Fearlessly Faithful

I had the awesome privilege to hang with some 400 Catholic women a couple of weeks ago in Cleveland for their First Annual Cleveland Catholic Women’s Conference called Fearlessly Faithful.

I knew several women who were part of the team that brought this conference together and being from the CLE, I was excited to support it, even before I knew who was going to be there, where it would be held, and who would be speaking.

It was well worth the 2 hour and 45 minute drive for some sisterhood time, a time of rest and to be fed spiritually, and to hear from some amazing speakers.

72738113_478843509639341_5307909300964818944_n.jpg

The day was emceed by Brooke Taylor, who has an awesome podcast called Good Things Radio. She’s a speaker, writer, radio personality and super Mom. I love listening to her show as she interviews guests from all different states of life – religious, ordained, single, married, husbands and wives, authors, etc. She’s been hosting pilgrimages to the Holy Land for a couple of years and hosts a women’s retreat called Arise, which I am very stoked to attend for the first time next year in June. (Ladies, if you’re interested, I think there are still some spots left —> Click here to read more about it and purchase a ticket).

The first speaker of the day was Mary Bielski whom I did NOT manage to get a photo opp with nor did I get a chance to speak with her to meet her, but, alas, it’s a #FirstWorldCatholicProblem.  I had heard her name from some of my Theology of the Body friends years ago as a popular national speaker and youth minister. So I was really excited to hear what she had to say.  Her talk was called Fearlessly His and it was all about our identity. It wasn’t your typical, “Hey ladies, you’re a beloved daughter of God, dontchaknow?” She went deep, she got personal, she got raw and it was really good to dive deep into these waters.

She also talked about the Model of Identity, which is SO needed today in our culture which is clearly having an identity crisis. This 3 step model looks like this:

  1. Relationship – We come to know each other in an interpersonal relationship. We don’t look inward to “find ourselves,” we look up.
  2. Identity – Jesus received His identity from the Father. We received our identity from Him.
  3. Mission – He was sent to live it out right after His Father identified Him as His beloved Son. We are sent on mission as well.

Mary pointed out that today, in our culture, the model is reversed:

  1. We move/take action
  2. We declare our identity
  3. We try to form relationships

Another way to say it is: “I do, I have, I am.”

It’s very much an American thing to identity someone by what they do for a living instead of who they ARE; a beloved child of God.

The Good news is that we have been rescued, we’ve been adopted and we have the power that comes from the Father to rebuke the lies that the world feeds us.

She also said something that was very similar to something I had recently read in my Women’s bible study and that was this:

Jesus didn’t come to make bad women better. He came to make dead women fully alive again. 

I think I want to put that on a t-shirt.

75204486_478843536306005_6292819166785175552_n.jpg

The second speaker was Fr. Pat Schultz and there’s no need to even try to summarize his awesome talk entitled Fearlessly Forgiven and Restored because he recorded it (YAY for technology!) and you can listen to it here:

Fr. Pat’s talk was similar to Mary’s in that he really wanted us to know that God is saying to us: “You are a beauty to be revealed.” We were encouraged to expose and silence the voice of the accuser, to unleash love no matter our state in life, to nurture life and live out our feminine genius whenever possible. Beautiful and inspiring! I would encourage you to explore Fr. Pat’s Vimeo channel to hear his homilies and other talks as well. They are stellar.

72637898_478843662972659_3549423052871696384_n.jpg

The final talk was from Laura Mary Phelps. I did miss the first part of her talk, entitled Fearlessly Sent, but I did manage to catch the bulk of it. She had encouraged us to check out one of my FAVORITE books called “Into Your Hands Father”  by Wilfred Stinnison. It’s all about doing the will of the Father and how to know IF you are doing that, because, let’s face it, it’s difficult to discern if we’re really doing what God the Father wills for us or following our own selfish desires. I have half of that book highlighted – it’s THAT good.

