My Story - 1st Time Posted Here
©2007 James Dacey, Jr. SFO
(Originally written in 2006)
Here's how I Gave My Life and Heart to Jesus..
The Girl Scout Camp Weekend
Let's first look at the history of events that happened before I actually decided to follow Jesus. Here it was Father's Day weekend 1983, my family and my mother's Girl Scout troop went away on a camp weekend, I drove my car filled with camping supplies and my parents took their camper, it was a mini-motor home. We camped in a campground called Blueberry Hill in Port Republic, NJ, that's south Jersey near Atlantic City.
After a long weekend my parents needed some work done on their camper, so we all ended up staying through lunch and we even decided to go swimming for a while. Well once everything was done we hit the road, the Garden State Parkway was a straight run home back to Staten Island. After about an hour and a half of driving I realized I was really tired. So I was chatting with my parents on the CB and asked if they'd pull over so I can get some snacks and a soda. They said, "Are you Ok?" I replied," yes I am fine, I just need some food to keep me awake." So I grabbed some fudge stripped cookies and I think a Sprite, I got back in my car and off we were again. I stayed about 1 mile ahead of them, chatting and giving them traffic reports. My sister Patti wanted to drive with me, so we were in the front seat together and the back seat was filled literally to the top of the front seat with Girl Scout supplies, tents, equipment, literally most everything. I had a 1977 Chevy Nova coupe at the time. I had just bought this car and me and dad just painted it "1965 Chevy Bermuda Blue". I loved how this car looked. I bought it from my neighbor and friend Robert Noonan, me and dad worked on it for a couple months as I was getting ready to graduate high school.
Well not too much after that, my parents lost contact with us. I was exhausted, I had the CB on, the radio on, I was eating and drinking soda, and my sister was fast asleep next to me. I did all I can to fight sleep, but no matter what I did, with my lack of experience driving tired and the fact that we swam a couple hours ago, my body was exhausted. Well I ended up slamming into the guard rail hard, it threw my car up into the air, looking out of the windshield as we hit, we can see traffic in the local lanes passing by under us. We were in the express lanes. I remember as we hit, it woke me and my sister up and she yelled, "What's happening???" I replied, "We are in an accident". I knew I was supposed to be driving, so I knew I must have fallen asleep. This entire event happened in about a minute, but I tell you it was a very slow motion, long drawn out weird strange feeling... and here's the kicker.
As we rolled at a high speed roll, think about seeing it on TV or in a movie, it was the same way, we rolled 3 ½ times destroying my car, and camping gear was thrown all over the highway. As we were being tumbled I can only describe it like this, "a set of hands held us in the air in the car as the car rolled around us" and then when the car landed on the drivers door and slid for about 20 feet we were placed back down in the rubble. It was the most amazing feeling to be sheltered and protected in such a horrific accident.
Well as soon as everything settled I could still feel the car was still running, so I reached over and turned it off. As we emerged out of the passenger side, (note: the vehicle was lying on its side). There were so many people there helping us. We were helped out of the car and someone was cutting my battery cable to prevent a fire or explosion from the fuel. We later found out a family of EMS workers stayed behind us when they seen me swaying, the girl said to me, "we knew you were going to have an accident, we tried blowing our horn to wake you, but you didn't respond, so we stayed behind you." I looked up the highway behind us and in tears said to her, "I don't even remember that part of the road at all", and it was a curved section behind us, over an overpass.
Well within a few minutes my parents arrived and they were frantic, I later found out my mom said to my father, "Duke it the kids!!!!" They were on the local lanes side, my mother came running across traffic almost getting killed herself. My sister was lying on the ground with the EMS people looking her over; she had blood all over her body. And my left arm was all bloody. I was standing in bewilderment looking at what just happened, my first car was destroyed, all our belongings were everywhere, and I couldn't believe we were alive. My mother ran to my sister seeing all the blood and her lying she thought she was seriously hurt. Well it ended up that she had all my blood all over her, because as we went into the roll I covered and protected her from the shattering glass, and the glass fragments were in my arm. Once I was cleaned up, there was no evidence that anything had ever even happened.
