Dear God, Thank You for this Family

Father’s Day, 2013

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My girls here with me.  We took up an entire row at Mass – the only thing I asked for today.

So much love and support from Sharon, Kayla, Noah, Camille and Emily.  What have I done to deserve this?  I am humbled by my gifts in this life.  I miss my son so much it hurts, but I would be selfish to ask for him back.

I have this warm faith inside that Daddy is with Cullen today, together with Mom; all in our Lord’s embrace, sending out love.  Actually makes me smile.

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I prayed for three things today.

Thanksgiving for all I have.  My family is the personification of Your love, supporting each other every moment.

That my God cradle and hug him, and let him know how much we love him.

For healing, faith, and consolation for my wonderful family.

We are sad for us, but so very hopeful in our faith and love that our God has him in His loving embrace.  This father’s day is so different than last year.

Perhaps it’s the Camino.  Perhaps it’s just time.  Perhaps it’s the Holy Spirit.

Thank you dear Lord for the confidence that my dear son is ok.  And that you allowed me to know him for 19 years. And that you inspired him to do so much good.  Much Love.

Happy Father’s Day 2013

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Cruz de Ferro – 18th Day. 5 May 2013

Those who have also followed my on facebook realize I am posting on this blog a few days behind, because you saw Cruz de Ferro referenced last week.

This was an extremely heavy day for me.  I approached the Cruz without really remembering it was only a few kilometers ahead.  Something felt really strange.  I was alone, and hadn´t seen any of my friends in a while, maybe that was it.  No it jusrt really felt different.  Maybe I was just getting weary, I checked the book for the next town.  I had passed through Foncebadón, and saw that the Cruz fe Ferro was now less than a Km away.  I placed my hand into my left pocket to feel the two stones I had intended to leave there, at the foot of the cross.

I won´t really say much more about today.

I spent quite a while there, place the two stones at the foot of the cross.  My own, and one given to me by Father Tony when he gave me the pilgrim send-off blessing at Mass two weeks earlier.  He had brought that stone back from the Holy Land and asked me to place it there, symbolically placing the burdens of members of our church community.

And I placed my own stone there as well.

A while later, as I climbed down from the mountain of stones left by earlier pilgrims, I finally looked up to see another friend named Edward, whom I had also met around the time I met Franz and Bastion.  He also had tears running down his cheeks.

Lots of weary hearts on the Camino.  Burdens to leave behind.

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Realizing I should be in a relieved mood, less burdened mood, I pulled out the earbuds and played Chris Tomlin,”Our God is Greater.”  Sarah Kroger had sung this at HNJ Adoration, hours before Cullen and I would watch “The Way.”

I lifted my hands in praise as I walked away, leaving the stone at the cross.  I turned to see Edward smile.

Much Love on the Camino.

Road to Emmaus

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Everyone who knows me, knows that I have a horrible memory.  Not just, “Where did I put my car keys?” or “Crap, I forgot why I came in here” type of bad memory, rather more like, “I could hide my own Easter eggs!”  I could watch the same movie ten times and be shocked each time at the ending!

So, I dread seeing clients in public.  As a veterinarian, I form personal relationships with my clients, and get to know them, their children, and their pets – often a very real part of their family.  People appreciate when you connect with them, and I do genuinely love my job and (most of) my clients and their “families.”  So when I greet them by name and remember their kids, and that their cat purrs on Grandpa’s lap and the dog digs up the daffodils and enjoys leg humping Uncle Donnie, and never left Maggies side when she had cancer surgery, I get to show them that I understand, and that I’m honored to also be included in their family’s story.  But remember, I have “crib notes” or “cheat sheets” called a medical chart.  I’ve not only read “Otis’s medical notes, but also the post-it notes attached that remind me of the personal stuff.  Please know that I am truly interested in you personally and your family, but frankly, I do well to remember my own Kayla’s swim meet this weekend, or that I agreed to pick up printer ink for Noah’s book report on my home tonight.

So that explains the “deer in the headlights” look in my eyes when I see you at the grocery store, as I cheerfully blurt out, “OH Hi!! How ARE you???!!!”  But, I really don’t have a clue who you are.  Now I do know you look familiar, and so you probably are a client, and I very much appreciate that you like me, and I truly do like you also.  Because I like everyone, or most people anyway.  And I really and truly DO wish I could remember stuff like that, because you really ARE important to me – and not just professionally, because you pay the bills.  No, much more so because I believe “we’re all in this together,” and I do enjoy your company and your stories.