I also loved her point about suffering and how it’s not written in the Bible anywhere, “This too shall pass.” That’s something we say to one another in difficult and challenging times of trial and suffering, but it’s not really…true.

An actual scripture to cling to is 2 Corinthians 4:17 which says:

“For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,” which Laura “translated” into: “The suffering you’re in now is necessary to get you to the place of awesomeness that’s coming.” 

73022060_478843672972658_2215826155456430080_n.jpg

In between speakers was what I considered probably the BEST part of any Catholic Conference and that’s Adoration and Confession as well as Praise and Worship.  I think 17 priests from around the diocese made themselves available to over 400 women who wanted confession, while we were divided into groups to sit in front of Jesus while the lovely and talented Taylor Tripodi blessed us with her beautiful voice and musical gifts.

73083087_478843722972653_4926204377569427456_n.jpg

To wrap up, I wanted to share this I Declare card that I received at a Holy Hour for women at my parish over a year ago and I’ve kept it in my Bible ever since and refer to it daily. It’s from the women’s Bible study Walking With Purpose and the image is from the chapel in Magdala of the hemorrhaging woman called “Encounter.”

IMG-1027

Those declaration statements are so powerful when we not only pray with them, but we need to actually believe them and take hold of them in order to live these truths out in our daily lives. Because speaking from experience, we have a lot of women (and men) believing the lies. The lies of “You’re not good enough, you’re afraid, you’re weak, you’re not pretty enough, you’ll never belong…” etc.

These declarative statements are the antidote to those lies. I would encourage any woman struggling with her identity to pray with these often.

When we trust in God’s providence, when we believe that God is a good Father, and when we are receptive to what the Holy Spirit is telling us about the truth of our identity in Christ, that’s when we can live truly Fearlessly Faithful.

Until next time…be blessed!

Real vs Fake

The fake news finally got to me. The past two weeks seem to have been particularly awful with mainstream media and reporting and just “bad news” in general.

It finally got to be too much. I made a decision to try to cut back my intake of all the fake news (real news too) and made a goal for myself – No checking any social media sites once I am home from work.

It’s been almost a month and looking back, I was successful exactly 50% of the time. Not too bad, right? I kept my promise of not sharing or tweeting anything after I was home but I sometimes would fail at checking social media. On a few occasions, I didn’t even realize I failed until I found myself staring at my news feed; I had become THAT habitual about being on my phone after work.

But one day after work, I think I just had it with the news cycle in general and went to the adoration chapel to lament to God about all of this -He still loves me even when I whine and complain to Him 😉

And almost immediately I received a response:

“I’m real.”

Oh right.

That isn’t a piece of bread I’m staring at – that’s the real presence of my Lord and you know what? He’s real. And I can count on Him to give me nothing but truth and goodness and beauty.

Pope Francis attends the worldwide hour of Eucharistic adoration in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican

God is real.  And God doesn’t lie.  He can ONLY be authentic and real. He doesn’t know the meaning of the word “Fake.” That’s the Devil’s word. The Devil doesn’t have his own clay, so he twists and distorts what is sacred into something evil, something “fake,” something false, doing his best to pass it off as real.

And we fall for it a lot.

I know I certainly did.

So maybe it’s time to reclaim what is real and call out fake news, fake people, fake ideas and call them out when we see them.

And when the shouting and the screaming and the endless stream of bad news (fake AND real) gets to be too much, maybe retreating to one place where nothing but truth, goodness and beauty resides is the best medicine.

 

 

The Gift of Teaching Others How to Pray

36116-womanpraying-bible-pexels-1200w-tn

For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy.

—St. Therese of Lisieux

I just love the different people I encounter at adoration on any given day.

Just the other day, as I was praying the rosary, a woman in the row of seats next to me seemed restless. She kept getting up and going to the back of the chapel to get some books. She didn’t seem to comfortable just sitting there and looked like she needed something to read.

As I went on with my rosary, the woman asked, “Excuse me, but do you have the Our Father over there by you?”

