Miraculous Mary

In the summer of 2008, my first-born son Mikey was dying. He had turned four years old in the midst of chemotherapy and radiation for his brain tumor, but we knew he would never see age five. I can’t begin to describe the roller coaster of emotions I was riding as July turned to August that summer, and my baby was slipping away. I can tell you that it was terrifying and lonely. I spent my time with him hoping and praying for an epic miracle because I just couldn’t face the writing on the wall. I knew that once I embraced that cross that I would have to see it through to Calvary. And no mother ever wants to accept that cross…

Without even thinking about it, I sought advice from our Blessed Mother. I didn’t really know her well, but I knew we shared this cross and at the very least I wouldn’t be alone in it. At the very most, I begged her to show me how to accept and abide as she herself had done. In the moments between the terrifying reality and unthinkable future, I sought her counsel and companionship. I had nowhere else to turn. My God and my Savior had yet to take His rightful place in my life and in my heart, because He had yet to reveal me to myself.
But Mary was my comfort. Though she couldn’t heal or fix or save my little one, any more than she could her own son, she was with me through it all. She walked beside me and gave me what she gave her son, the quiet, steady confidence of her trust in the Father. I learned by her example that I wouldn’t perish with each next step. Slowly I walked, one foot in front of the other, one painful step at a time, with my wise and gentle Mother at my side. She didn’t look away or run from the excruciating reality, and that gave me courage to face the impossible. Just as she stayed with Jesus until she held his dead body, I knew she wouldn’t leave me, ever.

August 19, 2008 arrived and my disbelief turned to acceptance, that with each passing moment and Mikey’s slowing breath, there would be no 11th hour miraculous healing that would save us from our ultimate cross. Mary understood that process very well.

Our family was gathered around Mikey’s hospital bed in our home that morning. In truth, I had kept vigil with him through the night, not wanting to miss a single precious moment of his last hours. He had spent his last weeks in this favorite room of our house, the sunroom, full of light and windows with peaceful and serene views of trees and landscape. It’s a space that became intimate when filled with a hospital bed, our whole family, and a million prayers sent to Heaven with hope. Even now, 12 years later, I feel the presence of those prayers like a cozy blanket, sent on behalf of my little Mikey then, and now somehow returned to me.

At about 10 o’clock that Tuesday morning, his breathing changed and slowed. The space between each breath grew longer and I think we collectively held our own breath waiting for the
next one. Until there just wasn’t a next one. Helplessly, we breathed his last with him and barely realized that it was happening. One moment he was here with us and the next moment he wasn’t. The reality slammed with full force and no matter how prepared you think you are for the moment to come, the finality of death has a way of ripping into your soul.
The room had gone silent, the only sounds being the gentle wracking sobs of our 8-year-old and the distant, yet gut-wrenching, wailing of our 7-year-old from another room. In my heart, there was peaceful silence. Mikey’s machines were turned off and there was no more pain, medications, treatments, therapies, or agonizing helplessness and worries. He was free. I sat in the rocker, where I had held him for the better part of his four years, and held him for the last time. He was off the cross and in my arms and Mary held us both.

Our last family photo with Mikey that hangs in our sunroom

Those moments were pivotal for me. Infused with the peace that passes all understanding, I was set free, too. I suddenly understood with a divine clarity that although my little Michael couldn’t come back to me, I could CHOOSE to go to him. His lifeless body brought the greatest conviction, to seek LIFE, that I have ever known. In that extraordinary moment, there was no anger or fear or even sadness, but only a gentle and peaceful assurance that my life had found its purpose and I would be in the greatest of company. How did I suddenly understand this without having a clue of where to begin? I was serenely confident that Mary would be showing me the way.

The family gradually dispersed; Bill to call the undertaker and begin arrangements, my mom to handle logistics of visitors and food and love already piling in. Bill’s mom took the younger girls from the room with the excuse of checking the mail. I guess she had also noticed the mail truck pulling up just as Mikey was taking his final breaths. Strange how life ticks on even in the moments that stand still. Notice the mothers in this scene. They might largely go unnoticed except they carried on life and meaning in the most essential ways. In those moments, and in my memories now, I know I couldn’t have survived that day without them, without the comfort of their steady presence.

Suddenly, the girls started running from the mailbox back toward the house waving a letter. I could see them from the chair in the sunroom where I sat still holding Mikey. They barreled into the room breathless with excitement and said, ‘Mom! Look what just came in the mail!’ and excitedly presented me with the full windowed envelope that clearly contained a beautiful yet sorrowful picture card of our Lady and the words “With Sympathy.” I tucked that awe-inspiring, and yet somehow expected, tender loving message into my heart where I carry it to this day. Mothers often love in miraculous ways!

How did I walk through those following days of preparation for his burial with Joy in my soul and Trust that all would be well? They were agonizing days full of a billion tears after all.