Then my mother came over to me to see how I was, she said she ran to Patti first because she was on the ground and she seen me standing figuring I was OK. She and I got to chatting about what just happened, I told her, "I'm sorry, but I fell asleep." She said, "We knew something happened and we figured that this traffic was from you guys, your father and I couldn't get you on the CB." All of sudden my sister went into a rage yelling and screaming at me for speeding, and got us in an accident. I looked at her in tears and said, "What? Patti I….I fell asleep." Then she started crying and my mother was crying.
Well the highway patrol was there, an ambulance, and a tow truck were all at the scene, I have no idea when they arrived, and I don't even remember hearing the sirens at all. The police office wanted to see my driver's license, after taking it, he was in my face nose to nose, and I kept backing off. He said, "Son, were you drinking?" I was like WHAT. I said," No sir, I fell asleep" I explained to him about our long camp weekend and we were swimming just before we left.
So the ambulance took us to the local area hospital, both of us were in the same emergency room area, divided by a curtain. They cleaned us up and looked us over and said to my parents, "it a miracle these kids have no injuries at all. Your son has some very minor cuts from the glass shattering, but once cleaned up there's nothing. And your daughter is perfectly fine, all the blood was from your sons arm, she has no injuries at all." He said he was shocked by the way the EMS described the accident that we had no injuries. I hadn't revealed the part about the hands holding us yet. So we remarkably got up and walked out and left the hospital.
Once we were in my parent's camper I was in the passenger seat, I leaned out the window and yelled looking up to the sky, "Why did you save me????" I was not anger to be saved, I was angrier to believe there was a God. See at that time I was a self proclaimed atheist, I don't remember why but I knew I didn't believe. My father immediately said, "I thought you didn't believe?" I said I don't, and my mother just looked at me and smiled. I was beside myself at this point; I knew something happened here, more than just a bad accident. It was very serious accident that should have killed us both, but here we are walking away like nothing happened.
When we got home and things settled a bit I shared what I experienced through the rolling car and all the details. I think my mother at that point figured, hallelujah my son is saved. I was quick to say, I don't believe it. We were just lucky…
Some months went by and then the next chain events occurred:
My First Charismatic Prayer Meeting and I Wasn't Going
The night started out like this, I was sitting on the porch of one of neighbors with whom I use to chat about everything with. This guy, I called him "Uncle Mickey" his name was Michael Byrnes. His wife was Doris, they were an elderly couple, and none of the kids in the neighborhood liked them and they were always mean to them. Well, I liked them a lot, so through the years I found myself always hanging out with them, I always felt comforted by their kindness and openness to chat with a teenager. We use to talk about school, and girls and life and his job before he retired. He use to smoke a pipe (because of that to this day, I love the smell of a pipe, blackberry tobacco brings back so many wonderful memories) and he use to sip brandy when we talked. In fact he hid the brandy in his shed, his wife never knew, he told me. He was so cute. Years later after he died, she found it and asked me about it, I told her I knew, she smiled and we both hugged and cried. I was by his bedside in his home the day he died. My parents woke me out of a dead sleep saying, "Mrs. Byrnes wants me to come over right away, Mr. Byrnes isn't doing well." That was the saddest day in my life; that man as an angel sent to my life, he was my best friend. Well I don't want to get to side tracked, but I needed to share that.
So I was sitting on the porch at his house when this all began that night, my mother came over and asked me if I'd go with her to her prayer meeting. I looked at her in amazement and said, "No mom, I always told you I have no interest in that stuff." She looked at me and begged, "Please come with me and keep me company, your Aunt is unable to go and I don't want to go alone, I promise you don't have to do anything." So I looked at Uncle Mickey, I looked at mom, and said, "OK, you promise I don't have to do anything, and we'll sit in the back." She agreed.
