up the Grand Canal.  Once again we were able to get seats in the front of the boat and enjoy the view as the sun was beginning to go down, creating magnificent views and photographs.  Finally we finished with some authentic Italian pizza for dinner.

We then returned to our hotel by the previously identified bus.  Only problem was that we didn't know which exit to get off of the bus.  I tried to talk to some individuals on the bus.  One lady, didn't speak English but talked to another who did, but who didn't know the bus stops.  She talked to a  third lady who told us to get off the bus stop after her.  By the time we left the bus, only one of the three ladies was still on the bus, but she helped us get off correctly.  By the time we got back to our hotel, we felt like we had just experienced a PERFECT day.

We went to bed that night, so content.  The next morning at 4 am, Debbie went to the bathroom and started to feel immense pain.  We prayed and I gave her a blessing to reduce the pain. The pain reduced, but she was still uncomfortable.  She went back to the bathroom and the catheter popped right out.  Pain was gone, but we now had a new problem.

I told Debbie, that we had no immediate danger, but that the long term danger was for her bladder to fill up and return to the pain that she had in England.  We weren't scheduled to fly out of Venice until 1:30 that afternoon.  We had two choices, either go to a medical facility in Venice and get them to put another catheter in or get to Germany more quickly and have the urologist in Germany put a new catheter in.  Unable to make contact with the Area Doctor in Frankfurt, we chose to go to the airport and try to arrange an earlier flight.  The flight was available, but the airline personnel were not helpful.  We had a non changeable flight and they were unwilling to make an exception, even though we had a medical emergency.  Our only option was to buy new tickets.  To make matters worse, they would not honor a reasonable internet price for the ticket and it was too late for the internet to accept our booking.  So we ended up paying an inflated price to get us back to Germany three hours earlier.

When we arrived in Germany shortly after noon, we had an email from the Area Doctor telling us that the urologist's office was closed from noon until 3 pm.  So we went to our apartment, got a letter from our Area Doctor in German to explain our situation and caught the train to arrive at the urologist a little before 3:00 pm.  Showing the letter and making a lot of hand signals with receptionists that do not understand English, we finally got into a doctor, not the original doctor that had treated Debbie, but another.  He spoke some English and we were finally able to get a new catheter put in.  Turns out that Debbie had not stored up as much urine in her bladder as we had expected, since she specifically had been fasting all day to minimize the volume in her bladder.  In the end all was well, and we are trying to get some recourse from the airline for their inflexibility in helping us out.

The next day we went back to the airport to fly to the U.S.  We received wheelchair assistance at each airport and were able to make it back on Wednesday night in SLC without further challenges.

On Thursday morning we got up early to be able to go and witness the marriage of our son, Moroni with his new bride, Leeneh at the County Courthouse.  It turned out to be a wonderful experience.  Moroni's daughter, Tiare, was able to be there also.  Moroni asked us what his siblings would think about his marriage.  We told him that their first comment would be, "Why didn't you invite us?".  In the end it was a simple marriage, but it got done.  We took the small bridal party to breakfast at Dee's family restaurant.  Another good positive.

We then went and visited our daughter Camila, who has been admitted to a nursing facility from the UNI, since the last time we were in town.   She seems to be very happy with her situation.  Her mental capacity is way diminished, but she seems happier than she has been for many years.  On Saturday, we went to the football games that her sons, Caide and Isake, played in. While there we spent time with her daughters, Kaisha and Cherish and their Aunt Caren who is dedicating herself to helping our grandchildren have the structure and love that they so desperately need.  This family has been through so much in their lives, including the loss of the father Eddie, in late June.  In spite of the challenges, they are making progress, thanks to the efforts of many, especially their Aunt Caren  and Camila's mother, Beth.  We are thankful to all who have stepped up in this time of crisis.  We are thankful for whatever part we can play in their lives, while we are away.

At 6:30 am, on Friday morning, we met with Dr. Middleton, a urologist who had agreed to see Debbie on short notice.  He promptly took out the catheter and put Debbie on self-catherization, to happen only three times a day. This is to help awaken her bladder and train it to function again.  So far we are seeing some progress.  We will have some additional tests done tomorrow morning and some continued visits with the urologists.  He is making things happen quickly so that we will be able to return to Germany right after Thanksgiving.

On Sunday we attended our home ward for the 7th time since we moved here at the end of May.  That is two more times than we have been at our ward in Germany.  We have spent 7 different Sundays in other countries, always attending our meetings there, except for the Sunday that we spent in the hospital in England.  I was asked to teach priesthood meeting, sharing my life biography and experiences.  We were also asked to speak at our ward on December 27 before officially entering the mission field.

It is now Sunday night.  In four short days since we returned, we have been with or made contact with almost all of our children in Utah.  We saw many on Halloween night, have contacted others by phone.  We will see several in activities in the next few weeks.  It is amazing how much time we can spend with needs that each of them have.  We have found that most are doing very well without their parents around.  In fact several have told us how they are growing more as they have to step up on their own.  We know that our Heavenly Father is their father and he loves them and that he will reach out and help and strengthen each and every one of them. We have been privileged to be their parents, but each of them need to develop a relationship with their Heavenly Father that will bring them long term success and happiness.   We love each and every one of them and pray that we can do whatever our Heavenly Father asks of us.

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