I rummaged through my bag o’ books and had to laugh: Of all the prayer cards and books I have on me at any given time, how could I not have the Our Father, the most common prayer?!

I apologized for not having it handy but then informed her it was in the Bible. (Matthew 6 for future reference.)

She had no idea and was so grateful that I mentioned this to her.

I went back to my rosary but couldn’t help think: “How sad that this person didn’t  know the Our Father!”

And then I realized the hard truth: There’s no prayer in public schools anymore. There’s no prayer on tv. There’s no one praying out in the open for fear of being sued or ridiculed. So why should I be surprised that this middle aged woman didn’t know the most common prayer in history?

If I hadn’t been raised Catholic I may not know the Our Father, either. But I also didn’t start really praying from the heart until a couple years ago. I started seeing people sincerely speak words from their heart, as they would pray either over me or with me or even before a meal and I thought, “I gotta step up my prayer game. These people are professionals!”

There’s lots of books on contemplative prayer, and meditative prayer and repetitive prayers, novenas, chaplets, devotions, etc. It can seem overwhelming if your goal is just to learn how to pray everyday.

I’m no expert but I thought, if I were to try to help someone learn how to pray, here’s what I would suggest:

Books to Pray With

Two books by Jacques Philippe are great recommendations:

Time for God  And his follow-up book is called Thirsting for Prayer

Both books are under 150 pages, which is why I like them so much. Sometimes I think we say we don’t have time to read about how to pray, but we do. We just have to make the time. And these books can easily be read in a couple of days.

Meditation and Contemplation

There’s also a great way to pray with scripture called Lectio Divina. I’m not too great with this. My poor Spiritual Director had suggested it to me and I really struggle with this one. I can’t quite do this by myself but I have found it to be helpful in a group setting. It’s harder to become distracted with others around, for me at least.

Thomas Merton is probably one of the more widely known teachers of contemplative prayer. His book,  Contemplative Prayer is one of the most popular spiritual books out there. According to reviews, ”

Another great author is Richard Rohr. He has a book entitled, Everything Belongs: The Gift of Contemplative Prayer.  Rohr also has a great website where you can sign up for his daily meditations. Richard Rohr, OFM – Center for Action and Contemplation

There’s an App for that

If books aren’t really your thing and you’d prefer to use an electronic device to pray, I have to mention two that are FREE and worthwhile.

The first is called Examen and it’s my favorite app to use.  Not only is it helpful with your prayer life, it gets you to take a look back at your day for some self-reflection. In our busy day-to-day hustle and bustle, it’s really key to take time to reflect on not only all the good that God provides for us, but the moments when maybe we weren’t really acting or thinking with the mind of Christ.

The second app is called iBreviary and it’s used to pray the Liturgy of the Hours. This is what most priests use and religious as a way to pray for the Church and to mark each hour with prayer and song. I try to pray at least morning and evening prayer and lately I’ve been on a roll praying all 5 times throughout the day. It doesn’t take long and what I like about it is that this forces me to slow down and take a breather to focus on what’s really important. It’s amazing how SANE I feel and how any anxiety I have melts away after I pray this way.

“Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Mt 18:2

Recently, I shared with my 7th graders the 5 Finger Prayer. It was an easy way for them to understand a certain order to pray in because let’s be honest, sometimes we just don’t know where to begin after we make the sign of the cross.

Here’s an easy way to remember that even a kid can understand:

772f4b56ae676202c26097c0cefd0121

“But when you pray, go in your room and shut the door and pray to your father who is in secret.” Mt 6:6

I’m in awe of people who create and construct their own home altars. Whoa. That’s a bit advanced for me.

I would suggest trying to find your own “cell” or private space in which to pray everyday. If you tend to become easily distracted, like me, then praying in the middle of a house full of people/kids/blaring tv, etc just isn’t going to cut it. A table or a desk and maybe enough space for a couple of books (the Bible being most important of course) is really all you need!

