“Tell Them What You Know”
Neighborhood Ministries is a story-telling community. We have been privileged to have the front seat to overcomers, ordinary people who live extra-ordinary lives. Mother’s Day is a perfect time to tell the story of an extra-ordinary mom.
Patty Reel is that mom. She lost her battle with brain cancer, just a few weeks ago, April 14, 2023. I’m grateful to be the teller of the story of my sweet friend who I have known since 1997. Our daughters moved into the dorms at Biola University to be roommates; Katy from Indianapolis (Patty’s daughter) and Heather, mine, from Phoenix. Our friend, Hannah Miley, met Patty at a women’s conference. Hannah was the conference speaker.
Hannah got to know Katy and found out she was going to be a freshman at Biola. “Just like my friend, Heather”, Hannah said. “Heather reminds me of you, Katy. Motivated for the things of God, called to live and work in hard places”. Well, the story has been told so many times over these past 26 years, my guess is that many of you know what comes next.
Patty and I watched our girls grow up … Katy came here to Neighborhood for her first summer internship, vowing to return and work here when she graduated, which she did in 2002. Katy would open our first pre-school classroom in May of 2004. Hers was life-changing work.
But, on April 6, 2005, the earth shook. Katy was scheduled for brain surgery, to remove an aggressive cancerous brain tumor. Katy, this godly young woman, who was transforming just about every life she touched, would not live much longer. She passed from us Jan. 2, 2006.
I know that most of you know Katy’s story. We tell it often around here; our preschool is called Katy’s Kids, we have a mural featuring Katy’s life on our playground painted by Katy’s sister Amy, a gifted artist. Five teen-agers from our community who were born at that time were named Katy after her. A legacy gift from God and the Reels is our Katy’s Kids Director, Lenny Reel, Katy’s brother, Patty’s son. The apples don’t fall far from the tree in this family. Next time you’re at Neighborhood, come and say hi to Lenny and be prepared to be amazed at all that God is doing there.
But today, I am retelling this story because Patty’s longing from those first days of receiving Katy’s prognosis, was to write it all down. And she did, 16 years later. Patty began writing the book, Tell Them What You Know, Katy’s Story; it was published and printed just about a year ago (2022). It’s unveiling came at the Education for Life event for our 40th anniversary; Patty behind the distribution table, glowing, her daughter’s powerful story was completed. And the world would be reading it. https://www.amazon. com/Tell-Them-What-You-Know/dp/B09YMD2LM4
The book title comes from Katy hearing the Lord instruct her how to live her faith, how to bear testimony to what God was doing. Patty, the mother and now the author, joined her daughter in this book, telling what she also knew, of faith, of God’s presence, of love, of fortitude and hope, but also of grief so unbearable and tortuous that there were days she didn’t know if she could make it. She knew people needed to know both, the grace and mercy, but also the suffering. This book is a pièce de resistance of Patty’s motherhood, her loyalty to her daughter’s legacy, her devotion to her child’s unmatched love of God and others.
I watched my friend over these years stretch herself beyond her grief to do life with intention. She built a she-shed where she hung art work, meditated on scripture, began experimenting with her writing. She built a beautiful garden in her backyard, that begins blooming once the Indiana snow melts.
There is a statue of a young girl, arms wide open, leaping for joy at the beauty of life in the middle of this garden of love. This child is the same one a few people have seen in their dreams, doing this very movement of exaltation. Of course, it’s Katy they are seeing. She meticulously tended the ground of Katy’s grave like I’ve hardly seen anyone do just like that.
For many summers, Patty would be the arts and crafts director for our Kids Camp in Payson, always bringing family members with her. Time was passing and Patty’s family was growing. She welcomed spouses for son Lenny and daughter Amy. She welcomed grandchildren.
She walked her sister through her cancer and eminent death and she walked with her devoted husband Rick through all of this, including two bouts with two different Lymphomas. Though Rick and Patty lost parents, Patty celebrated her mother’s 100th birthday a few years ago. When my sister lost her son at a young age, Patty helped me recreate my nephew’s bomber jacket into one of the finest purse-bags I’ve ever seen. She knows a mother’s grief. I gave this precious reclamation bag to my sister on a Mother’s Day.
You and I, we have known the extra-ordinary, we encounter it and try ferociously not to treat it lightly. We call it out when its in front of us and say … look at that woman … look at how she loves and perseveres and treats people with dignity and kindness. Look at how she goes beyond what most do, to make sure this world is a better place. Women like that, make great kids, who themselves carry the tradition, and live not for themselves, but for an eternal day, that begins with “well done, good and faithful servant”.
Patty wrote these words about Katy in the forward of her book … I’d like to quote them, but this time, putting Patty’s name there. “[Patty] pursued the path offered to her by the God she loved, one step at a time. She persevered through many challenges, always trying to find God’s best for her life. She felt that the only way she could repay how extraordinarily she had been blessed was to joyfully offer herself to His service. In doing that she touched a multitude of lives.”
I, Kit, bear witness, that I am telling you what I know. And it is this – that we [all of us] know some really incredible Mothers. Let’s celebrate them all.
We couldn’t tell the stories of transformed lives without you. Would you prayerfully consider giving a Mother’s Day gift, perhaps in honor of your own mother, so that we have more stories to tell? Thank you for your dedication that makes these precious testimonies possible.
Happy Mother’s Day, beloveds!
Kit Danley, Founder
P.S. We’d love for you to have a copy of Patty’s book, Tell Them What You Know. Respond with a gift of any amount to Neighborhood and we will mail it out to you.