Sunday, August 17, 2014

Anticipation and sadness...

This past three weeks of summer have basically been horrible.  First, we lost Ellen, the mother of Dawn, one of my best friends. She had been very sick and in the end was in hospice care at home. My poor friend and her brother and other family put their lives on hold, but were blessed to be there when she passed away.

We went to her visitation on a Sunday, but on the Thursday evening before, my other best friend Michelle's  21-year-old son Christian and two his friends were hit by a drunk driver traveling on the wrong side of the interstate. The driver and the passenger (Christian) both suffered broken bones, but praise God they are on the mend. After some complications, he has recovered enough to eat solid foods again. Both he and one of the other girls, Maria, who was in the back seat, are members of our parish. The young lady in the back seat has been in an induced coma in ICU, and was finally moved to a step down.

Three days ago, my sweet friend Janet lost her mother. Her mom had broken her hip, but was doing better. She died peacefully in her apartment. Tonight, a week after Dawn's mom's visitation, we went back for Janet's mom.

Last week, one of my former students, a young man of 25, passed away. TJ was the kind of kid that lit up the room when he came through the door. He was like my Lauren in that respect. TJ loved journalism- like me, he had "newsprint" in his blood. He had worked for his father's cousin at his newspaper, and loved every minute of it. TJ served as the editor of our college newspaper, and the job he did was spectacular. Like me, he had faced the death of a loved one. His older sister Jessica, who was the same age as Lauren, died in a car accident right when TJ was finishing high school. TJ never got over her loss. He and I talked a lot about it, but I knew it tortured him.

He had a rough go of it, and I won't go into details, but he did come and see me about a month ago. We had a wonderful visit and he seemed very positive again. He asked me for a recommendation for a job he was seeking, and I was happy to help him.  We parted after a long talk and I never saw him again after that. When I learned of his death, I was heartbroken. For him, for his parents, for his little sister Chloe, and for myself. I have lost someone I truly loved, once again. I spent an hour with his parents and sister, the other day. We talked about TJ, and his mother told me that he loved me too. It gave me peace of mind, but my heart is still broken for these people who have lost two children they loved. I understand their pain, but could not imagine having to go through losing another child. I pray for them and ask God to comfort them and bring them peace.

The one bright spot in this summer is that we are weeks away from the birth of our granddaughter. We have learned since I wrote before that her name will be Rosemary Lauren. She will be called Rosie. I cannot wait to hold her in my arms. I know she will be precious, as all children are, and I will be proud to be her Mimi.

As I contemplate sweet Rosie, I miss my Lauren really badly. I know she would be so happy over this baby who bears her name. I believe in my heart, that Lauren knows all about her and loves her already.

Dear Lord, we ask you for a safe delivery for Rosemary, and for her parents. I pray for Dawn and Janet, and TJ's family in their grief. I pray for Michelle, as she faces this long journey of Christian's recovery and for Christian as he embarks on that journey back to health. I pray for Maria, for her healing and for her return to her family, and most especially to her young daughter. 
Lord, hear our prayers. Amen. 

Sunday, June 29, 2014

What Facebook does to me (and for me).


It's not enough that Facebook is always changing. Every time you get used to the way it acts on whatever device you are using, there's an upgrade and it becomes different. I can live with that. I guess they are sincerely trying to improve it. I'll give them the benefit of the doubt.

That's not the purpose of this blog post. I'm talking about what it does to me and for me personally. When I joined Facebook, I really didn't understand social media at all. I knew my son and his friends were all on it, and it seemed like a good way to stay in touch with family and friends. My list of "friends" has grown and grown since then, and for the most part, I am happy about that.

So I'll tell you what it does "to" me first:

Sometimes it makes me as mad as hell.

I don't like the spam that attacks and shows me things I don't want to see.

I get tired of people (whether or not it's intentional) "sharing" things that they have not really vetted before they post them. I've done it and been embarrassed, so I am not pointing fingers. It taught me to try to be more cautious.

I don't like reading folks' personal dramas on Facebook, and I don't like when people don't pay attention to a thread and say something off the wall in a comment. PM me or post on my timeline if there is something you want me to know. (I'm pretty sure I haven't done this to others, but I couldn't swear to it!) 

Sometimes it makes me laugh out loud.

Reading stuff on Facebook has made me realize that people are really funny. People have great senses of humor, and I love that.

