Lent is Right Around the Corner!

Here we are again, Lent is right around the corner. For as long as I can remember Lent has been a significant thing in my life. Even before I was a practicing Catholic. My family was culturally Catholic and I observed Lent as part of my culture even though I had no idea what it was really about or why we didn’t eat meat on Fridays during Lent. Also, when I was sixteen I got a job at Long John Silver’s for two years so Lent was this big huge deal at work. To be honest, those years of working the drive-thru at LJS really made me sure that the one thing I never was gonna be was Catholic.

Then I became one. HA HA HA God is hilarious.

Lent as a Catholic was this incredible thing. But then we got the Lent Lice and then Lent Crisis after Lent Crisis happened and it became increasingly more and more difficult to focus on anything other than “LENT SUCKS”. Lent felt like a new school year where I would get all my supplies together and ready to go because THIS year was going to be THE year that I used them and did things the “right way”.

Then Lent of 2017, one week exactly after Ash Wednesday, my son Anthony hung himself in our family home in the garage. It is the year that we had a family dinner for Fat Tuesday and our first King Cake. Anthony’s oldest daughter found the baby. It was the last time that all my children would be together. Talk about Lent going downhill.

I had decided to give up Dr. Pepper and cussing for Lent that year and the second that my pastor got to the house, which was right behind the ambulance after we found Anthony, I said “I gave up cussing and Dr. Pepper for Lent but (insert f-bomb here) this, I am not giving up shit this year!” and he looked at me with the most merciful look on his face and said “I think you are covered for Lent this year and probably every Lent from now on”. As soon as the coroner took my son’s body I got in my car and drove to the nearest 7-11 and got me a Dr. Pepper. I never even finished it and it sat on the table in my bedroom for a year until I got the courage to throw it away finally. It was never about the Dr. Pepper. I was just so angry at God. Buying that Dr. Pepper was my way of flipping Him off.

Last year was a haze, but the one devotion that has truly helped me process my grief and to understand that God did not punish us with death, but death is a consequence of sin and God in His love and Mercy sent His Son to redeem and conquer death, has been Sr. Theresa Nobles’ Memento Mori social media takeover. You can read more about what this devotion has done for me in my review of her Momento Mori journal.

This Lent she has just released her Lent Devotional. I think I am ready to gather my supplies and try to observe Lent again and I with this devotional, I can do that while also observing the anniversary of Anthony’s suicide. Which is the first Friday of Lent this year so there is no way to ignore it. It’s right at the beginning and I am hoping Sister’s devotional will help me to use Lent as a time to process my grief and help me to spend that time praying for Anthony.

I am planning on sharing daily reflections throughout Lent using this devotional and the Memento Mori Journal on my Patreon, If you would like to join in, please go check out my Patreon and become a Patron. And if you know of anyone who is grieving this Lent, please consider gifting them with this Memento Mori gift set for this Lent. It is beautiful and so so helpful in understanding death and looking towards God who is on the other side of it for those who love Him.

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One Step At a Time

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Grief is different for everyone and each loss is also different. There is no worse grief or easier grief, it is just different. Some people seem to be “fine” but they are really in denial. Their brain will not allow them to think about or face the loss of their loved one. They are not choosing to ignore the fact that their loved one is dead as they go on with life, as usual, it is a defense mechanism. Some people dive into work to distract themselves and they do really well at whatever they put all that energy into, some people have brain fog and forget to make sure the slow cooker is plugged in. I am the latter.

My grief is very specific. It is suicide loss of a child who took his own life in my home with a side of the trauma of leaving him in my house and finding his body hours later. Not to mention that I was already riddled from the trauma of being sexually abused as a child, verbal abuse and being bullied most of my childhood. Anthony’s suicide was trauma on top of a mountain of trauma. I remember the exact moment that I saw my husband in the kitchen screaming and I knew that he had found Anthony and that Anthony was dead by suicide. The information all just came into my brain like it was being uploaded onto a computer. I told my husband to get himself together and then it was like a switch went off in my brain that turned me into a robot. I instantly started making a list of things that had to get done: I needed to get dog crates, secure the dogs, call 911, call our priests and then when I was sure that Anthony was dead I had to call into work to tell them that he, his brother and I would not be in the next day. We all worked together, and I had to call in for us.

I had to call in dead for Anthony, which is so crazy and whoever thinks they will have to do that? But my point is that I did it and I did it all calmly and matter of factly. I asked the paramedic if Anthony was really dead and when he said “Yes Ma’am, he is”, I just took a deep breath and went into the kitchen to wash the dishes. This was not an action that I choose to do, my brain decided for me that accepting the fact that my son was dead in my garage was too hard to face so we were going to do something else. I didn’t finish the dishes because the police had questions for us and I was rerouted after that to my mission to have our priests bless Anthony’s body. It was on the list of things that had to be done. Then I had to drive to my mother’s and check on her and Anthony’s little family. All of it was on a list in my mind that is still going to this day twenty-two months later. My brain and daily routine have been forever changed by that switch that flipped the moment that I realized what was happening.

