Where, O, Death is your Victory?

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For those of you who mourn the death of a loved one, this is the day when we joyfully (yet often with tears in our eyes) anticipate our eventual reunion in heaven. May the powerful hope of seeing our dear ones again, that is made possible by our Lord’s victorious Resurrection, be with you this Easter season and always. Oh, what a glorious day!

Every Easter Sunday since losing my mother, I have faced Mass on this holiest of days, with the paradox of profound peace and deep sadness. While the promise of defeat over death is a balm for my wounded heart, I despair in the waiting—26 years this May to be exact. Not even a blip on the timeline of Salvation history. I wait for an inevitability that is both unwelcome and scary, my own natural death. Alas, under the strictures of this fallen world and chronological time, I will wait. And I will continue to toil so that someday I can participate in His great promise to be united with Him and my dear mom.

Eucharistic communion is a foretaste of our ultimate union with God and therefore all who sit at the heavenly banquet. I have faith that my mother sits at that table. I pray that I will sit with her.

I came across a prayer the other day by Padre Pio, who seemed to have such an uncanny understanding of our human nature. I’d like to share this prayer which is meant to be said after communion. I think it has value whether you’re grieving or not. But it particularly touched me in light of the bereaved and the trying journey we walk towards our deceased loved ones.

Prayer of Padre Pio After Communion

Stay with me, Lord, for it is necessary to have You present so that I do not forget You. You know how easily I abandon You.

Stay with me, Lord, because I am weak and I need Your strength, that I may not fall so often. 

Stay with me, Lord, for You are my life, and without You, I am in darkness.

Stay with me, Lord, to show me Your will.

Stay with me, Lord, so that I hear Your voice and follow You.

Stay with me, Lord, for I desire to love You very much, and always be in Your company.

Stay with me, Lord, if you wish me to be faithful to You.

Stay with me, Lord, for as poor as my soul is, I want it to be a place of consolation for You, a nest of love.

Stay with me Jesus, for it is getting late and the day is coming to a close, and life passes; death judgment, eternity approaches. It is necessary to renew my strength so that I will not stop along the way and for that, I need You. It is getting late and death approaches, I fear the darkness, the temptations, the dryness, the cross, the sorrows. O how I need You, my Jesus, in this night of exile!

Stay with me tonight, Jesus, in life with all its dangers. I need You. Let me recognize You as Your disciples did at the breaking of the bread, so that the Eucharistic Communion be the Light which dispersed the darkness, the force which sustains me, the unique joy of my heart.

Stay with me, Lord, because at the hour of my death, I want to remain united to You, if not by communion, at least by grace and love.

Stay with me, Jesus. I do not ask for divine consolation, because I do not merit it, but the gift of Your Presence, oh yes, I ask this of You!

Stay with me, Lord, for it is You alone I look for, Your Love, Your Grace, Your Will, Your Heart, Your Spirit because I love You and ask no other reward but to love You more and more. 

With a firm love, I will love You will all my heart while on earth and continue to love You perfectly during all eternity. 

Amen

And when this which is corruptible clothes itself with incorruptibility and this which is mortal, clothes itself with immortality, the word that is written shall come about:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.

Where, O death, is your victory?

Where, O death, is your sting?”

(1 Corinthians 15, 54-55)

A blessed, HOPEFUL Easter to all of you!

*Photo by Fernanda Marin on Unsplash

Facing Breast Cancer Like a Man

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“Hmmm… ” Slow intake of breath. “That’s right… It’s your dad who had the breast cancer…” recognition dawning as he squints at the data on the computer screen.

A solemn nod from me.

“Two separate occurrences?” he asks, though it’s more of a statement as he already knows the answer which is spelled out in clear Helvetica 10-point on the monitor before his spectacled eyes.

“Yes.”

We share a moment of deliberate eye contact. I look away first. He turns back to the digital records with renewed concentration.

No one enjoys flummoxing their doctor, unless it’s some singular distinction of good health, like having perfect cholesterol levels, or never having taken an antibiotic in one’s entire life. I can claim neither.

