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Monday, April 09, 2012

The Looming Shadow of the Cross

I get it. I "get" that it's the Octave of Easter and we're all supposed to be joyful and happy and bubbling over with over-enthusiasm because Jesus Christ has RISEN! ALLELUIA!

Yes, I DO believe, and I KNOW, without a doubt, that God condescended to become one of us, suffered the ransom for our sin through punishment and a really torturous, horrible death, and was buried. I believe He descended into Hell to seek out our first parents, Adam and Eve, and all the others who had gone to Gehenna to await the Messaiah, and freed them.

Yes, I believe, but this year, I remain in the Passion. I celebrate liturgically, but personally, I'm not "feelin'" it and let me just say this:  this is exactly why our Faith is not about emotion.

One of the reasons I am Catholic is also because I do not have to "feel" the liturgical season and be smiley and happy just because, for the 2011th time we've celebrated the Resurrection of Christ.  I'm thrilled that others are happy and I am overjoyed interiorly about all the "HE IS RISEN!" accolades posted by my friends an acquaintances online.  One of the cool things about being Catholic is that we know the Cross is always with us and just because we celebrate something liturgically, it is not a requirement to experience it emotionally. Life happens and it is the Cross that makes it meaningful.  It is the Cross and Resurrection that define EVERYTHING.

So it is that we continue to suffer the Passion of the type God gives us even as we liturgically celebrate with the Christian world. We may be crushed by the weight of the Cross, but we always look to the Resurrection, for were it not for that, the weight upon us would be far too heavy to bear. And in that is a kind of joy that cannot be expressed through mere words or smiley-faces or platitudes.


Holy Thursday was beautiful but busy, and I attended my own parish, wishing I could remain for Adoration at the Altar of Repose, but no, immediately after I had to leave due to family obligations.

It had been proposed several weeks ago that we take our mother to a Latin Good Friday Liturgy. On Friday morning, therefore, I loaded the car and went on a long drive to my brother's home in hopes of attending with them. Thankfully we'd done our research and knew the available Latin liturgies and how long it would take to arrive.

That's when the Cross came to us. 

When I arrived at my brother's home, he greeted me with grim news:  Mom was not doing well. He didn't know what was going on, exactly, but explained the previous evening she'd gone to the ER because she felt her throat closing up. She was apparently diagnosed with an allergy of some sort because they gave her Benadryl. Someone drove her home and my brother's fiance' was going to pick her up and drive her to her car, then on to my brother's house in time to leave for Good Friday services.

Well, he was concerned, because Mom was confused on the phone, expressed she couldn't walk, and said she was driving anyway.  I called her and she sounded fine, said she'd realized she hadn't eaten (she'd diabetic and cannot fast on our required days), so ate and was better. As she wasn't slurred, I hung up and didn't order her to pull over and wait for us as I'd originally intended to do.

She arrived some time later and clearly, was having trouble walking. My brother expressed that this was how she'd behaved just after her blood sugar crisis after her angiogram last summer - a crisis that had landed her in the hospital for 5 days.  She insisted she hadn't eaten so we gave her food and made the decision to take her to the Liturgy. It was unspoken that we'd divert or call for help if her condition deteriorated in any way.

Unfortunately, we are like shell-shocked children: we are so accustomed to crisis and weirdness as a baseline that we are completely unable to assess when our own mother should have proper medical care. When crisis is the standard, it takes a great deal to make the decision to involve the hospital...yet again.

As it turned out, we had to nearly carry Mom into the church, give her time to rest in a back pew, find a bathroom for her, walk her there, have her nearly fall in a psychological panic, watch her walk normally when it was convenient for her, deal with her nearly falling over when there were witnesses.  It wasn't a matter of just one thing, but a combination of medical and psychological. I refused to give in to "crisis mode" and became the firm caregiver. I'm sure I appeared quite heartless to people in that particular parish when my mother nearly fell and grabbed onto me. I held her up while stating over and over again, "You're fine."  without emotion and without coddling.

It's like raising an attention-seeking toddler: give in to emotion and turn the incident into a full-blown temper tantrum.

We sat near the front of the church so Mom could see (and so we'd have a quick escape need be), and close proximity to the altar rail as we'd be approaching it twice.

Mom seemed to follow along decently, mostly listened. I knew this was the first Latin liturgy she'd heard for over 50 years. For my brother and his girlfriend it was a first.  Unfortunately, the parish did not have decent guides (most people attending this liturgy were regulars and had Missals - I had forgotten and left mine home).  So it was that we followed what we could, I gave what little guidance I could, and, well, worried about Mom the entire time. I think my brother and I exchanged more glances in that 2 hour liturgy than we ever had at any other point in our entire lives.

When it was time for the Veneration of the Cross, we stood to go, and Mom moved as if to let me by.  I bent down to ask her if she wanted to venerate the Cross. She stared at me blankly. I had to repeat it a couple times while signaling my brother to wait. The line was already moving but that was fine...I was sure they would let us in but we didn't want anyone held up  by our slowness.