Speaking of the Word, if there was just one book you need or require to get started praying, the Bible is really the only one you need. And while there are Bible apps, I would suggest an actual Bible. And perhaps a notebook to act as your prayer journal. Because chances are, once you start to really pray religiously (ooooh see what I did there?) you will no doubt want to jot down thoughts that the Spirit stirs in you. Plus it’s a neat way to look back after a few months to see how some of your prayers have been answered!

When all else fails, when you feel overwhelmed by all these methods of prayer, just go back to the beginning and think of the woman I spoke to during Adoration. The most basic prayer you can pray is the prayer Jesus taught us:

Our Father who art in heaven,

Hallowed be thy name.

Thy kingdom come.

Thy will be done

     On earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread,

And forgive us our trespasses

    As we forgive those who trespass against us;

And lead us not into temptation,

But deliver us from evil.

Amen.

 

The Dark and Silent Night

Have you ever had the urge to get in your car and drive out to the middle of nowhere to see a giant statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe?

No?

Just me?

Well, not too long ago, I had this feeling, like a calling, to go to pay a visit to this Shrine that I had literally just heard about a few days prior from a couple friends at church.

The night I decided to make this 40 minute trip to the middle of nowhere (Middle of Nowhere being Windsor Ohio) was November 8th.

The reason? I wanted to be anywhere except in front of a TV to watch the election coverage. I just wanted to get away. And I really did feel like this was the place to be.

maryfall

On a farm in Ashtabula County, Ohio, stands the worlds largest and most magnificent statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe ever created. It towers 50’ above the landscape and is adorned with over 450,000 hand placed mosaic tiles.

The website said the grounds were open until 10pm. I got in my car, already 7:15 at night and getting close to pitch black because of the time change, and thought, “This is by far the craziest thing I’ve ever done.” Especially since I didn’t tell anyone I was going and had no idea where the city of Windsor Ohio was. I just knew it was 40 minutes from my church.

I wish I would have video of just how dark it was driving out there. It was the kind of dark that even when you have your brights on, it doesn’t matter. It’s still dark. Literally this is the middle of nowhere. Where you pass a farmhouse every quarter of a mile. Where you pass a car only every few minutes or so. Or sometimes not at all and it freaks you out and you think, “Am I still in Ohio?!”

After 40 minutes, I arrive and pulled into a gravel lot, almost missing the small sign that indicated it was just to my left.

I got out of the car and locked it, which is laughable because there was literally not a soul around. I couldn’t see much at first because the shrine itself was blocked by the gift shop. I thought initially that I had the wrong place.

But when I walked a few yards towards what seemed like the right way to go, I turned and saw this sight:

15042000_10154043966077544_785485455238980838_oI actually don’t have photos of my initial location which was about 2 football fields away. But even from that far off I could see she was radiant. The other thing I couldn’t get over was the quiet. Total silence. Not a car. Not a cricket. Not an owl. Not a deer. Nothing. I think the only noise was the sound of all the electricity from the light bulbs that lit her up.

Silence.

Darkness.

The only light was coming from this huge statue and the bulbs that make up the Rosary that surrounds her.

14991099_10154043966272544_4891344992547360578_o14991178_10154043966577544_5067789008528229866_o14991447_10154043966587544_3940244573465018726_o

It really felt like this was my way of turning off the world. Just me and this 50′ tall statue.

In the middle of nowhere.

And it was exactly what I needed at that moment.

I don’t have video of it and I know the pictures may not do it justice. So I would encourage everyone to experience something like this for yourself. It doesn’t have to be in Windsor Ohio. It can be your own backyard. It can be in front of the Blessed Sacrament. It can be reading a book. It can be in your room, just praying and meditating.

But I really do think we could all use some silence in this chaotic world. We all need to just take the time to realize what is really important. What’s important is NOT who is President. What’s important is NOT how your best friend votes or how your cousin votes or anyone else.