Well we went to St. Patrick's Church in Richmondtown on Staten Island, it was an old beautiful church, and they had this huge cross of the Crucified Christ behind the altar, right in the center of the church. So everything went as planned, we were in the back, maybe ¾ of the way back and I had an isle seat for an easy quick exit if I wanted. But I forgot to bring reading material, so I can pass the time. So I figured and told my mother, "Guess I'll have to read some of the fiction from this bible." She smiled again, sometimes reflecting back I can see she had her hand in all of this, she must have been praying a lot.
The meeting and Mass went on and I don't seriously remember too much of what went on around me; I was reading about Noah, and then Joseph and what his brothers were doing to him. I was pretty much lost in the word. Now the end was drawing near and my mother whispered, "Stand up so we can say the Our Father." I said, "NO! We agreed I don't have to do anything." She responded," Once we're done with the Our Father we are leaving, come on its no big deal." So I got up and then realized we had to hold hands, and because I was in an isle seat , I had to go across the isle and get the others persons hand who sat on the other side placing me dead center of the isle looking straight up at the cross with my arms extended holding hands. At first I thought to myself, Wooow, how did I get myself here? So I figured, ok let's get this over with, maybe if I just recite the Our Father, this will be over all the faster. So I did "say" the Our Father looking intently at the cross.
Here it was again, another one of those slow motion experiences in my life. As my arms were out stretched looking at the cross, saying my Our Father. I had this feeling come over me. It was not a chill; believe you me, it was absolutely not the chills. On the right side of my body I felt this tingling entering my body, it moved across my body, stopped a second and then exited on the left side, once again I was beside myself not understanding what just happened. I knew that was way beyond my understanding, but I felt so at peace after it happened.
Well we got into the car, mom wanted to drop off a few friends, I said sure, I was driving. They were all chatting away and I stopped them and wanted answers and asked them about my experience. They looked at me in amazement and my mother said really fast, "How come I didn't feel that?" I laughed and said, "I have no idea what even just happen to me." I further explained and shared that I don't know why but I need to take Grandma to go see Grandpa (Eugene) at the cemetery. My mother said, "What, where did that come from?" I said, "Mom, I have no idea, but that was my first thought after I got that sensation of something passing through me. " Mind you I never knew my dad's dad at all; he died when my father was four. But I knew that that was what I had to do.
So the next day I called my Grandmother (Conchetta Dacey) and as detailed as I could I explained my experience from the night before. She was speechless in joy crying on the phone. She was so happy and so filled with joy, I was taken by it. She explained, "Jimmy, your Uncle Al always takes me to see Grandpa every week at the cemetery, but these past few weeks he has been too busy and I have been praying and praying that someone would take me, I kept telling your Grandfather, don't worry I will be there to see you, someone will take me…then you call and tell me all this. My prayers have been answered through you." I had no idea that her and my uncle use to go to the cemetery weekly. I was once again…..beside myself. I seem to do that a lot don't I when I am in bewilderment of a situation. It's funny I guess. I think the "beside myself" is a metaphor meaning that I wasn't standing alone, but rather the Holy Spirit was right there with me through those experiences.
Well she and I went to the cemetery very often after that. We ended up developing a very close bond, beyond our natural relations, she and I had a commonness that is really hard to explain, still is hard to explain after all these years. In fact it was that very experience in my life that led me to become the families historian, I felt so close to my family and my heritage now, that I desired to learn more. My Uncle Al was the Historian before me; he and I spent much time reviewing many details.
But I must tell you, my grandmother was the cutest, her broken English and her overwhelming joy made me realize that when God wants you, even if the first time He calls you, you turn away and deny Him, He will not stop till He gets you. He was persistent and He made me clearly understand that I can not live my life in complete joy without Him.
It been 34 years now since all that occurred in my life, and I must say, to this day, I can relive the emotional impact today like its happening for the first time. My life hasn't been the same since. I have been on many spiritual highs and in some deep valleys of challenges, but never ever have I ever turned my life away from my Lord and I will never ever deny Him. Jesus changed my life back then. I am so happy that He did.
