Becoming Holy

Until we meet again…

Jordan's December Visit 059

Ed, Jordan and Rose~December ’13 Visit

What does it all mean? What is our journey here on earth if not a journey of change? Fall has always been the season that inspires me to want to become a better person~a better version of myself. It is also a time that calls to mind Ecclesiastes 3:1-8.

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to rend, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.

There is a time for everything, but it doesn’t mean we will always be ready for the events that happen in our lives. This past year has held so much change and so much loss. We experienced temporary “loss” this past year as Jordan entered the Sisters of Life. In June, Sr. Jordan Rose, (who was then just Jordan) came home for her last visit before the Novitiate. It was so hard to have her for one week, knowing she would not set foot in our home for at least two years. We are blessed to get to travel to see her this Fall and then again a few times in her second year of novitiate, but there is something about knowing someone isn’t “coming home.”  Little did we know that sadness would come in a new form before the month was over.

 Just eight days after Jordan boarded the plane back to NYC, our brother-in-law, Ed, passed away unexpectedly of a heart attack. This was a tragic and incomprehensible event. We all know the day will come when we will die, but I think most of us expect it to be later rather than sooner. We expect some sort of “heads up” or pre-existing condition to soften the loss. This was not the case for Ed. He and Joe’s sister, Rose, had just celebrated their 40th Anniversary the December before.  He was retired and enjoying helping people out on projects. He was in good physical shape and nothing would have made us suspect our time with him was limited. 

This brings me back to my opening~what does it all mean? So much pain and suffering. Watching Joe’s sister mourn the loss of her husband, their three children hurting without their dad, and all the grandchildren wishing “Papa” was still here. I look at the loss and realize the what a tremendous gift Ed was. I cannot begin to describe the empty space he leaves behind. The gift of Ed to his family was beyond measure. He touched hearts and lives in many ways~this was made evident by the full church at Ed’s funeral and by the many cards, calls and visitors his family received. It remains evident as I see the many lives he touched in our community. It was not only his wife, children and grandchildren, but his siblings, nieces, nephews, friends, co-workers and people throughout our community.  We are each saddened at our loss.

It was hard that Jordan was not able to return for Ed’s funeral. We called her and gave her the news.  I know she immediately went to prayer on behalf of the family. This is what she wrote to us~

“I’ve been praying so much for you all, for Rose, for Uncle Ed, for Grandma and Grandpa…Grandma said the funeral was beautiful.  I’m so glad there was a great turn out. Ed was such a good man.  He really was. On the day of his funeral, I remembered how HE was the one who held me at Jennifer’s funeral.  I’ve always loved him because of that. Please let Rose know how much I love her and I’m praying for her.” 

You see almost 19 years before on the day of our little Jennifer Rose’s funeral, Jordan was only 4 years old. She was worn out by the events of the days between Jennifer’s leaving us and this day of her funeral Mass and burial. Somehow, before Mass began, Uncle Ed had scooped Jordan up and she fell asleep on his shoulder. She stayed asleep on his shoulder throughout the entire Mass and then again at the cemetery. That’s the kind of guy Ed was.  He didn’t need the spotlight. He stepped in quietly where needed and showed his love in unassuming ways. He made a huge impact on Jordan that day and he certainly was a grace for our family. I can still picture in my mind’s eye, that precious little four year old, in her bright orange flowered dress, sound asleep in Uncle Ed’s arms. 

Ed loved his nieces and nephews and enjoyed making kids laugh. He had a way of making you feel like you were very important when he spoke with you. Each of my children has “Uncle Ed” stories of special moments he spent with them. We were at lunch a few weeks ago and Max looked up at me and asked, “I wonder what Uncle Ed is the patron saint of?” I got a huge grin on my face as I realized that Max is still thinking about Uncle Ed and making connections between us on Earth and the saints in Heaven. I asked Max what he thought. “Fun.” Max replied.  I think Uncle Ed is the patron saint of fun.” Then he paused and added with a sparkle in his eye, “or pranks, or kids…or fun and pranks and kids!”  This instantly brought out stories from each of the kids and the special memories they shared with Uncle Ed.

