Becoming Holy

Steps to Healing

on February 3, 2013

After sharing about Jennifer’s passing yesterday, there was a host of emotions that flooded to the surface.  The agonizing sorrow, the hollowness, the “what do we do now” feeling that haunted my every day after she left us.  But along with these raw emotions came a flood of gratitude~gratitude for the mighty work that God was about to do in our lives once He gathered Jennifer to His heart.  Jennifer’s death on October 25, 1995 was followed by what would have been her third birthday on November 4.  This blur of days has only snapshot memories~taking Jordan and Gabbie trick-or-treating, attending an All Saints Day party with them, going back and forth between my parents’ and Joe’s parents’ homes.  Well meaning visitors, friends, family~all giving comfort in sweet and surprising ways.  We made it through, one day at a time.  We looked to all the other families who had ever lost a child and reminded ourselves that  we could do it too.  I began to look at this group of people as somewhat of a “club.”  These were people that understood at a level no one else could.  It is a club you never want to belong to, but if you do, it is a group of people who will give you hope that you will make it.  I remember thinking of one couple in particular and thinking~”they have such joy, they laugh, they have fun.”  I could not process how, but I knew that I wanted to be like them some day.

I need to speak a little more of the “club” of parents who have lost a child.  These were the people who immediately stepped forward to help prepare the funeral luncheon for our daughter.  They came forward to help dig her grave.  They were the ones who didn’t say the wrong thing.  They brought food, sent cards, and spoke to my heart without using words.  One of them~my 82 year old Grandpa~who had buried a wife and newborn daughter within a week of each other, was the one to hold me close as I sobbed after the vigil service, realizing we would not see Jennifer’s earthly body again.  I had known all of these people and their losses my entire life, but I had never LIVED their loss.  My eyes were opened and my heart was saddened at exactly what each of them had gone through.  Our losses made us one and showed me, in a small way, a unique perspective on the Body of Christ.

God had even more plans for us.  In May, my husband was transferred to Twin Falls, Idaho, with ConAgra Foods/Lamb Weston.  We would be further away from home and we would have to leave the house where Jennifer had lived her entire life and where she had spent her last moments on earth.  Joe’s focus is awesome.  He reminded me that Jennifer is with us wherever we are.  Her spirit is not chained to a location or a memory.  And so we went and in doing so, began an incredible journey of healing.  Our new church home, St. Edward’s parish, boasted a beautiful church and an extremely charismatic priest, Fr. Robb Keller.  The parishioners were warm and welcoming and we began to get involved in the community.  Shortly after moving there, Fr. Robb invited us out to dinner.  We shared our story with him, though he seemed to know it in his heart already.  He spoke to us of the death of his younger brother, Larry, and of the overwhelming loss his mother experienced.  He understood us and helped to slowly bring gifts from this loss.

I began to meet with Fr. Robb for spiritual direction monthly.  Many great conversations, lists of amazing books to read, sacramental confession and striving to become a better person were just some of the things he blessed me with.  He became like family and listened as I shared my fears of having more children.  Fear of the same thing happening again.  We knew that family size was in God’s hand, and using Natural Family Planning was a month to month decision to be open to life or to abstain.  This caused great apprehension in me if we were following God’s plan or living in fear. Fr. Robb never told me what to do, he simply listened and encouraged me to strengthen my prayer life and to love my family.   When we found out, in the fall of 1999 that we were expecting, he joyfully laughed and said he knew that we were going to be.  He prayed beautiful prayers of love over our baby in the womb each Sunday at Mass.  His prayers gave us such hope that all would be well.  The night before Madison was born, Fr. Robb called our house and asked us to come to the rectory for a special prayer after Saturday Night Mass.  He was confined to his house.  He had advanced COPD and was awaiting a double lung transplant.  He prayed an incredible prayer of blessings~calling down angels of protection over me and Maddie.  

Fr. Robb was equally delighted when we announced my pregnancy a year later with our sweet Nicole.  He had his double lung transplant and was living in Denver.  He was released in time to baptize Nicole in our home on Divine Mercy Sunday.  Two short years later, in March of 2004, he walked through miscarriage with us at three months pregnancy.  I was so devastated by that loss.  I could not believe we would not get to have a baby.  For some reason, the miscarriage triggered a deep depression.  It was magnified by the loss of Jennifer and our two previous miscarriages and just made my heart turn to stone.  I didn’t want to get up in the morning.  I didn’t want to be with friends or teach the kids or clean the house.  I made myself do these things, but I was merely going through the motions.  Fr. Robb called me every night for two weeks.  He would say, “Don’t talk, dearheart.  I just want you to know…” and he would go on for two minutes about what a wonderful wife and mom, daughter and friend, I was.  He showered me with words of affirmation and blessing.  He made me believe in myself when I was feeling like a failure.  His words literally breathed life back into me.  How devastating to lose him that following October from an embolism.  He showed me in so many ways what it is to follow Christ.

Upon waking this morning, I realized today is Fr. Robb’s birthday.  He would have been 71 today.  I see his beautiful face.  I hear his musical laugh.  I thank God for creating him, for leading us to him, for using him to gently begin healing our hearts.  I find it to be no coincidence that yesterday’s blog was inspired right before the celebration of Fr. Robb’s precious birth.  I know he continues to watch over me and walk with me on this journey toward wholeness and holiness.  Happy Birthday, precious heart~dear, dear friend.  Asking God’s blessings on you for all eternity.  I will always love you.



2 responses to “Steps to Healing

  1. Mrs. R, I love reading what you have written. You are such an inspiring woman of God (which is even more evident through your awesome family!) and reading your stories is such a blessing to me. Thank you for sharing. – Emilly

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