There were two deaths in my circle of the world last week. Two sets of parents each lost their young son. The family for whom I asked prayers in my last post lost their 20 year old son to illness Sunday at 3am. My cousins lost their 17 year old son Monday at 3pm, who was shot in the neck by a drug dealer. I will write a little about them in my last two Takes, but first, let’s have a little humor, shall we? Laughter is good.
My husband and I were enabled by my mom to get to confession Saturday morning. She came over to watch the oldest two so that we could go. Hurray! Walking out of the confessional is literally like stepping out, cloaked in sunshine, daisies and butterflies encircling my head, with an internal big, fat, yellow smilie face (because, forgive my vanity and over-awareness of cultural norms, but, I imagine that I’d look plain stupid waltzing out of the booth with a childish grin on my face, even though I have every reason to!). Basically, it’s like this:
To double the intense feelings of having been forgiven and saved by God’s mercy and grace, I walked into the church to say my penance, and there’s Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament.
Silence & peace. There were about 20 others (mostly blue haired ladies, because we young people like to put off “gettin saved” until we’ve had our jollies of youth) scattered throughout the pews, kneeling in silent prayer.
For once I was allowed to fully feel the weight of my sins lifted from my shoulders without worrying about a get-away juice cup or the I-Have-To-Peepee dance of my oldest son, the grace and mercy of God washing my soul and embracing me for who I am. So silent it was that you could hear a pin drop. It was more silent than silent. One could probably hear a cotton ball land on the carpet, …or the overly punctuated, and long, drawn-out PFFFFTTFTFT! OF MY BABY FARTING!
Ahh. Brought back to earth by my senses. Yes, I brought Collin because his breakfast is attached to me. I was not embarrassed because in light of the room filled with elderly ladies and gentlemen (who didn’t budge at the sound), I thought, “Hey! it just as easily could have been any one of all y’all!” …and I sensed they knew it, too.
So I’ve obviously been extra emotional due to these deaths of children: Joseph was 20 and Justin was 17. But it doesn’t follow that I’ve been extra patient with my babies. In fact, I’ve felt a little more frustrated by them. And by “a little more” I mean, A LOT MORE. They sense that I’m experience emotional strain and they reciprocate it.
That’s all there is to it. Grocery shopping Sunday evening, I was wearing Collin on my hip in a sling, while attempting to push my ever growing heavy shopping cart. My neck started hurting as I was throwing my weight into steering the cart around the corner to the next aisle, where I needed to buy 5 lbs of pasta. “great, 5 more lbs to haul…” I was thinking as I heard giggling on the other side of the aisle, approaching my direction.
I rounded the corner to a near collision with an adult woman, my age, breathless and laughing. Face full of joy, cheeks pink with exhilaration, hair swinging in her face as she halted just short of my heavy cart. There was a child on her back!
"OH! I’m so sorry!" she apologized. I realized she was rapidly gaining control of her countenance and being made to feel foolish by my shocked and probably condescending gaze, "I’m just playing …a…a game… with my kids.." and she moved around me, with one kid piggy backing and two or three skipping behind her.
I managed to squeak out, “No, it’s okay!” but I don’t think she heard me.
Too late, I realized that this woman was beautiful. She was incidentally pretty, taller than me (and that’s saying something!), but the beauty I beheld was magnified because she wasn’t angrily, hurriedly shopping like the mad woman I was, trying to de-shelf half the store and haul it home before someone on my hip wanted to nurse. Granted, she didn’t even have a shopping kart with her so I have no idea what she was doing, but it was refreshing to see her, in a place associated with tantrums and impatient children and parents, playing with joy. I wished I could have stopped her and introduced myself.
Monday morning, I walked into the living room to behold the couch and carpet strewn with what looked like a complete Poptart in the form of crumbs. I stood there, eyeballs bulging, and I ate my own words as I heard my son speak them for me, “What a mess! Do you think Momma wants to clean that up? No, she doesn’t!” I was ashamed that I have spoken semi-sarcastic words like this and they’ve stuck to my son’s mind.
Monday night, after hearing the news of my cousin, Justin being shot and dying in the hospital, I was completely in angst and frustration over the matter. So of course, my oldest two were hyper, as if I’d fed them nothing but cookies and undiluted fruit juice all day, bouncing and running and and jumping and tumbling all over the living room. My middle child, who has turned into a finicky eater, would not eat his macaroni and cheese I’d served for dinner (SERIOUSLY WHAT TODDLER DOESN’T LIKE MACARONI AND CHEESE?!), so I was attempting to administer a cup of yogurt before bed time, as he ran from one end of the living room to the other in between bites.
