Wednesday, September 24, 2014

A perfect rose in our family garden

She made her appearance at 10 minutes past midnight on Labor Day.
Our first grandchild, Rosemary Lauren was born that night, weighing in at 8 lbs., 7 oz. and 21 inches long. She has a head full of hair.

She actually came nine days early. Her grandpa and I had driven through Birmingham the Saturday before on the way back home. We had a nice visit with our son and daughter-in-law, and made our way back to Mississippi that day. Directly after mass, I received a call from my son, saying that they had been to the hospital but had been sent home. We went to lunch with some friends, and then to the grocery store. We came home and went to the track for a walk. We were on the last leg when our son called back! They were at the hospital! We rushed home and hit the road to Birmingham. We got there at around 9:30, and were able to be there for our Rosie to make her appearance. After she had been with her mom and dad for a couple of hours, we were able to see her for the first time.

My whole world changed when I held that sweet baby in my arms for the first time. To see my son hold his own child filled my heart with joy.  I can only imagine what Lauren would think. I know she would really be in love with this little bundle. She is looking down on us, I know.

We have enjoyed two wonderful visits with Rosie and her parents. I am bursting with pride at the great job they are doing with her.  They have settled in to being parents and I am so happy that they are having this special time to bond with her.  We are looking forward to our next visit over my fall break. With the holidays coming we will be able to spend more time getting to know our precious granddaughter.

We love the name that they picked out and were so honored that they would name her after Lauren. It was such a thoughtful and wonderful thing for them to do.

I have a devotion to St. Therese of Lisieux. She was a Carmelite nun who died at age 24 of tuberculosis.  Due to her wonderful writings, she was named a Doctor of the Church.  Therese was known as "The Little Flower." One of the prayers associated with her is a request for her to send a rose from heaven. It goes something like this:

St. Therese, the Little Flower
please pick me a rose from the heavenly garden
and send it to me with a message of love.

And God grant me the favor I thee implore
and tell Him I will love him 
each day, more and more. 

I think St. Therese sent us the sweetest rose in her garden. 

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 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." 

Friday, April 11, 2014

Keep me holy

Next week is going to be tough. For Catholics, it is the holiest week of the year. It is the end of Lent and the beginning of the Easter season. Lent ends on Holy Thursday (aka "Maundy" Thursday) and our Triduum begins.

During those three days, we experience complete sadness remembering the death of our Lord, and exquisite joy celebrating His Resurrection and triumph over the grave. We celebrate the institution of the Eucharist, the source and summit of our faith. We marvel at His act of humility as he washed his disciples' feet. We ponder the cross and celebrate new members coming into the church. We renew our baptismal promises.  Most of all, our hearts will be pierced with the reality of His sacrifice as He paid the ultimate price for each and every one of us.

I'm a church musician, and it is my privilege (notice I did not say duty) to play at all four masses. In our little parish, very few do the work of many. (I have a feeling it's that way in many big parishes, too).  It is easy to get caught up in what we have to do and when -- what I have to play-- all those hymns, mass parts, responsorials... Sure, I want to sit in the pew and not worry about anything but worshipping, but I can't. I will make the sacrifice, because that is what I feel I am called to do.

Those of us who take an active part in the liturgy are under a lot of stress and pressure. It's easy to get lost in all of the "mechanics" of what has to be done to get through these four masses. It's easy to get frustrated, become resentful, be less "holy" than you should be.

That is what I meant when I entitled this post, "Keep me holy." It's really a prayer. It's really a petition. It is a plea.

Tonight I went to the Stations of the Cross. It hit me in the middle of our "journey" that it was the "Triduum in a nutshell." There it was - the whole story, really. It brought me such peace about next week. It reminded me that it is okay to make a mistake or to miss a cue, because He doesn't expect me to be perfect. He only expects me to be a servant. He only expects me to love.

So next week, I will strive for that balance- to be able to play for Him and pray to Him.  I will take up my "cross" willingly and (as I do every day) strive to become holy...  to be that loving servant.

