“We are an Easter People and Alleluia is our song!”
Lent is over and we’re well into the Easter Season. Reflecting back on this year’s Lenten season, I’m a different person than I was heading into it. And not for the reasons I expected.
Leading up to Lent, though already facing some challenges, I thought I was properly prepared. I had set goals and had laid out an ambitious (and what I thought was great) plan to have a meaningful Lenten experience and to encourage and support others to have the same.
But, as with most best laid out plans, the plans were thrown out in a matter of minutes.
I had laid out a plan of scaling back obligations that distracted me. I would lead the rosary live online daily. I would add to my prayer time. I would fast as prescribed and serve others. Such ambitious plans that I had. Maybe, I was too focused on those and my own growth and became too self-centered and self-reliant.
Ash Wednesday began well enough. I had started the rosary in the early hours and had already led the morning rosary live. In scaling back, in the previous couple of weeks, I had resigned from Pastoral Council at my parish, stepped down as a Lector and withdrew from the Sacristan training program. Granted, these were more due to personal issues and conflicts. But, I felt that by removing myself from these situations I would overcome the hurt and betrayal I felt. I would put the bitterness and resentment behind me and focus more on drawing closer to the Lord and His passion.
I even stepped away from my role on my parish’s Fall Festival Committee, though that was more due to the time required and it conflicting with my other obligations.
Many of you know that I have an ongoing relationship with PTSD. With this unique relationship, I frequently find it very difficult to open up to others and to trust others. During difficult times, I find myself withdrawing and isolating far too often.
As I said, Ash Wednesday began well enough. That evening, my daughter and I went to the Ashes service followed by going to dinner together. That’s when everything fell apart.
We had just ordered an appropriate Lenten meal at a nice Italian restaurant by our place when my Dad called that he had fallen and thought he broke his leg. I still laugh at his nonchalant way he let me know he was hurt.
“Uh, John, sorry to bother you but I think that I might have a problem. I didn’t call at a bad time did I? Oh, anyway, I think I broke my leg”.
Needless to say, we immediately canceled our food order and rushed over to my parents’ house.
Dad was on the floor and while experiencing discomfort was in great spirits. We called EMS and they came. evaluated him and took him to the ER as a precaution due to his age ( he’s 84). At the time they thought it was just a soft tissue injury. Sadly, it wasn’t. The fall had broken his hip.
We found out the next morning that he needed surgery to “secure “it. Turned out that he needed a nail and several screws to fix his hip. After a couple of days in the hospital, he was transferred to a rehabilitation hospital for physical therapy where the plan was for him to come home in a couple of weeks once he was walking and stronger.
But, like I said, things don’t go as planned. The day after Dad was admitted to the rehab hospital, my Mom was also admitted to the same rehab hospital due to the staff noticing not only mobility issues but issues with dementia.
Another issue we were facing as a family at this time was that the day my Dad had his surgery, my mother-in-law in Ohio was moved to in home hospice care.
As a family, we were stressed and concerned. My wife was grieving about her mother and being 1400 miles away. We were worried about the care of my parents and what awaited us when they came home.
Sadly, during this time, while Mom was improving, Dad seemed to be going downhill. He was having low blood pressure, was weak and unable to do a lot of his therapy and, worse, he was experiencing confusion. I was watching my Father deteriorate before my eyes.
There were disagreements with family members about what we should do about my parents and at times harsh words were exchanged. Battle lines were drawn and familial relations were fractured along numerous fault lines.
On March 15th, almost three weeks after my Dad’s accident , he and Mom were moved to an assisted living facility near my sister – over 50 miles away. I haven’t seen my parents since then.
During this period of time, all three of us (my wife, my daughter and I) took turns fighting illness. My stress levels were high and at times so was my blood pressure (dangerously so). My PTSD was in full bloom and add in some issues at my parish, I felt overwhelmingly alone. I further withdrew from most family members due to the tensions (my wife, son and daughter not included), from my parish and my brother Knights.
I found myself at times questioning my faith and more frequently questioning whether it was time to find a new parish or not. I found myself not knowing who I could trust and somewhat unwilling to try and find out. I chose to keep my own council and to keep to myself, focusing only on the daily tasks before me.
So, while I didn’t “sacrifice” traditional things for Lent, I instead sacrificed my will, my self-reliance and self-confidence , my own understanding of things ( and at times my sanity). I was forced to trust only in the Lord at this time as I felt that I could trust no one else.
So, while in a place of doubt and darkness overwhelmed by my fears and insecurities, I found a new reliance on trusting Christ right where I was.
While the challenges still continue, I am slowly finding peace and trusting the promptings of our Lord.
My parents are still at that assisted living facility on the other side of town (probably for the best), though we do talk on the phone regularly, my family is still fractured (I doubt there will be anymore holiday family gatherings), my mother-in-law is still in hospice care, and I’m still leery of my parish and questioning if I will stay (though for the time I will because of my brother Knights).
Despite all of this, I am hopeful.
I guess, this Lenten season was fruitful after all. I drew closer to Jesus in my fear and brokenness, finding strength and solace in His Passion.
But, what do I know; I’m just a simple rosary maker.