Mary and the Fork

The season of Lent is almost over.  As Christians it is the season of preparation for Easter – the Resurrection of Jesus.  It is a season that many look at as a test or a challenge.  Not me, I look at the season of Lent as an opportunity to walk in the sandals of Christ’s closest friends, especially during the Sacred Triduum (Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Saturday).  I try to imagine if I would have understood all that Jesus was telling me – do I even understand it now?  I try to imagine how I would have felt as we celebrated the Seder meal – would I have thought it was just another meal?  Would I be filled with the stress that is often associated with large family gatherings?  Would I be steeped in the historical significance?  Would I just be hungry? Would Jesus’ word that one of us would betray Him ring in my ears?  Would I have fallen asleep when Jesus asked me to stay awake and pray with Him in the garden?

That is where I stop?  That is where the spiritual exercise stops being an exercise and collides with my reality as it has even since 2009.  January 24th, 2009 Catie lay in her bed in my bedroom.  Was she sleeping?  I had seen her sleep for 20 hours before – I never had, but she had many times.  Was she in a coma?  I didn’t ask and no one told me – did it matter? I knew the hospice nurse had been to see us earlier in the day and told us that there were only a few hours remaining.  How did she know this?  How could this be true?  These words could not penetrate my mind they just seemed to bounce around with my thoughts.   What are you supposed to do when someone you love so very much is leaving forever?  Not leaving the room (when that happens you barely notice), not leaving the house (then you take the time to say good-bye), but leaving this world – forever (you want the world to stop – time to literally stop until you can get your bearings – and yet the world keeps spinning and time keeps passing.)

On January 24th, 2009, we pulled the couch over to Catie’s bed.  We needed to sit down.  The house was quiet.  The Fab 5 were all asleep.  We sat there holding one another and Catie and we prayed.  Should I have been kneeling?  I don’t know but I do know that I fell asleep.  I woke hours later to a change in Catie’s breathing.  I am sure it was a sign that the nurse was wrong and that Catie was going to wake up soon.  The labored breathing of the day was so loud and sounded so uncomfortable – I tried to re-position Catie thinking if she was more comfortable her breathing would be less labored –

The Super 6

The Super 6

nothing helped and the labored breathing continued.  Why did her breathing change?  What was the cause of her new sound of peace?

Looking back to this six year old memory I understand today what I had missed then – “now and at the hour of our death” – Mary’s arrival. Catie had prayed the rosary nonstop since going to Lourdes.  She had, along with our family, friends, you and so many others, prayed the Hail Mary and trusted in the words of that prayer “Hail Mary, full of grace.  Our Lord is with thee.  Blessed are thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.  Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.  Amen.”  Catie’s breathing became peaceful because she was indeed going to wake up soon in heaven.  Catie realized what I had missed – God is with us always.

I am amazed at how much comfort writing to ya’ll (a little something I picked up in Memphis.) provides me.  So many of you and others assume that December and January will be “so difficult” for us.  To be honest they are no more difficult than the other ten months are for us, and in many ways as difficult as those same months are for you.  Each and every day holds both memories and mysteries how blessed we are!


Mom-Mom and M.E.

This year I have thought a lot about how I felt in the last ten hours of Catie’s life.  I had never experienced that painful struggle to want time to stop before Catie’s death.  As a kid in school I wanted time to move faster, when enjoying wonderful vacations or moments of married life I have wanted time to continue not end, but never had time grabbed ahold of my heart and had my mind desired everything to stop.  This January someone very dear of our family died and I wished I had sent them home to heaven with a message for Catie – even though I know Catie knows all my thoughts.  God arranged it so that all of us could attend that funeral and reception afterwards.  It was a great funeral – I know that seems like a strange thing to say but it was.  The priest told this story during the homily and I just loved it.

There was a young woman who had been diagnosed with a terminal illness and had been given three months to live. So as she was getting her things in order, she contacted her Pastor and had him come to her house to discuss certain aspects of her final wishes.

She told him which songs she wanted sung at the service, what scriptures she would like read, and what outfit she wanted to be buried in. Everything was in order and the Pastor was preparing to leave when the young woman suddenly remembered something very important to her.

“There’s one more thing,” she said excitedly.

“What’s that?” came the Pastor’s reply.

“This is very important,” the young woman continued. “I want to be buried with a fork in my right hand.”

The Pastor stood looking at the young woman, not knowing quite what to say.

“That surprises you, doesn’t it?” the young woman asked.

“Well, to be honest, I’m puzzled by the request,” said the Pastor.

The young woman explained. “My grandmother once told me this story, and from that time on I have always tried to pass along its message to those I love and those who are in need of encouragement. In all my years of attending socials and dinners, I always remember that when the dishes of the main course were being cleared, someone would inevitably lean over and say, ‘Keep your fork.’ It was my favorite part because I knew that something better was coming…like velvety chocolate cake or deep-dish apple pie. Something wonderful, and with substance!”

So, I just want people to see me there in that casket with a fork in my hand and I want them to wonder “What’s with the fork?” Then I want you to tell them: “Keep your fork, the best is yet to come.”

The Pastor’s eyes welled up with tears of joy as he hugged the young woman goodbye. He knew this would be one of the last times he would see her before her death. But he also knew that the young woman had a better grasp of heaven than he did. She had a better grasp of what heaven would be like than many people twice her age, with twice as much experience and knowledge. She knew that something better was coming.

At the funeral people were walking by the young woman’s casket and they saw the cloak she was wearing and the fork placed in her right hand. Over and over, the Pastor heard the question, “What’s with the fork?” And over and over he smiled.

During his message, the Pastor told the people of the conversation he had with the young woman shortly before she died. He also told them about the fork and about what it symbolized to her. He told the people how he could not stop thinking about the fork and told them that they probably would not be able to stop thinking about it either.

He was right. So the next time you reach down for your fork let it remind you, ever so gently, that the best is yet to come.

I do believe with all my heart that the best is yet to come! Don’t you?  Happy Easter!

God is good, all the time,

Kevin, Christine, Maggie, Max, Mia, Molly, M.E. and always Catie

P.S. – stay tuned, Catie’s 14th birthday is less than a month away.  Please continue to join your prayers with ours and Catie’s as together we pray for a cure!

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