Posts filed under Loss

Dancing Among the Graves {All Souls' Day}

I love going to a Catholic cemetery. And I believe it is important to take the children. Unfortunately, the first experience many kids have of tombstones involves frightening Halloween decorations -- bloody limbs reaching out of the dirt and webs and spiders everywhere -- encouraging an association between burial and horror. I'd like to teach mine instead that death is the place where God greets souls and welcomes the pure of heart into His kingdom. And to encourage them to pray for those in purgatory. Sin is real. Hell is real. But there is no fear of it rising materially in the grassy rows of headstones. 

A cemetery is a place of sorrow and goodbyes. But it is also a place of deepest prayer, serenity, and hope. As they grow, my little ones will learn soon enough how quickly the soul can turn from Christ. And how terrifying that can be. So I hope to give them the gift of Truth and Beauty and clear the cobwebs from places that should be hallowed.

I encourage you to take your children to visit a Christian cemetery. Teach them about holy death. Read the names together and touch the engravings. Pray for the living and the dead.

We picked a recent sunny day and visited our Matthew's grave site. I didn't want to leave. Not because I think he lives there. No. I know that his soul has departed and his body decayed. But because it is beautiful to think of him and to be in that place of peaceful silence. He was born to new life in 2009. My tears are for me, not for him. Because I know the truth about holy death.

We cleared the earth from around the edges and wiped the grave stone where debris and dirt had gathered. Then we circled around his memorial and my husband led us in prayer. The children were reminded that they had a brother. And that this world is not the only place where siblings dance. 

When you take your children to the cemetery for the first time, choose a cheerful day and let them run in the grass and explore the names. Let them dance and play respectfully. Let them laugh and wonder out loud. I remember the time that one of our sons discovered a tombstone bearing his full name. And he marveled and wondered about that man. What had he looked like? Where was his soul now? It did not frighten him... it drew him in. Not to death, but to the life of the soul.

Our Matthew is in the baby section where the Catholic cemeteries bury all ages of babies without charge. The little stones are covered with flowers and stuffed animals and birthday cards. On this October day, there were little pumpkins and scarecrows and pretty mums. There was an inflatable green dinosaur and a few hot wheels for the boy who left his parents at 5 years old. 

I cried. I always do a little. But my children didn't. They ran and marveled and prayed with us.

Dear Parents... please teach your children that when the soul is right with God, that death is good and holy. And to walk among the headstones is a walk of solidarity with the love of the saints for their heavenly Father. There are no monsters there. No souls remain to walk and terrify. They have been judged and moved on. There is only the sorrow of the living, the love and hope and prayer that we bring when we come... 

... And the peace of Christ which passes all understanding. 

My children know the cemetery as a place of tearful goodbyes but also afternoon sunshine, and prayer. Their brother's body is buried there. And he is beautiful.

May your feast of All Souls' be filled with joy, hope and may you enter deeply into the mystery of what it means to give all for Jesus Christ.

Thanks be to God!

For an excellent November activity to help children remember to pray and sacrifice for those who have died, check out the Ora Pro Nobis candy boxes at Shower of Roses.

How to Heal Broken Motherhood

Six women walk together along the road, silent in their thoughts. Each one is lonely, suffering, and yet comforted by the others. They are sisters, although they come from different homes, and they hold hands as they walk. Occasionally, a tear slips down a lowered cheek and a grip tightens in encouragement. Beautiful sisters. When one stumbles, the others keep her strong and straight. They support her until her heart can bear its own weight.

Unique. Loving. Suffering. Lonely in their own ways but united in the gift of their femininity and the call of motherhood; physical and spiritual. They are pouring themselves out to nurture the world and to  bring humanity closer to the heart of Christ, like Blessed Mother, one heroic step at a time...

The first woman is infertile. The harshness of that word grates at her soul and her arms ache to hold a life that springs forth from her womb. It is a longing that cannot be satisfied even as she lives life fully, using her unburdened arms to serve the needs of the world; an ache that persists even during happy times. The world is impatient and insensitive. The cross is hidden within her heart and she bravely smiles and loves. I am a woman seeking my motherhood. Sweet Jesus, where are my children?

The second woman is fertile and has born children. She is confused by the paradox of joy and suffering in her motherhood. She loves her babies and yet stumbles under the weight of the beloved little ones. The world does not see the pain of her failures and weariness. It sneers at her messy life and mocks the mystery of spousal love. The cross is hidden within her heart and she bravely smiles and loves. I am ill-equipped, Lord. How can I go on?

The third woman is a spiritual mother, a consecrated religious. She has given her motherhood and spousal love to God and has countless spiritual children. He is her beloved and she gladly offers her life for him, but the heart sometimes yearns for the loving touches of flesh. The world does not understand such sacrifice and strikes at the wound. The cross is hidden within her heart and she bravely smiles and loves. You are enough, Lord... why do I still yearn?

The fourth woman has embraced the children of others. Adopted them to be her own. She knows both the longing for love and the heaviness of sacred treasure in her arms; a heart mama who gives her body to sacrificial love. The world sees a romance while she builds a kingdom with her blood, sweat, and tears. The cross is hidden within her heart and she bravely smiles and loves. My own. Not my own. Father, how can I replace what they have lost?

The fifth woman has lost her children. Her womb was full but now is empty and she breathes through the aching like a woman perpetually in labor... and the world expects her to silence her cries of agony. She serves others heroically and gladly even while the loneliness pierces her heart. The cross is hidden within her heart and she bravely smiles and loves. Why are my arms empty, Lord?

The sixth woman has lost her child to abortion. She regrets giving over her motherhood to the hands of liars and grieves deeper than eyes can see. She has children at home but is missing one. The pain is staggering and silent but it is not her desire to forget her own... and so she embraces it, loves passionately, and stumbles on. The world rejects her grief. The cross is hidden within her heart and she bravely smiles and loves. Dear Lord, when will my soul be at rest?

If the women walk alone, they risk sinking into their pain and losing sight of joy and eternal things and the dignity of their nature. God beckons and loves and blesses... but the heart has a tendency to turn in on itself. The eyes are easily blinded by pain. A woman so easily crumples to the ground and despairs. But what if she is walking side by side with her sisters? Her path is different but parallel, and she will not be left behind.

We are sisters. We belong together. If I cannot see your cross, I trust that it is still there... or that it is coming to you someday. Our Lord does not withhold the cross from any of His beloved because he wishes us to share in His Easter. Do not despair, my friends. You are not alone. And your Easter is coming.

Do not be deceived by the hollow call to be Superwoman - it is a worldly lie designed to tear you down - but be refreshed in your title of Beloved.

You are called to love with everything you have. Get up and walk. Again and again. That is all He asks. It is the path to your healing and the beginning of freedom. He is Grace. He is Mercy. He will not let us fall farther than His grasp. He treasures the gift of our womanhood and made us to thrive. We are beautiful and gifted, not because we have struggled for it, because He has willed it. Just open the door, let Him in, and trust that His dream for your life is perfect.

Your motherhood is not about what you have missed, lost, or broken... it is about the pouring out of your love; pouring out what is beautiful and nourishing to a parched and lonely world. Pour it out, ladies.

Pour it out!

 That is the gift of our femininity. And that is how we can be healed of our own brokenness and ultimately, change the world.

Posted on January 22, 2014 and filed under Loss, motherhood, Womanhood.