We don't grow in holiness through blogging about it. We grow by experiencing challenges that force us to grow in virtue.
Our life experiences bring us out of our comfort zones, force us to confront not just the situation but also to reflect upon the state of our own souls, and hopefully, to help us grow deeper into our Vocations or even temporary states in life.
What's the old saying? "Man plans and God laughs". Something like that.
There's been a LOT going on around me, at home and with family and work, and it consumes me.
Today has been especially difficult and I even fled quickly from Mass this evening, knowing I didn't have enough kleenex to absorb the tears.
We all deal with tragedy, but I'm still trying to sort out the magnitude of tragedy going on around me. I thank God for a special gift He sent this week, that being lunch with an old friend who is back in town for a reunion. Perhaps that was the respite that prepared me for today in the wake of all that has been going on and will coalesce in the next week.
I can't go into detail because it may involve court proceedings, but I can reveal a little.
Remember last fall, my posts about the battle against the mouse invasion?
Yeah. I had no idea what we were all up against. Although eventually the mice population lost to human dominance over our own proper habitat, we unfortunately didn't realize that humans can choose to be vermin because that, too, is a part of our fallen nature.
If I'd realized then what was going on, I would have been on the horn to child protection and the health department and anyone with jurisdiction over this on a weekly basis.
You see, I live in a townhome and the unit in question, being rented, was host to someone who misrepresented herself and unfortunately, wasn't screened by the homeowner. So it was that about 5 families or other single personages moved in, and the main renter happened to allow immediate destruction by her children with no correction. Ever.
Let's just say that the renter in question turned out to be a hoarder, didn't understand what cleaning chemicals, brushes, rags, mops, vacuums, etc are for, and never employed them. Ever. In fact, there seemed also to be no understanding in that home at all that garbage containers were designed for a purpose, too. Apparently, these people decided that living with and among and on top of and under garbage of all types was something they preferred.
Now, I didn't realize this until recently. Yes, I'd noticed the growing rank smell in my garage and increasingly had to suppress the gag reflex every day I came home. And yes, the people who resided there increasingly used the front lawn as a livingroom, and often, the lawn outside my place for major celebrations, which was very noisy and annoying especially with their unleashed dog and uncontrollable children who literally threw patio furniture at each other with no parental intervention.
But that's beside the point. They had their electricity turned off for non-payment shortly before the end of their lease which was not being renewed, and that's where I came in. While checking on the property for my friend the homeowner, I and another neighbor became aware of the ACTUAL condition of the property and the filth that contained the people there.
Have you ever seen the show "Hoarders" on A&E? I find it ironic that I watched a few of them via Netflix while on the other side of my wall, THAT'S what was going on. But you see, I didn't realize because I had no reason to pass in front of that unit that faced away from me, and they were such heavy smokers that the cigarette smoke that permeated the walls and filled my home with a haze actually covered the scent of garbage and human soil.
Well, I actually had to enter the abandoned place to turn stuff off when the owners, unaware of what was left on deliberately or not by the vacated renters, had it turned back on. We pulled the fuse on the Central Air from outside and decided to enter (trespass) in order to protect the owner. And it all went downhill from there.
You can't imagine the smell. Four cats and the litter box never cleaned, or if so, only rarely. The introduction of a puppy. Actual violence done to the actual structure of the home. Filth everywhere. A kitchen never cleaned...ever. Walking on garbage, floors tacky, even the carpets. Mold and mildew from a serious water leak they did not call the landlords to report. (Now I know the source of the mildew I smelled about mid-winter but could never track in my house. The leak wasn't mine..but the scent came through my walls).
So...well...let's just say I've been in the unit taking damage photos with the owner's permission, blessing, and gratitude simply because I used to investigate fraud and know about the importance of photos in court proceedings.
Unfortunately, I may have signed away, for free, several years of my life.
Well, my personal life isn't exactly roses, either.
While I'm not a hoarder by any means, I have agony coming at me from another direction: family.
Recently I wrote about my mother's upcoming surgery. Even though Angioplasty is perhaps the least-invasive of all heart surgeries, the fact is that we all only have one heart muscle and if something goes wrong, it's over.