I was trying to get him to sit down and let me scoop away, getting the feeding over with asap, but it wasn’t working. He just kept jetting away…
In frustration, I absentmindedly shoveled one more spoonful of yogurt— INTO MY INFANT’S MOUTH?!!? I blinked my eyes and realized the baby in my arms was enjoying the vanilla yogurt I’d just given him.
"WHAT AM I DOING?!?!?!" I cried in bewilderment. I don’t plan on introducing solids until he’s 6 months old and can sit up, unassisted. And that was it for this momma. After everyone in the house took turns crying over tooth brushings, gathering lovies and ceremonious fallings upon the floor due to "slippery carpet syndrome" and subsequent "slippery bed syndrome" ("The bed’s too slippery, I can’t get in it!!!!!”), my husband and I bade goodnight to our snuggled cherubs.
Joseph Langenkamp, 20 years old, passed Sunday morning around 3am. It’s hard to write his name. This family, the Langenkamps, is a family I grew up watching in the pew next to my family at St. Francis de Sales. I remember watching them, dressed head to toe in hat and suit attire, complete with handkerchief, each Sunday.
I watched them as a family of three children, blossom to the family of nine, each baby with the signature Langenkamp baby blues and shock of white blonde hair. They shame a family with a wildly behaving only child, while their 5 youngest, sit peacefully in the laps of the four oldest.
They are the family that exclaims to the world “IT CAN BE DONE!” without ever having to open their mouths. The Langenkamp’s children are 7 boys and 2 girls (I have hope yet for a baby girl!). Joseph, the second oldest, contracted Ecoli at a very young age and has been fighting illness since then. For him, a simple runny nose could turn into hospitalizing pneumonia. This past weekend, that is basically what happened, to save the details. His heart stopped three times.
My husband and I look to Joseph’s parents as mentors, as a living testament to the fact that children are a beautiful and physical sign of God’s love to us as a gift, and that having more than two children is, in fact, the opposite of the burden that our culture cries. Knowing this family, I am comforted knowing that Joseph was fully spiritually equipped to confidently face death and enter into God’s Kingdom. I pray that my husband and I will do that for our children. It is the most important thing parents can do for their children. I am devastated for Mark and Sue, and their remaining children. Please pray for them to feel and know God’s peace. I also ask for the intercession of St. Jane Francis de Chantal, patron of parents separated from children. (!!)
My mother’s family is large. She is the youngest of 8 children. So, I have many cousins, and many, many more second cousins. Many of my first cousins are old enough for me to consider them an aunt or uncle. My cousins Mike and Joann are the fist of the many Aunt & Uncle-type cousins. It is their son who was shot, trying to purchase marijuana with counterfeit money. Tossing my frustrations aside over the circumstances of Justin’s death- and knowing that my frustrations must be fractional to his parent’s complete shock, I focus on the beauty of familial love here on earth. During the funeral Mass (if you’ve never been to a Catholic funeral, you are missing out.. it is the most beautiful type of funeral I’ve ever known, and been given the most fulfilling kind of closure), father gave a beautiful homily saying something very simple: “Do not ask WHY our beloved has been taken from us, you will drive yourself mad. Ask HOW. How can we prepare ourselves to meet our beloved in the end?”
Contrary to the homily, I spoke with my dear, dear Aunt at the reception afterward, who looked at me with the most troubled eyes I’ve ever seen. “….why…?” she shook her head. And me, with my most inept ability to speak with compassion or feeling emotion, barked out in a Fr. Corapi-an voice, "Get in front of the Eucharist."
She looked taken aback by my lack of compassionately-worded support, yet she closed her eyes and nodded, silently, signaling to me that she understood.
Only in Christ can we be given answers.
That is what I meant to say.
But I am not a speaker.
I walked away, going, “WHAT DID I JUST SAY?!” This was to my aunt, the grandmother of Justin! I can only attest that The Holy Spirit took the reigns at that moment because I am not that bold a speaker.
I’m posting this on a Monday. I’ve had ten minute writing intervals here and there, throughout the weekend, and no more. I’ve been terribly occupied with my family, which is a good thing, because when I find myself desperate to write, I have to deny the luxury, combat my frustration and remember I’m trying to lessen myself. Even my one “escape” I’ve got to be willing to give up. I missed the link-up deadline with Conversion Diary, but go check the other Quick Takes out anyway! —-correction, I just made it! yayyyeee!