What’s important is how we can all do our part to develop relationships with one another, to make a real difference in this world, to realize our potential and to learn from each other. We can only do that if we silence ourselves and listen.

I didn’t really do a lot of listening in my young adult years. Or if I did listen to anyone, it was the culture. And friends. Which is probably what led me to vote for our current President. Twice. And I can’t really tell you why exactly. I like to blame the fact that I lived in Chicago for 8 years (and lived there during his first term) and so it was basically you voted for him, or else. Plus, I bought into the Hope and Change slogans. I really thought a President would change my world.

I had put my faith in man to save me and this country.

And I slowly, gradually, realized I was foolish to do so.

So as I sat there praying and looking up at Mama Mary, all these years later, all alone, I was comforted because I knew the sun was going to rise on November 9th, no matter who was elected.

I left there somewhat elated, actually. I was reassured that this world is just a temporary stop on the way to our final home.

So it shouldn’t cause me to melt or to become angry or end relationships and friendships over something like an election.

Because, honestly, my guy already won.

 

 

The Gift of a Public Faith

“Authentic Christianity is meant for the world and will always be a challenge to the corruption of the world.” – Bishop Robert Barron

rf

The past few weeks I’ve heard and experienced a very clear message from several public figures in the Catholic world: Faith wasn’t meant to be privatized. Christianity is not a privatized religion. It must be shared publicly in order to fight the resistance of the world.

I think now, more than ever, it seems we need more public displays of Christianity.

Why?

Well, not only to fight off evil, which is a good enough reason of course. But more to dispel the myths of who Christians are and what they look like and how they act. To clear up the confusion! Because I gotta tell you, there are a LOT of confused people out there who have a warped idea of who an authentic Christian is.

Due to the rise of secularism and people identifying as being either non-religious or just plain old “spiritual,” a common assumption is that we are all just like the group of Westboro Baptists. I was astounded to hear this!  Not only is this completely FALSE but it’s also disgusting and hurtful to be associated with this very very small group of individuals. In doing research for my post today I actually went to their website just to confirm that this group has nothing good to say and I was right. Sadly, they are all very misguided. They preach hate. Plain and simple. It was sickening and most of all, discouraging.

I thought to myself, “This is what non-Christians think of us? That among the 30,000 different denominations of Christianity, we are all associated with these people who preach nothing but hate and make it their duty to protest funerals?”

Isn’t this even more of a reason to publicly express our faith and what we believe, in love and with compassion? It won’t do us much good to retreat to our cozy homes or stay inside our churches and just keep our faith to ourselves.

So it starts with us; with me and you.

But where to begin?

The smallest acts can go a long way

Something as simple as saying grace before every meal, even when you’re someplace like a fast food place or a restaurant can go a long way.  How? Well, because you are being SEEN. Others notice that kind of thing. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said grace before eating a meal and have gotten just a simple smile from across the room from folks. Almost like a nod of approval or a just a simple gesture to show that they respect it. And it serves as a reminder to others that may have stopped practicing this ritual.

I read somewhere recently to always pray before eating a meal at a restaurant and make sure to pray before the waiter/waitress leaves the table after placing the order. That way, you take that moment to ask him/her if you can offer up any prayers for them, too!

It could be something like just bringing your Bible somewhere. Or the Magnificat or the Liturgy of the Hours. Plenty of people are nosy, I have found. They’ll strike up a conversation with you just about anywhere. (Unless it’s just a friendly Midwestern USA thing?)

Take for example, reading a book. Any place that’s public like a beach, or park or commuting on the bus or at the airport is a place where you find many people are reading while waiting for something. I’m always curious what people are reading so I have no problem just asking someone, “What book is that and is it any good?” Fr. Tom of the TOB Institute mentioned that he brought his Breviary with him on a fishing boat recently and it always gets the locals talking and asking him, “What’s that? Is that a Bible? You some kind of holy man or something?” It’s a great icebreaker.

