Three years and Treasures in Heaven

As the third anniversary of my daughter Anna’s death approaches, I wanted to write something to mark this season. I guess it’s hard for me to keep writing of suffering and grieving when really, we are doing so much living. The hard truth is that death is always a piece of our living, but it is a piece that adds meaning, and substance, and depth. In light of death, we understand the blessing and the gift of life more profoundly. In the light of this cross, I have come to find fulfillment in serving the Lord through simple everyday living. This earthen vessel holds many treasures.

We are living in joyful expectation of our 10th child these days. Our newest little princess, our eighth daughter, should arrive at the end of June, and so far she is healthy and growing beautifully. Despite my “advanced maternal age,” I feel great, too. Pregnancy sure was easier on my body 21 years ago, but it is easier now in so many ways with the wisdom of age! It seems my growing belly is like an invitation to chat about all things “children” and it presents me with a challenging but beautiful way to witness on an almost daily basis. At some point, I think every mother has been asked how many children she has. For me, this has been a loaded and difficult question since my son Michael died eight years ago. I’m always tempted to give the simple half-truth version of the answer, that this is our 10th child, and leave it at that. As you might expect this usually piques curiosity (or disbelief!) and is always followed by more questions. I usually have a split second to decide how to answer. Sometimes it’s a sacrifice for me to tell the whole truth, but more often I can’t help but think of the person on the receiving end. Imagine asking a casual and friendly question and getting socked with my whole truth that two of my children have died! But the truth is the truth and it serves, if I am willing to tell it. Most often these moments that inspire a curl of dread at the outset, turn into moments of shared faith. They are opportunities to speak Truth, open hearts, console and be consoled, to serve and be served. Sometimes, I discover someone who is suffering greatly, sometimes it’s someone who has never known the sting of loss, and other times I am pleasantly surprised to meet a fellow Christian that I would not have known otherwise. Thanks to my baby bump, these grace-filled moments happen every day. I consider that a gift and I’m thankful for the struggle of it, for these are the treasures I am storing in Heaven. Anna’s death, though still a painful reality, is serving the Kingdom. And it’s beautiful to me that it happens in these cases because of life! Isn’t this precisely the message of the Gospel after all? Because Jesus died, we can have life!

Photo courtesy of Charles Wainwright for Pillars magazine

Photo courtesy of Charles Wainwright for Pillars magazine

I love this family picture. It is happy and full of life, but it only tells half the truth. There’s so much more to the story. I often wonder how the Lord expects me to tell it without Anna and Michael here to be in the picture with us. There are a few thousand words this picture cannot tell and I feel so keenly what is missing even as I rejoice in all that we are. What I have come to understand more deeply in these past three years is that the story must serve the Kingdom in order to bear fruit. It isn’t merely for my own transformation, though that is miraculous in itself, but it must be for God’s good and holy purposes. Why do I love my neighbor and forgive my enemy? Why do I proclaim life and not death even though I know fully that life only truly comes after death? In service to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He submitted to death so he could proclaim life. His death is always part of the story or there isn’t much of a story. This picture captures so much of my heart. I am blessed. I am grateful.

IMG_5692But always this picture tells the rest of the story. My treasures are in Heaven. This part that is missing gives so much more meaning to all that is here. I have learned to overcome what is missing by seeking all the life that is before me. Being pregnant at 41 is a sacrifice but it is nothing compared to the sacrifice of living without this new life.  She is loved beyond measure already.

The way to overcome death is to seek life. Jesus is life. The Gospel is life. Death is overcome.
The Mass each week calls to mind my own journey these past three years. For a time after each of my children died, Heaven came to Earth to meet me in my need and brokenness and my heart has found healing in the presence of the Giver and Creator of life. The consolations have been many and I have grown in my faith in many ways, but like the final words of blessing, there’s more to it than my own faith. There is a call to arms; “The Mass is ended, go in peace to Love and serve the Lord.”

The sacrifice has been re-presented and the resurrection has been celebrated. We will have all of Eternity to enjoy the consolations that have only been glimpsed here briefly, but today we are called to serve in God’s great army. Our sufferings and crosses become our armor and serve a great purpose in the Lord’s battle for souls. We have work to do, however small it may seem. We have treasures to store up for Heaven.

