Thursday, March 28, 2013

Why Good Friday is Horrifying to Me

Before Caleb died we would go to the Good Friday service. I would participate and feel sad but mostly just try to make myself feel sad. I really did not like the day and always wanted it to be over so that Easter could be here. Looking back I can see that most of how that day was spent was just going through the motions. I didnt have the lived experience to really enter into it.

But then my baby died and it was horror. We buried him on the Tuesday of Holy Week. Then Friday came and not knowing how different we were, my husband and I tried to go to the Good Friday services. We made it to the door before I literally collapsed in his arms with grief. I could not go to another funeral-and that is what Good Friday service felt like for me. I was knee deep in mourning my own son, I had nothing left inside of me to mourn for someone else's son.

Last year I thought about attending Good Friday services, but again the horror kept me away. To think that we would re-live with words the exact things that happened on that day made me sick to my stomach. If someone told me that once a year we were going to read aloud the dialogue that took place in the doctors office the day Caleb died, I would be terrified.

And that is what Good Friday has become for me-a reliving of day Jesus died. I have gotten to know Mary so well since Caleb died and have come to see Good Friday as the day of Mary's child's funeral. The day where we show up to recall how terrible and horrific a death he suffered and then mourn with her. This year I think I have worked up the courage to go tomorrow. I want to, Im just scared. Scared that I will literally be weeping uncontrollably in my pew why others wonder what is wrong with me. Its funny because now I wonder how others can not weep with such emotion. I wonder how as a Church we can even stand through the whole Good Friday Service. We killed God. We killed Mary's baby. Its so much more than words to me now, its a part of my lived experience. And that makes it that much harder to go back into. But I want to, for Mary's sake (not that she needs it), but I want to show her that I care, that Im just as grief stricken over her son's murder as I am over my own son's mysterious death.

"Father,into your hands I commend my spirit"Luke 23:46

Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Paschal Road to Life

I don't know where to start. I have 4 posts that I have started in an attempt to talk about the work God is doing in my heart during lent and none of them do it justice. First, I'll start with my love for lent this year. The last two years I haven't really done lent. Two years ago I was so pregnant and not really focused-in spiritually, more focused on Easter and the little boy that was supposed to come. After he died our whole life felt like lent (the long lent of 2011 we call it). And so when lent 2012 rolled around and I had a new baby, I sort of pushed lent aside and tried to focus instead on the early Easter gift we had been given.

But this year when lent started, my heart and soul rejoiced. That first ash Wednesday mass where the altar was stripped of everything. I immediately thought "yup, that is how my soul has felt." I love the tangibles of the Catholic Church in her season of lent. The ashes being put on my head made me relieved. "Yes," I thought, "we are talking about death!" For a grieving person, death is always on my mind. To have the Church affirm that during lent death is also on her mind made me feel understood in a way that I havent in a long time.

As lent got rolling I realized that it is a season for grievers if there ever was one! The sorrowful mysteries-yes please. The dreary music that is so focused on pain, suffering, and death-yes again. For the first time in two years I feel like I can show up at Church and not have to fake a single one of my emotions. Im at peace in this somber mood where the heaviness of the cross is all too real.

In my prayer life I started lent with the same struggle I've had since Caleb died- God's goodness. I really wanted to feel God's goodness again, not just say it and swallow hard each time. I wanted to actually know it in my heart without a doubt that He was good. I felt called to "be led by the Spirit" for 40 days the same way Jesus was. Throughout all of my lent the Holy Spirit led me back into death. More people dying, more tragedy, more encounters with sadness and the source of death-Satan himself. All of these encounters reminded me of chapter 37 in Ezekiel when God instructs Ezekiel to "sit in the middle of the field of bones." This lent has felt like that-like Ive just been sitting staring at death, at all the bones.

But somewhere in the middle of all that we got a new Pope. Hearing the name Francis gave me chills. I love St. Francis. I know his story-how different he was and how radical he was for his time. How God asked him to do something no one else would do- rebuilt His Church. It's been said that St. Francis is the greatest person to have lived since Jesus. Wow-and our new papa is choosing Him as a model and his namesake! As I began to learn more about Pope Francis and read his writings I stumbled upon this letter. It was written when he was an archbishop, addressed to his diocese at the beginning of this lent. The whole letter can be found here. I want to highlight a few points and show how our Pope is one with sufferers.

