Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Lessons in Humility Continue

 On March 1st, 2024 the family will gather to bury my brother's ashes next to our mother, Laura, and our uncle, Jerry.  When it is my turn I will join my brother in that same plot which is 'built for two'.  

The past weeks have been one lesson in humility after another.  Saying good-bye to John privately that day with our parish priest will stay with me forever.  I had promised him that would happen when he was home and I kept my promise.  My next promise is to make sure he is buried next to Mom.  

My days as someone's big sister are over.  Now I get to just be an aunt, a friend, a cousin...nothing else and nothing exciting and you know what?  That is just fine with me.

I've been dealing with health issues since January and now am being sent to a specialist - this darn pneumonia won't go away.  It's kept me mostly housebound with a few forays into the world.  I have seen every darn episode of BONES and LAW AND ORDER and I am sure ready to regain my health and go back into the world.

In other words, the word of the year for me (so far) is HUMILITY.  I am reminded regularly that all I am today is a result of the Grace of a loving God because of myself and by myself I don't seem to be able to do much.  I still have to get well.  I still get to miss my family.  I am truly dependent upon my wonderful friends.  Of myself...by myself....I get to watch still another episode of CRIMINAL MINDS.

I will say good-bye to my brother this Friday.  I will make sure I have walked as far as I can with him. I will go to the gathering and I will be fine....and then I will go home to rest.

Friday, January 26, 2024


 A week ago yesterday I had the 'medical emergency' the Advise Nurse Line always asks the caller about as you are routed for help (if you think you are having a psychiatric or medical emergency, please call...).  I called 911 and turned myself in to a wonderful group of professionals who diligently cared for me over the next 8 to 10 hours.  It was discovered that I have a 'large pneumonia on the left side through the lower lobe', which (apparently) is pretty darn serious.  I have been dealing with the discovery ever since and, once again, found myself learning huge spiritual lessons.

My late brother dealt with horrific pain the last month of his life.  I will never claim to feel what I do not feel because of witnessing his experience.  That being said, I have had three different body parts replaced AND one joint reconstructed and man, oh, man this pneumonia thing HURTS.  WHO KNEW?  I didn't!  I seriously didn't know pneumonia can hurt but I know better now.  I thought, for the previous week, I had been dealing with trapped gas.  In fact when I was in the ambulance, and the EMT gave me a shot of fentanyl, I told him that if it turned out that the pain I was feeling was trapped gas I was going to be horribly embarrassed.   

I learned two things - it wasn't (trapped gas) and fentanyl doesn't last long enough.

Here at home I have been at the mercy of my own fears.  Everyone knows the number one fear - I live alone.  What happens if I get sick again?  Who is going to help me?

Well let me tell you - I have never in my life been so loved and cared for as I have this past week.  Friends have stepped forward in incredibly practical ways.  Shopping, dog care, sitting in the house while I take a shower so I can be safe - they have been there every step of the way.  My mail has been picked up.  My dogs have been walked.  I have received daily check ins from relatives across the country.  Tomorrow my bestie best best is going to come help me do some light housekeeping and change the bedding to fresh sheets and pillowcases.  I have been loved and cared for and it has been amazing.  I am so very, very grateful.

I've been able to watch three Oscar Nominated films and give people my unsolicited opinion (Flower Moon - amazing. Oppenheimer - outstanding.  Barbie - pretentious hogwash.  BUT what do I know?) and I am on the hunt to find American Fiction since I am not yet well enough to leave the house and see it in the theatre.  My appetite is coming back even if my strength is still iffy.  I am getting better.  I won't be out dancing soon, but I am getting better.

The Spirituality of Illness is a real thing.  I have been frightened and lonely while I am sick.  I got mad at both my brother and my mother while I have struggled this week to breath and stand the pain.  I have told God exactly how I felt about the entire situation and He listened and comforted me and reminded me that I have tools today to use in order to weather the storm.  It is not enough to just say, "Offer it up!". One must know WHAT we are offering up.  And you cannot know the WHAT without prayer and contemplation.

The WHAT for me is always the fear of being alone, unwanted and unnecessary.  While that has lessened tremendously since making sure I daily recite the Litany of Humility it is still an ongoing character flaw that I must recognize and be willing to offer to Jesus as my Sacrifice of Self.  Perhaps it is rooted in childhood.  Perhaps it is simply my inability to grow the flip up.  No matter the cause, it is the flaw in my character that keeps me running to the Father for help, because I need it.  I need Him to fill that need.

I am blessed.  I am blessed beyond measure and I cannot thank the people who have helped me enough this past week.  May God keep me close, because that is where I want to be - close to Him and all His Kids.

Wednesday, January 3, 2024

No Longer a Big Sister - Now What?

 On December 26th, I was 68 years old.  That date should have been my baby brother's 62nd Birthday, and my 62nd year as a big sister.  However, he left this world and all its suffering behind on December 23rd.  On the 22nd I was present when he received the Apostolic Pardon and Blessing.  Just as I had held his hand and walked him home when we were kids at Christ the King School, I walked him as far as I could and kept him safe as long as I could.  I handed him over to God on the 22nd, and on the 23rd, he went home.