Sometimes it surprises and shocks me.

You find out things about people you never wanted to know, usually because they don't have the good sense to keep it off social media. (I can't swear I haven't disappointed someone on Facebook myself, but I hope not.) 

Sometimes it makes me cry (and pray).

When you hear about loss- death, illness, tragedy, disaster- it can really get to you and make you count your blessings and pray for others. We need each other in this world, and this social media can be a wonderful way to reach out in love and through prayer.

So,  here's what Facebook does "for" me.

I live away from my family and a lot of my childhood friends, so I get to "see" them and "talk" to them way more because of it.

It shows me Christ in others. People have supported me and my family so beautifully when I share about Lauren, and sharing her through Facebook is no exception. I can feel the prayers lifting me up on her birthday, on Mother's Day and on the anniversary of her death. People who never met her, and sometimes haven't even met me,  offer their love and support through this medium and it is a gift to us.

This crazy Facebook thing has connected me to my "universal" family of faith in a way that could never have happened without it. I have countless "Catholic" friends all over the U.S. that I have never met, and yet I feel so close to them. I have a friend in Australia and priest friends in Africa and Canada that I will probably never meet in person, but I feel close to those folks as if I knew them, because we share one faith.

One more thing, silly as it is. I love being able to say "Happy Birthday" to people on Facebook. I try to do that every day, and when it's my birthday, that gesture comes back in spades! It makes you feel so good to see those birthday wishes out there.

So, whether or not I always like it, it is a big part of my life- I can't deny that! It can be a lifeline to people and a tool to spread love if you let it.

I am thankful for all of my Facebook friends, whether we live in the same town or whether we are a world apart.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Manic May

May was a crazy month this year. We observed the 10th anniversary of Lauren's death. There were reminders of our grief, fun times with family and friends, graduations, weddings, a conference and a trip to the beach. During all of the craziness, there was one evening that really touched me.

A young man in our parish is working on his Eagle Scout project, and he decided to refurbish our grotto. He enlisted the help of church members, his family and others to help in the project. He raised money for the project and the results were spectacular. 

Fr. Greg Schill, SCJ rededicated the grotto one lovely evening last month. For Catholics, the month of May is special. It is the month in which we honor the Blessed Mother. At the beginning of the month, the children crown our beautiful statue of Mary and we sing a song for her at each mass. 

I had the pleasure of photographing the rededication. One of the photos I took really touched me once I saw it. As we were getting ready for people to arrive, I was photographing the grotto and took this photo of Fr. Greg as he prepared himself for the service.

It seems as though the Blessed Mother is watching over him. I feel like she watches over us all. She knows my grief first hand, and I find great comfort in her example of humility and her willingness to be a servant. 

You can view the other photographs on our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/StGregorySenatobia. It is in our photo albums. 



Friday, May 9, 2014

10 years is a long time

Ten years have come and gone since you left us,
 but you are forever in our hearts. 
We love you, our shining star. 




Wednesday, April 30, 2014

I can take care of myself. (I just don't want to)

This past Monday I had an eye-opening experience. I found out I can take care of myself. I just don't want to. 

I had gone down to Birmingham over the weekend for the "gender reveal" party of my granddaughter! Yes, I am going to be a grandmother to a lovely little girl! 

I was driving back to Mississippi when I drove right into tornado-ridden Tupelo. 

I had driven through Alabama with the sun shining and as soon as I got close to the Mississippi border the bottom fell out and I was in the worst rain I had ever seen. I muddled through, praying every prayer I knew. 

As I approached Tupelo, I saw that the highway I was on was completely deadlocked ahead of me. I took the "last chance exit" and got off the road and went to a gas station to fill up my truck. I asked someone for another route to get back home, but every road out of there was either deadlocked, or there was debris in the road. I was stuck. 

I was supposed to be meeting my Catholic Association students for our end of the year dinner, but that was not to be. I called our priest to tell him and he suggested I go back to the hotel I had passed earlier. I turned around and headed to the hotel. I went into a lobby full of hysterical people who couldn't get anywhere. I went to the desk to see if I could get a room, but the system was down and I was put on a waiting list. I told the man I would wait in the lobby all night if I had to.

 I was not about to go to the shelter they had opened, because I knew I could afford a room, and the people who needed a shelter had nothing. I wouldn't think of taking a bed there.

