And Jesus Wept

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I was struggling a little bit over here. The whole Paul Coakley story had my heart tied in knots for days. I was following it since the whole thing showed up on my newsfeed just before Christmas. That’s right, that’s when we heard about Paul, a Franciscan University alum, “a legend” according to my sister-in-law…who had been diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer. Just. Before. Christmas.10897104_1403222956640475_8266174565688072249_n

And he passed away last Monday. Barely 3 1/2 weeks later. His beautiful wife Ann, 7 months pregnant and three young children left behind.

My heart was, is– so knotted, so heavy over this tragedy and with it being right on the heels of Sarah Harkin’s death, I just couldn’t find the words or the willpower to write about all this. The emotional upheaval I was feeling on Monday was immense. And I didn’t even personally know either Paul or Sarah. Why, why?

Do I even have a right to feel this way? So connected, involved in this yet…not? Am I allowed to feel pain? Is it strange that every time I think of Ann Coakley having to delivery her baby without the love of her life, my eyes well up with tears?

All of this really shook me. I sat on the couch on Monday, after belligerently shaking the gates of heaven for days begging God for some miracle, and finding out Paul had died. I was stunned.  I had been so convinced, so sure of a miracle coming. Shocked and numb and…a little angry was how I felt.

My head was clouded, suffocated all afternoon with question after question for God

“Why does it seem like the good people are the only ones suffering?”

“What’s the point in being a faithful disciple, if the ‘lost sheep’ is the one fought for, protected? Shouldn’t we, the ones sticking it out through thick and thin get some benefit or protection for our loyalty?”

“How is this possible within six months, two devoted, faith filled, holy parents taken–just like that– from young families? Don’t we need all the good people we can get in this hedonistic society? “

“What is the point of all this? This life? If God wants us in heaven then why the heck did he put us through all this pain, suffering?”

 

In brief, I was having extremely earthly and naive philosophical questions. Because, well… because I am a human with human thoughts and human emotions. And I ask those questions fully aware of the correct answers but I ask them because  the reality of my human nature is raw. And it doesn’t want answers. It just wants to pound it’s fists on a table and break down crying,

” It’s just NOT FAIR”

And because you read stories like this and you have a ghastly moment of awareness when you go,

“That could be us.”

And you are scared. Truly, deeply, gut wrenchingly scared. I got thinking that I wanted to be done taking risks in my life with love, because more love equals opening yourself up to risking more pain. And I can’t bear the thought of something this tragic happening to my husband, or one of my children. I want to hide, stay away from everything,

leave me alone world! if I escape and hide, maybe you can’t get me suffering!”

I took these thoughts and convinced myself that it was all Facebook’s fault. If I wasn’t on Facebook, I would have never known about either of these tragic stories. I could have been blissfully living away in my little bubble. Happily ignorant of the profound suffering that my peers were going through. Selfish, I realized. Selfishly ignorant in my selfish little safe-bubble. Because I never would have been able to pray for Paul and Sarah. To offer my measly sacrifices for them and their families, to spread their story, to keep their memories alive. To ache and mourn together, as Heather so perfectly pointed out, like we are supposed to. Because we are the Body of Christ. And when one member suffers, we all feel the pain. Because, as my husband comforted me, “This life is our chance to choose LOVE

Pope Francis’ recent quote ” This kind of suffering can only be explained with tears.”  gave me so much comfort.

"And Jesus Wept"

“And Jesus Wept”

It is profoundly tragic what has happened. But I realized how much we need contemporary married saints. Married people who are holy yet from our era, relate-able, tangible… it’s too hard to relate to these married monarchs from the 14th century. We need them to pray for us from up there! Well, now look. Thank you, Paul Coakley for being a true example of Christian fatherhood and manhood. For loving your wife, spreading joy, protecting your family and fighting with every ounce of your being for life. And thank you Sarah Harkins, for giving us young moms hope and encouragement, for inspiring us with your example of holy wifehood and motherhood. For showing us how to above all else desire God and union with Him.

This is our time now, our chance to choose to love God. Love Him when it’s hard, love Him when it’s pain, love Him when it’s suffering, and love Him when it’s joy…. and with all the mundane moments in between.