It's complicated by the fact my mother is high-risk with diabetes and a non-or-under-functioning kidney. (For those unaware: that complication has to do with the dye used to identify the blockage).
I'll be waiting at the hospital, alone, while Mom is in surgery as bro can't be there, and so I've been trying to emotionally and mentally prepare myself for the worst case scenario.
Then today I went to work, and learned that my friend, whom I wrote about a couple weeks ago, died this morning.
That was hard enough and I had steeled myself for the news, knowing that as a parish employee, I could not give in to emotions. I had to inform as well, and be present to support others.
So I received the news and took advantage of the short period of numb denial, and called, personally, all of our volunteers who had worked with him so long, starting with the most difficult. Then called the teens he had taught, and heard some very touching things from the parents with whom I spoke: as much as this man had been touched by "his boys", they also had been touched and spoke often of him. They had also learned much of their faith and that, too, had made incredible impact.
Because of this response I passed on to them his dying wish, which I won't reveal here for that should remain silent but for those whom it involves right now.
While making those calls, I often had to stop, take a deep breath, and get my emotions under control. On the other end of the phone I heard tears, sharp intakes of breath before I even delivered the news as some seemed to sense that I wasn't calling for my normal August reasons.
Many took the news and re-directed the conversation to other things, probably for the same reason I allowed it to be re-directed: for composure. To speak of normal things because, well, we were ALL at work.
And sadly, I had to leave the information on some voice mails and with great apologies. Still, if it were me, I'd rather have the voice mail notification than none at all or a cold emailed version.
Because of all this, I had to get away from the office. I couldn't go to the Adoration Chapel at work; when I am there I need to be "professional" and can't just go there to cry there in front of Jesus.
I had to go home, so I left work, went to my home parish chapel, and prayed the Office of the Dead, Divine Mercy, and laid my grief before My Lord.
When I arrived home, I had a phone call from my boss with the funeral information: it's Monday, the Feast of the Assumption.
The same day as my Mother's surgery.
I can't go.
I can't go to my friend's funeral because I will be sitting in a waiting room praying not to have to plan my mother's funeral.
And on top of all of that, today I also learned a co-worker and friend was diagnosed with breast cancer and will be undergoing very aggressive treatment, starting very soon.
I can't explain the ways of God, but I know the family of my friend probably hoped for a funeral on the Feast of the Assumption for the same reason I prayed my mother's surgery would be on that very same Feast Day.
It comes down to our beliefs about the Assumption, about eternity, about the Blessed Mother's intervention at the time of death
It comes down to what we believe about Purgatory (pray for the Holy Souls!) and eternal Beatitude.
Grief isn't a bad thing, as some want to imply. Grief is beautiful, for it is a corollary of love. We cannot truly grieve those we did not love. In grief, tears are the pearls recorded by God and if offered up, applied as prayers on behalf of the loved one who has gone to join Him, and such pearls are never wasted.
I know my friend received the Sacraments and spent his final months doing little but praying, most especially for others. I am honored and grateful to have been on his list.
I know my mother has received the Sacraments and will go into surgery spiritually prepared.
And I know that God wills me, in some sense, to be present there, in "original solitude", and He intends it for my holiness just as He intended for me to make all the phone calls, alone, earlier today, reigning in my own grief in order to support that of others. None of us lives for ourselves; our lives belong to God and He calls us forward into that life, to serve even when we'd rather retreat. This the paradox that makes us grow in virtue.
Tonight I am exhausted, and it seems, at every moment, there is a phone call or email demanding something more, and I find that still, somehow, I have more to give. It doesn't come from me...it comes from Him.
Yes, Life gets in the way of our personal plans, but in reality, that's because God calls us to live through everything so that we may more appreciate His sacrifice, learn to live it ourselves, and bring others to Him through our own suffering.
You know...Jesus never promised that we wouldn't suffer. Rather, He promised to be WITH us.
The more difficult the trial, the more He carries us and our load.
Thank You, Jesus, because I can't carry any more right now.