Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Remembering Two Years Later

Two years ago I lost my first child. For many people, it wasn't a child, it only had the "potential" for life. But for those who know that life begins at conception (which is biology, not politics), each and every pregnancy loss is the loss of a child.

We named our baby Casey Marie. Unlike her little brother, we never got to see her on an ultrasound or hold her in our arms. She died not long after we found out she existed.

I went to Mass today in commemoration for this tiny life that lived inside me for just over 8 weeks. I personally dedicated that Mass not just to my little Casey, but to all families who have lost children to miscarriage, stillbirth, or abortion and to all those couples who struggle with infertility and long to conceive a child.

No matter how far you get away from a loss such as a miscarriage, you never forget. It is not the kind of thing that you "get over" and "move on" from. And if anyone ever tells you differently then they've never been through it. Two years later, I still miss all the possibilities we could have had with our baby. The birthdays, the milestones, the hope for her future, even sickness and tears. All those things are part of caring for a child and I never got to do any of them with this baby.

But I still celebrate the life this child had, no matter how short it was, and I don't regret for a minute that I have shared this child's life with everyone and anyone. Naming our child was very important and I couldn't imagine ever pretending she didn't exist just so I wouldn't have to talk about a death to anyone. We live in a culture of death that no one likes to talk about. We talk about abortion like it is some sort of right (and those that push for it seem to forget about the child's rights) when it is really about murdering a child. By sharing my story of my baby's life, I am reminding people that life begins long before we even know it is there. This is my small part in helping to change our culture into a culture of life.

By the grace of God, my baby is in Heaven close to Him. From the moment we lost Casey I imagined her in Mary's arms. Even though I wasn't able to hold my child on earth, I know that she is held in the arms of our spiritual Mother. That is a great comfort. During a Memorial Mass we had for Casey several months after we lost her, someone came up to me afterwards and told me that she saw Mary during the Mass holding my little baby. I was stunned, because at that point I had never told anyone about my own imaginings. I will never forget that.

In addition, knowing that my child is in Heaven means that she can pray for us. She can intercede with God just like any of the saints. I call Casey, and her brother Zachary, my little saints. It is a blessing to know that my children are part of the communion of angels and saints, they can intercede for us in our prayers, and they can pray for us as well. I often ask them for prayers. Prayers from those in Heaven are so powerful!!

So although this is a sad day, it is also a day filled with happiness and hope. Happiness because I know my child is in Heaven for all eternity with the Blessed Mother Mary, our Savior Jesus Christ, and God the Creator of us all. Hope because I pray everyday that one day I will join her in Heaven and be able to hold her in my arms.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Did I accomplish my Lenten Goal?

Well, we're not done yet, but I think it is safe to say that I did not finish reading all 6 books that I set out to read. I did finally finish G.K. Chesterton's Orthodoxy, and what an interesting read that was!!

This was my second or third time trying to read this book. Those first few times I never made it very far, probably not even past chapter one. Mostly that was my own fault. This is not a book you can set down and expect to pick up later and understand what is going on. This is philosophy, and it is seemingly "everywhere." But this time, I stuck with it. Whenever I didn't understand something I just kept going. It was important for me this time to just try and get the big picture.

I think I accomplished that. Towards the end of my reading of this book, my husband started reading it again. He informed me that upon a second reading he feels like he understands better because he knows what the overall goal is. Personally, I'm still a bit fuzzy on the overall goal.

But I got some good basic things out of this book. Essentially Chesterton wrote this (around 1908, by the way) in response to something someone had written about him. The purpose of the book is to show how he came to believe that there is a God and that the Catholic Church is the one true church.

But how he goes about doing this is what I find so confusing. From discussing "maniacs" to elves and fairy tales, I kept wondering what this had to do with the Church. But by chapter 6, it started to fall into place ... a little bit. I could sort of see by then how these weird tangents actually came together to form the foundation for his argument that Christianity has to be right. I think I might need to read the book at least two more times to truly understand everything.

But understanding everything was not my goal. I wanted to be able to get something out of it and have a basic understanding of Chesterton's thoughts. That was really all I could hope for without taking a class on him or something.

What I did get were some great sound bites. Chesterton really has a great way with words. And it was amazing how tangential something could sound until he actually did make a point. Then it was like light bulbs going off!! I marked many interesting passages, several too long to quote here, but I do want to share a few of the briefer ones.

Like I said above, chapter 6 was when things really started making sense to me. This chapter, titled "The Paradoxes of Christianity" really got into what we call in the Catholic Church the "Great Both/And." Chesterton never comes out and calls it that, but it was obvious to me that this is what he was talking about. He starts this chapter by telling his readers that it is his purpose here "to show that whenever we feel there is something odd in Christian theology, we shall generally find that there is something odd in the truth" (p. 88). He goes on to explain, "this is why the faith has that elaboration of doctrines and details which so much distresses those who admire Christianity without believing in it" (p.89). Only in Christianity do we find people who can "pardon unpardonable acts, or love unlovable people." It is also the strength of Christianity that they adopted and kept the good things that were found in the pagan cultures they grew up around. I like how he describes this by saying that "Christianity got over the difficulty of combining furious opposites by keeping them both, and keeping them both furious" (p. 101). I can't think of a better way of describing the Great "Both/And" of the Church.