The altar at our parish on Easter 2010

Monday, April 7, 2014

You never know who you are talking to

The other night, I went to a visitation for the daughter of a friend of mine. I worked with Janet at the newspaper for several years. Her daughter Jeanae was just 34 when an aneurysm took her the other day. I remember when Jeanae was on the flag team in high school and at Northwest. I remember when she got married. I knew she had two small boys. 

Janet had left the newspaper and moved to Missouri, but she came to my house when Lauren died. I never forgot that. I felt it was my duty to go and see her. 

The funeral home was really crowded and the line to get in was really long. (And it was pouring down rain.) 

 I struck up a conversation with a young lady next to me. We began to talk about how we knew Jeanae. She told me that she was the sister-in-law of Jenae's brother, Jeffrey. I mentioned that Janet had come when my daughter died. She told me that she had lost her two-year-old son to a drunk driver. Both of our children died 10 years ago. We shared a bit of our journey with each other, and said our goodbyes when we got inside the funeral home. 

The next morning my friend Sybil, who is the director of the Foundation at our college, emailed to say there was a family coming in to talk about starting a scholarship (like the one we have for Lauren). My director decided she would interview them because she felt it would be hard for me, since they had lost their son to a drunk driver. (I am so lucky to have the folks I work with. They are so thoughtful of me!)

When Sarah, my director came back, she started to tell me about the couple she had interviewed. She had shared my story with them in an effort to reassure them that the scholarship really is invaluable. She said the young woman's face changed when she realized she had been talking to me on Friday night!

My face changed too, when she recounted the story to me. I had never met this woman before. I was talking to her when I was in line to comfort yet another friend who had lost a child. I never mentioned my scholarship, which is odd, because I always talk to people about it. 

I can only chalk this up to God and his plans. Plans we don't understand, and we don't need to understand. We just need to be open to those plans. Lord, make me a vessel. 

"But we hold this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing power may be of God and not from us." 2 Cor 4:7

Friday, April 4, 2014

Sometimes weird things just happen

A while back, I was asked to come back and play at my church after about a 3 year hiatus. I have always kept a little notebook and in it I write the hymns we sing at each mass. That way, I make sure we are not repeating them too often, and it also helps to build our choir's repertoire.  A few weeks ago, I wrote our hymns in the notebook like I always do.

On Saturday evening I was getting ready to practice the songs for Sunday and make a list for the choir to follow, and when I opened the notebook, the page from Wed. was gone! Nowhere to be found. Luckily, I remembered what songs we were singing and I wrote them  down again.

Sunday morning came around, and we were getting ready to start mass. I was softly playing the entrance hymn, "Holy, Holy, Holy" on the organ for a prelude, when all of a sudden Fr. Thi pops up right beside the organ and says, "What's that song you are playing?" I answered, "Holy, Holy, Holy." He said, "I was singing that song on the way to church, thinking it should be the entrance hymn." I said, "Holy Spirit!"

"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).

Monday, March 31, 2014

You can call me "Mimi"

I've been called a lot of things in my life. My daddy always called me "Baby." (Kind of like Frances Houseman in "Dirty Dancing.") My sister-in-law calls me "Juanzko." (Don't ask!) My godchildren call me "Nina," and my sweet Suzy (who lives next door to me) calls me "Mammie."

I'm Mom to my son, as I was to his sister.

There's a little person on the way who I hope will call me Mimi. We found out in February that our son and daughter-in-law were having their first child! Needless to say, my husband I were ecstatic.

Like everything else in our lives, the moment we found out our little one was coming was bittersweet. For us and our son and now for our daughter-in-law, there is something missing in everything in our lives. It is, as someone wisely said at the time of Lauren's death, our "new" normal.

I held my sweet daughter-in-law's hand across the table with tears in both of our eyes. Those tears were shared by our little family. The tears were tears of joy and of sadness. But one thing we all realized was that this little one coming this year is a double blessing. May 9 will be the 10th anniversary of Lauren's death. Having this baby to look forward to takes a lot of the sting out of this year.

We began to think about how excited Lauren would have been about this baby, and about being an aunt for the first time.

I believe that Lauren knows all about her niece or nephew and that she is rejoicing. We'll find out which it is at the end of next month.