I finished the dishes the next day. In the sink was the plate that still had the food Anthony had not finished at dinner less than 48 hours before. He was dead but there I was washing the plate with food that he had served himself on it. Again, my brain flipped a switch because that fact was too difficult to look at and feel. Typing it makes my heart race and I can feel the switch flipping.

This was the second year that I and my family celebrated the Holidays: Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s since Anthony’s suicide. The first year we all tried so hard to pretend like it was ok and to keep his memory alive in our celebrations. This year we did not try to do anything. We all knew that Thanksgiving was missing the crazy person who would click his fork on his giant teeth at the table until one of us told him to knock it off. It was so quiet and that was more depressing than anything, so we decided that Christmas was going to be very low key. We were going to lean into the depression. And we did. We went to eat Chinese Buffet for Christmas dinner, we laid around and watched our favorite family movies like Nacho Libre, Shaun of the Dead and the Big Lebowski. My daughter and I also watched Birdbox which was so good but a bit triggering.

Losing my amazing son Anthony to suicide has been the hardest thing I have ever lived through. I look back on the past twenty-two months and I do not know how I made it. I see so much love from people, I see a lot of meltdowns, I see moments when I could not think or breath, but I also see that I made it. Somehow, I am not sure how I have made it from that day when I was figuring out how to call into work because Anthony was dead to today. One breath, one prayer, one moment, one word of encouragement from a friend, one hug, one mass and one step at a time.

Motivation for the Poor

Something I’ve been noticing a lot lately is this new fad of motivational speakers and writers telling everyone how to “make it big” and they all basically say the same thing while using their own story of how the did it. The majority of these people are middle class white women who are “allies” of people of color (a term I HATE by the way and do not understand why brown and black people seem to not get how close it sounds to “colored people”, but that’s another blog post that is sitting in my drafts because I am not really ready for the flame-throwing that will bring me) and who don’t seem to see that their motivational advice is all basically the same and all for one specific audience: people with privileges that poor people do not have. Not just poor people, but people living the struggle.

I do not mean the “oh I had to be on bed rest” struggle either.  I mean the struggle of generational poverty and trauma. Of being a single mother and grandmother who has to wait tables to make ends meet or have more than one job. The people who are working for minimum wage at the conferences where these motivational gurus are speaking. The people who never had the chance to go to college and even if they did, they would be behind socially because we have to learn a new language around kids who went to good schools. People who are worried about racism and how it is an issue that they live, not just learn about in books and on the internet. People without insurance or a spouse or whose whole family has been riddled with addiction. People with a criminal record that means they will never get a job with benefits. People with bad credit which means they can’t rent an apartment or ever own a home. People who struggle with every single one of the issues that I just wrote at the same time. Who is helping these people learn to figure out and follow their dreams?

I’ll tell you Who: Jesus.

Yeah, I said it. Jesus. The one Name you don’t hear much of even though a lot of these spunky motivational speakers will say they are Christians. They use Christianity as a badge of honor but they do not dare speak His name or say anything about His Gospel.

Something I have been thinking about a lot this week is how equal holiness makes us. It does not matter how much money you have, what kind of family you were born into, whether or not you are a millionaire or work seventeen jobs, holiness is attainable for everyone. Not only is it attainable, but it is the purpose of our entire existence. THAT is the true goal of our lives, to be made into saints.

The key words are “be made into”. It is much easier to become a multi-millionaire than it is to be made into a saint.  Because allowing God to make you a saint means that your entire life will be set on fire right before your very eyes. Suffering is the fire that God uses to make saints (He does not cause the suffering, He USES it).

He will perform surgery on your life to take out every single rotten thing out of it and you will not be put under while it is happening. No, it will be painful. So so painful.

I can totally see why these nice, kind, superficial, easy and full of the prosperity gospel “methods” are so in fashion and so marketable while stories of suffering and being nailed to a Cross are not. I can tell you for sure that if I had known the amount of heartache, suffering and all around bullshit my life as a Christian seeking holiness would bring me, I would have run so fast the other way.

I did not know because God dupes us lost sheep all the time, it’s his MO. Just read the lives of the Saints, the unedited versions. He swoons us, loves us, does miraculous things for us and then our lives go right into the toilet. Motivational speeches and “how-to” books do not help when that happens. The only thing that helps is clinging to Jesus who went before us and Who hung on His Cross saying “Why have you forsaken me?”.

Blessed are the Poor in Spirit, for theirs will be the Kingdom of God. 

That is the motivation for the poor. He isn’t a motivational speaker, He doesn’t give us a “how to be a success” plan, He gives us salvation.