"Lent is presented to us as a shout of truth and certain hope that calls us to say “Yes, it is possible to not slap on makeup, and not draw plastic smiles as if nothing happened.” Yes, it is possible that all is made new and different because God remains “rich in kindness and mercy, always willing to forgive” and He encourages us to begin anew time and again. Today, again, we are invited to undertake a Paschal road toward Life, a path that includes the cross and resignation; a path that will be uncomfortable but not fruitless. We are invited to admit that something inside us is not going well, (in society or in the Church) to change, to turn around, to be converted."

Wow! So much richness here. I felt the Pope affirming that small voice in my heart that has been whispering ever since Caleb died that says , "something is not well." The Pope gets it! There is suffering and for us to slap on a happy face and act like it doesnt happen would be wrong. Instead as he points out, "undertake a paschal road toward Life....a path that includes the cross...a path that will be uncomfortable but not fruitless." And that has been my experience. When I acknowledge that something is indeed not well and give into my grief, God always brings fruit out of it. When I try to shove it under a rug and feel guilty for having the sad feelings, then no one wins.

I don't know why this letter brought me so much hope. I think because I felt the Holy Father telling me personally that its ok to suffer and cry and be sad, but that is not the end. The paschal road towards LIFE. I feel a renewed flame in my heart as we approach holy week. I really am starting to feel God's goodness again.  I have come to learn that just because I encounter death and sadness and defeat, it actually brings me closer to God. Maybe that is why I feel called to a ministry of death. The veil between this life and the afterlife is so thin when you encounter death. All of the suffering I have seen and felt has made the veil so thin that all there is left to see and hold onto is Christ. St. Paul said it perfectly in last Sunday's mass reading:

"Brothers and sisters, 
I consider everything as a loss 
because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.
For his sake I have accepted the loss of all things 
and I consider them so much rubbish, 
that I may gain Christ and be found in him" Phillipians 3:8-9

"For his sake I have accepted the loss of all things and I consider them so much rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him." There is something about that line that is haunting. I lost so much when Caleb died, but in the end it all feels like rubbish. I mean not my son of course, but the things that I used to cling to. All of this world just seems rubbish when compared to what I have gained, which is Christ. Nothing can compare to that relationship with Christ-not your children, not your friends, not your spouse. In the end it will be between me and Jesus and truly I cannot wait. 

I know that by the spirit leading me into death this lent He will lead me into new life. I will not underestimate the power of the Holy Spirit to renew and restore my heart, time and time again. As we start Holy Week I will keep in mind that we are an Easter people.

 "Come, Lord Jesus,Come."Revelation 22:20

Thursday, March 21, 2013

This time of Year

This time of year is hard...triggers everywhere. The thing that is harder about this year is giving into the grief and sadness. Last year I was used to crying a lot and feeling sad. This year, not so. That's why when I walk into Church lately and start crying because Im just overcome with emotion and memories, it startles me. I don't like feeling weak and crying in public always feels weak. This year is not as heavy, but its just more pressing if that makes sense? I think the anticipation this year is worse because it feels like the calendar is hitting me twice: once with holy week and all the memories that go with that and then we still have to get through April!

Sometimes Im mad that Caleb died around Easter and have so much of this holiday related to him. Other times Im glad because it gives me more opportunities to remember him. Im glad he was buried during Holy Week. Overall I know this year (hopefully) will not be as hard as last year. But its still hard and Im still not able to control my emotions like I can the rest of the year. I just wish I was planning a 2nd birthday. Instead Im looking forward to that silly Toys R Us birthday club card Geoffrey the Giraffe will send because at least that means Caleb was real (try that for my logic-Im banking on an imaginary character to confirm my son was real....grief is not logical!).

Missing you buddy! This time of year always makes me remember how excited we were for you to come, we were just about a month away! You were so loved Caleb!

 Baby Shower #1
 Baby Shower #2
Diaper Cake!
His crib all ready with clean sheets and "Cuddles" the bear

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Habemus Papum!

