The past couple of weeks, I have been losing my religion. I didn’t see the emerging crisis of faith, but it started with a piece of glass. I have had a hard time explaining to Lauren why she has to go through this again and giving her a way to face the future without any guarantees that this fight with cancer will ever be over. Two weeks ago on Mother’s Day, we had just come home from the hospital after 3 weeks in. Phil and I were unloading the dishwasher together and he dropped a glass. I was going to go about my morning and then head to mass. But, as we were talking, a glass fell from Phil’s hand and shattered on the floor. Phil cleaned it up and I went to get ready for the day. Lauren and Jonathan were sleeping. They were exhausted. I walked on the other side of where we were working and found the one piece of glass that managed to travel all the way across the kitchen. It lodged in my heel. I limped into bed and cried. Mother’s Day was not going the way any mother would hope. Phil came in and tried to get the glass out to no avail. So, I soaked in the tub thinking I could get it to loosen up. Phil tried again while I was in the tub. He used the magnifying mirror as I dangled my foot over the tub. He could see the glass, but trying to use tweezers, it would just slip out of his reach. It stung the whole time he was doing it.
I had been stoic and tough for most of the last few weeks knowing I needed to be tough to get Lauren to manage all the disappointment, the pain, and all the frustration. When she can’t handle it and would take her anger out on me, I would puff up my armor and tell myself she doesn’t mean it and all of this was going to be just fine. I practiced breathing and visualization like I had taught Lauren. I imagined our family in our backyard having dinner years from now. I visualized us going on a trip to Rome. I have a lot of great visions pulled from my dreams. These visions replace my fears and a future that sometimes creeps into my mind that leaves me crying and distraught. I beg God to replace these fears with a glimpse of a positive future for Lauren and lately I am not too good at getting to that point. It shouldn’t surprise me that I haven’t been praying. Not being able to get the glass out of my foot was the last straw that day. I cried in the tub. I then used a razor to try and pry the glass out thinking it was simple physics and if I could get the razor to snag the glass, it would loosen it and pull it out. This just made it so I shaved the point off and left the glass wedged in really well. I gave up and went to bed for a while. Needless to say, I didn’t get to mass.
Not going to mass is a sin in the Catholic church. I had debates with Father Weeder (our former priest that visited Lauren the whole time she fought her first battle.) It gave he and I something to talk about. I debated him on the church most of the time he visited. I was a Catholic with reservations before. I also couldn’t see then how missing a week or two of mass was going to condemn me…..well, I have learned that for me, my life stays in balance as long as I follow the teachings of the church. No, it doesn’t cure Lolo’s cancer. No, it doesn’t make me a better person than anyone. But, I guess God knows better. Those days I show up and offer my intentions at mass, my whole week goes better and I face the challenges in my life the right way, or at least a little better. It is also what God has asked us to do. So, giving up on Mother’s Day and not going to mass meant my week didn’t start so well.
The following week was difficult and it just got worse. The heartache of Lauren missing her end of year celebrations and watching her deal with this grief took its toll. She was exhausted and defeated. The usual cheerleader in me was running out of cheers. The following weekend, I had high hopes of having a great weekend as a family. I am not disappointed in my family. Even if we are at our worst and bickering and ornery, after what we have been through, being together is usually enough. I just couldn’t bring much joy to our situation no matter how I tried. The following Sunday, I don’t even really understand what actually came up other than exhaustion and defeat. Mainly it came down to the idea of going to mass by myself without my family and I just didn’t go. I also checked my prayer journal and I hadn’t prayed in a long time….about a week and a half. I prayed my usual…all day long talking in my head to God. But, I hadn’t spent time in the way I need to. My prayer ritual involves journaling about all my hopes, fears, and people I need or want to pray for. Then, I pray the rosary. I use a little rosary prayer book that my kids gave me for Mother’s Day. I had a different one that someone had given me the last time Lolo was in the hospital, but I wore it out, so the kids replaced it. As I pray the rosary, the reflections come alive for me and I feel connected to my faith. After I pray the rosary, I sit, quietly and “receive.” This is what Father Weeder taught me to do. Wow, how little I knew about prayer before I met him. He explained that prayer is your conversation with Jesus. We pray and that is when we talk to Jesus. But, after we need to spend time in silence. I prefer to find a special place to do my prayers. While Lauren was sick, I was leave the hospital and sit in church at St Margaret Mary’s when no one was around. The inside sounds of the church (probably the heater or the air conditioner) soothed my soul. I actually now realize it was the silence I needed.