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“In my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the Church” –the Apostle Paul, Col 1:24

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Thoughts of Comfort & Confusion

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Thank you to everyone who has promoted, participated in, or read about the spiritual bouquet we are arranging for Sarah Harkins’ family! It is so amazing to virtually connect with our Catholic family and literally see how many prayers are being offered! So far almost 550 people in one day have pledged prayers! That’s incredible!

Also, for those of you who weren’t aware there is an ETSY shop that has been set up selling Anchor Memory bracelets (of hope) in honor of Sarah’s legacy.

il_570xN.634374924_moz5Please check out their shop and consider buying one! All the proceeds benefit the Harkins children and their future. I was really eager to purchase mine, because when I had initially stumbled upon her blog and read her last post about the anchor beads…. I wanted to order a bead right then to wear as a reminder to myself, to not take life for granted and to do my best to attain sainthood. Once I heard about these bracelets, I was so comforted and grateful! Like I said, I did not have a personal relationship with Sarah. We never knew each other, but something about her draws me to her story so much– I can’t get it off my mind, and I don’t want to! She inspires me in my journey of motherhood and wifehood. I am so grateful for her example. * Thank you to readers Brianna and Kathy H.  for letting us know about this!*

I feel like I don’t have the right to mourn sometimes. Because really, who am I? In all of this I should be totally unaffected. But I don’t know how to explain it. Each day, every time I log onto my computer and see something about Sarah on Facebook, or read another comment, I get choked up and I spend the rest of my day trying to shake off these conflicting feelings of hope and confusion that I have. Towards life, towards justice, towards mercy, towards God. And I feel guilty for having them, because I am not her family, her friend, or even an acquaintance. With that, I cannot fathom the depth of emotion that those close to her are going through. I just offer my sincerest prayers to them.

My confusion constantly comes back to her husband and children. Especially her husband, who so clearly adored her…how is he supposed to go on? At first I felt the worst for the children, but then I was thinking that it will be much worse for her husband because he is going to remember the most. And the memories, the encounters, the conversations, that’s where the loss is felt.Reading the blog posts she wrote, the way she constantly extolled her husband as her ‘best friend’ and love, I nearly broke my heart in two. These two were head over heels in love with each other. It’s completely obvious. Why, why, why would this happen? How could a loving God do this? Her husband’s grief must be unimaginable. His cross now, so suddenly, has been totally magnified and made heavier. Not to mention still having to work, and raise the children, keep up with the house all with his best friend whom he could turn to in the evenings… gone.  So suddenly? If the Lord wanted to take her, why couldn’t it have been an illness so that those left behind could emotionally prepare? The immature, earthly child within my soul stomps her feet and screams “It’s not fair!”

Then my good friend Diane offered me some perspective. So did my wise sister-in-law, Julie. Julie reminded me that St. Therese’s family had to experience the same kind of loss. As did St. John Paul the Great, as did St. Gianna’s family. As did many families in history. St. John Paul actually credits his vocation to a change that occurred in his heart after the loss of his mother. Zelie Martin, in her journal records how her daily prayer was that the Lord would take her children to heaven before they had a chance to loose sainthood. She so passionately (and bravely!) desired sainthood for her children, that she could detach herself so perfectly from earthly wants and emotions.  Did in fact these great sacrifices have to be made in order for a great holiness to burst forth in these families? Perhaps so. It is comforting to reflect on that.

Diane’s insight was that clearly, Sarah was ready. God did not need to purify her anymore here by letting her suffer an elongated illness. Her soul had reached it’s completion. So for Sarah, she is the lucky one. It was quick, and she was rejoicing eternally. Not even alone, she went with one of her babies to hold! Her reward was given because she was prepared. For the rest of us though, it seems harsh and awful and wrong…. but perhaps if we look at it unselfishly from Sarah’s perspective—it was such a gift for her. Also, now she knows how it will all work out in the end and she has complete peace…and nothing but interceding to do for her husband and children. No more housework, no more earthly temptation, no more suffering– just heavenly intercession. How powerful the prayers of a mother in heaven must be! Who do you think is going to pray harder than she will for the grace to get her family through their toughest times? If we know how passionately she desired her family’s holiness while still here on earth, just think of how much more perfectly passionately she desires it now— and how much more she can do about it! Yes, I think she is the lucky one.