But that’s the sort of stuff that settled into my mind as I listened to Luke’s gospel today about the two disciples on the road to Emmaus.  Apparently, these were two guys that were with Jesus daily, were His friends, and actually saw Him perform miracles.  The loved Him dearly as a friend, broke bread with Him, and actually heard Him say the words of everlasting life, that He would be resurrected and come back.  And yet these two disciples, who knew Him so well, didn’t know Him after all.  They didn’t recognize Him at all as they walked down the road for miles.  Only that night, when they again broke bread together did the light bulb go on.

Which is a pretty transparent segway to my own road.  Where is Emmaus anyway?  I guess none of us know exactly where this road will end, but I truly have learned that we encounter our Lord multiple times on this journey.

An therein lies my real dread.  When I don’t recognize Christ in those I encounter, I’ve lost that opportunity forever to impact that person’s life.  How many times have I walked on past my Lord, too busy to care, too focused on myself and my family, too forgetful to remember that I really do know this stranger.

As I begin my Camino de Santiago in 14 days, I’ll try to remember that those I’ll encounter are already friends.  And when I return, I can only hope that I will have learned some valuable lessons.  But most importantly, I desire a better ability to remember the one I’m actually looking for.

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Falling in Pamplona

My new friend Matt, a teacher in California, has a student who had an accident, falling and hitting his head so brutally that he’s been on a ventilator for a week.  His family and friends prayed and held hands, and sang and played guitar in the ICU.  They prayed and told stories, and hugged and lifted each other up.  They prayed and pleaded, and made deals, and became angry, and sullen, and cried, and fell to their knees, and said goodbye to Gregory.

They unplugged the ventilator and lost their friend, their inspiration, their dreams, their son.

We will always look back with regrets.  But we know that living life is at its very core, running the race, not watching others.  How I wish I could lift them up and give them strength.  I’m only able to get out of bed, and put one front of the other, and breathe at all – because I’ve been lifted up and granted strength.  Prayers lift me up, prayers will lift Greg’s family up.

As I’m anticipating my approaching Camino, it occurs to me that the running of this race seems like the running of the bulls – absurd to those watching, exhilarating to us running.  When we stumble and fall, the near misses force us to doubt whether it has been worth it to be here.  Then we see the horns approaching a neighbor; we swoop them up to safety.  We can because we’re here.  I’ll be in Pamplona in a few weeks for the first time.  Again.

Buen Camino.

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Sharing

Until a couple of weeks ago, I had never heard of WordPress, and now it has become another of my compusions.  But why is there this tug to read others stories?

Some one shared that we read to know we’re not alone, as quoted from “Dead Poets Society.”  I find surprising consolation knowing that I’m in great company; with some, in experience and burden, in others in the vision quest.  I do enjoy the “sharing.” 

I make more mistakes than anyone I know, but have recently learned that life’s much too short to make all of them.  So it’s good to learn from others’.

Although I’m new to writing my thoughts for the world (or even myself) to see, I started down this road because I simply wanted to learn some way to share about my upcoming Camino.  I’m a bit compulsive perhaps, but I woke this morning to find that I’ve started six blogs.  Not sure where any of this leads, but I’m sure I’ll look back to see another of life’s metaphors. 

Buen Camino!

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Coming Back?

Yesterday’s meeting was predictable.  Not only had nothing changed, the boss actually wanted me to remind him how we left our last meeting.  I’m not surprised, I just wanted to be.  His big news that he couldn’t wait to tell me was that he needed another 6 or 8 months.  Then he’d know.  Right.  I reiterated that it probably took me out of the loop.  I would continue to be a good employee, and that was that.  He expressed a bit of surprise & relief, “So you ARE coming back?”  Yeah, I was pretty sure I had made that clear.  Wandering around in Spain for the rest of my life won’t pay the bills.

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Although today was supposed to be “Taco Tuesday” at Tijuana Flats with brother in law Donnie Frison, it looks like I gotta cancel!

Today’s the big meeting, where Dr. L is expected to “come clean” and tell me what he really intends to do in regards to selling his practice to me.  We’ve had that talk, each time with a “stop misleading me/yourself ultimatum.”  However this time really is profoundly different.  Two weeks ago I made it clear that we were going ahead with Sharon’s plan to pursue her dream of a teacher’s support/educational resourse supply store.  If the banks approved her endeavor, and tings fell into place, I would really not be interested in buying the practice.