When I was growing up, my dad, John would always tell me to quit “beating my gums.” Oh man, he was so right! My favorite times with him were in silence, it was just extremely hard for me to settle into it. My absolute favorite times with him were in silence in nature…..or on the ski lift….whir, whir, whir….staring out at God’s beautiful snow covered mountains. I go there sometimes on my worst days. When I think of this, I think John was trying to bring me to God, he just didn’t view it in those terms.
The receiving part of prayer is when you stop “beating your gums” and you listen. You listen to God’s voice. Now, I even imagine based on what my needs are which part of the trinity is speaking to me. God? When I need the father. Jesus? When I need the man, the companion, the friend. Holy Spirit? When I need the heat, the light, the stirrings in my heart. I now realize that each part of the Trinity listens. My prayer has changed in that I finally know how to settle into the silence and listen. Now, the powerful part of my prayer ritual is to “receive.” I don’t hear voices, so don’t expect that if you want to try my prayer practice/ritual. Sometimes I don’t even know what I received until I reflect. Sometimes I don’t know if he spoke to me at all. It is a relationship that has been formed. Sometimes that person doesn’t always say something back, sometimes they just sit with you and that is all you need. It is amazing that I always get exactly what I need, not always what I want though.
After I spend some time in silence “receiving,” I reflect. This is the next page of my journal. I write how my heart was moved by prayer, if it was, but it always seems to be. I write about change or how I will focus my day. Interestingly enough, as I have gone back and read my journal over the last 3 years, I have noticed my emotions change. The first page is often full of angst, fear, a lot of hope, sometimes no hope, worry, wishes, dreams, anger, and confusion….a lot of confusion. What has made me more devoted to my prayer time is that the second page is full of HOPE, concern about other people, joy, confidence, wisdom, and gratitude. Without trying to achieve this, I realize without having any direction in my prayer whatsoever at the beginning, the 2nd page after praying often had statements such as “I am thankful of this day” or “I have everything I have hoped for right now” or “I am thankful for my husband” or “my house” or “pets” and always “my children.” This has made me continue to pray, it has changed my heart.
That being said, this week has been full of fear. I have been so worried about the future. I have lost faith in my ability to handle all of this and my ability to guide Lauren. I also noticed, I haven’t done my rosary since May 5th. I have made attempts and not finished. I have gone home to pray and fallen asleep instead or finished laundry or stared into space. But, I am not praying, well not the devotional kind of prayer. I think I am always talking to God. I thought about this and I realize I am angry at God. I am mad as heck at Him. I think He has given us more than we can handle. I talked to Father Weeder about that last week. I broke down and cried and told him how lost I was. But, hearing that said outloud I knew I need to go to confession and I need to pray. Confession is another one of those Catholic things I never thought was really necessary, until I started going. Then, I knew God knew way more than I did. I received more from confession than I could have ever imagined. Again, that doesn’t mean I am a righteous awesome person. It just means I realize the constant way that I sin (no I am not that bad of a person, we all sin), but I also have insight into why I sin and how it breaks my relationships. My time in confession has helped me change so that I don’t ruin all my relationships, especially my relationship with God. I need to go to confession desperately this week.
This Sunday I went to mass and I was defensive, angry, and irritable. Jonathan was supposed to meet me at mass and never showed up. I didn’t even shower and was uncomfortable with my appearance. However, as usual, God was present beckoning me and teaching me. It was almost as if he was saying…..Come back….be here! I kept praying for God to bring me hope. I prayed for Him to give me endurance to handle our situation better. I asked Him for Joy. I asked Him to show me a vision of Lauren’s future and to take cancer away from her and heal her. I prayed for Him to open Jonathan’s heart. I felt sad sitting on that pew by myself without my family. I was jealous of all the family’s there together. I teared up at times and thought what an absolute mess I was. At the beginning of mass, I sat behind a good friend of mine. She and I have only texted to each other a few times and haven’t seen each other in months. She had a baby later in life and has a little sweet girl that Lauren has babysat. I was jealous she was able to have another baby later in life. I watched her with her baby and felt grief. Phil and I tried for years to have a third baby and couldn’t. It took us 11 years to have Jonathan. We lost 5 babies, 3 before Jonathan, and 2 between Lolo and Jonathan. Then, we weren’t able to have a 3rd child like we wanted to. That brings me such heavy grief because part of the reason that didn’t happen is the war in Iraq and all of our separations of Phil being gone. But, the biggest heartache it brings is that there isn’t a family match for Lauren