I will give just one small example from my own life that I thought was interesting. It took place at the car dealership where I was getting my oil changed. Of all the places, I ended up evangelizing to the service guy!  He initiated the conversation by asking, “So is it Sister Michelle? I noticed that book in your car when I went to move it.” The book in question was called A Vowed Life that one of my dear friends loaned to me.

I laughed and said “Oh no, it’s most definitely not Sister Michelle.  But funny you should mention that because I’m actually discerning consecrated life, which is different than religious life.” So he proceeded to ask me all kinds of questions about that which was fantastic. Then I went to see my sales guy and he had heard from the service guy what we talked about and so then HE proceeded to ask me more questions about consecrated life and what that would look like, etc. So we had an awesome conversation about discerning one’s vocation. Both of these men had discerned married life so I explained how and why I discerned that married life is not my vocation and how I came to that conclusion. What a place to have this random encounter, at a car dealership of all places.

The point is that when out in public, and not just in the pew, we are being seen. We are being observed. Is our conduct in line with what our faith teaches us? Are our actions one of faith or one of what the culture tells us we should be doing? Are we going to let non-religious people stereotype us as “those hateful bigots?” Or are we going to stick up for what we believe while simultaneously preaching the love of Christ?

The public square is open. It’s up to us if we’re going to step into it and declare our faith to all who can hear.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Gift of: Being a Witness

caravaggio_-_the_incredulity_of_saint_thomas

This past Sunday we celebrated Divine Mercy Sunday. And the Gospel was the story of St. Thomas and how he doubted that Jesus was risen from the dead.

So this got me thinking “What do mercy and the story of St. Thomas have in common?”

What I came up with was this: We have to show mercy to those who doubt us. Those who doubt our faith. Those who doubt the existence of Jesus, they doubt His love. They doubt not only His existence…they doubt His existence within us.

That’s probably why we take it personally (okay I take it personally, speaking for myself) when people say they are skeptics or doubters or unbelievers. It’s like they are saying they don’t believe in us. And we are sitting right in front of them and talking to them yet they say “I don’t believe.”

I’m actually quite hurt by four simple words – “I don’t believe you.”

It’s one thing for people to say they don’t believe in God. Okay, I get it. Well, actually I don’t get it but I’ll accept that you believe that.

But what I’ve noticed is that when you try to explain to a non-believer how God has shaped and completely changed your life only to hear them say they still don’t believe – that’s crushing and really devastating.

If I may be completely honest, this is what causes me sleepless nights. I know there’s doubters among us. And some of them I’m very close to. But they doubt any existence of God, causing a huge (and unspoken) rift in our friendship.

But then we come back to mercy. How would I begin to try to help untwist their “unbelief” while still showing them mercy?

I would need the same kind of reaction Jesus got from Thomas. I would need my Thomas’ to take notice and say, “Wow, this person went through something. This person lived through something. I might not relate to it directly but I believe they experienced something profound.”

There’s a name for this. It’s called being a witness.

We can all be a witness, actually.  One way to is through the spoken word, usually the most common and most popular, in my opinion.


 

I never heard a witness talk until 3 years ago on a young adult retreat. I hadn’t even been on a retreat since maybe 8th grade. I was long overdue.

The first witness speaker on this particular retreat had quite the story. She told an incredible story that although it wasn’t directly relate-able to my life, it was a human experience that all of us in that room found very moving. It was incredibly sad and touching and left not a dry eye among us after it was over.

I have since been on numerous retreats and made Renewal at my parish where I heard more witness talks. And just last fall I had the privilege of being one of those witness speakers.

I cannot even begin to tell you how healing it is to share your journey with others. With total strangers! It was scary at first, but I was SO ready to get back up and share it all over again as soon as I was finished. Ever since, I have felt a calling of sorts to speak my story.

I have gone back and forth with myself if I should share my story here but it really truly is best HEARD and not READ. (Reminds me of my Spiritual Director who gives such great homilies but was hesitant to share them on his blog for the same reason. “Homilies are meant to be heard, to be proclaimed, not read.”)

