Thursday, April 22, 2021

The Only Constant Is Change

 "Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice;  you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn to joy."

    Today the Phoenix Field Office leadership brought in a Catholic priest from Oakland, CA who serves as a chaplain for the Oakland Fire Department as well as the Oakland Field Office of the FBI.  The past 24 months have been months unlike any I have experienced in my 17.5 years in the Phoenix Field Office.  In the past 24 months we have had the following things happen:

  • May 2019 - Intelligence Analyst Sean Sego collapsed in the stairwell and died
  • Nov 2019 - Special Agent Dave Williams went out for a morning jog before work and died during his run
  • Apr 2020 - A man fired shots into the FBI Building in Phoenix
  • Jul 2020 - Agent involved shooting leaving 2 agents injured, subject dead
  • Oct 2020 - Jennie's father died suddenly of a blood clot
  • Dec 2020 - Agent involved shooting leaving subject dead
  • Feb 2021 - Special Agent Jimmie Daniels found dead at home 
  • Apr 2021 - Special Agent Geoffrey Young found dead at home

    SA Young died on the same day that Theresa did 5 years ago.  One big difference between his repose and that of Theresa's was the suddenness of it.  I knew for some time that things were going to end and in a rather short order.  SA Young's family did not have the luxury of knowing when his last day was going to be.  When I heard about SA Daniels and SA Young I thought of how this was going to affect their spouses and children.  I know the path that they are being forced to walk.  I'm not going to sugar coat it, it sucks.  It is like walking through a minefield, not knowing where the next blowup is going to come from.  It is a year of firsts without your spouse, without your children's parent, that always has the potential to blow up.  It is getting through the first year to realize that the second year might be more difficult than the first.  It is a journey of sad times, good times and many stops along the way.

    As I listened to Fr. Jayson this morning, he said one thing that stood out to me.  He laughed, pointed to his collar and said because I wear this I will say this.  In my tradition we know the cycle of sadness that turns to joy.  You get the joy of Easter Sunday only after the sadness of Good Friday.  That really does sum up our short journey in this life.  We experience intense sadness at times as well as intense happiness at other times.  And in between that continuum of sadness and joy we experience many spots along the way.  As the title says, the only constant is change.

    I was reminded of that as I rode the elevator this morning with a fellow employee, Pete.  He and I both were in Tucson for a period of time before he transferred to the El Paso office.  He and I share the sadness of having lost a spouse at a young age.  In May 2015 he and his family set out for a roadtrip in Texas.  They experienced a tire blowout which caused their SUV to roll over at freeway speed.  Killed in the accident were his 38yo wife and 3 kids 18, 14 and 11.  Pete woke up in a hospital to find 4 family members dead with one 6yo child surviving.  5 years ago, not yet a full year after this tragedy, he came to the funeral Divine Liturgy we had for Theresa.  I don't know how he did it but he did.  When I moved to Phoenix I realized that he had transferred back to Phoenix and had married again.  As we rode the elevator today I asked him how his wife was doing since she is about to give birth to a child.  The cycle of intense sadness and intense joy is played out in his life.  He smiled and said she was doing well and that her due date was in June.  The only constant is change.

    At some point in the past few years Jennie and I merged our Google Photo account and we see pictures of our lives, before we met and after we met.  Yesterday the photo memories that popped up for me had pictures from Theresa's funeral.  On the same day, albeit a different year, the photo memories were of a beach vacation Jennie and I took.  We have experienced that cycle of joy and sadness many times during our lives together.  We had the joy of being married and visiting France, followed shortly by a change in my Mom's health.  We went through the joy of Jennie and the girls spending the day with her dad at a pumpkin farm followed shortly the sadness of his sudden death.  This ebb and flow of good and bad reminds us that the only constant is change.

    For anyone reading this who may be about to walk the journey I have walked or is currently walking that journey, remember that we experience good times and bad times in our lives.  It is the natural rhythm of life.  One of the things that helped me get through that journey was my faith life.  When Theresa reposed my  "grace tank" was full.  I completely depleted that reserve and went into a grace deficit.  As time marched on, I have gradually been able to refill that tank through all the good times in my new families life which has helped me to get through the bad times.  Now is the time to work on building up your reserves.  As the past 24 months have shown, bad things happen all the time and usually happen unexpectedly and rapidly.  

    In your kindness please pray for the souls of all the people mentioned above and for their families who are walking this journey.  They are moving forward because the only way to go is forward.  Pray that they will receive the graces needed to find joy and happiness despite the tragedy they have experienced.

Christ is Risen!


