Sunday, November 24, 2019

Out of Nowhere






     Tonight I had some time to myself and decided to take the little red convertible out for a drive in the cool evening night.  I had the top down, heater turned all the way up (it was 62 degrees) and the seat warmer on.  I was driving down a two lane road when the song "Eye in the Sky" by Jonatha Brooke came on.

     The last time I heard all of this song was 5 years ago driving in a different convertible, on a two lane road in Sahuarita, AZ with Theresa sitting in the passenger seat.  She wasn't feeling good but wanted to go out in the cool night air for a drive and wanted to hear this song.  It was one of her favorites, especially the version above.  I remember that night like it was yesterday.  This totally caught me off-guard.

     I remember what she was wearing, a green scarf she bought in Ireland, a brown leather bomber jacket, jeans and a big heavy blanket wrapped around herself. When the song ended she turned to me and said, Thank You for playing that song for me and thank you for taking me out to enjoy this night..   It was such a powerful memory.  Little did I know on that cool night in Southern Arizona that just 144 short days later she would be gone from our lives forever.  I remember being told that this process would be like waves in the ocean crashing into you.  It amazes me that something as simple as a song can trigger such an intense memory from many years ago.

May her memory be eternal.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

This Should Be Required Watching

I found this today and watched the entire Ted talk.   I say this should be required watching for anyone who has lost someone, is losing someone or will lose someone.  Mad props to her for this talk.


Saturday, October 26, 2019

A Life Well Lived

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2019 was like any other day in our family.  Mom and Dad both went to work, the adults went to their jobs, and the kids to school.  I was sitting on my couch grading papers watching the World Series when my mom called at 6:58 pm.  I missed her first call because my ringer was off  and the phone was on the counter.  I was not used to getting a call from my mom during the week so I followed up a missed call with a return call a few minutes.  It went straight to voicemail.


She called me about 20 minutes later and said through tears, "Jennie, your dad is dead.  He's here in the house.  Can you come over?"  I was in shock, went to my room, and asked to her to repeat what she said.  She said it again with panic rising up in her voice.  I remember sobbing in my room while I waited for Patrick to come home.  My brother in law was here visiting for my mother in laws birthday and he came to the room to console me.  I remember sitting on the floor in the bathroom crying loudly with my arms around my knees and my legs scrunched up to my body.  I was rocking back and forth in a state of total confusion.  My husband was at the gym, the girls were at Joel's house.  

As soon as Patrick got home we rushed over.  I had so many thoughts swirling around in my head ... how can this be, he's only 67, we just saw him three days ago at the pumpkin patch.  It's just not possible.  I immediately wanted to go to him.  I knew he was at the house in the living room.  The police would not let us enter through the front door because they have to treat the area like a crime scene, taking pictures, examining the body etc ...

All I could think about is how my mother must have felt looking around the house for him, calling his name, then stumbling upon his lifeless body.  You see October 22nd was a normal day for my dad.  He went to work, came home, pulled in the trash, even changed out a part on the pool leaving a box in the recycle bin as evidence.  He had stopped to get himself dinner knowing my mom would be at church teaching.  He turned on the TV to Fox News and had it going in the front room while he went out to the living room where their computer sat.

We now know that heart disease caused him to have a cerebral stroke.  He died instantly and fell out of his computer chair.  I take comfort knowing that he was not in pain.  We bear the burden of the pain now when we think about just how fast it happened.  You wish that you had held on longer on that last hug.  We took the girls to the Pumpkin Patch just three days before dad died.  We went to lunch after and had to leave abruptly because Emma got sick.  I didn't get to say goodbye.  I do remember sitting across from him watching him eat chicken nuggets and drinking his favorite drink, lemonade.  He called me about an hour after we got home asking how Emma was feeling.  That's just the kind of dad/grandpa he was.  He always looked out for us and wanted to be sure his "girls" were ok.  I'll never forget the trip we were able to take to Disneyland with my parents this summer.  You debate sometimes, can we afford this?  Let me tell you, it was a stretch for me to get the girls there but I'm so glad we did.  These trips and moments with family are priceless.  I'd much rather save for travel with my family then spend money on things that fade with time.






