This is a pretty Catholic heavy post. But it is Us.
We are Catholic and we lean heavily on our faith. I haven’t posted in a while on the blog so to catch you up, our family is heading into a big transition. Our first son with Duchenne, we have three, is about to stop walking. I thought I was prepared for this transition, but the truth is that most days it rips my heart out.
Early in our journey with Duchenne, we found this amazing doctor at an amazing hospital. One of the first questions she asked me was, “are you a faithful family?”
The answer was “yes.”
With a heavy accent, she said, “Good, families who believe do better.”
I don’t think I even knew what she meant, as I was still reeling from the diagnosis, the next diagnosis, and the last diagnosis. Looking back, my faith then was only a splinter of what it’s grown into since the boys were diagnosed. The neurologist that day was right, I can’t imagine how dark this journey might me without a faith life. Faith gives all of us a hope for something better, even if after life. Duchenne is a fatal, progressive disease, with no cure. All we have is hope for a better future. Faith gives us that hope.
Today was a special day for our family. Three of the boys received a sacrament. Typically, I would take a picture on such a day, as I do for First Communion, Confirmation, First Confession, and plan to do in the future for Marriage or Religious Vows.
There is one sacrament left though. The “Anointing of the Sick.” This is to often equated with last rites, but it is actually a sacrament, much like confession, that can be received several times.
We took no pictures for a couple of reasons. First, because it was part of a ceremony where my husband, my mother-in-law and myself were involved. That’s all our picture takers participating in the ceremony.
Secondly, this is a sacrament this is so often given only once in a lifetime, just before death. It is somber and a sign that your time with the person on earth is about to end and life will never be the same. Though, it was special to receive the sacrament in a less stressful situation and in a peaceful place like church; it still seemed too sacred to photograph. I want to write every detail though before my memory fades.
It started with Mass. The homily was about healing, the different ways it can look. The part that blurred my vision with tears was when Father said that in every example in the gospels, when someone was healed, someone actively sought their healing.
It made me think of my son, Rowen. It was he that asked to be blessed by a priest to help him from falling. He is falling so often, that it it making it unsafe for him to walk. A fall could lead to any number of injuries that could be fatal for a boy with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. His hope was that being prayed over would save him from those dangerous falls. He is actively seeking his healing.
After Mass, Father came out and motioned for just me to follow him into the sacristy. Once there, he asked me how old each of the boys were.
He told me that he once helped a mother whose child had a fatal genetic disease. That mother had asked him if she should have more children. He told her yes, because regardless of how those children were born, they would be at her side forever in eternity. He looked straight into my eyes and told me that my boys will forever be at my side in eternity. He also told me that he wanted to anoint all three of them. He said that being anointed would help ease any fears the boys might have.
We then walked out to my family. My husband, my mother-in-law and 5 of my 6 children. He introduced himself to the boys and they introduced themselves to him. He talked to them about being annointed, how it would fill them with graces to help them with the things they need help with.
He anointed Max first. He said a prayer as he rubbed oil on Max’s forehead and then the palm of both hands. As soon as Rowen and Charlie saw what would happen they held their hands out open, eager for the oil to grace their skin. To date, it is the most simple, yet beautiful act of faith, I’ve witnessed. Father then anointed Charlie and Rowen.
Father also told them about Saint Gianna. Saint Gianna was pregnant with her fourth child when she was found to be very sick. It was either save her life or her child’s. Gianna died so that her child, a daughter, would live. Her daughter is still alive and Father will ask her to pray for each of our boys. Her daughter gave a relic of her mother to our priest.
He blessed each of the boys with it. He handed the relic to them and told them to hold it and ask St. Gianna for help. He gave it to Max first, then Charlie, and finally to Rowen. Rowen held it the tightest, the longest, and closed his eyes the hardest.
He also gave the relic to myself, my husband, by mother in-law, and both siblings present, Mary and Chance. At this point, tears were freely flowing down my face. Father said, “Oh, Mama.” He wrapped his hands around my face and blessed me. I’m crying now just remembering. I looked up to see my husband fighting tears.
It was over quickly after that. As we walked out of the church, Max grabbed my hand. He looked up at me and said he was happy that Father blessed me. He said, “Mom, I know you were crying because you love us so much. Mom, I know how much this meant to you. I’m glad Father blessed you because I know you need it, too.”
More tears are currently flowing down my cheeks.
We drove to lunch. My mother-in-law, also known as Tayta wanted to treat us. When we pulled into the parking lot of the restaurant, Charlie grinned and said, ” I never knew about St. Gianna.” Then he looked up to heaven and screamed, “Thank you St. Gianna!”
Considering the magnitude of our experience this morning, we spent the rest of the day being mundane; yard work, phone calls with our oldest daughter, movies with Tayta.
Today put our Faith into focus. Faith is simple. Just believe. As we prepare for the next steps of our difficult journey with Duchenne, I’m reminded of a lyric from a country song I heard recently; “If the house has good bones, it won’t crumble.”
I feel like that is part of what we did today. We secured our foundation. Our foundation is in Christ. We have good bones, not the Duchenne bones that are ever so weakened by the years of harsh treatment their bodies have experienced. We have good ‘faith’ bones, that will outlast all of us and they will not allow us to crumble.