What a great time to be Catholic. So excited to see where our new Papa leads us! We are praying for you Pope Francis!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Elizabeth Ann Seton

One of my new favorite saints is Elizabeth Ann Seton. I had felt a nudging by the holy spirit to read more about this women for the last few months. I finally gave in and downloaded a book on my kindle. It was incredible. It has been a while since I really read the story of the life of a saint. Reading of the trials and hard times Elizabeth had to endure strengthened my own faith walk. Here a few gems that I took away from her life:

-She was the mother of 5 children, 2 of whom died. I am not sure if it is entirely true (although I like to think it!) but after the death of her two children she had a hard time saying "thy will be done" in the Our Father. She was so scared God would allow another one of her children to die.

-She watched her husband die of tuberculosis while in a foreign country.....along with her 8 year old daughter watching as well....

-While morning her husband's death in Italy she became familiar with the Catholic Church and felt God calling her to convert from her Episcopalian faith to Catholicism.

-Once back in the states she now was a widow with 5 children and not a clue as to how they were going to make it.....her trust in God's care continued to amaze me as I read of all the daily trials she endured.

-Her relatives gave her money to live....except when they found out she was becoming Catholic-then they took away everything and she was again in a state of uncertainty

-America in those days was really anti-Catholic ( I was shocked reading this-must have missed that part in History class!). There was only one bishop (can you imagine!) in the whole U.S. back then. As an Episcopalian Elizabeth had been wealthy and enjoyed Sunday services with the elite of society. Now as a Catholic she was crowded into pews next to German and Italian immigrants who spoke no English and were very, very poor.

-She talked about going to mass and walking through the "mob" or protestants that surrounded the front doors. They yelled and cursed at her. During mass they threw a brick in the window (which knocked the priest down, but no one was hurt) and then they continued to chant "we will burn this unholy place down" over and over again until finally the police came and made them disperse.

- She had no intention of remarriage and instead felt God calling her to start a religious community. This was the first place where the "parochial school" began in America. And I loved this part-the clothes she picked for the women who came to the order  to wear were the traditional black dress of morning that widows wore. I loved how she incorporated that part of her former life into the new order.

-"The most generous saints remain," This is what her spiritual director had to tell her over and over again after the death of her daughter. Elizabeth was overcome with grief and could not find happiness or joy the way she used to. Hearing this sparked something in her soul and she slowly began to have the desire to live again.

Overall, she is awesome. I highly recommend reading up about her sometime soon!

Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton-Pray for us!

Friday, March 1, 2013

One step further away, one step closer

Right after Caleb died I wanted time to M.O.V.E.  I was certain that if I could just get time to move then the hurting would be over. I remember telling my close friend just the day after Caleb was born "if I can just make it to a week - just get past this terrible week-then Ill be better." Ha! Little did I know what grief was like and I really thought that I could just keep pushing time forward.

Even though I tried to push time forward, it seemed to drag on, and on and on. And then Abigail was born and time moved fast. Too fast to think-with a new, live baby to tend to my time suddenly seemed swept away. I went from wishing the days to pass to wanting them back....

Which leads me to my prayer this week- I was speaking to the Lord about the hardness in my heart and the fear (still there) of another pregnancy. What is really hard for me to swallow is that the thought of having another child (God willing) would lead us further from Caleb. It all feels like we would be moving on-and I cant stand that. I dont want to move on-for once I want time to stand still. Because I'm scared to move on. Scared of forgetting him, scared of being too happy again, scarred I'll forget everything we went through and the compassion that came with it. I was telling God that I just did not want to step further away from Caleb.

And then in my heart I heard Him say, "what if its not a step away, but a step closer?" I had never thought of it that way. Yes, moving on, creating more happy memories, living life-all could be seen as steps closer to death, which will hopefully mean Heaven and being reunited with Caleb. This brought me a lot of peace.

 Every step "away" from my Earthly time with Caleb is just one step closer to my "heavenly" time with him. Now that is something to get excited about!

So for all those grievers out there- maybe thinking of it this way will help. Every day you endure without your loved one is one step closer to being reunited. Instead of feeling farther away, we can start to see it as closer.