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).