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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Sarah Harkins Birthday- An Invitation

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On Saturday, August 2nd… it will be Sarah’s 33rd birthday. But it will be her very 1st birthday in heaven! She could not have received a better birthday gift, as she herself even said on a her blog post dated August 2nd 2009:

Today is my 28th Birthday and I received many wonderful birthday gifts, but the best one was from my Lord- he gave me the gift of his precious body and blood at Mass today. I couldn’t think of a better birthday gift! He loves me so much that died on the cross and rose again so that I could be with him in heaven. Today he again poured his never ending love into me through the Eucharist. He knows my every need, and he knew that today, I would need Him most of all. It was actually quite by accident (or divine intervention) that we were at Mass today. Because of my husband’s work schedule, we usually go to Mass on Saturday evenings. But because of a birthday party yesterday afternoon, we had to go to Mass today. And I couldn’t be more thankful!

How truly happy Sarah must be on this birthday then! What a treasure she has been given and what comfort that should bring us– to know, that Our Lord is fulfilling Sarah’s every want and need, by bringing her true joy that our earthly hearts cannot begin to comprehend.

In light of this beautiful woman’s life, in honor of her legacy, memory, and the life she leaves behind I have an invitation for each of you. (Fellow bloggers! Get to work and invite your readers, too!)

Let’s us join Sarah in her heavenly feasting on this day by participating spiritually in one of her devotions, namely the rosary or attending mass. I invite anyone who would like to give Sarah’s family a birthday gift on her behalf to join together this Saturday in prayer. Let’s send an enormous spiritual bouquet to heaven for Sarah’s birthday!download (3)

If you would like, I have posted a “poll” here where you can literally ‘sign up’ for either a rosary or mass (or other prayer) on behalf of the Harkins family. The poll will be opened for anyone wishing to spiritually contribute to this bouquet for two weeks. After two weeks the poll will close and I will send a card to the Harkins family on behalf of each of you, with the numbers of prayers offered enclosed. It is not much, but each of us can play a tiny role in surrounding Sarah’s loved ones with hope and comfort!

So, Happy Birthday Sarah! Enjoy your birthday celebration!  Pray for those of us left behind who will never forget you.

**Sarah Harkins Memorial Fund**

**Memorial Fund for the Harkins Children**

**Small Things Blog**

**The Clay Rosary Girl** (Sarah’s blog)

 

 

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!