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Sunday, August 30, 2015

Life in a Valley Town

I am the mother of dead children who never made it past birth, which is a different status from those who have children still running around on the earth or who lost children at young ages.   Parents like me are not given the same respect, which is not said as a means to gather sympathy; rather, I am simply sharing my experience.  Women and men who have live children are usually allowed opinions that mothers and fathers of dead children are not.  Because our children are waiting for us in heaven, no one wants to know what we think should be done when a child has an earache, or is afraid of the dark, or hates their sibling or gets arrested for shoplifting at the age of 15 or ends up with a pregnant girlfriend when they are 22.  Neither is anyone interested in our ideas regarding child rearing.  The argument is this:  since we did not raise our children into adulthood then any ideas we may have are theoretical at best and so should be disregarded.

I have a certain amount of sympathy with this argument.  It can be maddening for a young mother or the father of a teenager to hear from seemingly uniformed friends or relatives about what the latest fad or school of thought or theory regarding child rearing can mean when they are the ones in the trenches.

Stand this resentment, however, alongside the willingness to turn our children over to young teachers straight out of college with no experience in the classroom, or drop them off at a neighborhood house with a homemade sign in front of this advertising Auntie Blossom's Unicorn Daycare and you have a tougher sell to make to me.

My thinking is, and I may be wrong, is we are not willing to listen to the well meaning grandmother or great aunt or loving cousin when we are willing to follow the advice found in a newspaper column (written by an unknown entity) because it smarts to take advice from people we both love and hate, need while squirming under their gaze convinced they are judging us the entire time we are judging them.

Being the mother of dead children, I have not had the privilege of driving my own child to a music lesson or picking out their Baptismal gown.  I have been involved in the lives of my two nephews and my niece and I have been involved with the lives of the children of my friends but that is very different.  Again, while I may have some really definite ideas of how a child should be raised all my peers can quite rightly look me in the eye, puff out their chests and say, "Oh yeah?  What the hell do YOU know?".

So, tonight, as I prayed for a dearly loved young person in my life I thought about what I do know and how, if I was allowed, I would share that knowledge.

And I haven't got a clue.

Sure, it would be lovely to sit and have a long conversation over hot coffee about how to handle life and its disappointments.  It would be wonderful to share where I was at their age, what my life had ended up being and how the only thing I had ever wanted to be had been snatched from me for no other reason than my own bad behavior.  I would love to wax philosophical about the choices I made - both good and bad - and share with them the wisdom I learned from that great teacher (hindsight and experience).

The problem is I would not be able to do that without including my Faith journey, my Sobriety life and the incredible healing I have found from my Catholic Faith.

When I look back on that crossroad I stood at when I was 26 years old, frightened, disappointed, mourning the loss of my children and the shock of being dumped by someone who had sworn to me they loved me no matter what, I can see the mistake I made.  The mistake I made was walking away more firmly from God because I did not think I could ever be forgiven for the life I had lived between 18 and 26.  It would be another five years before I found myself at another crossroads - and then I chose poorly again, once more convinced that if I could only find the perfect husband my world would be fine.

If I could share my life with someone wondering what to do next today, I would share with them the mistake I made that caused me so much pain.  I would share with them my error in thinking that somehow I was so bad, so unworthy, and so lost that my only chance was finding redemption in human beings and substances....drugs and alcohol.

Because I do not have standing as a parent, I cannot share that with any real authority and I am sorry. What I can do, however, is I can pray - I can pray that the journey the young person I love will not be as full of pain and wandering as my journey was and I can pray that it does not take them as long as it took me to find my way Home to Truth.

And I can pray that all those people - young and old - who are so lost, so sad and so convinced that they are not worthy of a spectacular life will find what I have found; a loving and merciful God and His Church.

He wants what is best for me....and for you too.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Suffering and The Common Cold

God, I hate being sick.