Finally she understood, nodded, and my brother and I lifted her and, flanking her, walked her out of the pew and into the aisle. The people were kind and allowed us to enter. We proceeded forward slowly, which was no problem in this particular veneration. The person in front of our trio venerated and moved aside. My brother and I glanced at the woman in the other line, waiting but she stood back, nodding at us to proceed.  We both nodded in thanks (I think?), and brought Mom forward to the Cross so that she could bend and kiss the feet of Christ. The altar servers actually assisted by lifting the Crucifix slightly for her.  Then my brother, then, although my mother tried to turn, by my brother's gentle prompting, she waited so that I could move forward.

I don't ever recall seeing so much detail in blood and nail on the feet of Jesus as I kissed Him.

What was happening was not lost on me.

As we turned and hobbled back at a snails' pace, people lining up behind us, Mom announced she had to go to the bathroom again, so we took her on the long trek in that direction.

I noticed she walked normally between the stall and the sink to wash her hands but the second that was over, she returned to her "helpless" state, obligating my brother and I, once she was in the hallway, to bear her up again and constantly direct her to stop looking at her feet, but rather, look ahead. Yet every time another person approached, she'd panic and we'd be holding her up as one would a person drowning in the ocean.

At one point, Mom's panic aside, I smiled at some children on their way also to the bathroom, stepping aside so that they could proceed, indicating they should go.  We were making a spectacle, holding up traffic everywhere, and not by necessity. Yet...all around us deferred to us, even though we were strangers among them.  It was no matter: we were Catholic and therefore, we were family.  

It was a repeat at Communion and the first time in 50 years Mom was able to kneel at the Communion rail to receive Our Lord. Because of her physical problems I advised her to stand but lean (and said she could lean on me as I knelt) since kneeling would be so hard for her. But no, she knelt and received. Our relatives came behind us not to receive as they could not, but to assist, and again, as we lifted her up and carried her back to her pew, the people of this very reverent, traditional parish waited and moved as they could to allow us to pass.

After it was over my brother got the car to pick her up and we took her home, ordering her to check her sugar, wondering if we should go to the ER or, by then, because she was improving, perhaps "wait and see".

Holy Saturday

Although we'd planned to attend the Vigil together, I went alone out of a personal obligation, and as Mom still had problems walking, she remained home. By the time I arrived back, Mom was in bed although she did join us around 1 am for some time, at which point we learned there was an "aftercare" document given to her by the ER. A document she hadn't shared with my brother and stated, last night, that she "couldn't understand no matter how many times she read it."

The document was clear:  first, she should not have driven at all to my brother's home. (We knew that and had told her to stay home as she was not well.)  All her symptoms required a return to the ER, but because we've gotten so used to both real and psychosomatic behavior as "normal" for her, we did not follow this.  Had we had that document in hand, we would not have attended Good Friday, but would have spent that time in the ER instead.

Last night, my brother and I both confronted Mom on her need to give us the documents from her ER and other doctor visits, and reiterated to each other that we HAVE to talk to her doctor and perhaps get her into an Assisted Living facility that has greater supervision than the minimal facility she is in now (which has only pull cords).

It was not an easy conversation and I left it to take my dog out, where I took the time to take a deep breath and say a quick prayer of apology and request for help.

Easter Sunday

He is Risen!

Yes, He is Risen Indeed, but Mom is nearing the end of her days.

This is the part where people feel the need to quote platitudes about hope and the Cross and the Resurrection and such. And this is exactly why such platitudes are so offensive.

In the midst of the Cross, there is no such thing as comfort. The road to Calvary must be walked, it is awful for all involved. This is where we find fortitude, perseverance, and hope - through experience, not through trite sayings.

The Cross does not disappear just because we liturgically celebrate the Resurrection. Easter in the world does not end temporal suffering. It all continues.

What I say it this:  it is the Cross that gives meaning to it all. It is not about emotion or candy or roasting lambs on a spit in the front yard with a red velvet lamb cake decorated with peeps for dessert.

It is ok to enter into suffering even in the most liturgically joyful Octave of our Calender. In fact, perhaps it is this suffering that reveals the Holiness the most, for it is for THIS that Christ suffered and died.  THIS suffering, RIGHT NOW.  For everyone, In all moments, the big and the little ones, ALL.

The Cross looms for all, for none of us will pass into Eternity without first passing through the Cross.


IC said...

Wow, Adoro--I thought I had my Triduum rough! I'm sorry you're going through this with your mother; it just sounds very very hard. Not much else to say other than may the peace of Christ be with your family.

Adoro said...

Thank you, IC.

She is better now, although still has something going on.

I don't know where this is going but please pray for her.

Jose said...

Your mother and yourself are both in my prayers, Adoro. God bless.

Jose C.

kam said...

I hope your Mom is feeling better, it appears she is. Thanks for the 180° view on the Triduum and the Octave. I understand completly.

Adoro said...

Thank you, Jose and Kam and IC.

Mom is better now but I am not satisfied by the response from her doctor at this point. Time will tell.

I do think my bro and I need to speak with him because Mom is probably "filtering" what really happened and the doctor isn't really able to get an accurate description of the events. I think Mom signed documents allowing us to give info to the doc and speak more freely on her behalf, though, and we intend to take advantage.

Prayers needed and appreciated!