A Shadow of a Single Tear
July 19th, 2015 3:49 am
This weekend was one of tremendous joy and blessing. We had a parish retreat, a family retreat named “Family Fully Alive” in reference to the Year of the Family. The “Year of the Family” and the term Family Fully Alive is of course well known to me and my family in the beautiful recognition of the family initiated by the Knights of Columbus in August of 2014.
The family retreat was the brainchild of our pastor, Father Clark. He was persistent, rather persistent, that this event be planned and happen. I served a very minor role “as busy as I am”, planning games for the children.
The weekend was a glorious success resulting in families camping a mere 15 min from home in a beautiful scenic environment. Older and elderly members traveled together or by shuttle to attend a day full of talks, Rosary, Divine Mercy Chaplet and Mass celebrated by 5 priests, 2 deacons and a seminarian. I could write much about the blessing of new, renewed, and reconciled friendships that occurred in this 24 hour period but that is not the subject of the blog I have been asked to write in this early hour. It is another blessing.
At about 7 pm after the game time and dinner was concluded, I had begun to collect the many and varied games, balls and toys that had been brought to the area that had been reserved. The 120 people who had attended Mass were beginning to head home, visit, or listen to an informal talk and entertainment. I was feeling that “better get going” feeling and was rolling up a tent when the familiar feeling hit me, my Moma Alarm rang in such a way that I stopped what I was doing. Visually checked the kids, starting with my youngest, Felicity, and then the others, I surveyed the landscape of children playing. Nothing seemed amiss, the Alarm sounded again. I walked to the nearby table where Dr. G, his wife, and Father Steve were having a lively discussion. I teased them and then put Dr. G on notice. “You’re the physician in the room,” I said, “My Alarm is going off and I expect an emergency in the next 7 minutes.” Father Steve remarked, “You’re amazing!” I thought he was kidding me so I smiled, always happy to be called “amazing” and went back to looking for the impending disaster.
My mother found me, her Alarm was ringing and now there were two of us trying to figure out who was in danger. “Where’s Cecilia?” She asked and I unbelieving agreed that I had not seen Cecilia. We rounded the area and happily found 11 year old Cecilia, playing with a little one. She was safe. We were not satisfied and rounded the park another time trying to satisfy our itch, almost feeling foolish.
Our circling of the area complete, we encountered the vigilant Cecilia. Felicity and her best friend had been caught trying to walk back to the camper. “What were they thinking,” I laughed. The four year olds had wanted to play at the camper and asked Mrs. G (Felicity’s best friend’s moma) who said “NO” so they decided they could just walk. “Silly Girls!” was my reaction and I shared the story with Mrs. G. that Cecilia had caught them at the edge of the parking lot heading out. “Thank God for Cecilia!” she shared and without a thought I returned to collecting volleyballs and croquet sticks.
After returning to our campers with campfire blazing with guitar and banjos playing, I spoke with Father Steve. “You said I was amazing today,” I mused, full of pride. His answer was that he had learned as a child to take his mother’s guardian angel alarm seriously. That he had left a campground as a small child with an older boy and when he saw my reaction and added the reaction of my mother, he and the others at the table stopped and he had prayed for the protection needed. He prayed that all the guardian angels would prevent any accident foreseen. Thank you, I replied, glad that it was a false alarm.
Sleep came easily until 3 a.m. A sense of anxiety woke me and unable to find comfort, I got up and tried to meet any physical need that would allow me to return to sleep. I could not. I recounted the day, when the reality was revealed – that God had prevented a tragedy. The Alarm that sounded was that of two four year olds who decided they could walk cross-country encountering a swollen Shoshone River easily within the mile. These little ones had asked permission and decided to have their own way unknown to adults and were stopped at the edge of the filled parking lot by a dedicated sister. I had honestly given the scenario little thought until awoken. Obviously, Father Steve didn’t, because he connected the danger alarm, prayer, and the dangerous situation for me earlier and still I had not thanked God or considered what had been avoided.
Still, I was not comforted. The anxiety preventing sleep persisted. I then realized it was Our Lady who was properly rebuking me.
The Alarm you sensed was a response to the Mercy of My Son, Mary clarified,
as He sent of His Army of Angles and unleashed a storm cloud of Divine Mercy.
Even in the knowledge of danger averted, you granted Him no blessing or acknowledgment.
You do not know the Divine Intervention that poured out to prevent tragedy.
What you are experiencing now - the pain, the discomfort is a
mere “shadow of a single tear” you would have shed tonight.
Knowing this reality, I know you will acknowledge
the action and Mercy of My Son.