Seriously, if there is one thing I can absolutely claim to be lousy at without any hesitation it is being sick.  I can take healing from an injury or a major surgery without breaking stride but being sick?  I am not good at it.

I think it's because catching a cold or the flu or the plague of the day always feels like some sort of sneak attack by enemy forces - and I hate those tactics.  If you are going to come at me, come straight at me.  Don't pull this sneaky-behind-the-scenes- stealth action crap.  Just reveal yourself, state your aim and take your best shot.  Hello, I am a Flu Germ.  I am going to try an implant myself in your system in order to make the next few days absolutely miserable for you.  You may now attempt to defend yourself by taking extra vitamin C, rinsing out your nose with saline solution and resting.   If you are successful at thwarting me, then well done and I 'll try to get you next time.  If you are not, then ah HA!  I will win and you will lose some accumulative sick leave you have been guarding in case you need surgery or your Mom needs you or something else happens that requires your attention to not be on work or the office.

It never works like that though, does it?  No.  The flu germ never presents itself squarely in front of you and behaves with honor.  Oh no.  It slinks around in the shadows, often sending its little friends - colds and slight allergic reaction - to test the boundaries.  Maybe one of them hits you a bit and makes you cough and sneeze for a day to soften your resistance and then KERBLAM!  Flu germ is wiggling its slimy way into your bronchial tubes and you are coughing like mad, unable to breathe through swollen sinus passages and tossing and turning rather than sleeping soundly so you can go to the office.

It is times like these, when I cannot sleep because my nose seems to be filled with cement, my ears are hurting and my throat feels as though the inside of it is lined with sandpaper, that I realise how lousy I am at suffering.  Oh, give me a big dramatic thing to suffer through and I can conquer it with ease and in full knowledge that all is possible because of Jesus Christ and His Church.  Hit me with the flu and part of me begins to doubt the existence of God because I am partially convinced that I am going to feel this bad forever and no loving and merciful God would wish this type of suffering on one of His faithful, right?

sheeeeeeesh.

Let's face it - a martyr I am not.  I am barely a good Christian and I am pretty sure that, based on the evidence that I so willingly provide with my own writings, no one is ever going to suggest the cause for my sainthood be considered once I have left this plane of existence.   My admiration for those who face true hardships and sufferings knows no bounds and there is a reason; I am not good at it, and I am in awe of those who are - it is that simple.

So tonight, as I try to rest my throbbing head back on the pillow and get some sort of rest, I am asking a for prayers.  Prayers that I learn to accept all God has given me and display the proper attitude of gratitude, no matter what the day will bring.  Pray, please, that I be able to suffer the slings, arrows and stuffed up nose of life with a little grace and dignity.  Pray, I ask you, that this dang flu bug leave me soon so I can return to work and find other stuff to worry and complain about besides not feeling well.

And pray, I beg you, for my brothers and sisters in Christ around the world - the ones who are truly suffering in the wake of hatred and bigotry and war.  Pray for His Church - that The Bride of Christ stay strong and true no matter what happens.


AMEN.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Some Will Be Heroes

The three young men who took down a terrorist before he could carry out his plan of destruction are from the Sacramento area of California.    They were educated at a Christian School, have parents who are engaged in their lives and incorporate the concept of 'self giving' into their daily lives.

They are good men.

I laughed a little with one of their mothers.  When asked if she was surprised that her son was being hailed around the world as a hero she stated that she knew this quality of self sacrifice is a part of both her boys' makeup.  "I'm not surprised," she said.  "However, I do sometimes worry about them".

My poor long-suffering mother worried about me too but for far different reasons.  She worried that every siren she heard in the middle of the night was connected to me.  She dreaded the late night ring of a telephone or an unexpected knock on a door.

The difference between me at 23 and these young men could not be more pronounced.   My life was all drugs, sex and rock and roll.  Their lives are all about, "What can I do for you?".