I, for one, could use a little more fun in life.  Especially this time of year, I get caught up in loss and grief and remembering. So today, I think I will have a chat with Uncle Ed, the patron saint of Fun, and ask him to help me out!  Today is Ed’s 65th birthday and I’m pretty sure there is an amazing party going on in Heaven.  I selfishly imagine that Jennifer found Uncle Ed right away (along with his parents and family who got there ahead of him) and that she has been spending lots of time with him. I’ve no doubt those in Heaven are having the most amazing celebration of Ed’s life!   I pray that all of us who are missing Ed will take a moment and celebrate his life by doing something he would have done.  Laugh. Tell a joke. Pay undivided attention to a child. Play with a little person in your life. Reach out in a quiet way to someone who needs you. Remember to have fun. 

he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away.”~Revelation 21:4

Happy Birthday, Ed!  We love you and miss you. Until we meet again…

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Hunger Games

Our parish youth group participated in a 30 hour fast this past weekend. A powerful journey for them and for our community as a whole. What does a 30 hour fast look like?  I will share the view from our home.  Our daughter, Madison, chose to join in the fast and connected with her friend, Bridget. They spent the night before the Fast at Bridget’s home baking and enjoying treats. The fast actually began at 3 A.M. so the girls dutifully planned to eat just prior to that.  They had been blessed by the delivery of some Krispy Kreme donuts and managed to eat three a piece just before the three o’clock morning hour!  (Carb up before starving, right?)  

The youth met in Keuterville at 10 A.M. and the event began. I am going to have to rely on Maddie for specifics. Read her blog, here, to learn more from her perspective!  At noon the youth met down town at City Park to pray the World Rosary with members of our community.  Our family joined in and took joy in seeing so many youth carrying rosaries and banners and praying for peace and for our country.

The next morning, at Mass, the youth put on a skit and it spoke volumes to my heart. A girl was standing near a big box with a small hole cut out.  She prayed for food and a hand reached out of the cutout and gave her an apple.  She was so thankful for this “apple machine.” Another girl came up, obviously starving, and asked for food.  She was tired, weak and hungry. The first girl would not share her apple, but instead suggested that they pray for another one. After praying, a bell rang and another apple was handed out of the machine. The first girl took it and the hungry girl asked if she could have it since she was so hungry and the first girl had two.  “No,” the first girl replied, “I might need this to eat tomorrow. Maybe you should pray for yourself.” The other girl prayed, the bell rang, and another apple appeared. The first girl again took the apple.  This time she refused to share it because she needed to take it to market to get cash so she could keep her apple machine in good repair. The apple machine was ringing and handing out apple after apple. The girl couldn’t hold them all in her arms yet she continued to refuse to share with the hungry girl.  She suggested that the hungry girl get a job, pray harder, quit being lazy, get her own apple machine and decided that maybe God didn’t like the hungry girl. The starving girl kept her faith in God even when she was sent on her way.  The irony at then end was the first girl getting on her phone and “Twittering” how blessed she was.  “#Jesusismyco-pilot. #Feelingblessed.  She never shared of her wealth and yet she felt she was following Christ. 

It was powerful for me because we are SO blessed in America. It is easy to want to save for tomorrow, to believe that we can do more good by building our personal wealth, by believing that people are lazy or need to try harder. The apple machine effectively portrayed wealth and abundance. The first girl demonstrated a lack of personal responsibility to those around her. The second girl kept her faith despite her hunger. Pope Francis has called for us to work to eradicate hunger. We can best begin in our own communities. The youth collected over $1000 for World Vision and Catholic Relief Services to help in a broader scale. 

Upon returning home, I could tell Madison had new awareness of the problem of hunger. Periodically she would comment, “We have it so good here.” Discussing further, she shared how her appreciation for food, water, lights, heat and all our blessings has increased. This would not be possible without experiencing hunger…the kind that comes from 30 hours without food. Building cardboard houses and having them rained on, begging for money from strangers at Church, playing games that replicate situations in Third World countries~each of these experiences helped build solidarity with the poor and homeless. 

Debbie Chicane, our Youth Minister, shared, “The fast gives our youth a chance to step outside themselves for a small amount of time to know what it is like to walk in the shoes of the less fortunate. Through understanding the needs of another, we are given a chance to be more of who God calls us to be~a true body of Christ, alive and active in the world. God is certainly present in the hunger, lessons, reflection, competitions, writing, prayers, laughter, stories, painting, begging, singing, and sacrificing.  God is in it all.”

I thank God for the gift of the 30 Hour Fast for our youth. I thank Him for letting them share this experience with our entire faith community. However, it is hard to know that there are many youth in the world for whom this is not an “experience.” It is their reality. Asking God to continue to bless the young people of the world~those who hunger and those who “hunger” to make a difference. 

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October Memories~Memory #1

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I’m missing a few people tonight…some I’ve known, some I knew for a brief while and some I’ve never met…and they all share October as the month of their Heavenly births.  One of them, Fr. Robb Keller, was my best friend in the world, outside of Prince Charming. Fr. Robb had a gift of love and a gift of JOY. We met him our first Sunday in Twin Falls, Idaho, at St. Edward’s parish. He was passionate, engaging, and a delight to meet! My soul was scarred and my heart was stony following the loss of little Jennifer just months before. He seemed to pick up on that and invited the Prince and I to dinner a few months after meeting us. We’d never been to such a nice restaurant nor had such engaging conversation as that night!