The Shadow of a Single Tear, she was right. The thought of how we would have finally discovered the girls gone. Remembering that I had looked for them first, finding them missing would have taken time, I considered the search . . . Emotionally, I can’t go on. I can’t continue the thought that results in tragedy. I repent. I repent of the impudence that characterizes my life. The ingratitude and casual nature that God’s blessings reveal in my nature. All things are ordered for our good through God. God is good, All the time!
When Mary got my attention, I am not surprised to discover, the time was about 3 o’clock. I thank her now for being my good mother and giving me a good mother. Thank you Mary, for loving me enough, and loving your Son, Jesus, enough to wake me with this gift of sorrow. It is hard to bear, this shadow of a single tear. I will do my best to share this experience in which she extends her Son, and the depth of His Love and Mercy.
Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, have Mercy on us and on the Whole World,
Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, Have Mercy on us and on the Whole World,
Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, Have Mercy on us and on the Whole World!
Far Left - The view of the park area where the girls left the group to travel the 4 miles (as the bird flies) to the campground pictured far right.
Center Picture - The Shoshone River, beyond capacity.
P.S. Thank you Matthias for always praying for your family. We appreciate you and your constant intercession. :)
Happy Birthday to Me!
July 12, 2015
This past week, I celebrated my birthday. It was a great time and it took 48 hours to get all the fun in. This tradition of celebrating is kind of new in my life and it is a good thing. I was never a big birthday fan. I can attribute it to having a summer birthday, being easily disappointed, or a combination of the two. Regardless, by the time my children were born I was “over it.” When wished a Happy Birthday, my attitude was cool and my response was something like, “I am not five, you know.” My point was that birthdays were only a big deal if you were a kid. I had grown out of celebrating.
Please don’t mistake this for an issue of growing older. I have no problem with telling my age, 48. I know because I asked my husband to do the math. (Yes, I have many problems.) I was never one of those 29 years and holding people. I just didn’t see the point or the fuss of my birthday. My kids changed my mind. They were excited to celebrate my day and after fighting it I realized they were right. Life is worth celebrating every chance we get and sharing moments with the people we love.
This year’s celebration began with a surprise dinner get away with my sweetheart. The next day, I thanked the kids for pitching in and taking good care of each other. They responded that we were celebrating my birthday for a second night. How could I cheat them out of celebrating - so we did. They chose the menu - raviolis, the frozen kind, which happens to be the easiest meal ever. They all spoke in horrible foreign accents. (This had started earlier in the day and continued for another 24 hours and had nothing to do with my birthday.) They laughed hard and told jokes that didn’t make any sense.
I received a handmade clay pot, two beautiful pieces of art, and a large hand painted rock in a very big box wrapped well with electrical tape, black electrical tape. It was beautiful!
They sang, “For She’s a Jolly Good Fellow” which was a surprise and was followed by Happy Birthday. Our Bell tradition, which is the absolute worst, really the worst, is the singing of the happy birthday song. The birthday person gets to choose if the birthday song is sung good, or bad. Usually, the person chooses the bad version. Bad is not a true description of this. People sing high or low pitched, they sing loud and really, really bad. It’s embarrassing. I chose good and they sang good - a surprise. They even sang good all the way through the “Is she one, is she two . . .” Once they got to twenty they counted by decade and didn’t lose heart. It was a love gift.
Jesus says we will be known by our fruits. My kids have reminded me that my desire to celebrate their birthdays, to put up streamers, to make them feel special, is important to them. They want to do the same for me. I wasted a lot of years discouraging them. I beg you - Don’t grow out of celebrating. Enjoy and celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, recount memories and reenact events.
Celebrate Life every day, especially the important ones.
God is good, all the time,
All the time, God is Good!
P.S. Thanks Mom and Dad for giving me my birth day!
July 11, 2015
A few of my favorites -
Left (My Aunt in the 1940s)
We all have favorites but favorite people are a category all their own. These people are so special that the relationships define us. I should hope that husbands and wives are our “ultra” favorites but many family relationships predate our marriages. One of the worst name calling from siblings is who is Mom or Dad’s “favorite”. The criticism stems from the idea is that in eyes of an adult a child can do no wrong. The truth is that favorites are important and I pray each of you have been guilty of being someone’s favorite.
I lost a favorite person recently, my great aunt. Her house, 7 hours away, was a place of wonder. I loved exploring the nick-knacks on shelves everywhere. Figurines and woodcarving, pictures and spoon collections, everything was just, different at Aunt’s house. It wasn’t a fancy house; in fact, it never changed. That was part of what made it special.