that could save her life. I was thinking of that while I was staring at my friend’s sweet baby and listening to Father Vincent’s beautiful homily on Sunday about “losing God.” The mass was the mass of the Holy Trinity. This sweet baby was chewing on a giraffe toy and I nearly broke into tears remembering my sweet Lolo as a baby and taking care of her while Phil was away. She had a smile that would light up the room. I would sit on the floor with Jonathan and teach him to play with his “baby.” He was mesmerized by her and was such a big brother. I got lost for a minute thinking about that. All of my jealousy went out the window. I thought this was my friend’s time to be filled up with that joy that a baby smile brings. I also thanked God for this little sweet baby that kept smiling at me. As I was thanking God, the moment of gratitude made me cry and I thanked Him again. I sat through mass and knew I needed to tell Father Vincent that Lolo needed communion that day. I had stopped asking for the priests to visit and felt bad that I was not only keeping God from me, I was keeping Him from her. Oh no! I also realized I was acting like a petulant child that was refusing the gifts God had given me and wanted more. I was mad that He had not given me another child. I was mad that He hadn’t given me a child that had a guarantee of good health. I was jealous of all the family’s that had more children and had children that didn’t have to go through what Lauren had to go through. That moment remembering my sweet children made me feel grateful of what He had given ME! None of us are given promises of our child’s future. I desperately want a long, healthy life for my children. A life full of joy and a life filled with their own children. I was demanding that from God in my disappointment. I am losing Trust of God which is making me lose focus of what He has given me. I love Jonathan and Lauren so much. I am so thankful for them. I will continue to beg God for Lauren’s good health, but I also need to thank Him every single day that He has given us both of our children.
I sat in the pews to pray some after mass, but felt agitated and icky again. I needed to fix myself up and shower. I wanted to wait until Father Vincent was available to see if he could visit. One of the moms of one of Lolo’s classmates came to me to give me a hug as I was visiting with my other friend and holding her baby. I have known this other mom forever. She hugged me and told me how exhausted she was and how busy she was with all the graduation stuff and apologized for not reaching out to us. I told her that was fine, we were hanging there. She was then talking about how much there still was to do with the all the festivities coming up. I stopped her and put my hand on her arm. I was at a really low point and her energy was giving me more anxiety. I wasn’t kind. I told her that tonight when she was so tired she should thank God for being that tired because she was enjoying happy celebrations. I told her she didn’t even know what tired was and that it is a different tired caring for a sick child that was missing out on all of these happy celebrations. I told her I was sorry I was so blunt, but what she was saying hurt me. I realize no one can really understand the pain of watching their child once again miss their childhood, miss the joy that comes with that, and is missing these rights of passage. I was suddenly angry and asked if I could just have a moment to pray. I know she will forgive me because she is a good person. I shouldn’t have been so upset. That is how lost I am right now. That was when Father Vincent came up the aisle. I didn’t handle that very well. She is a good person and is always kind to us. She has made us yummy chicken and rice soup and her whole family has prayed for us. What was wrong with me? I realize I also feel so isolated from everyone’s experience. I feel out of place in my church. I wanted to go back to the hospital. I needed God, but I also wanted my family.
I left mass, with a promise from Father Vincent to come visit. I called my mom to see if she could meet me for breakfast. I went to Lisa’s Radial Cafe which is my favorite place….well, I kind of like Dugger’s in Dundee…and Bailey’s by SRB, and First Watch by Asksarben….and Le Peep where my sweet SRB former students work…..dang, I like my breakfast!!! Lisa’s was swamped, of course, so I sat on a bench. I started talking to the girl next to me….I met Jacqueline…who of course was a nurse on the transplant team at UNMC, where Lolo will go if she has to go to transplant. Thank you, GOD!!! Are you kidding me? I have been so afraid of the idea that she could go to transplant and when I go to mass and ask for Hope God sits me right next to Jacqueline. Jackqueline shared with me all the positives if Lolo has to go to transplant. She knows our Dr. Coulter really well. She gave me confidence. She also gave up her place so that Nanny and I could get in sooner to breakfast and get back to that hospital to see my Lolo with a new attitude. When we ate breakfast the waitress said my favorite waitress “Jo” was there and wanted to wait on us so it would be just a minute. I love Jo at Lisa’s. She cracks me up. She gave me a hug and lots of love for Lolo.
We don’t know what all happens in the mass. It is what God has asked us to do each week. Why do I run away from what I need?
I can’t lose what I need the most right now. Lolo is depending on me to lead her to what she needs.
Go, Lolo, Go!