On top of the mercy and grace that was showered upon me from heaven, our Blessed Mother walked beside me, and Mother knows best.

The card she sent in the most important moments of my life
Note the copyright 2008

Storms

*In light of the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, I pray that all who are living through that tumultuous storm will take comfort in the strength and peace of God*

I went to a funeral yesterday.  The weather was surprisingly warm and sunny as I got in my car and left the neighborhood.  The funeral mass was at a church across town and as I got a few minutes away from home I noticed the sky up ahead was looking pretty dark.   I continued to drive along and the sky grew increasingly overcast as it seemed I was heading right into the storm. The sky got darker and darker until I was directly in the thick of it and was actually surrounded by near-blackness.  It felt appropriate considering my destination.  Very quickly a deluge of rain pelted my car and the wipers were swinging furiously.  Even though I was surrounded by utter darkness and deafening rain I could see the edge of the storm cloud up ahead and bright sun filtering through white fluffy clouds beyond.  I knew that it was only a matter of moments before I would be out of the storm and it would once again be a pleasantly warm fall day.  It was a bit daunting driving through it with very little visibility (though I live in the snow belt in Central New York so not the worst of what I’m used to!)  Sure enough a minute later I was out from under the oppressive clouds and the sky was so clear I thought it would be smooth sailing all the way to the church.  My route took me a round-about way and as I got closer to church wouldn’t you know that I was almost under that storm cloud again?  Luckily we parked and got inside the church before the rain started in earnest.

Christus in the storm on the lake; Rembrandt (...

Christus in the storm on the lake; Rembrandt (1633)(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Storms in our lives are inevitable just as death is inevitable.  Both are difficult and painful but are simply a part of this life.  The only guarantee we have, the only promise in terms of suffering, is the hope of Eternal rest and peace and Joy in our next life.  Not this life.

As Christians, that is, as Christ followers, we are called to follow Jesus the way Mary did. She set the example for us as the very first Christian, not merely following her son and savior to Calvary, but investing herself in His burden every step of the way.  Loving Him as only a mother could, blow-by-blow. She didn’t bow out when she was afraid or when the pain of what she was forced to silently witness must have been almost unbearable.  She steadfastly followed Jesus and took the blows in her mother’s heart as the whip sliced open the flesh she once carried and the nails crushed through the hands she once held.  With trust she stood at the foot of the cross until the bitter end.  With a suffering and sorrowful heart she watched her beloved son leave this life.

We are called to no less.  We are called to carry our crosses in the many different forms they take in our lives.  We are called to walk in the footsteps of Jesus and Mary.  No promises and no guarantees for smooth sailing!

After our son died there was a temptation to feel entitled and deserving of a break from pain and suffering.  Surely after what we went through we wouldn’t have to endure more?  I caught myself in those early days living in fear of something horrible happening to another member of my family.  How could I survive it?  But I caught myself.  I knew then that no matter how much I didn’t want to face another storm that it could very well happen.  I also knew that I would weather it, the same way I weathered the loss of Michael, with faith and trust in God.  That relationship was the only way to carry on and move forward in Joy and not as a slave to fear.

“For God gave us a spirit not of fear, but of power and love and self control.” (2 Timothy 1:7)

We must flee to the refuge of God’s sovereignty even when it feels as though He didn’t handle our cross for us.  We do that by Surrendering and trusting that He had a good reason for allowing us to carry it.  That doesn’t mean we roll over as victims to pain and suffering, but it does mean we don’t let it win the rule of our lives.  We suffer our cross, yes, and it is often painful and difficult to bear, but we do it with the promise of Joy ahead and trust that we are learning and growing as God wishes.  We look just a little way toward the horizon and see the edge of the black storm cloud and the sun shining through fluffy white clouds beyond and let God carry us until we get there.  And when the clouds threaten again, we trust that again God will carry us through.  This much He did promise us.

“It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; He will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” (Deut. 31:8)

This was a lesson the apostles learned in the storm at sea.  They were terrified when the storm came up and the waves were washing into the boat. Jesus was sleeping and when they woke Him in a panic He rebuked them saying, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” (Mt. 8:26)  And yet they were afraid.  They feared even though Jesus was right in their boat!  Jesus is in our boat too.  No matter the storm we face, we are commanded to trust in God and seek His refuge.  Even if the waves are pouring in we must understand we will never sink.  We will never perish.  Even were we to perish from this Life, if we cling to the true life-giver we will LIVE.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

Just as the church served as our refuge from the storm, God is always our spiritual refuge in times of trouble.  His arms are open wide, His word is living and true, and His love for us knows no bounds.

Related reading: Seasons and Mary

Mary

Andrew and I were saying prayers together the other night and had the following conversation (He’s 6 so we NEVER get through prayers without a million questions!)