Dad was a man of a strong faith.  It was a quiet faith, but you knew it was there when you got into his car and saw all of the prayer cards he had around his dash.  We found a miraculous medal on his nightstand as well as rosaries and prayer books.  I know it hurt my dad to see how far I fell away from the church in my 20's and 30's.  Both he and my mom are a huge reason for my reversion.  I'm certain of it.  If you knew my dad, you knew he was funny always had a joke to tell or a smile on his face.  He knew how to make us all laugh.  I'm going to miss that so much.  I was looking back on photos the other day and the ones from Father's Day came up.  I didn't know that would be my last Father's Day with my dad.



One thing I remember about October 22nd was taking my students to adoration.  We have a family whose father is struggling through a cancer diagnosis.  I knew it was the feast day of St. John Paul II and I prayed in front of the Blessed Sacrament for a miracle for the Hammond family.  Little did I know, my dad needed a miracle of his own.  His heart was in bad shape and none of us knew just how precarious his condition was.   I know how proud my dad was that his daughter came home to the church.  He loved telling people I was a Catholic school teacher.  To go from leaving the faith, to teaching the faith, is quite a turn around.   I am forever grateful for the prayers this man offered (likely in front of the Blessed Sacrament)  that brought me back to the Lord.  My dad loved going to adoration.

A photo I took of the blessed sacrament just hours before he died.


My dad watched me go through some very hard times when my first marriage ended.  One thing I'm forever grateful for is that he was there to see me marry Patrick.  He walked me down the aisle, with my mom, beaming with pride and love.  He knew his daughter would loved and honored by the man who was waiting for me at the altar.   Dad loved Patrick.  You could just tell how proud he was to tell people his son in law worked for the FBI.  He loved discussing politics with Patrick.  If you know my dad, you know he was opinionated about politics.  Patrick would just listen to him and let him spout off all of his Fox News wisdom with a smile and a chuckle.  I love this photo of the two of them together at the St. Joseph's festival a few years ago.  Patrick reminds me of my dad in so many ways ... a man of God, a faithful and loving husband and father, and someone who loves me deeply.



If there is one thing anyone can learn from a sudden and unexpected death of a loved one it is that life is SHORT.  Today could very well be your last day on earth.  Are you in a job that you love, are you in a marriage where you are being honored, are you right with God?  If the answer is no, then change that RIGHT AWAY.  You just don't know when you will be called home.  67 is pretty young these days to be called to the Lord, as we have technology and medicines that should allow us to live well into our 80's now.  My dad didn't get to see those extra years, but I think that is just because his soul was perfected and God was ready for another servant in heaven.  When my husband lost his wife at a young age to cancer his priest said that sometimes it just takes less time to perfect a soul and that the departed may be able to able to do more for us from the other side of the kingdom. I take great comfort in those words during this time.  


May your memory be eternal, my beautiful and loving father.  I miss you so much!   











Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Unequally Yoked and Protecting Innocence

     Of all the things one deals with in a second marriage, not much thought is given to what happens when the children spend time at a church that has a different, dare I say wrong, worldview on things.  Yet, this is one of the great stressors that comes out of a civil divorce and annulment of a Protestant and Catholic.

     In the Encyclical Quemadmodum, Pope Pius XII wrote:  "In the light of such words and sentiments, Venerable Brethren, you see with what love, diligence and care the Church looks after infants and children following the lead of her Founder.  While she exercises all possible care to see that they be provided with food, shelter and clothing for their bodies, she does not ignore or neglect their souls which - born, so to speak, from the breath of God - seem to portray the radiant beauty of Heaven.  Her first care and endeavor is, then, to preserve their innocence from stain and provide for their eternal salvation. Quemadmodum, Section 9.



     This unequal yoke came up a few months ago when one of Jennie's girls came home and asked, "Why does the Catholic Church hate gay people?"  "After all, they can't help it that God made them that way". "Love is love and they should be able to marry the person they love".   It was not a difficult thing to figure out where these questions and statement came from.  The Ecclesial community they attend 1/2 the year is rupturing over same-sex marriage, same-sex attraction and ministry.

     The teaching of the Catholic Church on same sex marriage and same sex attraction is clear. From the Catechism of The Catholic Church there are several points to reference.