It is also in chapter six where Chesterton finally starts describing his own conversion. As a great man of words he eloquently states "the more I considered Christianity, the more I found that while it had established a rule and order, the chief aim of that order was to give room for good things to run wild" (p.102). I love that description of the order of the Church existing to allow for the good of our society to run free and wild. We often think of order as being constraining, and yet the Church teaches us that we are more free when we have doctrines and an order around us that when there is just anarchy.

The last bit I'll share from this section is also only possible from such a one as Chesterton: "It is easy to be a madman: it is easy to be a heretic. It is always easy to let the age have its head; the difficult thing is to keep one's own" (p. 107). This is as applicable today as at any time in history and will continue to be applicable in the ages to come.

From this point forward Chesterton delves more deeply into the Christian principles and his own conversion and acceptance of them, as well as his reasons for believing in the Catholic Church as the one true Church. His philosophical paths are at times hard to follow for the casual reader, but not entirely out of reach. Despite this casual reader being a little fuzzy on the path I was being taken down, I still felt like I came away with something to think about.

One thing I thought of often while I read was that I often hear people accuse believers that they are blindly following something they've been taught and they don't think. The implication is always that thinking people have no reason to believe in God or to follow a church. Chesterton brings that theory crashing down. He is one who has obviously thought about this quite deeply. I, as a believer in God and follower of the Catholic Church, have also thought long and hard about what I believe in and why. But I am not Chesterton and don't want to be. We each have our gifts and the fact that this man has been able to explain them so well that people are still reading him 100 years later because of his way of writing and philosophizing means that there is something there in that Catholic Church. I don't need to think as he does, I only need to know what I know and know that others have been able to make even better arguments to support my beliefs.

In closing, one last fun quote from Chesterton (because he can always provide some fun amidst his deep words): "Catholic doctrine and discipline may be walls; but they are the walls of a playground. Christianity is the only frame which has preserved the pleasure of Paganism" (p. 152).

Business or Pleasure?

That is the inevitable question when you tell someone you are taking a trip. Over the last several months whenever I mentioned that I was going to San Diego in March I didn’t get that question, instead I got a very long list of all the things I needed to do while I was there. I guess most people go to San Diego on vacation. I was going for a conference.

However, why travel to the opposite coast, to one of the most beautiful cities in our country, and not have any fun!! So that we did; lots of it! Hubby came along on this trip and thus it became half business, half pleasure for me, while at the same time being a 100% vacation for him. Lucky him! ;)

The conference, or rather, conferences, was a lot of fun as well. For the first time in the last three conferences I really do feel re-energized. That’s not to imply anything negative about the last two conferences. Two years ago I remember enjoying the conference immensely and was ready to take on some new things following it. But events shortly after that conference made it difficult for me to concentrate much. Last year’s conference occurred after some additional tragic events in my life and I just wasn’t mentally focused that year. But this year, I really did get a lot out of the conference and its many meetings. I am looking forward to tackling some things in a new way, trying some new things, and taking on some new challenges.

Now the fun part!! After getting in late on Friday (late is relative, we were still on East coast time) we got up Saturday refreshed and headed up the coast to check out La Jolla. We saw lots of big birds, sea lions, dolphins out in the ocean (too far off to take pictures), and beautiful scenery. Really the only reason to go to La Jolla is for the scenery. Heading back to the resort that afternoon, I finished the day in meetings while hubby relaxed with a book and enjoyed the quiet and beautiful resort setting.

Sunday was more morning meetings for me while hubby went off to check out Balboa Park. By the time I finished around noon he had planned the rest of my day for me. Yay!! We drove down to Balboa and headed to the International Village first to enjoy some food from the Iran House celebration going on that day. After purchasing our lunch of kabobs, rice, pitas, and baklava (and taste testing the milk candy while we waited in line) we took our lunch over to the free Sunday organ concert. The huge outdoor organ in the park is used every Sunday for a free concert. So we ate there and enjoyed the music. We also walked through the Japanese Garden and then stopped once more in the International Village on our way back to the car. We checked out the Scotland, Norway, China, Ireland, and Germany houses before finally heading back.

We wrapped up Sunday with Mass at a nearby Catholic church, a quick dinner, and then the big conference’s opening reception.

Monday was another day of fun for me. I attended one morning meeting and then we headed to the zoo. The SD Zoo is fabulous!! We spent the entire afternoon there and were not able to see it all. The bus tour at the beginning helped and we also took the Skyfair to get from one end of the park to the other (not my favorite thing) and I was able to see some cool things from above. I highly recommend the zoo. We got back to the conference for one evening meeting and then we went out to dinner in Old Towne. The concierge at the resort recommended a place (and provided us with a card to get a free appetizer). So we headed to Coyote Café and had some great Mexican food, as well as the best fresh tortillas I have ever had in my whole life!!

Tuesday and Wednesday were my busy days at the conference, so hubby was on his own. He spent Tuesday in Balboa Park visiting several museums. Wednesday he drove through some other parts of San Diego he hadn’t seen yet, drove across the two-mile Coronado Island bridge (just to say he had done it), and toured the USS Midway. Wednesday evening was the conference’s closing Banquet (complete with the most amazing Jazz Band of Music Librarians ever). Finally it was home on Thursday.

Overall it was a great trip and truly a 50/50 split in the business vs. pleasure category. We both had a great time and it was really good to get away and check out a new area of the country. I’m also re-energized and ready to get back to the many things awaiting me at work.