Another priest mentioned in a homily recently on the same topic of witness talks:

“I couldn’t help but think what a different place the world would be if each of us had the opportunity, the desire, the incentive to tell and share these stories of faith or be attentive to other’s stories. How God’s presence would be irrefutable, overwhelming and certain for those who don’t believe or struggle to see God near…This is the message we are called to live – with our words and in our actions – so that others who say, “Show me” will be able to exclaim, “We have seen the Lord!”


 

So the challenge is how can I, how can anyone for that matter, share their witness with others who are open to hearing it? We can’t just blurt it out. We can’t just tell people our messy problems and expect them to understand us better than ourselves. But what we can do is invite them in to our mess.  And they can see how Jesus cleans it up!

Because, you know, Jesus didn’t force Thomas to touch Him. He invited Thomas to touch His wounds. So…wouldn’t that suggest to us that we invite people into our mess?  Our brokenness? Our struggles?

I’m gonna go out on a limb and answer yep! (Finally after years of going to mass I think I’m finally getting this whole “applying the Gospel to your life” thing).

So consider this your formal invitation into my broken world.

Hopefully, if you ever have the chance to hear my witness story, you can say “Truly, the Lord has been at work in this woman’s life!”

From there, maybe you can find Him at work in your life too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Gift of: A Happy Death

O Blessed Joseph, who died in the arms of Jesus and Mary, obtain for me, I beseech you, the grace of a happy death. In that hour of dread and anguish, assist me by your presence, and protect me by your power against the enemies of my salvation. Into your hands, living and dying, Jesus, Mary, Joseph, I commend my soul. Amen

March 10th 2016 will mark three years since my Mom passed away.

I’ve written about Mom in the past – this one is the fan favorite.

I wanted to write about so many things today in an effort to celebrate this most blessed anniversary of hers.

But after several drafts and re-writes, it seems I’m supposed to write about those 3 days. A Friday, Saturday and a Sunday 3 years ago.

Clearly, this will be a brief version with just the highlights.

There were many of us in the family that were there those 3 days but in an effort to protect their privacy, I’d like to just share my own views of those final days of my Mom’s life.


 

She requested hospice on a Friday and was gone by Sunday. 3 days…just like someone else we know.

“I hope I’m making the right decision.” She just kept repeating that…over and over. How do you even respond to that?

She was incredibly lucid in those first hours, especially that first day, to the point where we were in disbelief that the hospice nurse said she wouldn’t last more than 2 more days.

“But it’s Friday! What do you mean she won’t make it the weekend? This IS the weekend!”

It’s incredibly surreal – The hospice nurses instruct you when and how to administer the morphine and it’s like watching a movie, almost like it’s happening to someone else’s family.

“Will she tell us when she needs the morphine? How do we know if it’s too much? Or not enough?”

But then it becomes too real and you just want it to be over. But you can’t wish for that because this isn’t your battle. This is hers and you just have to be there.

We were told that she is going to go through a “life review” which at first you don’t quite believe but then you actually witness it. And it’s heartbreaking and mesmerizing and awesome and awful all at once.

By Saturday we had to laugh at certain points because if we didn’t we’d go nuts.

“She’s going to be so mad when she sees what she’s wearing and that we let the hospice nurses see her like this.”

The worst moment for me – I sat at her feet when she was in the recliner (before she had to move to the hospital bed) and just looked up at her and realized this was it. I cried at her feet and I can still hear her saying and repeating, “It’s okay, it’s okay. It’s going to be okay.”

She eventually she had to be moved to the hospital bed. She just kept looking at it. She knew her own mother died shortly after being moved from the recliner to the hospital bed. I’m sure that’s what she was thinking. I know she was trying to prolong her stay here as long as she could. Not for herself, but for us. To spare us the pain of seeing her die.

