How have I changed since Christine died?

My beautiful sister ChristineWhen Christine died, I lost my best friend, the person who understood exactly who I was and how I felt, who worked and suffered along with me as we cared for our parents, the person I could talk with about anything. My prayer life changed when Christine died. I began to examine everything I did. I thought and wrote about what it felt like to lose a best friend. I told God that I was angry at him for taking her away too soon. I thought and wrote about her life, about the beautiful person she had become, about the times we shared. And I wondered where that left me. I wondered what would become of me, how would I cope with my life now that I no longer had someone in my life who understood what I was experiencing.

Before Christine left for unknown adventures, I prayed both morning and night, reading the Magnificat prayers. Most days I prayed the rosary. I no longer have a desire to pray. The most I could say was “thank you God for my sister”, because anything else would have been angry and hurtful. Now when I awake I say to myself the first line of my little psalm and a prayer that Jesus be praised in the Holy Sacrament. At night I say the Our Father and Hail Mary as mom taught us. I read the Bible some, because in the past it has meant something to me, and it gives me comfort. That is all I can do. I try to read the Magnificat, but even that does not satisfy. During this time I wondered if I tried the Magnificat and the Christian prayer because I wanted to be like others I knew who had a beautiful prayer life. I came to realize that I was not reading these prayers out of love but out of desire to be like others. Perhaps those prayers are not meant for me, but then what is? Where do I fit in or do I fit in at all? Am I fooling myself that I have a place here, that God even wants to share a relationship with me?

I go to the Adoration Chapel and try to speak with Him, but I get no response. Why? It is peaceful there, and I try to pray, but I am not sure that anything is changing or that anyone hears my prayers. I try to tell myself that the prayers in the Magnificat can and should  be prayed out of love for God, not because I want to fit a particular mold. Where is my place here? Do I have one? Am I condemned to wander endlessly? Is this my hell? Or would Christine tell me that I am just being a “drama queen”, to get over it? I think she would listen and try to help me find my way. But she is gone and at times, I feel so alone.

After Communion June 13, 2014

Jesus pouring Grace upon usI was kneeling after Communion with my eyes closed as this seems to help meditation. I imagined Jesus in the clouds with graces streaming from His Hands. Behind Him peeking around his shoulder was Jeannie smiling and waving, and I think Christine was smiling and waving as well. Maybe I was imagining. I hope not.

Last night while trying to fall asleep, I thought about all the I have done since dad died to forge a relationship with God. I have tried to be a better person. I have tried to align my life with what God wants for me. And yet I have to ask, was it meaningless? Am I any further along in the spiritual life? I had written a letter to Christine begging her to return to the Church should I die before she did – a letter to be given to her if I die first. As though I had found a treasure and wanted to share it with her. But she has truly found the treasure before me. Although Christine hadn’t gone to Church, except for funerals, since her divorce and marriage to Keith, I am the one so in need of friendship with God, not her. By just living her life, struggling with the problems that came along, she forged a relationship with God that allowed Him to see His Face in her soul and call her to Himself. All the studying and praying that I have done in the last nine years – what is the use of it all? Am I any closer to God than I was nine years ago?

After writing this, I opened the little book “Jesus Calling” that Birdie had given to me. Here is what it said for today: “Keep walking along the path I have chosen for you. Your desire to live close to Me is a delight to Me…Together we will forge a path up the high mountain. The journey is arduous at times, and you are weak. Some day you will dance light-footed on the high peaks, but for now our walk is often plodding and heavy. All I require of you is to take the next step, clinging to My hand for strength and direction…Stay on the path I have selected for you. It is truly the path of life.” Is that the answer to my question, to the pain in my heart? Am I envious of Christine and Jeannie, that they have found God before I did?

I remember some time ago thinking that when we were old – Christine and I – and our husbands were gone, that we would live together, supporting one another through the vagaries of old age. And it would be a joy to have one another’s companionship. That was not to b – Christine died the next day.

Guardian Angels at Work

It has become apparent that my sister Christine had similar back problems to those endured by another sister, Jeannie. Recognizing the similarity of their injuries has caused me to recall a memory of an event which happened to my family more than 50 years ago.

My guardian angel – watercolor Franciene McDonald

In the early summer of 1963, just after I had graduated from high school, my mom, three sisters and I were involved in an automobile accident. We lived in a suburban area north of Baltimore, Maryland. We were traveling to a department store named Corvette’s to shop for bathing suits. The travel to the store included driving on the Baltimore Beltway, a four lane highway that had been completed some time before. There was road construction on the highway, and at one point in our travel, the traffic was brought to a complete stop as we waited for the construction crews to clear whatever was in or near the roadway. The traffic had been “stop and go” until that time, with the moving traffic going at a reduced speed due to the construction. There was a line of stopped traffic in front of us, with no one at that time behind us. An 18 wheeler gravel truck came up suddenly behind us, the driver unaware that the traffic in front of him had stopped.

Mom was driving a car that we all loved – a 1960 white Chrysler station wagon, a behemoth if ever there was one. It was a very large, heavy car with fins on the rear fenders – my sisters and I called them wings. When the truck driver realized that the traffic had stopped, he frantically applied his brakes, but not soon enough to avoid hitting our car. Miraculously, we didn’t hit the car in front of us, but rather were thrown off the right side of the road, coming to rest 90 feet over a slight embankment. There were workmen and road equipment on the side of the road. We didn’t hit anyone or anything as we flew off the road to safety. The car had to be discarded, as it was beyond repair due to the accident.

In 1963 seat belts were only required in the front seat. I was in the front seat with mom – belted in. Jean and Christine were seated in the middle seat. Jill was seated in the rear facing back seat. Jean and Christine were thrown forward and hit the seat in front of them. The rear seat was broken apart, Jill being thrown around the back of the station wagon by the force of the impact. EMS had a difficult time extricating Jill from the rear compartment as the back of the car was demolished. All of us required a neck brace for a few days. Jill was hospitalized overnight due to some blood in her urine, but was then released.

After the diagnosis of Christine’s back problems a few weeks ago – she has suffered for many years, especially with neck problems – it occurred to me that both Jean and Christine had been injured more seriously than had been realized in the automobile accident so many years before. Perhaps the force of their bodies hitting the front seat began a process of deterioration in their spine which resulted years later in disc problems. Jean had thought her back problems were due to her career as a nurse, often lifting patients to move them. There was no similar experience in Christine’s life, just the daily work in an office, the required cleaning of her home and carrying her child when he was young.

Reflecting on the miracles surrounding the car accident, it has occurred to me that all of our guardian angels were hard at work that day. I had often wondered how mom was able to turn the wheel of the car after we were hit to avoid hitting the car just a few feet in front of us, and then stop the car once we were safely out of the way. Now I believe that our family’s five guardian angels lifted our car, threw it down an embankment – careful to not overturn it, and then safely stopped the car. Yes, we were all hurt, perhaps more than was realized so long ago. We might have all lost our lives, but we didn’t. Our dad might have lost his whole family that day, but he didn’t. We survived to live out the lives our merciful God had ordained for all of us.

Looking differently at all that happened to us on that sunny summer day, I want to live today in great gratitude for the protection that our heavenly Father offers to each one of us – a strong and faithful guardian, who is always alert to danger, always reminding us of the right path to choose, always accompanying us on our journey. Without those strong guardians my child would never have been born, and my life and the life of my family would have ended so long ago.

Angel of God,

My Guardian dear,

To whom God’s love commits me here,

Ever this day be at my side,

To love and guard,

To rule and guide. Amen