It simply would not be fair to Shar, our marriage, our family or my ever increasing bloodpressure to even consider two entreprenurial endeavors at the same time.  I’ve unfairly stopped Shar from her dream for three years while he kept telling me that he really wanted to sell to me.  And now.  But we’re just waiting for this, or that, etc, etc.  I had come to the conclusion that he has no intention to do so, regardless of what he says or what he thinks he feels.

Anyway, so this time it just feels different.  I told him that after this educational store ball gets rolling, I will not/can not be interested until it becomes a profitable endeavor, likely 3-5 years.  By then I’ll be 58 and frankly will have no desire to expand my stress level in owning a new business.  I told him, I am a good employee, I will be one, and will continue to be.  But I will NOT ever again be interested in purchasing this hospital if we do not come to at least a handshake agreement prior to my leaving in April.  Period.

He just sat and looked at me like a deer in the headlights and said, “Wow.”  This was not even vaguely similar to past responses.  He said he needed a few days to consider, and consult with his accountant & attorney.  Well it’s now been two weeks, and today’s the day he’s chosen to “discuss” things with me.  I have no expectations.  Been there, Done that.  More to come.

Monsignor Daniel Sullivan RIP

I have truly come to the conclusion that there are no coincidences in our lives … people, things, and stories are thrown in our lives for a reason.  I’m just not sure what to do with any of this.

Holy Name of Jesus Catholic Church is one of my two “home” parishes, and is having a three-day retreat, Monday night, last night, and ending tonight led by Daniel Sullivan.  Very popular as a writer, retreat leader and mission speaker, we’ve been waiting for four years for our turn to hear Monsignor Sullivan.  He told 1200 parishioners Monday that he was booked until 2017.

Monsignor Sullivan is indeed quite a riveting speaker, very engaging and animated, with a love for his priesthood and faith that I was very drawn to.  I spoke with him after he was introduced at Mass on Sunday, and we agreed to meet on Wednesday morning, my day off.  I was to speak with him after the Monday talk to confirm and set up a definite time.  Although I did attend Monday’s talk, he was deluged afterward, and so I called him at the Crown Plaza on Tuesday and we decided on 9am in the pool courtyard overlooking the ocean.

I arrived early, and jotted down some notes about my life, Cullen, and the Camino.  By 9:05, he still hadn’t come down, so I had the front desk ring his room.  Seconds later a fire truck, ambulance, and 2 police card screeched to a halt under the canopy, just feet away.  The EMTs ran past and to the elevator.  When I asked the concierge if they were going to Father Sullivan’s room, she just looked at me like a deer in the headlights so I told her with urgency that if so, I needed to call Fr. Tony immediately.  I made that call, but Fr. Tony had already been contacted by the police, and was there with Bill Gent a few minutes later.

Monsignor Daniel Sullivan died in his room last night, just hours before our meeting.  I certainly have a sense of loss, as do the tens of thousands of faithful he has ministered to and would have ministered to in the next decade, but I had really just met him, so mine is not the grief others must feel.  This is just another piece of a puzzle i call “my life.”  I just have no idea where to put it.

Consumed

Yeah, I suppose I am consumed at times, most of the time in fact.  OK, all the time.  Sharon says I’m obsessive about everything I do.  Well, she IS always right.  Seriously.  So although I do seem to be consumed all the time, it’s not always with grief.  At least I don’t think I am.

This Camino thing will be really, really physically demanding.  I mean, I AM 53 years old, and it will be pretty rough.  And I’ve never even hiked before, unless you count boy scouts or walking through the woods to the cliff dive place a couple of years ago with Emily in Hawaii.  So I bought all the right (I hope) gear, and started hiking with my 28# backpack a couple of times a week.  Ok it’s like everyday, but just for a short walk before anyone wakes up.  Well maybe more than a short walk, cause I walk from like 5:15 to about 7:00, but really that only like 6 or 7 miles every day.  Does that sound obsessive?  A little, I suppose, but I gotta get prepared for 18-25 miles each day, and I’m a long way from being in the shape I need to be in. And frankly, the “short walks” are kicking my butt!  I am so sore, and not just pulled muscles and strained ligaments and sprained tendons, but my joints themselves are showing me a frustrating amount of intolerance to this kind of activity.  I remember some arthritic changes in both knees and both hips in the XRays we took about 10 years ago when Cullen and I took Tae Kwan Do and I had a bit of a run in with my aging shell.