Sunday, April 11, 2021

A Lifetime of Change in 5 Years

 "Love endures everything, love is stronger than death, love fears nothing." Sr. Faustina

    Last week was Holy Week for Catholics around the world.  The triumphant entry of Our Lord into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday led believers on a wave of emotions from joy to disbelief to sadness and finally to joy.  Five years ago Holy Week fell a little earlier in the year, March 20th to March 27th.  I remember that Holy Week like none other before it.  It was the last week where Theresa was able to have a rational conversation and the first Pascha for us spent in a hospital.

    In a blog post dated March 28, 2016, I wrote about how impressed I was with Ryan when he told me he was taking the $5 he received in his Easter basket and buying his Mom some chocolate to enjoy with our Easter dinner in her hospital room.  I took many photos during that Holy Week but this one was one of my favorites from the week.  My boy climbed up in the bed with his Mom and shared some of the Easter goodies with her.  Little did we know that she had just 20 days remaining on her earthly journey.

    Today we spent another few hours on a Sunday in another hospital room keeping my Mom company for a little while.  On Friday I received a call from Jennie that Mom had fallen on the tile floor and thought her hip was broken.  We called Phoenix Fire and had her taken to the hospital where they confirmed that she did have a broken hip.  The surgeon scheduled her for Saturday morning and they repaired the fractured hip by driving a rod into her femur and screwing it into the bone that goes into the hip joint.  When we picked Ryan up from the bus stop on Friday he knew something was up as both Jennie & I were in the car.  When I told him what had happened he got really quiet and wanted to go see her.  We were able to spend sometime with her on Friday.  Before leaving he asked for a few minutes alone with her and we left after that.

    We went to visit Mom again today after attending the Mass for Divine Mercy Sunday.  They put her in the intensive care unit because her blood pressure was really low and her heart was experiencing bouts of atrial fibrillation.  We grabbed some lunch before going to the hospital at a pizza place called Barro's.  There is a drink they have at Barro's called Stubbon Agave Cream soda that both Ryan and Mom like.  When we got to her room, Ryan took the refill he had gotten and gave it to his Grandma saying this is the cream soda we both really like.  What a flashback moment I had sitting in that room.  Instead of taking his $5 and getting something for his Mom, he took his favorite drink and gave it to his Grandma.

    We sat with her for a little over one hour and he just sat by her side to keep her company.  It gave me time to reflect on just how much Ryan has grown in 5 years since his world was turned upside down.  By no means has this been an easy journey.  We moved twice, once to Oro Valley and ultimately to Cave Creek.  Ryan started middle school in a new city and ended up in a different school for the second half of 6th grade where he remains today.  He saw his Dad get married again, bringing a whole new dynamic of stepmom and stepsisters to his world.  He has watched his Grandma go through 5 more years of cancer treatment with all the ups and downs that entails.  And all of this taking place as he grows into a man and all the hormonal challenges that come with that.  And through all of this he has finally found his stride and is doing well in school and life.   One of my phrases that I repeated again and again to him was "as humans we can not go backwards and we can not stay stuck in today.  The only way for us to move is to go forward."  
    The Second Sunday of Easter is known as Thomas Sunday in the Eastern church and Divine Mercy Sunday in the Western church.  It is called Thomas Sunday because the Gospel of John is read where Thomas was not present when Christ appeared to the 10 Apostles after his Resurrection.  Thomas said that he would not believe it was the Lord until he put his hands in the wounds of Jesus.  8 days later Christ appeared again to the 11 Apostles and told Thomas to put his hands into the wounds.  Thomas responded with a profound statement, "my Lord and my God".   Jesus said to Thomas, "You have believed because you have seen me.  Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe"

    It is called Divine Mercy Sunday in the West because Pope John Paul II canonized Sr. Faustina in 2000 on the Second Sunday of Easter and proclaimed that this Sunday would be known as Divine Mercy Sunday.  I have told Ryan the story of John Paul II, how he lost his mother at the age of 8, his brother 4 years later at the age of 12 and his father 9 years later at the age of 21.  No one in this fallen world would have blamed John Paul II had he taken a different path than he did.  He lost every family member of his by the time he was 21 and was growing up under communist oppression in Poland.  He once said that you have two choices when adversity strikes, you can become bitter or you can get better.  Rising through the clerical ranks to assume the Chair of St. Peter and remain there for more than 27 years, clearly he took the better, not bitter route.

    These two Sunday's came together today watching Ryan sit with his Grandma.  Just like Thomas, there was much doubt in his mind when we talked about the future and that things would get better.  I know for many months and maybe a couple of years he didn't believe that going forward was going to be a good route.  Through all that doubt he has chosen to become better, not bitter, and it shows with how well he has handled his Grandma's hospitalization.  For the first time in almost 5 years, I am not as concerned about how he will handle the anniversary of his Mom being born into eternity.  Glory to Jesus Christ!

Orphaned at 50

      The title of this post seems strange to write, and is probably even stranger to read.  But that is my reality right now.  I lost my fi...