I went to the restaurant and ordered a small dinner, and was talking to my husband on the phone, and the next thing I knew he had gotten me a room! He'd called on his own, using his points card and taken care of me (like he has for 31 years!) 

I got a shower and went to bed to pray and stay in contact with my son, daughter in-law and husband, who were in the midst of bad weather. Everyone got through it ok, and the next morning, I got up and talked to a man from the Red Cross, found a road back home and made it back to work. 

It was a scary situation, but with God's help I got through it. I have prayed for the folks who lost lives, loved ones, and property. I have thanked God for being home safe. 

I know now I can take care of myself if I have to. I just don't want to. 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

I'll take my chances

Most of the people who know my husband and me also know that we lost our 18 year old daughter Lauren almost 10 years ago.  She died in her car on the way to mass on Mother's Day. She was nine days short of graduation from high school. She was an honor student. She left behind a devastated father, mother and brother. She also left behind a grieving myriad of family, friends, and classmates too numerous to name.

That was the worst week of my life. I have often said it was like being dragged through hell- being completely lost, desperately tired and emotionally drained, trying to comfort my husband and son, struggling to make needed plans and be present for the legions of family, friends and the community who came through our home, to the funeral home, to the Fine Arts Auditorium where her funeral was held. I don't think anyone who has not lived through it can truly understand it.

In the midst of all that, I wondered where God was. Where could he be? I was sitting on the organ bench, ready to play at mass, to be a part of our Sunday celebration. Where did he go? Why wasn't he there when she needed him? Would he be there when I needed him most?

In the days that followed, I saw God's love in action. I saw Jesus in the people who came to us in person, on the phone, in cards and letters and in those who helped us build the memorial scholarship for her. I knew he was there. I didn't understand why she was gone, but I knew he had a plan and this was all part of it.

I think people expected my husband and me to be angry at God. But neither of us could. Richard said, "Why should I be angry at God? He's the only one who can help me." That left a great impression on me. I think it was what I needed to hear at that time.

I've had lots of time since then to grieve over my loss and to contemplate the day when I will be reunited with her again. That day gives me hope. It has strengthened my faith and I have learned to try and be joyful in the Lord.

Somewhere along the way I heard about a debate between an atheist and a Catholic. The atheist said something to the effect of, "How do you know that God exists and that there is an afterlife? How can you be sure?" The Catholic replied that he could not be sure, but that he'd take his chances.

I think that is exactly how I feel. I'll take my chances. If we are right (and in my heart, I know we are) then Alleluia! But if we are wrong, and the atheist is right, what difference does it really make? None whatsoever, because in their minds, there is no afterlife, punishment, or anyone to answer to. So, I'll take my chances that I will be with the Lord and reunited with Lauren and my other loved ones one day. I figure those chances are pretty good.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Portrait of a memory

Lauren loved Tinker Bell. I don't think I ever told her, but Tink was always my favorite Disney character, too. I remember being a very small child at Disneyland with my family looking up in the sky to try to see Tinker Bell flying around Cinderella's castle, like she did on television.

Lauren, like most little girls, started out as a Minnie Mouse fan. She had Minnie shirts, dolls, and a little china tea set that she got for her 5th birthday. All that changed when she saw "Peter Pan." She was hooked (no pun intended) on Tinker Bell.

Richard went to a conference in Orlando last week at one of the Disney properties. He told me there was a package coming. It came the same day Richard came home. When he opened it for me, it was this lovely portrait of Tinker Bell. 


He told me it was a giclee' by an artist who specialized in Disney characters. The artist likes to paint Disney characters in different places. This is number 8 of 15 0. He said he liked it because Tinker Bell seems to be looking toward heaven. He pictured Lauren looking down at her.  I see it, too. We placed it in the guest room downstairs, so we can share with our friends and family. 

"There was another light in the room now, a thousand times brighter than the night-lights, and in the time we have taken to say this, it had been in all the drawers in the nursery, looking for Peter's shadow, rummaged the wardrobe and turned every pocket inside out. It was not really a light; it made this light by flashing about so quickly, but when it came to rest for a second you saw it was a fairy, no longer than your hand, but still growing. It was a girl called Tinker Bell exquisitely gowned in a skeleton leaf, cut low and square, through which her figure could be seen to the best advantage..." J.M. Barrie, "Peter Pan."