Surviving the Widow Maker

From Surviving the Widow Maker to

Taking a 100 mile Hike for Religious Freedom

Bob Williams


Well, there I was sitting on my stone wall, looking at my barn which I have been working on for nearly a year. I said to myself, ” I need to put the shingles on that roof.” Sounds simple enough, but I suffered a massive heart attack (100% blockage of the LAD called the Widow Maker) on fefruary 3rd, and that slowed me down a bit. Six months recovery was long enough, and I was ready to get started. My cardiologist told me to take it easy, as he was not happy with the ejection fraction of my heart, and he was considering a defibulator under my collar bone. I said I don’t do defibulators Doc, you’ll have to come up with something else. I told you when you put those 3 stents in my heart that I wanted to go all natural, and avoid pharmaceuticals at all costs. You told me that we could do that and that some of your patients were “mostly” natural. He said just take these 8 pills that I am prescribing for you for 6 weeks, and then we’ll talk about it. Well, 6 weeks passed, and he wanted me to take about 5 pills a day and I said ok…..I didn’t mean it though. I didn’t take the pills. Instead, I contacted my Naturopath out in New Mexico whom I had consulted the day after my heart attack, and arranged to go to New Mexico for a health retreat. I stopped all medications, and started my natural routine which I still do daily. I found out that just because conventional medicine believes that people need them to survive a heart attack or stroke, that that is not the case at all! One doctor friend that I have told me I was a “Specimen” for somebody’s experiment. Oh well. My week in New Mexico proved to be more beneficial than anything those horrible poison pills could possibly be. I was determined not to play the pill game, and to this very minute I take no drugs. The cardiologist said take it easy. Dr. Bera (my naturopath) said “Work that Heart”. It’s a muscle. So that is how I came to be a Pilgrim. She said the right things to me, and I am forever grateful that I listened to her instead of the Cardiologist.The downside: this was one more week away from my barn roof, and it has been raining, and raining and raining. Plus, I had just finished being away another 2 weeks to Maine for our Family Reunion. I may need to hire someone to put that roof on………..nah. Back to the Pilgrim status: Father Jack Lombardi, my former pastor from Fort Detrick, MD advertised that he would be leading a 100 mile Pilgrimage to stand up for Religious Freedom and Pray for the repeal of the new HHS Mandate. Several key points in the mandate go against our belief as Catholics. It was to start in Hancock, MD and go all the way to Baltimore. Wow! Talk about giving the ol’ heart a work out. If that couldn’t do it nothing could. Well, I wanted so very much to go on the pilgrimage, but….my roof, and….My Lovely Wife. Anyhow, I told my wife about the pilgrimage and she pondered for a day or so. I think it was the very next day, I said “hon” I think I want to join Father Jack on that Pilgrimage. Holy Cow! Do you know what she said? “Me too”! I said really? Awesome. You must understand that we are both in our 60’s. Not that we are old, but you should have enough wisdom at our age to think twice about a huge endeavor such as a 100 mile Pilgrimage. Sha….Right. We were going, and that was final. I called St. Peter’s in Hancock, MD, and left a message for Father Jack. He returned my call later on that evening, and signed us up. I told him I really needed to put my roof on my barn, but this was much too important to worry about a roof. We needed to be on that pilgrimage.

Scared?….yup. scared of not making it, of having another heart attack. But……I believe God will work out the minor details, and all I have to do is be faithful to this overwhelming call to walk that 100 miles. well, he did, and he does, and he always will…… out the details. Just need to be faithful to his promptings. God is Good!

We started by donning our Bright yellowish/green teeshirts, which had the inscription “Religious Freedom Walk 2012 on the front, and a picture of an American flag and the caption “We’re Walking for You” on the back. You couldn’t miss us if you tried. They were really bright! Downtown Hancock to the C&O Rail trail where we were stopped by the Hagerstown TV Station who interviewed several of us there. Finally we got started. We walked 13.5 miles the first day, and slept in our tents which were waiting for us at fort Frederick camping area. Food was not provided that evening as we were told to bring our meals for that first night. Wow! It was Hot and Muggy. probably the hottest and the muggiest all summer thus far. I was the designated music minister, and brought my guitar. Again I didn’t have to carry it as it was carried in the RV which was our chaser vehicle, bathroom, shower, and infirmary notwithstanding. I had a little trouble relating musically with the teens and younger pilgrims, but they warmed up after a few days. It turns out that my wife and I were the oldest two people on the Pilgrimage, and the walk itself (other than blisters on our feed) was not really a heavy load. It was “all part of the Pilgrimage” Father Jack would say. My fears of a repeat MI diminished with every step, until it was not a concern at all. God was with me. My wife and I soon learned that we made the right decision, and needed to build our self confidence as well as witness our faith. That’s the real reason. Not the walk, although significant with a hundred miles, but the message we were sending. On the TV, newspapers, face to face with our brothers and sisters in Christ to let them know that we were not going to sit still about unjust health care!

We met hundreds of people along the way, and were giving away Rosary Beads, and small flyers explaining what we were all about. It was fun! and people are so nice. Everywhere there are people who just want to love and to be loved. The most negative comment I personally got from an older gentleman who asked me what we were walking for, and When I told him “religious freedom” he asked “don’t you think you have enough?” I smiled and said have a wonderful day, and rejoined the group. Oh well, the majority of the voters put Mr. Obama in office, so we were bound to meed some of his supporters.

Fort Detrick Chapel and many of our old friends from when I served as choir director there for 7 years were now coming out to support us with unlimited water, snacks, juice, gatorade….you name it. No dehydration. Nope they saw to that. They would set up and be waiting for us at predetermined locations along the way, and were there all the way to Frederick, MD.

Prayers: We prayed, sang, prayed some more and prayed some more. We also attended mass daily. Father Jack is not only a precious gift to us as a priest, but a dynamic leader as well. It was fun also to hear the Teenagers talking with eachother. It has been so long since we were teens, that I forgot what it was like. The teens today live in a completely different world than we lived in near 50 years ago as teens.

Pace cars: Wow! What wonderful support from Jan and Theresa. One time as we were walking through Middletown, MD, Jan and Theresa were somehow looping around and coming toward us very slow…..thereby slowing down oncoming traffic as we were walking against traffic. It was so cool to see them in their cars, and wave to us with a smile. It was crazy because after they passed us, we had no Idea where they were, and almost like an apparition, there they were again, and again just appearing out of nowhere. Awesome!

Parish Halls: No doubt, they have hard floors! Ouch. We stayed in them each night along the journey, and each and every parish treated us and fed us like royalty.

Here we were during the hottest, muggiest week of the year, walking 100 miles. What? You know what? I would do it all over again, and so would my wife. We enjoyed every minute of the Pilgrimage, and offered every step up to God as a prayer. The pain goes away when you do that. We gained a new family from our week plus one day together, and here’s the upshot….God sent a friend and my son-in-law to help me with finishing my roof, and it’s done. The Skylights are in, and there are no leaks. I took tons of images with my cell phone camera, and will treasure them eternally on an SD card. I guess some technology is helpful. Beats all the old shoe boxes that we have been carrying around for the last 40 years.

My message to all…..Don’t hesitate to do something seemingly impossible for God. Nothing is impossible for him, and he is always faithful. Oh, by the way, my heart is stronger than ever, and I actually Ran most of the way for the last two days. Praise Jesus!

Buen Camino!

Bob Williams