Burying the Dead During Advent: Asking “How” & Not “Why”

“When I closed the eyes of my dear little children and buried them, I felt sorrow through and through… People said to me, ‘It would be better to never have had them.’ I couldn’t stand such language. My children were not lost forever; life is short and full of miseries, and we shall find our little ones up above again.”

St. Zellie Martin

After a very risky and complicated identical twin pregnancy, my family and loved ones buried my niece Isabella born to heaven at 25 weeks. There are no pictures or videos of her funeral, but the memories and emotions are seared forever in my heart and mind. There are few words to adequately describe witnessing your eldest brother carry a tiny white casket out of the Chapel after his daughter’s funeral Mass or watch him place her int he ground. Or hold your niece and godchild for minutes while she cries into your wool coat. Or tell your teary eyed and recovering sister-in-law, “I’m so grateful you’re here, and I don’t take that for granted.” We could have experienced a double to triple funeral. And there is still the hopeful but unknown future for her sister Sara.

We did this together as a family and faith community. Withing the sacraments, we commended and entrusted this beautiful, precious girl to God. I’ve learned through the years not to ask “why” anymore but “how.” How has this child transformed our lives? How has this child reflected God? How have I responded to this gift? How can I act with compassion? Am I grateful for this life? Am I open to this life? Am I open to love- the love of a child? Yes.

Dear, Isabella, Aunt Hannah loves you and misses you. Your entire family loves and misses you. I hope to join you in Heaven someday. Requiem Aeternam, baby girl.

Love, Babies, & Loss

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you…” -Jeremiah 1:5

I’ve kept mostly quiet about the TTTS (Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome) pregnancy my brother & sister-in-law are navigating. After 2 emergency fetoscopic surgeries 4.5 hours away, dozens of local Maternal Fetal Medicine appointments, & hospital bed rest, my precious identical twin nieces were born via emergency extraction at 25 weeks Thursday, November 29th. Isabella was born to heaven, and Sara is in the NICU. Mom is struggling with complications, but she is beginning to show signs of improvement.

Both baby girls are so loved & cherished by their parents, siblings, & extended family. Our lives are forever transformed by their presence! They’re parents have fought hard for their girls health and wellness despite the many challenges and risks.

We’ve experienced extraordinary medical situations & miscarriages in our family, but our present situation is uncharted territory. The fragility of earthly life is inescapable, changing within a moment with minimal control or certainty. The prolonged reality unavoidable. Our holidays will be involved in the best and most challenging sense. The intensive, specialized NICU care of Sara will continue into the New Year and beyond. And eventually our family will gather to celebrate her life and mourn the loss of Isabella.

But the certainty of God’s merciful & unending love never changes. He has never abandoned us or the girls. Through the confusion, heartache, & stress, the gentle breath of the Holy Spirit sustains our weary spirits. The sacramental life of the Church brings purpose, perspective, meaning, & grace. The twins’ lives are a catalyst for entering into a deeper understanding of authentic love, trust, hope, & joy. The twins are bringing us closer to heaven if we chose to respond to them through the eyes of God. By love refined…

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Prayers are much appreciated! God bless. Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us!

Sexual Love As Described in “Humanae Vitae”

When I read St Paul VI’s (I love writing Saint before his name) encyclical Humanae Vitae last year, the section on “What Love Is …” startled me. As I read his descriptors of what love is, especially what sexual and marital love is, I immediately drew the connection to St. John Paul II’s lecture series “Theology of the Body” (1979-1984). The themes of sexual love within Humanae Vitae mirror Theology of the body. Love is FREE, TOTAL, FAITHFUL, & FRUITFUL.┬á┬á

Below is a graphic representation of God’s plan for sexual love according to Pope Paul VI’s prophetic encyclical:┬á

Humanae Vitae-1

An Irresponsibly Responsible Life

During Respect Life Month, hundreds of thousands of people young and old walked for respect for Life from conception to natural death. Saturday January 28, 2017 marked the 2nd Annual Walk for Life Northwest. Around a 1,000 people attended the rally and walk in Downtown Spokane WA one weekend after the March for Woman drew thousands. Sadly, the latter march denied Pro-Life woman a voice. The “Pro-Life” movement isn’t just a religious movement anymore. Research the Secularist for Life or other related organizations. Sadly, the Northwest along with the entire West Coast is a hotbed for pro-death culture.

