by Todd Habiger
BERN — Ida Schiffbauer needed this one. Her husband Ralph had just been diagnosed with cancer — the kind you don’t recover from.
So she prayed.
And God said “no.”
“I was going to work — I was praying a novena to St. Jude. In my mind, I heard this ‘no,’” she said.
She was devastated.
“I didn’t beg God to change his mind,” she said. “But I asked him to help me cope with it.
“And he did. He did.”
Ralph would die a few months later. But Schiffbauer takes comfort in the fact that she got those few months with her husband and that her prayer was answered.
She didn’t like the answer, but she did get one.
“We hear ‘no’ sometimes for our own good,” Schiffbauer said. “It’s helped me grow. I did learn there is a lot of support in this area for me.”
After Ralph’s death, Schiffbauer decided that she had to keep living. She and Ralph always wanted to travel, so she called up Father Mike Koller, pastor at that time of her parish of Sts. Peter and Paul in Seneca, and asked about reserving a spot on a pilgrimage he was leading.
“Two hours later,” she said, “he called me back. He said, ‘I not only have a spot for you on this trip, I have a roommate.’”
“I thought, ‘this ought to be good,’” she said.
That person was Sally Lauer. She, too, had lost a husband to cancer. Not only did Schiffbauer find a special friend, but she found someone she could confide in.
“We understand each other,” she said. “We know what each other is feeling. She’s just a very special woman.”
Together, the two have traveled to more than 25 countries in the years since Ralph died in 2010.
Schiffbauer has always had an active prayer life, which she attributes to her years of Catholic education in Horton.
Years ago, the Schiffbauers moved to Bern, near the Nebraska border, where Ida Schiffbauer carved out a special time for prayer — while walking around town every day.
Last December, she moved to Seneca, but has kept up the habit established long ago and prays while walking about town.
Schiffbauer is also studying to become an oblate of St. Benedict.
“I am learning much about the Rule of Benedict and how simplicity and ‘listening with the ear of the heart’ actually enriches my life,” she said. “That exposure is making me realize that God is indeed working in us all.”