I just had to get those thoughts out of my heart and out there. It helps, to sort through the questions and convictions– to share it. And to wrap it up, I want to leave you with comfort, that Sarah  is blessed and rewarded. I found the most comfort in words written by Sarah herself. This is a section of her post titled  “Our Real Home”

this world we live in is only a temporary home and how our real home is in heaven…It made me think of saints and visionaries who have had glimpses of heaven and conversations with Jesus and Mary that have showed them just how ordinary our world is compared to the extraordinary dwelling place of the Father.  After seeing glimpses of another world with the angels and saints, these saints have begged to stay.  Some were granted their request and have been taken to their eternal home at young ages, while others learned to use every moment here on earth preparing for the “ultimate reality” waiting for them in heaven.  It really makes me think of how I would live my life differently if I knew the true joy and love waiting for me in heaven.  I think I would spend less time making myself comfortable here on earth, and more time preparing to be in my eternal home.  I’m sure I would turn every ordinary moment into a grace-filled one so I could store up my treasures in heaven. “

Read the entirety of her post here.

 

+ Sarah Harkins, Pray for Us! +

 

 

 

 

My Heart Can’t Stop Crying

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I am so overwhelmed with emotions right now, part due to being pregnant, part due to being a woman, a mother, a wife, and part due to being apart of the Franciscan University family. A former alumni and girl I remember passing on campus tragically passed away yesterday after suffering a brain aneurysm resulting from a wasp attack. She was married to her college sweetheart from FUS, mother to four beautiful babies under the age of 7, and twenty one weeks pregnant with her fifth child.

Sarah and her baby girl, Cecilia, did not survive. Sarah’s birthday would have been on Saturday.

family photo

Yesterday, I felt as if it were my own sister. I was devastated. I couldn’t stop crying. Couldn’t stop being angry at God, for these babies! For this devoted husband! Why? How? How could this happen? With not even a chance to say goodbye? How traumatic for these dear children. How deeply, horribly, tragic. It makes no sense to me.

Perhaps the reason for my upset stems from the fact of how close to home it hits me. I am exactly twenty-one weeks pregnant. Camera Guy is my college sweetheart. We all went to FUS.  We both homeschool our kids. We both have a bunch of little kids and hopes and dreams for more.  It scared me stiff to think that at any given moment, some of us may never have the chance to say what needs to be said…to hold our spouses close, to kiss our babies one more time, to go to the sacraments, to hug our family.

I can’t say much else, I just feel driven to get her story out there and to ask for your help to donate whatever you can, even if it’s just one dollar…for assistance to the family or assistance in the funeral costs. On the one site alone, generous supporters have already raised over $82 thousand in ONE DAY!

I don’t know Sarah, I never had a personal relationship with her. But I feel drawn to her, oddly connected to her spiritually. I began begging her for her intercession yesterday in my own journey of motherhood. I found it eerily coincidental, that she- a homeschooling housewife, passed away on the feast of Saint Martha. Saint Martha herself the very icon of domesticity. Ironic? I don’t think God is ever ironic.may3

In the midst of my making sense of this tragedy, I found her blog and discovered that she designed handmade clay rosaries. She was so devoted to the rosary! You have to do her the honor and look at her site. I was moved, deeply moved, by the detail in her work and the meanings behind the different symbols on each clay bead she designed.

I found the most comfort in her last post. And her quote is what I want to leave you with. Her latest bead she designed was the anchor. When I read her cheery description on why she chose to make an anchor bead, I burst into tears. Apparently, she had been wanting to make this bead for a while. Sarah wrote:

“I love the symbol of the anchor for hope. It is very powerful.  Hope is the virtue of having confidence in God’s mercy that we will be in heaven with Him someday.  When we have that hope, nothing in life can move us. We are anchored in God.  Now that is something I need to pray for everyday and I hope you are inspired and reminded by this bead to pray too”

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Sarah Harkins, pray for us!