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Return from Bosnia - May 2009


Joe's goal getting over his November heart attacks, the quadruple bypass and the dreaded norovirus was always that we would be at Nensi and Vinko's Wedding on 3 May and that he would preach. He had the tickets booked by the end of January, when he was still very weak ... getting stronger!

We left Gatwick on 27 April for Dubrovnik and travelled from there straight to Makarska to spend time with Tonci and his family - our Angel in the accident in April 2005.

We arrived in Medjugorje on Tuesday 28 April, so kindly driven by our friend, the American Medical Social Worker who lives in Medjugorje, Janet Leff. Joe already had pain in his ears from new hearing aids but this was getting worse so we found a pharmacie and bought antibiotic ear drops.

We quickly met up with all our friends, Joe served on the Altar of St James's Church every day, Felicity was in the Choir AND we spent lots of time with Nensi and Vinko at their NEW house, previously known as 'The House that Vinko built' in Capljina. Annie (Warwick Midwife) and her son Laurie arrived on the Wednesday and we were all with Nensi and Vinko at the Town Hall in Capljina for their Civil Wedding on the Thursday, 30 April. That was lovely and we enjoyed the most beautiful meal afterwards in a newly built hotel by the banks of the Neretva River, so green and fast-flowing that day. Afterwards, Joe and Felicity, with Annie and Laurie, decided to walk back to the houses on the hill, about half an hour. Unfortunately, Felicity tripped on the uneven paving slabs and broke and damaged two front teeth, amongst other things. She coped as best she could and everyone was most kind.

We spent most of Friday and Saturday with Nensi and Vinko at their house, meeting all the relatives and friends who visited continuously, as is their custom, before the Wedding. The weather was perfect!

Sunday 3 May was the day of the Church Wedding. We met up with Vinko and his family in a restaurant at 2 pm. There was food, dancing, photographs and celebration. Then we all transferred to Nensi's parents house for 4 pm where trestle tables had been arranged in the basement covered with white cloths and another 'banquet'. Nensi arrived looking stunning in her beautiful dress. There was lots more singing and toasts and photographs inside and out. The sun shone all day, summer weather, except when we all drove to the Church for 6 pm for the Wedding service. The cars were in convoy, all the hooters going through and beyond Capljina, and young people were hanging out of the windows taking photographs.

The Church was beautifully decorated - the theme throughout was mauve and white. This was also at the houses, in the restaurant, on the cars and inside the Church - all was beautiful! Fr Blaz and his choir were ready front left when the bridal procession began. The bride and groom came in together, arms linked, preceded by the Maid of Honour and Best Man, the small Bridesmaid and the young priest who would marry them and Deacon Joe.

The Wedding Ceremony and Nuptial Mass was lovely although we could not understand everything, of course. We found out afterwards that Vinko had made a mistake with his responses! When he should have called on 'all the Saints' he called on 'all the Angels' and this was NOT corrected. He said afterwards he was thinking of 'Felicity's Angels'. We really liked that!

Towards the end of the Service Joe preached, beautifully, and his words were translated sentence by sentence by a friend of Nensi's. We were told later that everybody loved Joe and what he said - all the family of both Nensi and Vinko.

After the Service, the Bride and Groom, Best Man and Maid of Honour all stood on the steps of the Altar and every single person queued up to kiss each one. That took time!

Then, many photos were taken of every possible combination of people with the Bride and Groom always at the centre, all on the steps of the Altar.

When all was completed, we all went back to the houses for more traditions to take place. At this point, outside the car in the sunshine, Joe was taken ill. Our friends rushed us ahead to the Reception to see if Joe might feel any better. He did not and I 'phoned for a taxi to take us back the 10 miles to Medjugorje to the guesthouse. From that time onwards, we have seen pictures of the Reception which went on until the early hours, beautiful pictures of a wonderful event, but we were not there.

After a very difficult night with Joe so ill, we had a Miracle the next morning in that a doctor was found who came to our room. Unheard of in Bosnia for a doctor to make a home visit but Joe could not be moved. Joe was in heart failure caused by infection from his two new hearing aids. From then on, it was a very difficult week spent in our room. Dr Joseph came twice a day giving Joe injections and other medication and each visit he said he could see some small improvement in Joe's condition. The doctor deemed Joe was fit to travel at the weekend as his temperature had come down. Our insurance brought us home at the weekend with wheelchair and luggage support all the way, days after we should have come home. We are so appreciative to StaySure.Co.Uk and to BA for being SO helpful to us. Joe came home frail and weak and his recovery from all that had gone before has been set back, possibly by months. (Three weeks ago we were going for 8-mile walks and he should have started his Advanced Rehab on our return. None of that is possible at the moment.) However, he has tremendous WILL to be well again and he is now eating and sleeping well, and we are walking once more - little walks - to build strength again in his legs.

We have felt that God was with us through all this trauma. So many people were praying for us in Medjugorje and back home in England. The doctor came at the right moment when 'they' said there was no doctor and certainly not one who would make house calls. In Bosnia, you have to make your own way to hospital regardless of condition. Joe did not go to hospital nor move from our room.

So if anyone visits Medjugorje and needs a wonderful doctor with great diagnostic skills, someone whom most people have not heard of, do not realise is there, remember the name DR JOSIP VASILJ, cousin of Vicka the Visionary, whose office is near the Irish Centre on the road to Krizevac. As well as Dr Joseph and his care, we were BOTH so lovingly cared for, in all ways possible, by Beba, the owner of the guesthouse where we stay in the village of Sivric, near the Padre Pio Centre. Her husband, Teo, is the Sculptor. She is another Angel in our lives!

On the Friday, we went down the stairs and sat outside on a low wall in the sunshine. We found that all the locals knew about Deacon Joe and had been praying for him AND the pilgrims that passed us, they all knew he was Deacon Joe and said they and everyone in St James's Church had been praying for him. That was so incredibly moving for us and we knew the prayers had been heard.

We had tremendous support from family and friends at home - texting, 'phoning and praying. Even though what was happening was SO terrible, we felt God was with us in all of it, showing us in the way we were being supported and cared for and people turned up at exactly the right moment to help us. (Joe was being Anointed as the news that the Insurance company would bring us home came through - the timing was incredible as for 24 hours we could not find evidence that Joe had actually paid anyone when he impetuously booked our flights at the end of January. We found the evidence later!)

Now back home, our photos of the Wedding - and the Civil Wedding - are an absolute FEAST OF JOY for us. We were there! Joe did preach and for that we say THANK YOU GOD! It has been suggested that I, Felicity, start writing another Angel book ... watch this space!

Every moment of every day is now one GREAT BIG THANK YOU to God, for sparing Joe once more and to all the wonderful people who were there for us in Medjugorje and at home. THANK YOU!

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