I do notice that  the training doesn’t look so compulsive now that Sharon is walking with me when she can doesn’t have to be at work early and if I instead do an afternoon trek.  Kind of kicking her younger body too!

Really though, I am.  I can never just buy something.  I am driven to research for hours.  Heaven forbid not getting the best product for the best price.  Buying socks takes hours; a phone weeks; a car takes months.  Seriously.

Maybe a little ADD too, but that’s a different blog post.

She is right though, I am compulsive, and consumed.  Since I discovered we were mortal, me specifically, I’ve been consumed with exploring faith, religion, God, death, and finally, living.  Not really sure when that happened, but probably when the girl down the street from me named Kim Inman died from Leukemia when we were like 12.  That’s the first death I really remember.  She was someone I knew, a part of MY world, a 12 year old’s reality.  She was there, my playmate, then almost instantly, was gone.  Of course then there was Nana, Papu, Grandma, Grandpa, and Dante.  And then Daddy.  Lots of things there I wish I had done and said, and not done and not said.  And lessons learned – good ones, bot what to do, and unfortunately lots of things not to do.  But that’s another post also.

Also unfortunately some of these lessons came much too late about what not to do.  How to stop generational history from repeating itself…  You know, we become our parents.  But again that’s the other post, but don’t look for it yet, cause its all still in my head.

But yeah, I do obsess about God and the other stuff I mentioned, as well as my perceptions about others’ relationship with God, and their perceptions toward mine; BTW, what the heck?  Why all the vitriol about Catholics?  We don’t worship statues, and think Mary is a God, and where does all this stuff even come from?  Haha, but seriously – we’re not Christians?  We were the ONLY Christians for over a thousand years before Henry got upset that the rules couldn’t be changed so he could get a divorce, and Martin Luther (and probably lots of others) were upset about indulgence abuse and threw out 17 books from the bible that he didn’t like.  They’re inspired for 1500 years, then you decide you knew more than the early Church Fathers?  Guess that’s a different post too.  Don’t look for that one either.

Did I mention I’m a little ADD?

So I am consumed with Cullen’s loss, and no, it’s never gonna be the same again, and the “new normal” grief counselors talk about is bullshit.  No, I’m not always consumed with grief and sadness, but yes, frankly the whole thing sucks, and I do think of Cullen every minute of every day.  But lots of it is good stuff.  Most of it in fact.

 

Camino de Santiago

After returning home from FSU with Cullen on April 27, 2012, he stayed with us that weekend before leaving to study in China. Cullen went to Mass with us at HNJ, then expressed a desire to stay late for a Eucharistic Adoration service that Fr. Tony was having, with music by Sarah Kroger.  Cullen remarked that she sang “like an angel.”  Afterward we all returned home.

Cullen always wanted me to stay up late and watch a movie, and I typically declined because I was up very early the next day for work.  Agreeing this time to do so, we proceeded to dig through DVDs, looking, of course, for Napoleon Dynamite.  I remarked that it was too bad we had just returned a movie the rest of us had watched earlier in the week, because when we were watching it I remembered thinking that I knew he would enjoy it.  Anyway, Noah thought that although it hadn’t been available as an instant download that perhaps it would be now that we had watched it – I was skeptical, but upon checking – there it was – “The Way.”

Emilio Estevez directs his father Martin Sheen in this story of a man’s “final journey” with his son, discovering what he had meant when he said, “You don’t choose a life Dad, you live one.”  This is the story of walking “The Way of Saint James,”   with a few glimpses of the pilgrim’s experience as they walk the 500 mile “Camino de Santiago.”  The journey climaxes as the group enters the Cathedral of Santiago, each surrendering the burdens that they have attempted to carry alone.

After the movie ended, the two of us sat together in silence, until the music and credits ended.  I started to engage, “Well … ”  Cullen interrupted, “Of course I’ll walk it with you, but I gotta finish my master’s degree, so we’ll do it in two years.  We agreed and hugged goodnight.

I’ve read many reviews of the movie, and heard lots of people comment on it.  No one understands the depth of the message and foreboding for us.  Watching that movie was the last thing I was to do with my son.  He left me the next day, and I would only see his beautiful face once more; in a box rolling into the Chinese crematory.

I leave on my 500 mile, 30 day Camino de Santiago on April 16, 2013.