Our friendship grew from there. I began meeting with Fr. Robb for Spiritual Direction. He introduced me to amazing books and tapes (yes, cassettes!) from Scott Hahn, Patrick Madrid, Karl Keating and more. I delved into “The Fire Within” by Thomas Dubay and fell in love with St. Teresa of Avila. I was drawn to daily Mass and joined the Liturgy Committee, where I met even more delightful friends. We began to feel a part of our St. Edward’s family. Fr. Robb knew how broken I was and was a listening ear when I needed to be sad about losing Jennifer. He listened without judgment or without admonishment. His only words were those of love. His daily homilies were short and sweet messages of how to live more like Christ.

I could go on and on…our family became very involved in the parish and enjoyed everyone we worked with. Fr. Robb was a source of pure JOY when we announced to him that we were expecting Madison. He said he already knew…that he could see a glowing light from my womb when I’d gone to receive Communion. I was not surprised. He had seen this with other women in our parish and had a deep connection with all his future “parishioners in the womb.”  

Fr. Robb was not well…he had COPD, most likely from years of smoking.  He was on the list for a lung transplant and was not able to act as full time pastor. The night before I went into labor, he called in an almost panic-like state.  “Please come to the Rectory,” he asked, “I need to pray over you.” Joe and I went to see him after Saturday night Mass.  Despite his struggle to breathe, he prayed an intense prayer for quite awhile over me and our baby~that we might be delivered safely. It was unsettling at first and then a tremendous peace came over me.  How interesting that I would go into labor the next day~Father’s Day~and have baby Madison and a serious hemorrhage during delivery. I knew in my heart that Fr. Robb’s prayer had delivered us from evil. 

His health continued to decline and soon I was expecting little Nicole.  More prayers and more joy.  He was now in Denver healing from his lung transplant.  She was born in March and Fr. Robb miraculously returned home just in time to baptize her at our house on Divine Mercy Sunday. Between the four girls, Fr. Robb performed two First Reconciliations, two First Communions and two Baptisms. He was a conduit of grace for us. 

Following his lung transplant, Fr. Robb was transferred to a smaller parish not too far away.  We continued to enjoy Friday night gatherings, phone calls and visits. I continued with spiritual direction and when I shared with him news of another pregnancy, he told me, “The Blessed Mother and St. Elizabeth are very happy. They are both smiling.” I asked him why and he did not know. This image gave me hope and strength to cope with morning sickness. A few months later, it confused me when I went to my regular exam and there was not heart beat. Joe was out of town and the roads were terrible. I didn’t know what to do, so I called my dear friend. I will never forget how he ministered to me during that dark time of loss. We waited a week and scheduled another ultrasound and a D & C. I prayed for a miracle but did not get the one I was seeking. Everything went black. I had no hope. I simply could not cope with another loss after Jennifer’s death. Each night, around six o’clock, the phone would ring.  It was always Fr. Robb.  He would say, “Precious heart, don’t say a word. I want you to know what a beautiful mom you are…what a beautiful wife and friend you are…”  He would continue on with positive messages for two to three minutes, give me his love and gently hang up. I would GRIP the phone, totally mute, with tears streaming down my face and TRY to believe that any of what he said was true. It was one of the most beautiful gifts I’ve ever been given.

Sadly, there were rough days ahead for Fr. Robb and he was removed from active ministry. In October, he suffered from an embolism and went unconscious on October 10. He was life-flighted to a major medical center and put on life support. All week long, I joined with many others who love him and prayed and prayed and prayed. The family had decided to remove him from life-support. I prayed he would breathe on his own and come back to us. I listened to Josh Groban all week. I scrubbed floors and toilets and cabinets and anything I could reach. It was a week of the most intense suffering I’ve known. On Friday, he was removed from life-support. His brother and housekeeper were praying the Rosary. On the third Hail Mary of the Second Joyful Mystery, Fr. Robb, lifted his right hand up in the air to grasp an invisible hand and took his last breath. When I heard this, I could not help but realize the 2nd Joyful Mystery is the Visitation of Mary to St. Elizabeth. I feel, in my heart, that this was the time for the image of the two of them smiling. Smiling that their precious priest had come home. I also could not help but note that Fr. Robb’s entrance into Heaven occurred on the feast of St. Teresa of Avila~my favorite saint because of his influence. This week, I will listen to Josh Groban, scrub my floors, read from “The Fire Within” and pray my rosary for Fr. Robb.  I will smile and thank God for the gift of so true a friend.

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