It is so very difficult not to make the past three years all about me.  It feels like I have lost so much - first with Mama and now with my brother but....I am not alone.....He is being mourned by a wife and children and grandchildren and a host of wonderful friends all over the state.  His extended family mourns him.  The extended family has been lovely to me and kind of watching out for me during this time.  I deeply appreciate it because my grief is just....weird. Complicated.  I am angry at him for all the time he wasted living a lifestyle that kept us from being as close as we could have been.  He scared me so much toward the end of his life but now that I understand the nature of the diseases he was battling - unknown, at the time, to him! - I can let a little of that fear and anger go...a bit at a time.  But the waves of regret hit me - if only...if only...if only....where did I go wrong? What were my mistakes?  What did I miss?  If only...If only....If only.

There was a great quote that showed up in my email inbox this morning from the late Mother Angelica, founder of EWTN.  It basically reminded me not to beat myself up for my feelings, for being human...and reminded me that Faith and Fear and Sadness can all coexist...because I am always striving to be better and to deny my feelings, to ignore my thoughts is lying.....Lying to God and to myself....and we don't want to be like Satan, the father of lies.

So I refuse to put these thoughts and fears and tears aside.  I am no longer someone's daughter or someone's big sister.  My parents are gone, my brother is gone.  I am left to try and carry on traditions that no one but me seems to even care about and so I find myself letting them slip away...slowly and slowly and slowly....no inside Christmas decorations this year except for the display of cards.  I did put out my Advent Wreath and prayed every day....I didn't give that up.

I'm sad and I am tired.  

I will survive this, of course, and I am going to be okay....

But I am sad and I am tired and that is not going to change anytime soon.

Please keep us in prayer.....

Saturday, December 23, 2023

Losing a Sibling at Christmas Time

On my sixth birthday, my mom gave birth to my baby brother.  It was one of the happiest days of my life.  My family was in total disarray.  My father had disappeared and my family from San Francisco and Martinez were taking care of me and all I could think of was, "I get to be a big sister".

We had a tradition in my old neighborhood.  Because all the houses had been constructed around huge picture windows that looked out onto our front porches, whenever a new baby came to a household the neighborhood kids were introduced to the new baby through that window.  The new mom would hold the newborn in her lap and all us kids would gather on the front porch to see the baby.  I wanted to be the one standing next to the mom.  I wanted those kids on MY front porch.  I didn't like being an only child - I wanted a baby in our household.

The day I got to do that is stuck in my memory forever.  I was just so darn proud.  It happened on New Year's Eve.  My brother had been born on December 26, 1961 and I got to be the big sister in the picture window December 31st, 1961.  My world was forever changed. 

The next years were so wonderful.  I was Sissy.  He adored me and I got to protect, play with, teach and take care of the baby.  Yes, our father had left us but the three of us were so united.  He would sit on her lap and I would dance and sing for him.  His favorite song was one I made up.  "Hello Mr. Wet Pants. How are You today?".  He thought I was incredibly talented.  I agreed with his assessment.

Our lives have not been easy but up until very recently he was always my baby brother.  I did not agree with how he decided to live his life and he thought I was a big bore.  However, I always love him no matter what and every birthday I knew there was someone else on the planet I was exactly five years and forty-five minutes older than. 

Sometimes I hated the way he behaved as an adult.  He felt the same about me.  However, when the call came about his illness I had no problem telling him I loved him and was here for him no matter what.

There will be only one or two people left on the planet that will get my jokes when he leaves this earth. 

Christmas will never be the same for me.....but oh my gosh the Christmasses we had will live in infamy and I am so damn grateful for every year we had together.

Good bye, baby brother.  Sissy loves you.  Please, say hi to Mom for us...I have a feeling you are going to beat Dad there but Grandma and Grandpa, Uncle Jerry and all the rest are waiting for you.

Please, help the Niners get to the Superbowl this year, okay?

John Stephen Shaw

12/26/1961 - 12/23/2023

Monday, November 20, 2023

This Morning the Dam Burst

 This author does not like to admit defeat despite feeling better every time I do. 

The past several years have been difficult for me.  Now, before anyone offers advice trust me that I am keenly aware of how very blessed I am right now.  I keep my gratitude front and center and know that, compared to others in the world, my problems pale in comparison. 

However, there has been a lot of loss in my life and a great deal of adjustment to that loss.  I have made terrible mistakes and people I counted on have left me as a result of those mistakes.  I do not blame them; I accept their decisions. 

This morning, for whatever reason, the dam burst and my morning meditation turned into a torrent of tears.  All I could say was "Jesus, Jesus, Jesus" over and over again.  That was my prayer - His Holy Name - over and over and over.  At the end of I was left with swollen eyes, a stuffed up nose and a sore throat from crying but other than that, hey!  I'm good!

What I have experienced in the past three years is not important.  Suffice to say most of you reading this have gone through much worse and my heart does go out to you.  What does matter is that I not pretend everything has been hunky dory.  It hasn't.  

That being said, I have had some amazing things happen in the past three years along with the sorrow and loss.  I have new and old friends in my life.  That has held me up.  I have new goals and new hopes and new dreams.  I have a life today that is second to none and I am guessing that today's lesson is pretty simple: one can feel incredibly grateful at the same time they are incredibly sad.  One can acknowledge the beauty and accept the ugly and it can live side by side in my consciousness.  I am not crazy, I am a human creature trying to walk with grace and dignity.

God has graced me so much and for that I am eternally grateful and aware.  However, this morning the dam burst and I just let the tears flow. 

Then I put on my make up and lipstick, brushed my hair and went forward.  I cannot do anything else.

May today be a day of love and light for you.  If you need Him, God is there and trust me the prayer I prayed was enough for today.

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus....I offer myself to Thee.