She said goodbye to my nephews who recorded a beautiful voicemail for her that we played on speaker so everyone could hear. The look on her face as she listened was pure joy. I had never seen her smile like that in weeks. It was probably the most heartbreaking moment of all as we realized this was the last time she’d hear their young voices. Her grandsons were her source of joy. Hands down, they were her world. Especially Sean since he was so young and so oblivious to what was happening to “G.”

Time for a sidenote/side story:

Just two weeks prior to her death, she had ended up in the hospital again to drain fluid from her lungs. I was having a particularly bad time dealing with this and went over to my sisters to see the boys. Sean (the younger of the two) was hanging out with my brother-in-law. Out of the blue he pointed out that “Daddy has a cut on his head from shaving.” I glanced and saw, yes indeed he had a tiny cut on his head. Sean was asking me to look at it. I said I saw it but was clearly preoccupied with my Mom’s illness to not particularly care all that much.  Sean looked me in the eye and said in his sweet little 4 year old voice: “I’m going to pray that my Dad is healed from that cut. Because you know what auntie? God hears my prayers. Did you know that? He hears my prayers.”

Twice. My nephew said this twice and looked at me in the eye as if he was channeling someone.  I just looked at him and almost started crying. I wanted to tell him, “God DOES hear your prayers. And right now can you please pray that G is healed? Please?! I don’t want to lose my Mom!”

But I didn’t. I just remember that moment as being so surreal. How innocent a child prays. It wasn’t even a question – “Do you think God hears my prayers??” It was a STATEMENT. “God hears my prayers Auntie.” I will never forget that.

Sunday – I remember that morning as the one that my Mom saw her Dad. She spoke to him and said things like “Daddy, I’m afraid.”

“Afraid?  This wasn’t in the brochure! She’s not supposed to be scared!”

She also said things that were incomprehensible as she flowed in and out of lucidity. Sometimes her eyes were opened and she spoke but you could tell she wasn’t talking to us. I don’t recall responding too often so as not to confuse her. But I also felt like if I spoke or responded to her, that would be…rude. 🙂  She was clearly having a private conversation with someone and I was not about to interfere with that.

It was a sunny day and I thought “What a beautiful day to leave and go home!”  However, things didn’t progress that well. In fact, we called the hospice nurse on call to tell us what to do. We were concerned she was in pain! After all, she kept saying she was afraid. So that must mean she’s in pain, right?

“She’s in spiritual pain. Have you prayed with her?” – the hospice nurse asked.

The look on my face was complete embarrassment.

Had I prayed with my mother on her deathbed?  NO! Duh!!! What the heck was wrong with me?

I prayed with her as best I knew. I think many of us said the Our Father because that seemed to be the only prayer we all knew.

“How do you pray with someone who can’t hear you and can’t speak?”

I was clueless.

Sunday evening – We called her priest to come and give her last rites. He also managed to ask a question I was all too embarrassed to NOT know the answer to –

“What’s your mother’s favorite prayer?”

I went from feeling like a decent daughter to being the worlds worst. I had never even bothered to ask my Mother’s favorite prayer.

We ended up praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet at her bedside which I think she would have approved.

Shortly before she passed, I ran out of “prayers” and instead took all the cards anyone had ever sent her and read them all out loud to her. I took her hand, told her it was okay for her to go and said I would see her in the morning.

My dad took over the “shift” change.

I went up to bed and prayed and cried to God to please ease my Mom’s sickness.

An hour later she passed away with my Dad at her side.

I don’t even recall crying. I immediately thought God heard my prayer just an hour before.  (Thanks to Sean for restoring my faith in prayer).


 

My Mom was always happy and forever smiling during her life and in countless pictures.

As her body lay there, I stared at her. She looked so….GOOD! As if she would just sit up and say, “What are you looking at? Be happy for me! I’m home!”

I couldn’t help but think …

…that’s how you die a happy death.

 

10299976_10152624233822544_7718034139873253230_n