ME:  Let’s ask our Blessed Mother to pray for all the orphans all over the world and wrap them in her loving Mother’s heart.

ANDREW: Why can’t we just ask God to do that?  He is more powerful.

ME :  Of course we ask God to take care of the orphans, all the time!  And God is the most powerful, but Mary has a special kind of power.

ANDREW:  What powers does Mary have?  Can she blind the devil?

(insert 10 minutes of questions about fighting the devil here)

ME:  Mary has a different kind of power.  Her power comes from Her love and compassion as a mother.  And the things that are important to her might become a little more important to Jesus!

ANDREW:  Well Dad is more powerful than you Mom. (out of the mouths of babes! Haha)

ME: Yes Dad has one kind of power and I have another.  When you want something do you only ask your Dad?  Do you wish you only had a Dad and not a mother?

ANDREW: NO WAY! I do ask you a lot.

ME:  Why do you ask me if Dad has all the power?

ANDREW:  You always want to say Yes and sometimes you can make Dad say Yes.   And you do give me hugs all the time.  You are my Mommy and I love you! (at this point prayers ended and tackling and hugs ensued)

Andrew came to the point of acknowledging, though he can’t quite put the reasoning behind it, that his mother is a treasure, one he would never want to live without. Furthermore, he has a fundamental understanding that He needs me.

In the same way our Mother Mary in Heaven is a gift and treasure to us and we need her.

When Jesus told John from the cross, “Behold, your mother”, he was speaking to every human being.  We are all commanded to Behold her as Mother.  When He commanded her, “Woman, behold your son” he was commissioning her to take each one of us into her heart. (John 19:26-27)  After Jesus was stripped, and mocked and humbled and tortured and nailed to the cross; at a point before death when He had nothing left to give, He did give us one final gift.  He gave us Mary.

And did you catch the part at the end of our conversation when Andrew said, “sometimes you can make Dad say yes”??  In the great wisdom of a 6-yr-old, he recognized that I have some sway and some pull.  When his Dad might otherwise say no, sometimes I can persuade him to see it a different way.  The same thing is VERY true of God!  Why else would he allow us to participate with Him in his ministry by praying?   Why else would we think our prayers hold any power?  Our free will, whether used for good or evil, necessitates that our choices have consequences, good or evil.  He hears our prayers and allows us the grace and the gift of answering as we ask according to His divine will.  How much more does He grant graces to His humble servant Mary, the very same one He chose to deliver Jesus to the world and the very same one He gave to the world as mother?  The very woman who reigns in Heaven as a Queen.

English: Icon of the wedding at Cana

English: Icon of the wedding at Cana (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The wedding feast at Cana is a perfect example of this.  Jesus wasn’t concerned with the guests having enough wine.  He must have known the family was upset or would be embarrassed, yet He doesn’t act until His mother brings it to His attention and asks Him to do something .  She knew He could and would and that it was no small thing she was asking of her son.  At her request he performs His very first miracle, thereby prematurely launching His public ministry.  A son may do such a thing for His dearly beloved mother but would he necessarily go to the same great lengths for his child?

How many times would your mother have to ask you for a favor before you would oblige?  And to what lengths would you go to make it happen?  Mother’s are afforded the unique ability to ask things of their children and any commandment fearing child will “Honor their Mother” of course.

And let’s step outside of our human intellect and ability to reason for a minute.

Our beautiful Lady has been appearing throughout History all over the world, performing

Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Our Lady of Guadalupe. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

miracles and giving messages for ALL her children.   One apparition in particular gives us visual and supernatural proof of the nature of Mary’s exalted status as Queen of Heaven and the Woman clothed with the Sun in Revelation.  In the 1500’s, the Virgin Mary appeared in then Pagan Mexico, to Juan Diego, and told him to ask his bishop for a church to be built in her honor.  When Juan Diego reported this, the bishop required proof.  Juan Diego then asked the Virgin Mary for proof and was told to gather a very rare rose that was in bloom as proof of the miracle of the apparition.  He gathered the roses in his tilma and took them to the bishop and when he opened his tilma not only did the roses fall at his feet but the tilma contained an image, put there supernaturally.  This image is still preserved like new on the tilma to this day and scientists agree that it is unprecedented.  There are many ‘proofs’ of this miraculous event in both religious and scientific circles and I encourage you to soak in the wonder of it all if you are not already familiar.  Read about the truly remarkable scientific findings in her eyes and on her cloak and so much more. You can find the complete story HERE.

Which brings us to the point.  What was the result of this apparition?  Over 9 million Aztecs converted to Christianity.  That sounds like power to me.

Mary existed in time to bring Jesus to the world, and she exists still for the same purpose!  Oh what a treasure and a gift Our Mother Mary is.

To Jesus, through Mary

Further Reading:

from Mark Mallett’s blog: Why Mary?

On Mission Adoption: MARY