At the Mass for Life held at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes, the pews filled while Bishop Daly led Mass for the respect of life from conception to natural death. By some movement of the Holy Spirit, I found myself reading the First Reading from the Book of Hebrews about the many generations that came from a man and woman deemed infertile (Abraham and Sarah.) Never having lectured at the Cathedral, I found myself reading in front of a full Church in my jeans and snow boots.

My father lightly cried in the pew while I read unbeknownst to me. What my friend the young priest who recommended me didn’t know when I was asked to proclaim the Word of God, my parents were chastised by doctors for my conception and life. My Dad cussed out a doctor in a Philadelphia hospital.┬áDoctors and family members called my parents “irresponsible.”

The doctors worst fears came true. I was born with the same genetic kidney condition my eldest brother and I share. I have been a “burden” on the healthcare and insurance system. My brother and I both defied the odds. He and I are in our late twenties and mid thirties. We are among the first generation of children to survive our particular condition. We are a medical miracle. We are a medical phenomena. But moreover, we have touched the lives of our family and countless strangers and acquaintances. We work. Practice our faith. My eldest brother is married with three beautiful and healthy children. We support and give back to our community and the environment. We pay taxes and practice responsible citizenship. We provide a little extra illumination to the world.

Yes, those grouches deemed our existence a burden and irresponsible. I wonder if these people just had no imagination or just feared the unknown so much it paralyzed them and squashed their ability to dream.

My parents choose life. For that I’m forever grateful. My parents dared to step into the unknown and dream. They dared to be creative and roll with the many many punches. My parents sacrificed money, education, power, success, and prestige for our lives. They sacrificed daily. I don’t know what the future brings or what extraordinary medical interventions my brother and I may or may not need. For now, we are who we are. People. Living breathing created in the image and likeness of God persons.

But because of our irresponsibly responsible lives, other children sharing ours or a similar condition will have a fighting chance at a healthy and whole life. And a dream. Thank you Mom and Dad for choosing life!

Fighting for Life

Photo Credit: Students for Life
Photo Credit: Students for Life

In the recent wake of Planned Parenthood videos depicting illegal organ harvesting of aborted babies, I wanted to share a story. Honestly, I’m horrified by the footage but unsurprised or less-than-shocked. The behavior follows a logical and historical pattern of evil, twisted yet fallen human reasoning when a group of people play God and deem themselves more a person than another. Back to the story.

My eldest brother and I share the same chronic kidney dysfunction. My middle brother does not. My brother and I are a medical phenomena that have outlived, out diagnosed, and out performed beyond the wildest imagination of the medical community, which by the way does not know everything. We are walking miracles that would have died and did die previously as “failure to thrive” children just a few years before our births. We represent a new demographic of children that will survive because of medical advances, but our lives are no less cherished or important than the lives of the children with our condition that died before us. For whatever reason, my brother and I live- a testimony to life in the face of adversity and uncertainty. A testimony that life is worth fighting for and the worth of the individual isn’t tied to their tangible, measurable utility.

Such a beautiful success story, right? My parents fought for our lives- my life. A medical professional in Philadelphia deemed my existence, before he ever knew whether or not I actually had the genetic kidney condition, as unworthy and a potential burden to the medical community and cost of healthcare in the United States of America. He debased my parents as “negligent,” “idiots,” etc. This medical professional knew better than anyone else involved, including God. This didn’t sit well with my parents. My father and this man ended up screaming at each other in the medical center hallway. My parents found a new practitioner. And nine months later, yours truly came screaming into Northern Philadelphia. The medical support staff, doctors, friends, and priests commented profusely on my beauty and vitality or how unusual my presence was. Shortly, I did become ill and was diagnosed with Distal RTA. Life hasn’t been easy, but I had a chance because my parents took a staunch position about my fetal dignity and the worth of my in-utero life and the countless individuals already touched by that life. I’m not a statistic or a ICD-9/ICD-10 code; I’m living flesh and blood with soul, mind, and emotions/ feelings. Thank you, Mom & Dad, for fighting for my life.

I’ve learned that life is beautiful in all its forms and function. Regardless of the person’s apparent utility, the worth of an individual is weighed on a divine scale that supersedes all human, limited notions of perceivable measurement of worthiness or substance. Nowadays, since exterminating your child is a “logical” option, parents must fight for the lives of children deemed “unworthy,” “burdensome,” “not human,” “impaired,” “inconvenient,” or “deformed” by relatives, friends, and the medical community. Please, fight for your child’s life whether your earthly relationship with your child lasts in-utero, shortly after birth, or in the years to come. Saying, “yes,” to these children is the most beautiful fiat you and I can utter.