Sunday, September 2, 2012

I'm Still Here

I was standing in the kitchen this morning, buttering an English muffin, when I had the powerful sensation that I simply had to attend Mass today.  I haven't been to church since July 22, when the Mass I had offered for my friend Tara was said.  And then before that, I hadn't been to church in quite some time.

So I did.  I got showered and dressed and brushed the slight hangover out of my mouth and drove through the rain to that beautiful building.

At Mass, I discovered the priest who had been removed during Lent 2011 was back.  I had read in the National Catholic Reporter that he had been found suitable for return to the ministry.  And I was thinking of him pretty much through the entire hour.  How it must have been to be removed and know what people are thinking of you, and then to return, and wonder what people think of you now?  But I'd hazard to guess that even that pain isn't but a fraction of what the abused child has to endure.


I didn't put anything in the offering basket.  I'll probably send a check to the LCWR.  Is it wrong that part of me hopes for a fracture?  For a schism?  Why can't I have my catholic cake and eat it, too? 

I feel wrapped up in the birth control mandate, and the fortnight for freedom, and what I interpret to be a power grab aimed at women religious. 

My Church continues to make me cry.  Really, not most of its people, but its bureaucracy.  Save for one now deceased Jesuit Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, who, in his final dying interview, implored the Church to change, or risk losing more and more parishioners. 

A few choice quotes from that interview: 

-"The Church is 200 years out of date.  Why don't we rouse ourselves?  Are we afraid?"

-"Our culture has aged, our churches are big and empty and the church bureaucracy rises up, our rituals and our cassocks are pompous."

-"A woman is abandoned by her husband and finds a new companion to look after her and her children. A second love succeeds. If this family is discriminated against, not just the mother will be cut off but also her children."

-"The Church must admit its mistakes and begin a radical change, starting from the pope and the bishops. The paedophilia scandals oblige us to take a journey of transformation."

Sounds like a gracious man truly grappling with the role of the Church in the modern world.  I hope his voice continues to resonate.


Thursday, May 3, 2012

It's been over two months since Tara died.  Sometimes I think of that and I'm blown away. 

She was cremated.  Her remains stood in a box the the funeral home, surrounded by some pictures.  There were many, many people present, and her husband gave a wonderful eulogy.  As did her best friend.  All of this while her 3-year old daughter, a pixie of a thing, wound her way around everyone's calves as we stood listening.  Listening to words and to music.  And of course, everyone crying. 

Her final decline was rapid.  It's hard to think of someone's three-year fight against cancer and frame it in any way that it seems merciful.  But if there was one thing about it that was merciful, it was that she was transported to hospice on a Thursday evening, and had passed peacefully by 7:30 on Friday morning.


I did well for about half of Lent trying not to yell at my kids.  That was my 'sacrifice,' and believe me, if you have kids, it IS a sacrifice.  There is a lot of pleasure in yelling, "What in the name of God are you thinking?"  Or, "If I have to come up there..."  Or, "early bedtimes for all!" 

But, you know, sometimes it becomes too easy, and too natural, and one thing I try (very imperfectly) to keep in my mind is that Tara would want me to try to be gentle with my kids.  And everyone else.  I mean, sure, she'd probably agree that I need to give them holy hell every now and then, but really, why waste too much time with vinegar when honey can work too? 

Still, I started failing about three weeks in.  I should tell you that my kids gave up nothing for Lent.  They did chores for money, and sent the money in to a relief organization in Haiti called Hands Together.  You should have seen their faces when they got back a thank-you letter addressed to them. 


My kids and a friend of theirs had their own memorial service for Tara, which was disorganized and involved prayers I'd never heard of.  They dressed in black and held her funeral card and I had to stop myself from stopping them.  It seemed too morbid, but I knew they'd seen me upset and heard me talk about her, to David and to my friends, and they knew when she was still alive that she wouldn't be for long. 

Kids can have the most beautiful and tender hearts.  That's what they wanted to do, in a world that suddenly seemed to contain a diminished level of control.  So I let them. 


My eldest has been having a hard time at school, with one child in particular.  It has been stressing her out, and she's been displaying signs of anxiety at home.  Right around the time Tara died, I remember talking with Hannah about her classmate.  I told her, "I need you to stand up for yourself, but I will intervene if I have to.  I'll always be here for you." 

And she said to me, "Not if you die." 

And everything I had been trying to hold in came out like water from the Johnstown flood. 

Thursday, January 12, 2012

I Can't Possibily Title This

Do you believe in miracles?

Generally, I do, when I'm not feeling punchy or bitter or faithless. That is, sometimes I believe the hand of God, which is always present, directly intervenes. Stopping the persistent procession of cancer cells, or reversing brain damage; restoring hearing or bringing the clinically dead back to the land of breath and warmth.

This story seems to be one such miracle. When people begin to discuss organ donation, the outlook is pretty bleak. And when a neurosurgeon has no answer as to why a recovery as drastic as this took place, and actually uses the word 'miraculous,' well, I just have to go with it.

What I don't get is the why. Why are some people granted this affirmative answer to their fervent prayers? And why are some left to try to find the hand of God elsewhere, residing somewhere, though perhaps obscured, in the haze and mad swirl of grief?

I am praying for a friend. A lot of people are praying along with me. When I've visited her, we've had discussions that would normally make me crawl on the floor towards a corner, only to fall and wrap myself tightly into a fetal ball. I hold it together until I get into my car. I suspect a lot of the other people in her wide circle do the same.

Thus far, the answer to the biggest prayer has been no. And it is a no that I chase out of my brain, or drown out with another prayer. I entreat everyone I can -- St. Jude, St. Peregrine, the Mother of God herself -- to intervene. I call the saints, soft and ethereal in their watercolor robes, to petition Christ to reverse the irreversible. I call on Mary, sitting and mourning with Christ's body on her lap.

I am trying to turn that no into a yes. A lot of people are trying to turn that no into a yes.

I try to remember the biggest thing. That the soul survives death. Sometimes when I run, Alanis Morrisette reminds me to remember it: "How 'bout not equating death with stopping?"

But we're talking a young person. With a family. I don't know. The stakes are really high.

I also don't know how to conclude this. Except to say that the litany continues. And today, Thursday, the Luminous Mysteries. In reading about meditations on the Wedding at Cana, we can think about how "no situation of human need is outside the scope of God's healing interest and care."

So in the direst of situations, the human need to be present as a flesh and blood mortal, I continue to speak and ask and plead.