Over the last month I’ve been a student. I’ve attended an Oprah (The Life You Want) weekend conference – and then a few weeks later attended a silent retreat for 3 days. Next, we held a Walk for all of us bereaved families that have lost a child– then Todd and I celebrated our 15th anniversary by renewing our vows in our Catholic Church and then we went on to Gatlinburg with family and friends.
I noticed that if I allowed myself to be present, as a student, in any of these moments, something holy awaited (It awaits for you too, I’m certain!) If I allowed it to touch a place deep inside of me to teach me that this moment matters – and not dismiss it as a random act or coincidence or get lost in the mystery – I find something of weight. A piece of heaven. In a world that seems weightless at times.
The second day of our Oprah retreat – the plan was to have everyone get out of our stadium seats…so she enlisted the help of Soul 15 to get all of us moving. Here’s a part of my very amateur video where the instructor is yelling to grab faith, and pull it down. Here we were a group of diverse women, standing shoulder to shoulder, in unison, reaching both hands to the heavens…and as I repeated this exercise my thoughts began to change to a belief that I was pulling a tangible holy down – the perception of the room shifted. I was no longer a separate individual – on a pilgrimage to find the holy. The holy was here. Now. The blinking of our wristbands was synchronized and it looks as if we were all a single heart beat…strengthening my faith in humanity as we tugged on the hem of heaven. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=elf8RQRONPM&sns=em
The hundred year oak tree stood tall in the backdrop of the Blessed Virgin Mary statue. The grounds of The Sisters of Mercy Convent felt like holy land…filled with country critters and countless moments to be still – perfect for a silent retreat. As the sun was setting, I sat on the ground in front of the Blessed Virgin Mary statue that was missing a few fingers – watching ants feverishly carry the remains of yesterday’s croton. I heard a frenzy of birds’ overhead…the sherbet sunset sky began to darken by a swirling formation of hundreds of starlings. One flock flew in from the west and another flock came from the east – - roosting on the hundred year oak tree. The chirping and chattering was deafening…but I was grateful that it hid the excitement of my yelling. It was one of the most aesthetic pleasures nature could have given me in that moment. And all I could do is say “thank you God”.
The winds swept the clouds across my view – making the sky anew. I imagined it took all 75 balloons to the doorstep of heaven where a child stood on her tippy toes to tug the hanging string of a balloon baring her name. No two pictures of the sky were alike. No loss is ever alike. No grief is ever alike. But I felt an “alikeness” in that moment that all of us shared. That it mattered. Each life mattered.
The pictures tell the story…as the balloon floated in the thin space between earth and heaven…through the rainbow – bridging the promise- as it moves closer to the sun.
Fifteen years ago, we were married on a golf course on a very hot autumn day in Florida. We were married ten months after we met. We were both 29 and knew that we were MFEO (from the movie Sleepless in Seattle, MFEO meaning MADE FOR EACH OTHER). At the time, marrying in a catholic church wasn’t an option. Shortly after college when I was 21, I married a childhood friend. This marriage ended within a year of its start – and the process of annulment was complicated (as it should be) and it would take years before its ruling. I suppose we decided that Love couldn’t wait…so there I was on the porch on a golf course on a hot autumn day, wiping sweat off my big polish forehead saying I do. The annulment eventually came…and so did babies, trials, trips and new homes. The calling was always there to celebrate the sacrament of marriage in the Catholic Church. We wanted Jesus formally in our marriage. We openly and full heartedly (and for me, finally – deservingly) asked Him to be present with us last Thursday, October 9th as we celebrated the sacrament of marriage. My brother-in-law, Richard, took this picture of the blue October sky before the ceremony. The initials J.C. came into our view– and it reminded us how this moment mattered. Really mattered. We are so grateful to our family that gathered to celebrate the sacrament with us and to remind us – every day- that this matters. It doesn’t just take two in a marriage. It takes a village. I can say that the moments of where our children touched the tip of heaven were when I need the counsel the most.
We arrived at Roosevelt Lodge and I felt the breeze on my face as I looked over the panoramic view of The Great Smoky Mountains. I felt holy. There were many honeysuckle bushes that were starting to decay but it wasn’t December yet. They had just enough sweetness to feed a handful of monarch butterflies. One butterfly danced and dashed over Noah’s head, and I reach up my arms – and as my brother, Richard, said “she flew right into your hands” (picture was taking after butterfly flew off….holy doesn’t wait for a camera . So, surprisingly – here I was standing on the top of Roosevelt Lodge, overlooking land that’s nationally treasured, holding a treasure of my own. A symbol of what we see Hannah as. A butterfly. The boys huddled around, and as I uncupped my hands…her little legs stretched out and she flirted her wings and danced off to the meadow. Touching the delicate wings of a monarch butterfly mattered. Life is as delicate as her wings… but remember that it all matters.
Holy awaits for you.