CAST OUT: Chronicles of a Familiar Spirit
is finally published!
When news broke of the coronavirus spreading in China, we had just returned from a trip of a lifetime. It was in December 2019.
Our daughter was pregnant with her second child—a boy, this time.
The trip didn’t start off as well as we hoped. Due to a snowstorm in Philadelphia, my husband and I missed our connecting flight to Rome.
Thankfully, my parents, sister, and brother-in-law were booked on a different flight. So, they made it to Rome in time. And other family members who flew in from Boston boarded the cruise ship with them to Naples.
Along with hundreds of stranded passengers, we desperately tried to make arrangements for another flight to Italy. It was chaos.
After many hours, we were booked on a flight to Amsterdam with a connection to Rome. It would give us just enough time to make it to the port in Civitavecchia and board the ship.
Approximately a half-hour into the flight filled with weary passengers, all hoping to make their European destinations, the captain announced that an instrument problem was detected. The plane returned to the airport in Philadelphia. The landing was so rough that emergency responders surrounded the vessel in case a fire broke out.
After several hours back at the airport, standing in line for yet another booking, it was announced that the flight was canceled as well. Vouchers for a dingy hotel were distributed. Like zombies, we waited in another endless line to check-in. There was no food in sight since it was 3:00 AM.
Finally, the next evening, we boarded our flight to Rome. When we arrived, we hired a van for the three-hour-long trip to Naples. Miraculously we made it to the port of Naples just before the ship set sail for the next port-of-call.
Our persistence paid off: visiting the ancient Greek ruins in Athens and Rhodes; shopping in quaint shops in Kusadasi, Turkey; stepping in the awe-aspiring streets of Ephesus; and sipping aromatic coffee in a bright café in Limassol, Cyprus was amazing.
The highlight of our trip, however, was Israel. The Promised Land. The Holy Land. Drenched by heavy rain at the Mount of Olives, we made our way to Jerusalem. Touching the Western Wall in the Jewish Quarter was the most surreal experience of our lives. The Old City, home to Jews, Muslims, and Christians, burst in vibrant colors and exquisite sounds. The aroma of fresh-baked bread wafting in the breeze was tantalizing and impossible to resist.
In Cana, we walked cobblestone streets and bought wine and menorahs sold in tiny, ancient shops.
We sloshed through the mud at the Dead Sea and touched the salty water, too cold for a swim. We even climbed a camel’s back for photos.
At Mount Carmel, we entered a cave where it is believed that Elijah hid from Jezebel’s wrath.
The Sea of Galilee was the most peaceful place we visited. Barefooted, we stepped in the crystalline waters where Jesus Christ walked and his disciples fished.
In Capernaum, a breeze caressed our faces as we sat in the ruins of the synagogue where Jesus taught the masses. What a gift this was—to look around and picture Jesus Christ healing the sick, delivering the demon-possessed, and worshiping the Father with his disciples.
Yet, nothing could have prepared us for the blessing of our baptism in the Jordan River. My uncle’s profession of faith, giving his life to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, was the ultimate gift of joy in our lives.
Our trip ended back in Rome. At the Vatican, we were accosted by gypsies begging for food who stole my mother’s wallet. Even though this event was upsetting, we continued to explore the “Eternal City” in the cool night air that smelled of roasted chestnuts. Feeling exhausted, we walked around the Colosseum several times until finding our way back to our hotel shuttle.
A few months after our return to Florida from our wonderful trip, my husband and I attended The Art of Romance, a Valentine’s Getaway, here in St. Augustine. Even though this was a photo-shoot assignment for my husband, we enjoyed every single minute of this unexpected treat.
We stayed at The Collector Luxury Inn & Gardens, a gorgeous historical establishment.
There was a scrumptious multi-course Farm-to-Table dinner at Chandler Oaks Farm on the first night.
The second day after breakfast, we explored George Street with new eyes, seeing hidden treasures gone unnoticed during prior visits.
Later that afternoon, we visited the Lightner Museum with its fascinating late 1800’s history of Henry Flagler’s Hotel Alcazar. The staff treated us to a behind the scene tour of the staff’s quarters, an area not opened to the public. Champagne and handmade chocolates were offered at the end of our tour.
On Friday, February 14th, we enjoyed brunch at Cellar 6 on Aviles Street. Later, we explored the art scene with a personal guide, meeting local artists.
The experience ended that afternoon at Carrera Wine Cellar with a one-of-a-kind wine tasting hosted by the establishment’s owners.
When we arrived home, I chatted with our pregnant daughter and told her about our wonderful experience. Only a few minutes after we spoke, she called me back. Her water had broken.
Because this was a high-risk pregnancy, we immediately left for the hospital. My grandson was on his way. Three weeks early. Nico was born on February 15th, 2020.
Two days after our grandson’s birth, he had open-heart surgery to repair a congenital heart defect, coarctation of the aorta. He remained in the hospital for one month.
When he was finally discharged home, the world went into darkness, into lock-down.
My grandson’s recovery was lengthy. He returned to the hospital for a heart catheterization not long after surgery. Then, a few months later, he had spinal surgery.
During this time, my husband and I became very ill with the virus. My parents, my sister, and her husband had symptoms as well. Thank God, none of us were admitted, and we all healed completely.
Three family members in Massachusetts became severely ill, and all were admitted due to low oxygen levels. Again, we praise the Lord for their healing.
Sadly, two family members in Brazil succumbed to the virus. Some friends lost loved ones.
During these darkest hours, many things changed in our lives. We realized how fragile life is. How precious our freedoms. How much we take for granted. How now is the time to spend with our loved ones—not later. How blessed we are. How thankful we should always be.
It connected us to people whom we have been distanced from. It distanced us from people we were never truly connected to.
In the end, it gave us the desire to reach goals we have put off for much too long.
And in August of 2020, amid the pandemic, while we healed from the virus and our grandson from his surgeries, while packing for our move to St. Augustine, God enabled me to finish my novel.
This story had haunted me for decades, but now I finally had the privilege of writing the two most awaited words in my entire life: The End.
A contract with Deeper Revelation Books was signed in September.
I am so thrilled that soon my book CAST OUT: Chronicles of a Familiar Spirit will be launched.
This is an answer to prayer. Finally, a long-awaited, dream come true.
God has given us beauty for ashes.
He has given us joy for mourning.