Friday, January 23, 2015

A Rose For Louise

My little girl has a heart operation coming up in the next few weeks.  It's not open heart this time.  They'll go in through her leg and up through her arteries to reach her heart.  It will be a two stage procedure, first they'll insert a little balloon to temporarily close up the fenestration which the surgeon made during her last surgery then monitor her lungs for a few days to see whether they can tolerate the new pressures.  All of these things are designed around protecting her organs as much as possible, not just heart but also lungs and liver.  Well if her lungs rise to the occasion they'll remove the balloon and permanently close up the hole which should finally see us bringing home a pink girl. I love blue too but this little girl needs to be pink.

So the success of this operation is 100% dependent on a little pair of lungs.  This morning I looked up to find out who is the patron saint of lungs. Lo and behold, who is it but one of the most approachable and loveable of all saints... St Therese of Liseux.  Which suddenly reminded me of a very interesting story that really happened.  I had completely forgotten about it.  

If you read my other blog you will know that when Louise first made her presence known to us in the form of two pink lines I didn't think for a single minute that we'd be bringing home any baby.  Although I have what is now considered a 'lot' of children, I also have a long history of pregnancy loss.  You never get used to miscarriage and you never become expert at dealing with it no matter how old a hand you are at it.  Babies aren't replaceable be they born or unborn.  I never grieved a 'pregnancy', I always grieved that baby...a person in their own right, no less someone than I am. 

I spent the first few weeks of this pregnancy in preemptive grief.  I had just lost four babies one after the other (accounting for the seeming gap between Louise and her nearest sibling) and there was no differential to suggest that this baby had any better chance.  I was grieving her when she was still alive, waiting for another miscarriage to happen, but still, hopeful that maybe this time would be different. 

In his bedside drawer my husband keeps a first class relic of St Thérèse, The Little Flower as she is affectionately called.  I think we all know that life's difficulties are a great impetus for heartfelt prayer.  I know that some of my readers who aren't Catholic have difficulty with the Catholic tradition of praying through the intercession of saints.  It's very simple really...we ask each other for prayers here on this earth all the time.  Please pray for my intention, my child, exams, financial worries...and few of us will refuse that request.  Oftentimes we particularly seek out those we seem to be maybe more 'holy' than ourselves to put in a good word for us with God.  I know in Dublin there used to be a great tradition of single young men and women dropping donations of food into the cloistered convent of The Poor Clares, requesting in return that they might pray for a good spouse for them.  Well it's no different with the saints..ordinary folk like you and me who had faults and struggles but who kept getting up and starting again and finished the race. Of course we ask our friends the saints to pray for us. We're not praying to them, instead we're asking them to also pray for us.

Well back to Thérèse, she is such a lovely saint.  When I was a child my mother told us about a particular devotion to St Therese.  A nine day novena of prayers. Now the different thing about this novena is that the tradition is that as she had promised before she died at such a young age, St Therese would acknowledge those prayers with a rose which would be received before the end of the nine days.  It's not any guarantee that you are going to get the thing you want in the way you want...God's plans are often a bit better than ours, but it's like a little calling card that indeed your prayer has been heard. I have heard story after story about those roses unexpectedly being received, including in my own family. Anyway, not to get a rose, nor to test God, nor in any way looking at this little relic as a talisman, rather a momento of someone we love, we printed off the particular rose novena to St Therese from the EWTN website and John and I prayed in earnest that this Saint, who had said such beautiful things about unborn babies, would intercede for this hidden little one who nobody knew was there except for her Mummy and Daddy.  Nobody else knew I was pregnant. We began the first day at about 11pm.

Every night before sleeping we recited the prayers and blessed our little one with the relic.  Each day passed and no rose appeared.  It didn't matter, we know God hears our prayers and we don't need proofs. Then a few days before the end of the novena, maybe day six, it happened to be my birthday.  My sister sent me a bouquet of flowers.  A mix of pretty scented Lillies, carnations and...roses. was a bit of a stretch to consider that this was the rose.  Still...a rose is a rose even if I was sceptical.  Day eight...nothing. Day nine my husband came home from work and said that a patient he rarely sees had come in and as she sat down she lamented to him that she had picked his wife a bunch of roses but had accidentally left them on her kitchen table. Well, getting warmer, but that someone was going to give me roses wasn't exactly a miraculous event. 

Oh well. 

That evening for some reason all our children were down in their grandparents house, we must have had a meeting or something to go to. John went down late to collect them in time for bed.  My mother-in-law was out somewhere so only Grandad was home with the children. Now my father-in-law is one of the nicest people I know.  He's always in an even good mood.  However, the gift-giver, as in most husband/wife arrangements, is Nana.  Grandads sign their name to the gift.  My father-in-law, as is normal, doesn't really give me gifts,  he has never given me flowers.  

