By Karen Pullano
As Christians are choosing to enter this Lenten season with sacrifice and suffering today, I’m preparing to mark the anniversary of Anna’s death once again. Four years later, her loss is still very present even as the details of her accident and death are trying to fade away. I say trying because they would fade but for the unexpected reminders that pop up and bring them rushing back into my presence. Those moments can bring keening pain, but I’ve written before of how fruitful they are as well. I would even go so far as to say that those moments are a gift. They are my tether to a more intimate time with Jesus when he carried me tenderly through the darkest valley. I am thankful for those moments even as I rejoice in where I am now. I have walked a million miles but somehow feel strong enough to walk a million more.
The Lord has not abandoned me, but comes to me differently now. His lessons still feel extraordinary, but are born more simply out of the ordinary. I would love to share these moments more often and hope that I can make the space to do that. He is always teaching, leading us to truth, and guiding us to Himself.
Something that comes to light for me all these years after losing Michael, and then Anna, is that I truly walk in freedom. It was an ordinary conversation with my sister that brought this beautiful truth to light recently.
She has been struggling for more than a year with food intolerance and allergy issues. I would say it has gotten worse over time, as figuring out the culprit remains a mystery, despite careful and methodical tracking and eliminating of foods. It is a process that has required much thought and careful planning and preparation, and she has devoted herself to that process wholeheartedly. Despite her efforts, it seemed that so many different foods were to blame for her symptoms and finally one day I heard her lament the fact that she’s just allergic to it all. (Kind of an overwhelming and depressing conclusion considering we need to eat several times a day for forever!) She has sought the help of doctors along the way, of course, and was directed to a simple blood test to check for food intolerances. She did it and waited the 8 long weeks for results. When they arrived, it felt much as she suspected. The list of foods she should avoid is long and daunting. In fact, she’s made a list of what she can eat instead of what she can’t! It’s a little hard to believe, and before she had even digested the news (no pun intended!), she said the following beautiful line. “This is freedom.”
On its face, those results should have felt like a death sentence. I mean she’s allergic to lettuce, for crying out loud. That’s basically water. Personally, I might have cried in frustration and anger at the unjustness of it. Since when is food poison? But to her, “this is freedom.” To know the truth, even if it means embracing the cross, is freedom. So ordinary. So extraordinary.
To walk in the light of truth is freedom. The moment my baby boy left this world was the moment that eternity got real for me. It was a definitive knowing that we are journeying to somewhere, and Someone, and this is only our home for a time. Perhaps it was a grace that gave me to know this Truth with such certainty that it changed me at my core. Perhaps Truth is the reason God allows suffering at all. I was made for God. I belong to God. It took suffering in this world to make me look that full in the eye. I am forever free.
Saying goodbye to Anna several years later only served to confirm all the Truths that are written in my heart. The physical separation was just as horrific as the first time, but the Truth was solid ground in my world when it felt like it was spinning out of control. My identity and my purpose remain unchanged. The destination is ever before me. This may be my cross, but it is amazing what we can endure for the price of Truth.
We know freedom is never free. Just as we have our brave military to thank for the privilege of living in this great land of the free, every created person on Earth has Jesus to thank for carrying His cross to His death.
Suffering always was, and always will be, but He redeemed it by His love and set it apart as the narrow way. The price has been paid, for all men everywhere. The challenge to love radically has been thrown down and though we may walk through the valley of the shadow of death for a time, we can know with certainty that Love and suffering are the path to true Freedom.
If you have never known suffering, then welcome to Lent. Like Truth, sacrifice is ever before us, and the Church, in her wisdom, sets aside this time before resurrection so that we might enter more deeply into suffering. Freedom is actually not the ability to simply choose whatever we want. Truly that is slavery: to feelings, wants, and desires. True freedom lies in our ability to choose the narrow way: to walk in the light of truth even when it’s painful and difficult. It is not freedom FROM suffering that we should seek, but rather the freedom to stand up to, and emerge from it, in paradise.
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not be encumbered once more by a yoke of slavery (Gal 5:1)
Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (Jn 8:32)
I hardly know what to say, except I’m humbled, amazed, and inspired by you and your faith. This week marks the one-year anniversary of my father’s death, and I wish I could say I’m handling things with as much grace and strength as you.
I’m so sorry for your tremendous loss! 1 year is raw – I was still in survival mode at that point. The grace and strength is there even if you don’t feel it. Others will see it. Ask me how I know 😉
Thank you my dear friend, for the gift of knowing you and the beauty and wisdom of your words. I can see Anna smiling down on you, sending her love and blessings~
You continue to amaze and inspire me. I am so grateful for your gift of writing so beautifully.. Michael and Anna are forever in our hearts. ❤
What a beautiful reflection, Karen. May all our dear ones who have gone before us help us minute by minute to remember the eternal realities and to find that freedom and the joy that comes next. We’ll be praying for you and your family as Anna’s anniversary rolls around.
Excellently written, Karen – as usual! Even though wisdom of this depth cannot be taught, but must, rather, be gained by experience, you do do a sterling job of sharing! I, too, have lost a great deal through life, physically, financially and emotionally. And yet, after the initial pain, “Lady Poverty” has increasingly replaced the losses with spiritual strength and freedom – from want and from fears of tomorrow. For it is precisely in these voids, in the cavernous depths of our hearts which little of this world can fill, that Truth best multiplies, and sets us firmly on course to the priceless and the eternal. Thanks again for sharing, and God’s choicest blessings on you and yours!
Thank you! Your cross certainly has done you well – and that is truly a gift to us all!
Francis, your words are so eloquent that they brought tears to my eyes. God bless you.
God be with you too, Michelle. May Jesus dilate your heart too, “to the dimensions of God’s heart” as He did the heart of His own Blessed Mother (Pope Benedict XVI, homily, Feast of The Visitation, 2007)
Wow! Thank you Karen. 💙😇
You are amazing. I never met you. I can’t believe this happened. I am sitting in your husbands dental chair waiting for him to work on me. You and your writing showed up on face book. My wife already read your writing. It will touch everyone. You brought a lot if tears from me. Your Husband will bring some more. God bless you.
Thanks Ed! Hopefully only good tears!! 😂😂
Your writings are always an inspiration to me…I still keep your family in my daily prayers….
Dear Karen…I thank you for all the ways you touch my heart and me. Your faith is such a gift to me…thank you for sharing. Lenten blessings to you and yours. I think of Mikey, Anna and your Mom as I keep them in prayer. God bless you!
“God will bless the lives of others because His blessing is upon you. You don’t have to “make” a difference because you will “be” a difference as you walk humbly and obediently with your God. Others will glorify the Father because of you. They will be affected for good in a way that would never happen if you were not there.” Roy Lessin
Karen, everytime I read your blog, this quote comes to mind. Years ago, someone gave it to my husband. And, whenever I meet a person who is the ultimate example of who we are meant to be in Christ, and so affects the lives, beliefs, and faith of others by being a living example of all that is good and kind and blessed, and who doesn’t even know she is, I send this quote to them.
I am blessed to know you – even if it’s just a little bit through your writing and occasional Elizabeth Ministry event. You are amazing. God bless you this Lenten season.
Wow this is beautiful Donna. THANK YOU for sharing it with me!! Blessed Lent to you too.
I love this. I cannot imagine the pain, but do long for the freedom. You are an amazing person.
Such a beautiful testimony to your son and sister. I am so glad that Kristin shared it. God bless you.