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Crying as We Rejoice: The Bereaved at Christmas

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I secretly cried after Mass yesterday. My kids told me that one of the new altar boys that they served with had his grandparents in town for Christmas. The enthusiastic Nanna and Papa were so gleefully proud, they couldn’t refrain from snapping photos to memorialize their beloved grandson’s biggest moments. Clearly, their hearts swelled with pride for their daughter’s treasured offspring.

On the drive home, I told my boys that if Grandma Maureen and Grandpa Jerry were living, they would have taken loads of pictures too. How proud they would be. How proud they are. “Maybe they’re taking photos from heaven…” I mused. Then the quiet tears.

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Radio-Active (my national radio interview!)

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Last week I was on the radio! And I didn’t even have to get out of my bathrobe. My recent post about the etiquette of speaking to those who are grieving got the attention of a national Catholic radio show. A producer from “Morning Air” on Relevant Radio contacted me via email asking if I’d be interested in being interviewed about my essay, “I cried with Michael Jordan.” So, I peeled myself off the ceiling and quickly replied yes. A couple days later, after gravely bribing my children to remain silent in the background, I was live on the air with John Harper of the “Morning Air” show. I can’t help thinking my parents were smiling down on me since I finally got to use the Radio part of my Radio/TV/Film degree from the exorbitantly priced Northwestern University. Thanks, mom, and dad! (My mom used to urge me to apply wherever I wanted. “If you get in,” she’d remind me, “I’ll clean toilets to cover the cost if need be.”) Such parental sacrifice they modeled for me.

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I Cried with Michael Jordan

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Certain iconic sports images of epic underdog wins and poetic last plays witnessed over the course of my life remain imprinted on my brain. Consider Tiger Woods dramatically donning the green Masters’ blazer as the first person of color, Michael Phelps shattering the record for the most gold medals, the Chicago Cubs’ curse-breaking World Series triumph against my beloved Cleveland Indians. I could easily go on, but there’s one memory that is even more enduring. Yet, I suspect many of you probably won’t even recall it.

For me, the moment crystallized not just a legendary sporting achievement, but an encounter with sadness and mourning in the midst of victory. It was Father’s Day, 1996. Michael Jordan had just won his 4th championship for the Chicago Bulls. His win was rendered even more momentous after a brief retirement and triumphant return to the sport that made him a household name. Also notable, this marked Jordan’s first major career win without the support of his father in the stands. Jordan’s dad had been murdered three years earlier.

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Fantasy Mom

Today is the 25th anniversary of my mother’s sudden death, a singular event that undoubtedly forever changed me. While the sting has lessened over time, I still struggle with the profound loss almost on a daily basis. It informs my thoughts and dreams, which may explain why I wrote this essay.

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Don’t tell anyone, but for quite a long time I’ve had a Fantasy Mom. Just as four-year-olds will gleefully gush about their imaginary friends, I’d like to brag about my Fantasy Mom. She’s the most loyal, loving, funny, kind and of course, wise mother who ever did NOT exist. Fantasy Mom is an intricate combination of my real mom, and every warm,  maternal character I’ve admired over the years.

Fantasy Mom firstly derives from the foremost matriarch, the very real Blessed Mother who quietly, yet staunchly remained at her son’s side during His greatest suffering. Despite doubtless unimaginable dread and fear, she never wavered. I’m confident she journeys alongside me too, especially as I navigate life’s more dodgy roller coasters. Her presence offers such peace and calm. She’s certainly my gold standard for all mothers. So how do you improve on sinless perfection? I mentioned this was a fantasy, right? 

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Weeping on Easter

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Photo by: Fr Lawrence Lew, O.P.

Without fail, the tears start welling up at almost the exact same time. It’s always Easter Mass. I could set my watch to it, but I’d never dare because the annoying alarm would draw even more attention at a time I’d prefer to simply disappear. Like it or not, there’s no stemming the tide of my mounting emotions. I bow my head and clench my eyes shut hoping no one around me notices. Usually, I get by without drawing too much attention to my red nose and watery eyes. But occasionally my reaction is so intense, a series of muffled involuntary sniffles gives me away. The kids or my husband will look at me with startled questioning eyes. My children especially probe my face with their intense, troubled looks. To lessen their worry, I flash a huge toothy smile and roll my eyes to let them know I’m fine—not only fine, I’m overcome with sheer joy. These are tears of complete happiness.

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