He has filled my heart in such a way that so many of the things of this world have no meaning to me, and could never fill my heart like He does. I no longer have the emptiness that so many people have, trying to fill it with things. I cling to Jesus not the worldly society we live in. I find safety and comfort in Him; He alone is all I need. There's a saying I say and use to say a lot and still do now and then. It goes like this: "You can have all this world has to offer: its wealth; its lust, its things; all I want and desire is Jesus." And I mean that with all my heart.
Directly after that I got involved with 3 different charismatic prayer groups on Staten Island, I could not get enough of Jesus, I still feel that way today, I can't get enough of Him. Those meetings allowed me to meet and pray with some of God's most amazing people: Mother Eugena, Jerry Kelly, Carol Bulcroft, Doris, Sunny, Jackie; there are way too many people to mention, but that was our (me and my mom and then eventually me and Chrissy), normal weekly events in our life, even Jimmy 3rd as an infant use to come with us, many of us in the groups were part of all 3 groups, it was some incredible fellowship for years.
And early on, I was immediately drawn to Our Blessed Mother in St. Patrick's. She captured my heart at St. Patrick's, and I began immediately sharing to everyone there about the power of the rosary, these wonderful beads of joy and it was something everyone needed to learn about immediately. Praise You Jesus. I was a babe in spirit and on fire. Yes I am still on fire.
Now that I am speaking about "the Rosary" which for me makes me feel right at home. I adore Our Blessed Mother so much, she said "Yes", and opened the door for Jesus to capture my heart and soul. My mother's mom (Susan DePete) was very into praying her rosary. I use to spend much time over their house growing up. I use to go fishing with Grandpa a lot, then when he and I was home, I use to spend many hours just talking with Grandma, she use to tell me about her parents, her love for her sister; my Aunt Helen, and how much she loved Our Blessed Mother. She use to have a huge statue of Our Blessed Mother in her bedroom. And she use to say to me that the rosary was her favorite prayer. I still remember many of those chats; she was such a devout faithful woman. I remember at the funeral parlor crying putting a rosary in her hands saying, she can't go to Heaven without her rosaries. What a devout prayerful example she was, I am so happy she opened to me about her love for our Blessed Mother.
Then I met my darling wife Christine, she was and still is a most incredible woman, so loving and so unselfish in her ways. I was drawn to the way she loved me, and her nephews. She was compassionate and soft in her words. Chrissy was an Episcopalian, she later converted to be Catholic for us to be married, Mother Eugena trained her and they both became the closest of friends. My wife's private devotion to our Lord and the Blessed Mother and St. Francis throughout the years has had a true impact on me. She in many ways reminds me of my grandmother, having a serious, private devout life.Then years later after we got married, my mom and my wife began making rosaries, I didn't initially know about it, I was working when they were doing this. Well once I seen what they were doing and the joy they had in making them, I knew I had to this also. So in 1988-9 I began my rosary making, and have enjoyed making them to this day, and shall continue till Our Lord takes me. We have made and sent missions rosaries to Mother Teresa in Calcutta and Mother Angelica at EWTN monthly for years and many others around the world..
Reflecting back now I see, how the women in my life have always been such a huge part of my love for my Lord, most especially Our Most Blessed Mother. Thank You, Jesus.
LOVE YOU GUYS!!!!
Your brother in Christ Jesus
And His Most Blessed Mother,
Jim (The Rosary Man) Dacey Jr OFS
I am a Secular Franciscan (OFS)...
Side Note: My dear friend and sister in the Lord, Janelle Martinez encouraged me to write this while I was in Oklahoma City, OK for the weekend. We've been sharing and talking about Jesus and our Blessed Mother the entire time for many months (just about that whole year), while I was out on the road driving a big rig cross-country for almost a year for TMC. Thank You Jan.
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