Until then, I will imagine what this little person looks like. I will think about the times when we take our grandbaby to all the places we love: church, the Grove, to visit family, to Disneyworld! I will marvel at my son becoming a father, and his little family growing.

Until then...

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Please, Mr. Postman

The other day I read a story about a grieving couple who received a letter in the mail. It was a "computer-generated" letter from a company whose primary purpose was to sell something to the recipient. We've all gotten them before.

This one was particularly heart-wrenching. The letter was addressed to a Chicago area man:  "Mike Seay, daughter killed in car crash, or current business..." When Mrs. Seay saw the letter in the mail, she, of course, was devastated and traumatized. They lost their 17-year-old daughter about 11 months ago.  My heart broke into pieces for them.

I know how hard it was to receive anything in the mail with Lauren's name on it. It pierces the heart in a way that is hard to describe. Over the years, we have received things in the mail with her name on it. It is far and few between, but it still happens from time to time.

In fact, a day or two before I read the story of the Seays, I got a letter in the mail with Lauren's name on it. It still hurt. I think because it had been such a long time since I had gotten one.

The company apologized to the Seays, stating that the letter came through a third-party administrator. Mr. Seay did not want to sue the company, he just wanted an apology for this completely insensitive action. He knows that no amount of "damages" paid can undo the damage done, or bring back his lovely daughter.

I am praying for the Seays and for all parents who have lost children. Our journey is not an easy one. I have to rely on Jesus to carry me through every day. And He does.

"Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted." 

The letter received by the Seays. 

Saturday, January 4, 2014

She's back!

Well, here I am again, apologizing for not blogging. I keep stopping and starting and then stopping and starting again. But I keep trying, and I am trying again.

So it says in Proverbs 13:4, "The appetite of the sluggard craves but has nothing, but the appetite of the diligent is amply satisfied."  (I hope they aren't talking about food, what with all the New Year's Resolutions flying about.)

I think it really applies to me and my blog, though. I tell myself all the time I need to write, and then I don't so what do I have to show for it? NOTHING. Then I sit down and get "diligent" about it and I have something that makes (at least) me happy. It's therapeutic to me, and I refuse to do it from time to time. I'm not making any promises, but I do have a heart to try.

Our fall this year was super busy. We have season tickets at Ole Miss and tailgate with our friends every game. We've been doing that for years. After working all week, we cook for Saturday games on Friday night. We were not among the lucky ones who got parking on campus this year, so that meant we had to get there super early to park in Oxford as close as we could. Then we had to "drag" all our stuff to the Grove. This year, some lovely people decided to steal our tent and all our chairs. I hope they are enjoying the tent my husband and our friend David had to fix with duct tape.

This football season, we had a lot of fun taking David to his first Ole Miss game for his 40th birthday. He had a blast and seeing him happy made me happy! He is going to an Ole Miss basketball game with us in January. We will have a great time, I know.

I also got the chance of a lifetime at one of our games. I met one of my personal heroes, Lino Rulli (The Catholic Guy). He and his college buddies pick one college game to go to each year, and this year he chose Ole Miss.  I've been listening to him every day for almost 5 years on SiriusXM's Catholic Channel.

I can say with complete honesty that I have learned more about my faith from this crazy guy from Minnesota than I learned in the first 25 years I have been in the Church. It's ridiculous I know, but it's true. (He does have a Master's in Theology). He has three Emmys and several other awards to his credit, and delights in making fun of the size of his own nose, and his own shortcomings. He is charming and genuine in person, and to spend a few minutes with him made me so happy!

We ran full steam at work from September to December with football games, concerts, a play, a two scholarship receptions, homecoming and just everyday campus events to cover.

I am playing at mass again so throw in Advent, Holy Days, Guadalupe (had to learn 4 songs in Spanish) and Christmas and you've got one tired girl.

So I am not making excuses for not writing, because there is no real excuse. I am endeavoring to do better in 2014. I don't like to make resolutions, I like to try each day to reach the goals I have set for myself, and that's what I intend to do this year. Just try to do the things I think God wants me to do.
My friend David and me in the tent before the game.

After emailing all day, Lino and I met in front of the Union.