Because of my choices, I stand today often regretting the past but never wanting to shut the door on it.   I often wish I had made better choices, that I had not killed my children, that I had come home sooner from work on August 7, 1987 or that I had never walked as far as I did from the Teachings of Holy Mother Church.

What I see as remarkable in these three young men is their complete disregard for self in the face of danger.  I hope I can act that way if confronted with evil.  I also hope I never have to find out if I am a coward or not.

Their heroics will be lauded with praise and a parade.  The courage they displayed should be applauded, of this I am quite sure.  However, I wonder if those who honor them know that what those men did sprang from a culture that is far older than an American Culture.  These young men were raised in the Christian Faith.  Their act of self-giving springs from that, believe me.  If they did not have that foundation, we would not have seen that action.  Of this I am quite sure.

Thank you, guys.

Monday, August 24, 2015

How to Live in Today's Hyper Sensitive World

Last week I wrote about loneliness and lost children and unread text messages.  A reader messaged me and asked me what my story was regarding lost children.  In light of the horrendous videos being released that show Planned Parenthood as the evil group they truly are, it pains me to have to admit I was once one of their supporters and chose to end the lives of four of my children.  I did let her know, however, that I am a post-abortive woman - four children lost to abortion during the years I was living without God and as a 'as long as you feel good' kind of gal.  I lost another to natural abortion - a miscarriage - the same day my husband died.  Today, when I stand in the pew at Church and see women my age holding their sleeping grandchildren, I feel that pang of loneliness that comes only to those who have lost a child.  It doesn't matter that I was the architect of my own misery - the feelings are real and I will not pretend not to feel them in order to help another woman ignore how wrong those same bad choices are today.  Abortion kills children and hurts women.  That's the truth.

As for the unread text messages: about six weeks ago I sent a request to a friend for some help.  Normally I would not do that - I usually take care of things on my own - but this particular person had made it a point of telling me to reach out to him and ask for help if I needed it.  I did.  No response.  None.  I sent two follow ups - one a voice mail and one message through facebook - and no response.  I ended up having to ask my adult nephew to help me and quite frankly I did not want to do that - the kid gets bombarded with requests from the older adults in our family.  As always, however, he came through but I never did hear from my friend.

Yesterday, during the Niner v. Dallas game, the guy chose to respond.  He said he had gotten busy, meant to respond, forgot and just remembered.  He apologized.  I accepted it.  Simple and done.  No hard feelings.  Mistakes happen.  He had read my blog and remembered.....and I forgave him because that is what we do.  Besides, I figure there will come a time I will let him down as well.

I write about this because in today's hyper-sensitive world I often make the mistake of thinking people are talking and thinking and acting in relationship to ME rather than to the stuff around them.  The woman who contacted me about the children, for instance, did so because she has lost contact with her step son and that single sentence struck a cord with her.  She wanted to share her loss with me.  She asked how I recovered from mine and I told her that I feel the operative word is not 'recovered'; rather, it is 'recovering'.  I lost those that would have rounded out my life and added depth to it that otherwise does not exist.  I don't think the recovery from that is a one time event.  I think it is ongoing and that if one is a Catholic then one learns to unite that suffering with the suffering of Christ on the Cross.

The friend who ignored my request for help was embarrassed.  I was too.  It is always awkward to tell someone they let you down, unless you unload on them in a angst and drama filled screaming match.  My family has always been good at those - after all, we love the drama - but lately I have retired from that stage.  It takes too much energy and I am too tired.  It is just easier to say quietly to him, "Hey, you really hurt my feelings, buddy boy." and when he said, "I am so sorry.  I really have no excuse.  I just dropped the ball" to say back that he can forget it and then invite him to my birthday party.

Besides, being gracious can be the best revenge (just kidding).