I remember as a child how exciting baths were in her blue tub. She had special rubber ducks that appeared just in time. They were extraordinary and not just because they floated, which is indeed exceptional. She was a soft place to land and our relationship continued, changed, and grew until her passing.
She was so special in how much she loved her family. We talked of old times, recent occasions, and new additions. She would pull out a familiar piece of paper when we were unable to figure out how old someone was. It was a simple piece of copy paper but it was older than copy machines so I guess it was originally typing paper. I don’t know when she started this family list but it was before I was born. Just a simple piece of white paper, which was folded to give each of her siblings a section for wedding dates and births over 50 years ago. I can imagine her receiving a call from a sister or a brother, “It’s a boy!” or “A girl!” and out would come the piece of paper and the date and name, properly spelled, would be added. That name would later branch off to include a wedding date and a spouse and then children. My little name, recorded at my birth, could not have predicted the space that James and my tribe of ten little ones would require but she managed to get them listed.
I loved seeing that piece of paper and once I held it. I cannot describe its softness. I am sure that I reacted and my aunt didn’t understand the fuss. At a later date, I asked if I could take a picture of it. I did, front and back, and then refolded, it returned to the same desk drawer. One little piece of white paper, I thought of it when I heard of her death with shock. What would happen to the piece of paper? I didn’t ask; it wasn’t my place. In my mind, the record belongs in a museum.
After the funeral, the discussions of living arrangements for my surviving great uncle reminded me of how quickly things change. I was happy when the family returned to the house. I took my time, spending a little in every room. I sat for the longest time in the bedroom where I spent many nights and realized that the adjoining bathroom was my favorite bathroom in the world. The drain was too small, that was true, but it didn’t change the fact that this was one of my favorite places and it was my last visit. I cried.
Her daughter hugged me goodbye as I left. She thanked me for coming and shared that I was Aunt’s favorite. I smiled, thanked her for being so kind and affirmed what she already knew, that the feeling was mutual.
May God grant her endless Peace!
May God bless America!
July 4th, 2015
As July 4th approached, I have been surprised by a few things. First, how divisive everything seems to be in America right now and secondly, how much I have been thinking about Poland.
Perhaps you are now as confused as I, why would I be thinking about Poland on July 4th? It is actually a very long story but I will do my best to be disciplined.
Here it goes…
We are fundraising to take a group of youth to World Youth Day in Poland. I am going as well as three of my children. We are going on pilgrimage, not vacation, as my posters read. Fundraising is hard work and it feels like we have already been traveling a good while, let me tell you. I didn’t want to go, didn’t want my kids to go. My Polish ancestors cried out, “look at what we did to get you OUT of Poland.” It was simple, I wasn’t interested, and I wasn’t going.
Then I watched a feature on EWTN, Nine Days that Changed the World. It is the story of Pope John Paul II’s historic trip to Poland in 1979, his return home as Pope. Please remember his first words as pontiff, “Be not afraid!” It is an amazing documentary and I spent two whole days standing in front of my TV watching it over and over. The power of a single voice, unafraid, speaking the truth - it changed the world.
One of the portions of the video recounts Ronald Reagan’s speech on June 12th, 1987 at the Brandenburg Gate near the Berlin Wall. It is a famous speech that most people my age or older remember well as the "Mister Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" speech. I was intrigued when the documentary shares a lesser-known portion of the speech. Ronald Reagan says,”
“Perhaps this gets to the root of the matter, to the most fundamental distinction of all between East and West. The totalitarian world produces backwardness because it does such violence to the spirit, thwarting the human impulse to create, to enjoy, to worship. The totalitarian world finds even symbols of love and of worship an affront. Years ago, before the East Germans began rebuilding their churches, they erected a secular structure: the television tower at Alexander Platz. Virtually ever since, the authorities have been working to correct what they view as the tower's one major flaw, treating the glass sphere at the top with paints and chemicals of every kind. Yet even today when the sun strikes that sphere--that sphere that towers over all Berlin--the light makes the sign of the cross. There in Berlin, like the city itself, symbols of love, symbols of worship, cannot be suppressed.”
Amazing! The view of this Cross radiating speaks volumes about what our response to secular culture and policy must be - God cannot be contained, or silenced any more than one can suppress a beautiful sunrise or sunset. We must recognize His Presence, call upon His Mercy, and never believe that another person’s attitude, actions, or views may alter His Plan.
On this Fourth of July, let us celebrate those who have spoken the truth and changed the world. I was afraid to go to Poland. In honor of Saint John Paul the Great I will not give in to fear. I will do my best in my everyday life to speak the Truth in Love during these difficult, divisive moments of American history.
Happy Fourth of July, America!
May God Bless us, and may we not be afraid!