Wednesday, April 20, 2011

My summer of butterflies

Lauren loved this song by Deborah Cox called “Nobody’s Supposed to be Here.” She had the CD single and played it every time we were in the car together. First the slow ballad, then the dance mix.

One line said, “Knowing these tears I’ve cried, This lovely black butterfly must take a chance and spread my wings. Love can make you do some crazy things.” Almost every time, she would ask the same question. “Mama, have you ever seen a black butterfly?” I would say that I had seen them with blue and white tipped wings, but just rarely. Now, Lauren loved black. She always wanted to buy black shirts, pants, skirts, shoes, purses and anything else she could get her hands on. We almost had to force her to wear any other color. I think that is why she was mystified by the prospect of a black butterfly.

The week she died, it seemed as though hundreds of people came to our house to pay their respects, offer support, bring food and just grieve with us. I often think how hard it must have been to have to come and visit us, shell-shocked as we were.

We were walking someone out one of those horrible days, and this person happened to live nearby the place where her accident happened. They started to tell us about what had happened from their perspective that morning. It was something I did not care to hear, so I began to “tune it out.” I said a silent prayer, and just at that moment, I saw a black butterfly with blue-tipped wings come from the woods next door. It fluttered above our heads and lit right under Lauren’s window. My heart was so full, I began to smile and cry at the same time. I excused myself and went inside.

Thoroughly confused and amazed by what I had seen, I began to wonder if Lauren had sent the butterfly to comfort me. No one knew about the butterflies except Lauren and me. My husband came in and innocently asked, “Did you see that butterfly?” I began to cry again, of course. I told him about the butterfly and Lauren. He could not believe it.

Then I remembered: “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth, which the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows it. But you know it, because it remains with you, and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. “ (John 14:16-18). In some translations, the word “Comforter” is used. I knew then that I was being comforted by my Lord.

That summer I saw what seemed like legions of black butterflies wherever I went.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

We are the walking wounded

Some people don’t like it when I talk about Lauren. Guess what? I don’t care. People talk about their children easily, so why shouldn’t I? It makes no difference to me that she is not physically here anymore. That almost seven years ago she went home to be with the Lord. It doesn’t matter to me. I had her for 18 wonderful years here and will spend the rest of eternity with her one day. This is only a temporary separation.

On May 9, 2004, I joined the club that nobody wants to belong to. The club of parents who have lost children through no fault of their own. I clarify that, because there are evil people out there who have lost children through their own fault or wrongdoing. They do not belong in our club. They are not welcome.

There are all kinds of people in this club - it knows no color, no income level, no gender, no religion. John Travolta and Eric Clapton are in this club. Lou Costello was in this club. Millions of famous and non-famous people have been and are in this club. I would not wish it on my worst enemy if I had one. It is a horrible place to be. I really feel sorry for the ones who have no faith, no hope. The ones who don’t know what I know - This is only a temporary separation.

For those of you who are NOT in this club - there are a few things you need to know. The grieving parent’s worst nightmare is that their child will be forgotten. That no one will remember his or her name, their talents, their accomplishments, their personalities, their being. So when we talk about our children, it is because it is important to us.

I understand why it makes you nervous. It makes you think about your worst fear- that you could be the next member of this club. You worry about your own child. That is a valid fear for any parent. I understand how you feel. It is an awful place to be - a nightmare that never goes away.

I have said that the stigma of losing a child is like having a ball and chain around your ankle all the time - some days it is pretty light and easy to carry, and other days it is so heavy you have to drag it along... But it is ALWAYS there. It never goes away. We are the “Walking Wounded” and we drag our ball and chain everywhere we go.

Don’t ignore us when we try to talk about our child- listen to us and respect that we need to share. Remember that child is as real to us as your child who lives at home with you, or who comes home from college, or who is married and bringing you grandchildren.

We are sorry that you lost your 98-year old grandmother- we sympathize. But it is not the same thing. Not at all.

Why did He take her? I don’t know. How did it happen? I am not sure. When I do know the answers to those questions - I will be with her, and I will not care.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

She's No Angel

“Heaven needed another angel.” I don’t know how many times I heard that in the weeks following Lauren’s death. My first thought was, “Well, why did they have to pick my kid?” That was my raw response - the one coming from pain. But I smiled on the outside, thanking them for their kind words and moved on.

The truth is, Lauren is not an angel. She never will be. She is Lauren, the child I carried in my womb for nine months.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that angels are “A spiritual, personal, and immortal creature, with intelligence and free will, who glorifies God without ceasing and who serves God as a messenger of his saving plan. (329-331).

In a recent edition of the magazine “Our Sunday Visitor” Fr. Reginald Martin explains, “The Catechism of the Catholic Church devotes several paragraphs to a discussion of angels. The text notes an important essay by St. Augustine, in which he remarks that the word “angel” describes a ministry or office, not a nature. “If you seek the name of their nature, it is ‘spirit’; if you seek the name of their office, it is ‘angel’: from what they are, ‘spirit,’ from what they do, ‘angel’” (No. 329).

Genesis does not mention angels among the works of creation, so theologians have long pondered the question of their creation. St. Thomas Aquinas argued that only God is uncreated, and cites Psalm 148 to prove God as the angels’ creator, “Praise him, all his angels…he commanded and they were created” (vv. 2-5). He adds, only God is eternal, so angels did not always exist.

St. Jerome and others believed God created angels before the physical universe. Aquinas admits this possibility, but argues that because angels are part of creation — not a universe in themselves — God probably created them when he made the heavens and earth, “because the mutual relationship of creatures makes up the good of the universe [and] no part is perfect if it is separate from the whole.”

What is our fascination with angels? How did we get the idea that when we die, we become angels? There are countless television shows and movies that illustrate this idea, probably the most famous of which is the beautiful story of Clarence, the angel in “It’s a Wonderful Life” who works hard to earn his wings by helping George Bailey recognize that his is a life of worth.

According to I Believe in, “Perhaps the confusion exists because angels appeared throughout the Bible in human form and were often mistaken for men. In fact in the letter to the Hebrew Christians the writer states that many entertain angels unaware that they are doing so. Another reason the confusion might exist is Jesus' own teachings. He said in Matthew 22:30, "For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven." And in Mark 12:25, "For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven." People who believe we become angels after death refer to these scriptures but they are taking the passages out of context. Jesus is not talking about the nature of angels; rather he is dealing with the subject of marriage.”

I know that people were only trying to make me feel better and I really did appreciate all of their kind words of support and consolation, but I would like to remember Lauren as the beautiful daughter I raised, not a winged creature. I believe that she will know me and the moment I see her, she and I will be reunited forever. Together we will spend eternity in the light of His love.