  • 2357 - Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex.  It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures.  Its psychological genes remains largely unexplained.
  • 2358 - The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible.  This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes from most of them a trial.  They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity.
  • 2360 - Sexuality is ordered to the conjugal love of man and woman.  In marriage the physical intimacy of the spouses becomes a sign and pledge of spiritual communion.
  • 2363 - The spouses' union achieves the twofold meaning of marriage: the good of the spouses themselves and the transmission of life.  These two meanings or values of marriage cannot be separated without altering the couple's spiritual life and compromising the goods of marriage.


     While questions asked above are bound to come up, how can one of the parents not see the teaching of their ecclesial community, the almost militant insistence on accepting of something that is morally objectionable is not a violation of the duty to preserve their children innocence from stain and provide for their eternal salvation?


    
     So, what is a Catholic parent to do when faced with this burden?  Here are some general discussion points to consider:

  • Once it has become evident that the child is hearing something that is a violation of their innocence, lay out the teaching of the church.
  • People with same-sex tendencies are to be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity.
  • Teach that respect, compassion and sensitivity do not mean acceptance of the behavior.  
  • Teach that the church is a hospital for sinners.  And like any hospital, you do not get to dictate the terms of your treatment plan.  
  • When faced with someone saying that "God made them this way",  teach your children that God did not make man to sin.  It was the disobedience of man that brought sin, and death into the world.  
  • Teach your children basic logic.  For example, if the false argument is put forth that God made same sex attracted couples the way they are and thus must be accepted without any questions, have the children ask "Did God make serial killers the way they are?"  If so, we must accept them without question.  Simple logic causes that question to fall flat.
  • Teach the faith to them all the time.  Be living examples of it and do not be afraid to give a defense for the hope that is in you.  
  • Finally, realize that this false dichotomy the children are exposed to in the non catholic community is what they are exposed to in the world.  Realize that this is a good training ground for them to learn how to understand their Catholic faith and how to defend it when faced with morally objectionable material.








Sunday, May 12, 2019

Imperfectly Perfect

A Letter To My Boy On Mother's Day

     Mother's Day 2019 is the 4th Mother's Day since your world was turned upside down.  While each passing year makes it easier, I know this day is not easy for you.  It took many years of trying and medical procedures before we were able to bring you into the world and make your Mom a Mother.  Your Mom did her best to give you everything that she thought you needed.  She would stay up late, wake up early, rush out the door to work and rush back home.  And in a matter of 10 short months, all of that was taken away from you.





     One of the biggest fears of any parent is the loss of innocence in their child.  We do everything we can to extend your childhood, to protect you from the ugly realities of the world we live in.  And yet, in a blink of an eye, all of that is taken away and our children are forced to confront the imperfect world we live in.  For the next couple of years after April 2016, I worried constantly about your happiness, your mental toughness and that empty hole in your heart.  I tried to replace her in every way that I could, but we both realized that I wasn't very good at being a Mom.  It truly takes a Mom and a Dad.



     We used to ride around in the car listening to music and one of my favorite times was when you were sitting in the front seat, singing along to Keith Urban's "You Gonna Fly".  You sang "Start living your life On the double, leave your troubles behind, You and me we're gonna be alright"  While the lyrics might have been changed a little, that last line was when I knew you were going to be alright.

     Just like it was in the beginning, I still want to protect you and keep you an innocent child for as long as I can.  That being said, I can't predict the future and I won't make unrealistic promises that life will be perfect.  The world will hand you additional challenges, and even when you want to say, "stop I've had enough" you must realize that self-pity will never make your pain go away.  It only serves to make you feel helpless, weak and tired.  I can assure you that moving forward is the only way to work through life's heartaches.

     We have both moved forward through the mess that was dumped in our lap.  We surrounded ourselves with stuff and visited places, all in an effort to mask the past.  But the greatest thing that we did was to surround ourselves with a new village of people.  A village that would give you the love you desperately needed, the love of a mother that was taken away from you and the kind  that I was not able to give to you.




     Life is not easy, life is not perfect.  However, the world is yours to tackle if you continue to work hard and move forward.  It really is the only path.  We can't go back, we can't stay still.  Time marches on and you have to march with it.

     There is no fixing what life took away from you.  I can't bring her back or the change the course of our path.  What's done is done, and what's lost is carried in your hearts and honored with your smiles and memories.  Making life perfect and trouble-free was never in my ability to provide.  However, making sure you know how to keep moving forward and recognizing the gifts that we back have been given are.



Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Memories from Google Photos

March 27, 2016 was Easter Sunday.   I remember this because Good Friday fell on the Feast of The Annunciation (3/25) that year  I certainly didn't need Google to remind me of this, yet this morning when I woke up I was greeted with a Rediscover This Day card with pictures from Pascha. Some of the pictures that stood out to me were these:






Holy Week in the Eastern Church starts with a two-day celebration of the Raising of Lazarus and The Entry into Jerusalem.  The week moves towards the sorrow of Good Friday and ultimately to the joyful news of the Resurrection.

The first picture was taken on March 22, and the other pictures were taken on Pascha (3/27) at Banner University Hospital in Tucson.  These pictures stood out to me because of the smile on Ryan's face and the backstory being that he wanted to take our basket of goodies to have a picnic with his Mom.  For us, we had been on our own Holy Week journey that started on Holy Monday with Ryan learning just how bad his Mom's condition was and him asking the tough question of "Is Mom going to die?"  When I told him the answer he was devastated and cried so much that night.  The first picture was the first time he saw his Mom after learning about her prognosis.  He climbed in bed with her and smiled. 6 days later he sat in that same bed fresh from singing "Christ is Risen from the dead, and by death he trampled death and to those in the tombs he granted life"  Through all of it, he was smiling.

That week forever changed the life of my boy.  A part of his innocence was lost that week, and a big part was lost 3 short weeks later.  Like the layers of an onion, things have come up over the years  that reveal just how much these events changed him.   His journey through Holy Week reflected the message of the Passion and Resurrection as sung by the Eastern Church.

"The whole creation was transformed with fear, when it saw you hanging on the Cross, O Christ.  The sun grew dark and the earth's foundations were shaken. All things suffered along with you, who made all things.  O Lord, who willingly endured this for us, glory to you!"

"Seeing you on the Cross today, O sinless Word, the spotless Virgin wept with maternal tenderness and her heart was sorely grieved.  Groaning in pain from the depths of her soul, she spent herself tearing at her cheeks and her hair and beating her breast pitifully:  Alas, O divine Child, O Light of the world!  Why are you fading from my eyes?  The the ranks of angels were seized with trembling and said, "O Incomprehensible Lord, glory to you."

"It is the day of Resurrection, O People, let us be enlightened by it.  The Passover is the Lord's Passover, since Christ our God, has brought us from death to life and from earth to heaven.  We therefore sing the hymn of victory..Christ is Risen from the dead!"

"Come, let us partake of a new drink, not miraculously produced from the barren rock, but from the fountain of immortality, springing up from the tomb of Christ.  In him is our firm strength.  Christ is Risen from the dead!"

"You have descended into the realm of Death, O Christ, and have broken ancient bonds which held the captive. You arose from the tomb on the third day, like Jonah from the whale.  Christ is Risen from the dead!"


"O Death, where is your sting?  O Hell, where is your victory?  Christ is risen and you are overthrown!  Christ is risen and the demons are fallen!  Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice!  Christ is risen and life reigns!  Chris is risen and not one dead remains in the grave!  For Christ, being risen from the dead, is become the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.  To Him be glory and dominion unto ages of ages."  Paschal Homily of St. John Chrysostom.

EWTN uses the phrase "Holy Week: The Week That Changed The World".  While the Holy Week I wrote about and showed photos from may not have changed the entire world, it did change the world for Ryan.  He has come so far since that week, and while challenges remain, he knows that death is overthrown through the Resurrection.

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, 
 looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God."



Friday, January 11, 2019

You Still Believe in God?

Following on the heels of my rant about people and their opinions about widows, I want to address the one question that many people ask me.  So, after all that you've been through, why are you still a believer?

The answer to that question is complex, and can be a long and winding explanation.  I'll do my best to try and keep it short.  I have written about my journey away from the church, out into the world and back on another page.  To summarize, boy grows up Catholic.  Boy wants to become a priest but his vocations director leaves priesthood to get married.  Boy gets married outside the church and runs far away.  Boy becomes a father and runs back to the church. The end.



The reality is when I found my way back to the Eastern Catholic church, I found myself all-in.  Through participation in the liturgical cycle of the church,  I convalidated my marriage, I found my way back to confession and ultimately found myself sitting in the seminary studying to be a deacon.  My reversion was strong and Diane Feinstein would have said, "The dogma lives loudly in you".  Through all the study, participation in Liturgy and giving of myself to the parish I came to see what it means in John 1:16 "From His fullness we have all received grace upon grace."



