Father, into your hands, I commend my Spirit…

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,

Mandy

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Laetare! Rejoice!

This upcoming Sunday is what the Catholic church calls Laetare Sunday.  Sure, my spelling is probably a wee off, but the meaning of the word is rejoice.  We are mid-way through Lent, and Easter is near!  And for the first time in a long time, I am ready for it completely.  Last Sunday, at mass, I made the decision to let go of every negative emotion I had been harboring, some for years, deep down.  Things like anger, bitterness, sadness, depression, my low self-esteem, my inability to forgive myself for having sex before marriage, my inability to believe in myself or anything I do.  All of these things were causing my own light to be dim, which makes it impossible for me to be the light of Christ to anyone else.  I chose last Sunday just because I was ready to let go—-ironically, our priest, Fr. Moe, also had that on his mind, and mentioned a few of the above emotions, and prayed a general prayer to release the congregation from any of those emotions!  Total Holy Spirit Moment!  I truly “let go”.  And it feels amazing!  But this new outlook doesn’t just stop at my faith life….I am making changes everywhere:

My friends list—if I’m constantly messaging you and you never reply, and I *know* you’re not busy or you haven’t told me already you’re not on a lot…see ya!  If you have drama constantly on your facebook or broadcast your problems 24/7…I don’t need you.  The friends I need in my life right now are the ones that will support me through thick and thin, happy and sad moments.  That IS the majority of my friends, so not many should worry. And those that are worried—you still have time to change that, as I am doing this slowly, to make sure I bring everyone in prayer and figure out which need to go.

My overall well-being— I am back on my fitness routine 100%, tracking how many calories my walking burns, as well as the steps I take.  Once the weather solidifies, I will be back to jogging through Mt. Calvary as usual.  I am eating healthier, and am taking time to spend a lot of time in prayer, so my spiritual side also gets a workout.  I will be in my goal dress size by my birthday in July, and if I am not, I take full responsibility.

And lastly, perhaps what will come as a major surprise for you—my career path:

This section comes with a story or two, lets start from the “beginning”.  Ever since the 7th 0r 8th grade, I knew my passion was with the end of life/funeral services field.  I did my best in high school, and graduated with a 3.40.  Nobody really knew my goals and aspirations.  Was I embarrassed?  A little.  Worried about what people would think of me?  For sure.  But as it got closer to the years of high school that “counted”, and applying for colleges, I knew I had to tell my guidance counselor, because he’d ask sooner or later what my goals were.  And what was his response?  The same as society’s…it’s a man’s industry.  You have to settle for that fact, and fall in love with something more accepting of females. (Yeah, cuz it’s really that easy dude!) But, I figured they knew what they were talking about, and I was also getting slack from friends and family, who said this was simply “a phase” because of what I was going through at the time with my dad, and had just lost him shortly before starting the college process, so, I listened.  I dropped my dreams of being a funeral director, or something in that field, and hopped around, trying to find something to fall in love with yet again.  I tried nursing…it was great for a while, I loved it, especially in the ER at Elliot, but it wasn’t my true calling.  I thought maybe if I picked a specific area to focus on I’d like it better. I tried OB/GYN, Psych, and Forensic Nursing, and while I especially enjoyed Forensic Nursing, it still just wasn’t the right fit.  I then switched to Criminal Justice, with the hopes of working in the Homicide/Cold Case department, but half way through my degree found out you needed to be a detective before getting remotely close to those areas, so knew that wasn’t it.  I highly considered teaching for a while, as it is also a passion of mine, but i just couldn’t get into it.  I even considered being a nun (and am still open to that at this point…God has control of that path in my life.) But still, deep inside, I knew my heart was with the funeral industry.  But I had to do something, since my passion was frowned upon by society because of my gender.  I knew I loved to write, and I loved sharing the news with people.  I loved the adrenaline that comes with being sent to the scene of a car crash, or reporting live from a 4 alarm fire where a young child was just rescued before our eyes.  So, I settled upon Journalism.  And, surprisingly, I fell in love quite quickly.  Or so I thought.  But apparently, to one person, one special lady, I was as transparent as glass.  Because the last time I saw this woman, on February 5th, after she had finished her speech and finished greeting fans, she sought me out and looked me straight in the eyes and said: “Mandy, don’t settle.  You’ve heard me speak 3 times now, and you know that’s the basis of my speech.  But for you, it’s deeper.  You DID settle.  Stop.  Don’t let society tell you what your passion is.  Only you can define that. You know what I’m talking about, too.”  And she gave me one of her signature hugs and left.  It took me but a few seconds to realize what she was talking about, and I had to hide the tears from my clueless friend who had no idea what just happened.  That woman? Carly Fiorina.  And she was absolutely spot on.

The old Mandy—she settled.  She listened to the wrong people, and let them make her decisions.  She was negative.  Depressed.  Knocked down constantly by others.  Had little to no self-esteem.  Was constantly running on empty and faking smiles so friends wouldn’t know.

That old Mandy is out of service.  The new Mandy will slowly believe in herself, with he help of positive friends by her side.  The new Mandy will sing again, somewhere, someday, somehow.  The new Mandy will be healthy in mind, body and spirit.  But most importantly- the new Mandy WILL NOT SETTLE.  I will finish my BA in Communications, and work to pay off some loans.  Then I will by then hopefully have figured out what and where in he funeral service world I belong, and go to school again for that certification. I am done settling.  I am done letting people and society as a whole define who I am and where my passion lies.  I am the only one that knows that.

So to all the friends who have been there for the old Mandy, and I hope will be there for the new Mandy—thank you.  Just to name a few, who I know will read this: Mary, Sheila, Debbie, Laurie, Linda (x3—popular name!), Donna, Jason, Michelle and Connie. And also a few friends who deserve to be mentioned, even though they will probably never read it: Jackie, Claudette, Lynne, Linda (again!), and my newest friend and fan, Delanie.  Your support, prayers, and constant faith in me have brought me to this point, and given me the courage to make that step and realize what Carly said was right.  When I “confessed” this new career choice to some of you, you supported me, told me I should go for it, told me you knew I was gifted in that area, and most importantly were there for me, when so many laughed, or simply told me I was crazy.  When others sighed and said I was clueless as to what I wanted to do with my life, since I kept changing (I believe that’s judging, but however, I digress…) without even knowing the reasons why I changed so many times, you told me everything happens for a reason, and eventually I will find what makes my heart happy.  Thank you.  For believing in me.  For standing with me.  For praying for me.  For fighting with me.

Love,

Mandy