After John had put the younger children into their seat belts he chatted for a while to his Dad then started up the car.  Suddenly out of the blue his father waved him to stop.  He went over to his rose bush and picked the perfect head off a bloom and handed it to one of the children saying 'give this to your Mummy'.  He knew nothing about either the novena or the pregnancy.

My husband and children arrived home and, at about 10.45 pm, handed me the beautiful and most unexpected rose, 15 minutes before the 9th day of my novena was over.  

So there you have it.  Coincidence? A sign from Heaven?  Make of it whatever you like.

Friday, January 9, 2015

A Troubled World

This may seem naïve, like throwing a thimble of water onto a raging fire.  Believe me, I am not naïve, as I write this I am listening to blanket world news service about an unfolding event which might shortly bring even more bloodshed.

I was going to write a blogpost about so many things that I think about the terrible events in France.  About victim blaming...I cannot even count the number of times I've read 'they were asking for it'. 'Well they did 'offend''. A roundabout justification even if follows a condemnation.  'I'm sorry but it was your fault' is not an apology, it is a kick in the teeth. 

About majority sympathy being lavished on those who are offended rather than those who are killed.  About wondering how reposting disgusting cartoons is somehow helpful, how some have posted beautiful cartoons like the Charlie Brown one is maybe more sensitive.  

How nobody lavished victimhood on the ordinary catholics and priests, all of whom were tarred with the brush of the horrendous acts of a few and were all blamed as though we knew and approved of them. I see very little commentary on the fact that synagogues across Europe are now given police guard during services...the stealthful creep of anti Jewish sentiment is going un-noticed and I see it becoming fashionable in my own peaceful country with one country being portrayed as evil incarnate and it's neighbour as innocence personified.  Political/cultural unrest is never so simple. 

About how we are all Charlie and yet none of us is the unborn child equally the victim of massacre. How I disagree with the publication of pictures and videos of the death of anybody at the hands of another...and the compulsion to look at them. I don't know how many pictures I saw last year of children triumphantly holding up the heads of murdered men. Do we become immune to these acts? Is it helpful to see a man being put down like a dog or to see tiny dismembered children? Is it more helpful to show the humanity and beauty and value of every life, like the biography of the understated policeman, or the devout and selfless lives of an american journalist or British aid worker? Or the beautiful photos of life in the womb which show that the victims of that hidden massacre are indeed our brothers and sisters? I think so. 

I was going to write about how 9/11 was the day the world became a more scary place.  How the scary thing is that we all look at people differently and more fearfully.  I was sitting somewhere recently near an extended family from somewhere in the Arabic world.  It struck me that the only place I have heard that sort of language this last year has been on horrible videos celebrating atrocities.  I felt sorry for them because in spite of how 'normal' or good or decent they are, nobody has any way of discerning the one in 1,000,000 who will do harm and so the decent folk are feared because of the acts of a few. 

About how I don't blame satirists for their own death but how equally I am uncomfortable to sidle up with artists whose only aim is to offend and insult not least, perhaps even more vehemently, my own Faith. About how secular Europe is still riding on the back of it's Christian roots, forgetting that getting along with our enemies...forgiving them...not seeking revenge and vengeance...loving them even...are remnants of Christian culture which was not the norm before Christianity, and when that goes, as it surely will if we continue along this path, we are in serious trouble.  That maybe it's time to examine ourselves and the way Europe is heading and that perhaps we need to change something and revive our identity.  Just too much effort has been made to rid Europe of Christianity while at the same time there's a piercing silence on rising unease and a head in the sand approach to history.  I think it was Churchill who said that the further back we look into history, the further into our future we can forsee.  Instead of bovine cries of 'what about the crusades?''what about the inquisition' by people who know as much about either of those events as they do about how to build a time machine, maybe we should actually study history in it's raw truth rather than in an ideologically edited version. 

About how I am afraid as a mother because my own child is in France, in a peaceful town where a disturbed young man drove at speed into a crowded Christmas Market which my child had visited several times...a disturbed drunk boy from a messed up family jumping on the back of a dangerous ideological mindset. I don't think this fear is over dramatic because I know about the low grade stress of family living in the northern part of my own country during troubled times, how mothers were nervous every time their teens were out. A more intense fear compared to that of mothers in peaceful places who still are fearful for the safety of their young adult children. 

So I'm not going to write all those things, they're too unformed and garbled...the same way lots of the commentaries are unformed and garbled. This isn't a political blog, it just me and what I think.  

But this is what I am going to do. Today, every hour I am going to post a picture on Facebook of somewhere/someone beautiful in the world, beginning with France. It's naïve in it's simplicity but I hope maybe it will serve to remind us all that while the world is a scary place with so much unrest and hatred and...dare I suggest it?...sin. In spite of that, the world is a beautiful place.  It is good, people are good and life is valuable. I'm not trying to start a meme or to trivialise events, I just hope to apply a little salve to all our wounds.