Just how full was my "grace tank" began to be revealed to me in 2015.  That was when Theresa was diagnosed with breast cancer, 2 days before I left for the seminary.  Upon returning to Arizona, it was 9 months of bad news.  Every time we hoped for something good, something bad came instead.  Yet, every time bad news came our way, I could see the grace inside of Theresa working.  She was scared.  Scared for what was coming her way, scared for what was coming to Ryan and I.  Yet, she held firmly to the promise of the Resurrection.  When her birth into eternity was close, she was given the grace of having 2 priests give her the Anointing of the Sick.  She fell asleep in the arms of the Church, with the firm promise of what was to come.  And after that, my "grace tank" began to drain.

When I was accepted into the deacon formation program, my priest said to me "Congratulations, you now have a giant bullseye on your back."  You have decided to give yourself in service to the Lord and you will be tested.  In the months after Theresa died I found myself starting to go through the motions.  I would still attend Divine Liturgy every Sunday, but my other service to the church began to wane.  No longer did I attend every solemnity.  No longer did I attend vespers.  I found myself doing the minimum things necessary, and not really doing those things very well.  I found myself writing theological papers that received the highest grades, at the same time wondering if this was real.  Yes, the 2nd year deacon candidate was starting to lose his faith.



When I returned to the seminary for year 3 I was blessed with a beautiful fiancĂ©.  That new relationship caused some issues for me with the seminary staff and those issues, coupled with the doubts I experienced throughout year 2 made the decision to leave formation easy.  Once I left, my faith was further tested by a priest who didn't seem all to interested in my new fiancĂ© and was less than welcoming when we approached for marriage.  Added to that was Ryan having issues with his mom's death and declaring, "How can we know for sure there is a God?"  Or, "how do we know that we were created by a God and not by the big bang".

By the time I moved to Phoenix in December 2017, my tank was down empty.  Once I left deacon formation, I stopped reading and studying the faith.  My attendance at Divine Liturgy was only done out of a sense of obligation.  In short I went from "why would you not go to Liturgy" to "Do I have to go to this Liturgy".  This state of emptiness went on for many months.  This all reversed course one night when Ryan declared, "I don't believe in God.  The earth was created from the Big Bang, not through a God."  Not sure how to respond to that, I took a blank sheet of paper and had Ryan draw a picture on it.  I put some words around the picture and drew a bunch of lines all over the page.  I took the paper, cut it up into a bunch of small pieces and tossed all the pieces up into the air.  I asked Ryan  how many times would we need to throw the paper into the air before it landed on the ground in the same condition it was before I cut it up.  He said it never will.

That's when I said to him, "Those who believe in a random Big Bang, devoid of any intelligent design, believe that is exactly what happened.  A bunch of matter exploded and formed life as we know it."  I said, "what do you think the chances of that happening perfectly to support life as we know it was completely random and without intelligent design?"  He said, "probably as much chance as the paper coming back together."  I dusted off my Theology books and turned to the section about Thomas Aquinas and the first mover.  I explained the principle that every object at rest remains at rest until acted on by another force.  That force is God.



And that dialogue between a boy and his Dad started the process of filling up my tank again.  I was quickly reminded of how the strong Theresa's faith was, in the face of absolute terror. I watched her grow from a woman whose horrible childhood family dynamics hung over her like a dark cloud to one that could stare in the face of death and say, "I am ready, I want to go home. I have made my peace with everyone and am ready to stand before the fearsome judgement seat"  I've witnessed a 10 year old boy deal with the death of his mom and all the struggles and doubts that come from that.  That same boy is able to sit down and have a conversation with his mom, reflecting on what the Resurrection means. That faith can only come through grace given from the Trinity.  I started praying again, I started to read and study the faith again.  And most importantly, I moved from Do I have to go to I can't wait to go.



 My tank is far from full and in some aspects I don't think it will ever be as full as it was when I applied for application into the seminary.  When people ask me, "You still believe in God after all that you've been through?", I happily answer "Yes, to whom else would we turn to?

Glory to Jesus Christ

Out of Nowhere

     Tonight I had some time to myself and decided to take the little red convertible out for a drive in the cool evening night.  I had...