“We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves…Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.” (2 Cor 4:7,10)

If Only I had known…

(I am so humbled to share this witness of a very beautiful friend.  Her story is one many women and couples can relate to, and by the grace of God, it is a story of redemption.  It is an honor to help her tell it. She saw her wrongdoing, asked for forgiveness, and by the grace of the sacrament has found the healing Jesus Christ offers to all.  She has found freedom in the Truth.  Please read, share, and pray for all who are hurt by abortion. -Karen)

If only I had known….
Watching the videos that have been released recently about Planned Parenthood’s practices has utterly broken my heart ..
I would like to share my story because if only I had known the truth back in 1981, I never would have had an abortion.
Years ago, at the wise old age of 21, I met Mr. tall, dark, and handsome. He swept me off my feet with a Tecate beer, a lime, and a smooth line. We enjoyed getting to know one another for a few months before we both decided to go our separate ways. Soon after, I discovered I was pregnant and was immediately filled with fear and dread. I was young and carefree, working a construction job to help me get by, and never considered the possibility of having an unplanned pregnancy. The thought of a baby was overwhelming and truth be told, I was in shock. My tall, dark, and handsome was happy to help me pay for an abortion.

I went to my trusted healthcare provider at the time, Planned Parenthood. They had provided me with birth control, which made me so sick I was unable to take it, and now they were all too ready and willing to help me get rid of the resulting problem. There were many voices weighing in and the majority reinforced what I wanted to hear. My sister alone was devastated at my pending decision to have an abortion and tried to talk me out of it. If only I had known the lifelong hurt I was about to cause her and myself.

My friend, on the other hand, offered her assistance and support in whatever way I needed. On a random summer day in 1981, she lovingly drove me to the clinic, so I could end the life of my child. I don’t remember a single detail of that day other than the incredible pain of the procedure. I was emotionally numb, but I felt the stark reality of life being torn from my womb. I buried that day deep down and simply wanted to forget. Though I never said it in so many words, a piece of me died that day, too.

If only I had known how that abortion would affect my future relationships and my self esteem. I muddled through the next 15 years, not recognizing that my relationships were doomed before they began because of my need for healing deep within.
In 1997, I found myself facing another unplanned pregnancy and I knew deep down that I needed to have this child. I had done some growing up, and though I was in no way prepared to be a mother, I listened to that inner voice despite all my fears. Today my daughter is the greatest blessing and the Joy of my life. At the moment of her birth, I could not fully comprehend the miracle that was her life. It changed me in my core and brought healing in many ways. I was confronted with the truth and reality of what I had done years before. I sought forgiveness and that forgiveness has brought me healing. My wounds became scars that I carry with me. They give me passion and compassion and for that I am thankful. My beautiful daughter’s life has taught me what I wish I had known before that fateful day when I carried out the worst decision of my life. 11825233_873754462661330_3274896396235406656_n
If only I had known that a baby’s heart beats at 25 days.
If only I had known that by 8 weeks a baby is fully formed. I had my abortion at 11 weeks.
If only I had known that “my trusted healthcare provider” didn’t really care about me at all. An abortion is not healthcare. Neither is birth control for that matter. If only they had told me that my baby was a living human being.
If only I had known the ripple effect my abortion would cause. My parents never knew their grandchild and my daughter has never known her sibling. That child may have been my only chance to become a mother. By the grace of God, I have my daughter.
If only I had known about all the help that is available when facing an unplanned pregnancy.

Currently, in the Syracuse area the following organizations are here to help:

Elizabeth MinistryHelps women with unplanned pregnancy and celebrates every child conceived.email elizabethministryrita@gmail.com http://www.jpiicenterforwomen.com/#!about1/cg67
Gianna Healthcare – (315) 488-3139 ext. 16
Prolife Restorative Medical Care http://www.giannasyracuse.com
John Paul II Center for Women 315-488-3139 x16
Promoting the Dignity of Women http://www.jpiicenterforwomen.com
Fertility Education and Care CenterHelping women unleash the power of their own fertility. http://www.fertilityeducationncare.com
Josephs’ House 315-701-4981 where pregnant women can live, have their babies, stay up to two years while continuing their education. Syracuse area. http://josephshouseforwomen.org
New Hope Family Services (315)-437-8300 Adoption services, pregnancy care, parenting education, post abortion counseling, clothing and items for children up to 2 yrs of age. 3519 James Street Syracuse. http://www.newhopefamilyservices.com
Life Call Crisis Pregnancy Centers http://www.lifecall.org Resources for pregnant women. Centers across the U.S.
The Regis Center-/New Hope 315-448-2300 – 1124 E. Genesee St. Syracuse https://www.facebook.com/regiscenterpage
New Life Crisis Pregnancy Center 315-963-2273 – 3349 Main St. Mexico, New York https://www.facebook.com/New-Life-Crisis-Pregnancy-Center-of-Mexico-NY-230642443733477/timeline/                                                                                    Project Rachel 855-364-0076 or email: hopeandhealing@syrdio.org. Post abortion healing.http://www.syracusediocese.org/diocesan-offices/respect-life/project-rachel-ministry/

I want women everywhere to know what I wish I had known. You and your baby are not alone. There is hope and healing for each of us~ always.