It all boils down to this:  if I am going to exist in a hyper sensitive world, constantly worried about putting pen to paper and hurting someone's feelings then I am going to spend my life walking on egg shells.  I am not going to live like that anymore.  I chose, instead, to live in a world where people are reasonable about being human.  I am going to live in a world where mistakes happen, forgiveness reigns (no matter how often one has to give it) and people try not to live under the tyranny of fear.  I am going to hope that those who have questions about what I write will contact me and ask those questions.  I am more than happy to answer them.

And when someone says to me, "Was that about me?" I can tell them the truth - either it was or it wasn't.  If it wasn't, then accept that and move on.  However, if you insist that everything I experience and write about is about YOU, you are going to be sadly disappointed.  I have a big, blank canvas upon which to paint....not every section has your name on it.





Thursday, August 20, 2015

Loneliness and Catholicism

One of the stalwarts of Catholicism is the total giving of oneself to God and to the service of others.  It is better, always, to give rather than receive or to love rather than be loved.  As a fully committed Catholic, I recognize that I am happiest and most at peace when I am more focused on others rather than my own wants or desires.

Yet it would be dishonest of me to deny that God created me human and, thus, a social creature.  I love companionship and friendship and often the deepest disappointments I feel are attached to rejection or loss of both.  To experience the feeling that one is isolated, standing alone in the forest so to speak, can be a tough feeling to bear.  I think it is one satan watches for with glee.  If he can get an otherwise good Catholic to make stupid decisions based on that feeling, he triumphs.

So what is the best defense against this feeling?

Contrary to what one might suspect, I don't think it is necessary to rush right out and do something, anything, to change the feeling of loneliness that might hit you when you least expect it.  I have learned over the years that my being able to weather those down days and disappointments without having to take an action to change the 'blues' allows me to exercise my spirituality.

How?

As a Catholic I am directed to unite myself as closely as possible with Jesus Christ.  I am asked to lose myself in Him, to try through a deliberate act of the will to understand life through His perspective.  My sufferings, my joys, my triumphs, my laughter, my loving, my hating - nothing I do or experience should be separate from Him.  It is through Jesus Christ that I find my own divinity, not as a god but as God Like, in His Image which is how I was created.  I discover myself by uniting myself with He who made me and continues to make me possible - without His constant thought, I cease to exist.

And this is true whether I believe He is God or not, whether I believe there is a God or not.  This Truth does not require my belief to make it so; the existence of a Creator is not a myth, not a comforting idea and not a fallacy.  He is....and because He is, I am.

When I feel as though I just cannot take another step because I am so tired, I can call to mind His journey to Calvary and how even God stumbled under the weight of His cross.

When I am overwhelmed by the feeling of sadness for my lost children and the husband who died too young, I can call to mind the sorrow He felt when He heard of the death of His friend Lazarus, and how even God wept when He visited the tomb.

When something happens and I cannot get any human creature to respond, to answer the phone or read the text message asking for help, I can remember that the very rock upon which His Church was built not only fell asleep in the garden but later denied he had ever met Him.

This deliberate act on my part, the deliberate and intentional turning towards the pain and uniting it with the pain felt by my Lord and Savior, allows me to exercise those spiritual muscles that I can  neglect by feeling sorry for myself.  It can give meaning to my life and allow me to combat the loneliness humans sometimes feel for good reason or no reason.  This act of my will can combat satan as he tries to pull me from my God, from His Church and from Truth.

Most importantly, I can turn to Him in The Eucharist.  I can take comfort in knowing that He did not leave me an orphan, that He is real, that He lives.

In this frame of mind, I pray my version of this prayer I found on line.  It is a prayer for those who suffer from loneliness.  If you want to pray it with me, that would be great.

Heavenly Father,

Thank you for your grace and courage to stand when it seems that all around me is mere mid air. You know how I long for that connection with other humans.  Help me to never become discouraged, depressed or disturbed so much that I fail to recognize you are always with me. I know you care about every moment I spend in solitude.  I thank you for the opportunity to draw more closely to you and I pray for the strength to resist the easy way out of loneliness.
I ask for this grace in the Name of Jesus Christ.

Amen.