Today is Good Friday, not only for Catholics, but the majority of the Christian faith. The day that officially ends our 40 days of Lenten sacrifice and the sorrow of Holy Week. It is also the day that Jesus suffered and died for our sins, and the sins of the whole world. He didn’t die just to save his disciples, his neighbors, or the people in his village. He died to save YOU, to save ME. And to save the generations that will come after us! This lent has been a very, very moving, emotional and life changing one for me. Although lent is always special, since it’s my favorite time of the entire year—this Lent was different. I truly, whole heartedly suffered. Physically. Spiritually. Mentally. Emotionally. I allowed myself over the past year to FINALLY talk openly about a burden I had been carrying to myself. I opened up and shared this burden with people I trusted on a deep level… so for those of you still in the dark about what this burden is….you’ll find out eventually. After talking openly about this deep loss, I was able to forgive myself, and let go of the pain associated with this loss. This, along with the emptying of years and years of emotional pain and negative emotions, allowed me to truly feel free. With that freedom, however, came a different kind of suffering— my life, and everything I thought I was doing right, was turned upside down. (In a good way!)
As I said in a previous blog post, I knew since about the 7th grade, I had an unusual calling into a “unique” career field, especially for women. So unique, in fact, that my guidance counselor told me to forget about following that call, and to pursue a calling more accepting of women. I knew it wouldn’t be easy, but I assumed he knew what he was talking about, and was also getting hit with negative reactions from friends and family, so I followed the advice I was given, and “tried” to fall in love with another field. I tried nursing, criminal justice, and am currently in Communications. While I fell in love with certain areas of each occupation, none seemed to fit 100%…for my heart was still in my original calling, I just didn’t notice. And even during my time in these other fields, there were little red flags gently nudging me back to my true calling. One shining example comes from my days in nursing school: through an old lady named Veronica.
Veronica was a “Code F” (Familiar patient or Frequent Flyer) to the Elliot’s ER, where I was doing a hands on rotation for my Nursing program. We grew close over her many visits—she had no family left- her husband had passed away a few years earlier, and she tragically lost both of her children in a house fire years prior. All she had were two nieces, who never visited her, yet never wanted her to get a DNR. Finally, one day, I sat down with her and I told her it was her choice—she would be the one suffering day after day, not them. After talking, and lots of praying on her part, she finally signed her own DNR. She drew up her own limitations as to what the DNR covers, and a few weeks later she came in, and it was clear it would be her last trip. Ironically, a few days before this, I had made the decision to leave the nursing world, and this particular day, was my very last on the floor…which she didn’t know. Or perhaps she did. When she saw I was working, her eyes lit up, and she started saying through her gasping breaths “my favorite girl gets to be with me when I leave this world.” They gave her a private room, and I had another nursing student cover my “shift” while I stayed with her. We laughed, we talked about what was going on in both of our lives, as if what would soon happen was far off, we prayed, we sang, and we did cry some. But she was so joyful to be finally going to be with her husband and seeing her children again. Time drew on, and just as I was wondering if this really would be it for her, her stats changed, and it was time to let her go. Her one request was that I hold her hand as she took her last breath, and I am never one to break a promise. I followed the request with honor, and right before she took her final breath in this world, she reached up with her hand, touched me on the cheek, and whispered “Thank you.”….and she was gone. I stayed with her in the room until the funeral attendants arrived, as I did not want her to be alone in that cold morgue. Once they left, I headed towards the chapel to go pray, and one of the nurses stopped me and said what I “did” in there was breath taking, and she found it ironic that her name was Veronica, and what I did was comfort her, which is exactly what the biblical veronica did for Jesus. It wasn’t until this Lent and this whole prayerful journey, that I remembered very vividly the part of her touching my face, and the nurse commenting on what I “did.”
There, of course, have been others—news stories of senseless deaths that touched my heart, friends losing relatives, like my friend Lynne losing her son, my friend Jackie losing her dad, my friend Linda losing her brother, and most recently losing my “adoptive grandfather” Conrad. All of these experiences brought me back to the one thing they all have in common: (besides death). Comfort. Consolation. The overwhelming feeling of peace whenever I’m in a funeral home. How I was there to cry with friends and just be the supportive, compassionate listening friend they needed at that time in their journey.
But it wasn’t until this past Tuesday when I 100% surrendered, and decided to not settle for what people TOLD me to do, but to follow my heart. Tuesday was my Agony in the Garden. I woke up crying uncontrollably. I had no reason to be crying that bad. I was at rock bottom in a spiritual sense and boarded on negative thoughts. I grabbed my keys, pedometer and water bottle and took off on a 5 mile walk to my thinking place—Mt. Calvary Cemetery. I stopped to visit my grandmother’s grave, and then jogged the entire cemetery, stopping only briefly for breathers. Then, I found the statue of the Crucifixion, and collapsed at the feet of the statue—I literally screamed out to God in my own agony:: Who am I? Why am I here. God, what am I supposed to do? I completely surrendered, even though bitter tears and heartache that I would listen to whatever he wanted me to do. Then I turned, and witnessed a funeral procession entering the Mausoleum. I turned my gaze to the cross, and I knew my answer. I was to follow my heart—my true passion, and pursue the Funeral Industry. Rather or not I will be a full funeral director, I am not sure. I may choose to just simply be an end of life counselor for those in nursing homes and hospice houses. I may be a chaplain. I may be a “death doula”. OR, maybe I will go and get my funeral director’s license and one day own my own funeral parlor. What I will do exactly, is in God’s hands. But after this bitter agony, I finally let go and accepted what, perhaps, deep down I’ve known all along. I am called to serve those who are going through their own worst agony—the death and loss of a loved one. All death hurts—rather it’s expected, or not. Rather it’s of natural causes after a long well lived life, or a life cut short by suicide, or some other act of tragedy. Regardless of how the person died, someone is left behind. I am called to be a Veronica to these broken hearted souls. For some, this may come as a surprise, while others know I made this choice, but this is the story of how I came to make that choice, which I may or may not have shared with you.
I wish you all a happy Easter, and a blessed Easter Season.
-In Christ, Through Mary,