Thursday, January 26, 2012

Anna's act of kindness

I have a picture somewhere that was taken when my son Aaron was a baby. We are at my brother Maurice's house, and my sister-in-law Debbie is holding Aaron. I am sitting next to her and we are laughing about something. Every time I see that picture it brings me so much joy. It reminds me of our carefree days as a young couple with a new baby.

Our son is now 28 years old. This past August, he married a lovely young woman. Our daughter-in-law Anna is wonderful. It is like God has blessed us with another daughter. She loves our son unconditionally, and that means the world to us.

February 2 marks one year since they were engaged. Shortly after their engagement, Anna came to us and said she wanted to do something at the wedding to remember and honor our daughter Lauren. It was not something she had to do, it was something she wanted to do.  She decided she would have one less bridesmaid than Aaron had groomsmen. She was leaving open the space that Lauren would have filled had she still been here with us. We were overwhelmed at this gesture, but more so at the heart of this young woman who was to become our daughter-in-law.

The day of the wedding came, and Anna surprised us yet again. In the wedding program she had our daughter Lauren listed as "Bridesmaid in Memoriam" along with the other bridesmaids. After I was escorted down the aisle, Lauren's groomsman (my son Aaron's oldest friend Gene) came back to bring me a bridesmaid's bouquet. Attached to the bouquet was a locket with Lauren's picture in it.

Anna did not have to share her special day in this way. I venture to say that not many young women would. But she did. That little act of kindness spoke volumes to what kind of woman our son was fortunate enough to marry. It tells you the kind of family she comes from, and it tells you what kind of heart she has. She has already proven to be a wonderful wife to Aaron and I know that she will be a great mother to our grandchildren one day. I know Lauren would have loved having her as a "sister" as much as we love having her as a "daughter."

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

DO sweat the small stuff?

Ever known anyone who loves to make a mountain out of a molehill? Sure, we all have. Maybe we still do. Are those little bitty things really that important?

When my daughter died 7 1/2 years ago, my perspective and priorities changed forever. I began to realize that those little things were not that important. My priorities became different.  I was determined to do the things I thought Lauren would expect me to do: take care of her dad and her brother; attend Mass and participate in the parish through our music ministry; continue to be a part of our community; take care of myself... All of that was understandable. I knew she would expect no less. 

What I didn't expect was my reaction to other people when they went on living their daily lives. When others made mountains out of molehills I got restless and angry. I could not fathom how, in the midst of my grief, others could talk about "having a bad day." Once I told someone who said that, "You have no idea what a bad day is." I know now that God did not want me to act that way. 

As time went on, I realized my attitude needed to change. I began to thank God that people did not have to live my grief, and that being able to sweat the small stuff was actually their blessing. They did not have to experience the feeling of things being so out of whack and so surreal that you could hardly make it through the day.  On top of it all I knew in my heart that Lauren would not have wanted me to be bitter and angry. She loved life. She was not that kind of person, and neither, thankfully, am I. 

The "recovering" me knows that sometimes sweating the small stuff is normal. Its ok, to a certain extent. The "Catholic" me knows the truth: God is in control whether we make mountains out of molehills or sweat the small stuff.  No matter what, he is in the driver's seat. He expects us to minister to others, to forgive people of their shortcomings, as he does ours, and to treat all his children with respect, love and care. He expects and longs for us to strive for one thing: to have a heart like his. 

Sunday, January 15, 2012

My Universal Family

I resisted the urge to tag this post with something like outer space, extraterrestrial, or aliens, although it would have been funny. On the other hand, it may have brought some traffic I didn't want. When I say I have a universal family I mean it. 

If you look up the word universal, you might get a definition like this: Of, affecting, or done by all people or things in the world or in a particular group. You will also see that one of the synonyms for universal is catholic. That is what I am talking about. I belong to the universal or Catholic Church, and my family includes over a billion people at any given time. 

My exposure to my "family" was for a long time limited to the people I knew in my parish, relatives and maybe a few I might encounter along the way. On a few occasions I would be made aware of our universality: attending Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York, a retreat at Christian Brothers with our youth, watching the coverage of John Paul II's visit to the U.S.  

About 2 years ago, I discovered a new way to connect with my family: Catholic media. I started listening to the Catholic Channel on XM. I connected with people on Facebook and Twitter though one of the shows on the channel. I joined Facebook prayer groups. All of a sudden, I have a network of people outside of my local parish to share my faith with and it is awesome. They keep me accountable, they make me laugh,  and they share my triumphs and sorrows.

We all come from different places, we are different ages, we have different vocations, and we may even speak different languages, but we have one thing in common: we all belong to that universal church and share Jesus at every Mass. 

Friday, January 13, 2012

American Idol memorial?

In a week or so, the 11th season of American Idol will begin. In a week or so, my husband and I will be watching it. We will watch until the winner is announced.

I have heard people talking about how boring it has become, or maybe how cheesy it has become, but we watch it for a different reason than probably any other viewer in the entire world. We watch it in memory of our Lauren.

Lauren was here for the first season, which ran from June 11-Sept. 4, 2002 as a summer replacement. She saw the 2003 shows, and we were in the midst of the 2004 season when she passed away. She did not see who won that year, although she had her favorites. She really loved the show.

The next year, when AI returned, we decided to watch it for Lauren. And we have watched every season since. In a strange way, it brings us closer to her. It is, of course, only one of the ways we remember her. But we think about her when the show is running, wondering what she might think about the silly antics of the host and judges. Who would she chose as the winner? What would she think now that Simon and Paula are gone? Thinking of that brings us joy.

To some, it might seem silly, but to us, it is just one of the ways we remember our sweet girl.