Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Ministering to the Needs of a Parish: What to do, and What NOT to do in Watertown after the Boston Marathon Bombing

I live in Watertown, Massachusetts - normally a quiet, safe city slightly west of Boston.

All of this changed for one terrifying week, leaving all of us scarred in some way, whether we participated in the Boston Marathon or not, and whether we knew someone who was injured, or was injured ourselves. This week has left its scar on everyone in one way or another.

The Red Lentil, a local vegetarian restaurant, had a free brunch on Sunday to help in the city's healing. I left a note for my son so he'd meet me up there after he got up, then I headed off to church. Some of my friends know how difficult it's been for me to get to any church in the winter, plus I have my severe reservations regarding the Catholic Church (I was born and raised in the Catholic Church)... the appointment of Pope Francis has given me hope, although recent news indicates he may not change anything about the Church's exclusion of women and gays both saddens and infuriates me. Still, I thought I'd give my local parish a try.

So - I decided to give my local parish another try. Certainly, I was in dire need of community after the terror that all of us went through in the Boston area - those of us in Watertown especially... I woke up Sunday morning with a feeling, that I can best describe as feeling shattered.

My local Catholic parish, St. Partick's, is less than a mile away, but I underestimated the time it to walk there from my house, so I arrived a few minutes late. It wasn't too long before the priest began his sermon.

So - as everyone pretty much knows by now, I live in Watertown... which means only a couple of days before, after the terror of the marathon bombings, we lived through a complete shut down of the city, and had the added terror of the two, eventually one (since the older brother didn't survive after being run over by his brother) terrorist roaming our densely populated city.

Before Father Joe spoke (I asked his name before I left) I looked around, and wondered how many people had friends and/or relatives who had lost limbs in the bombing... or maybe they themselves helped in what turned into a virtual war zone.

I waited for some comforting words from the priest... only to hear the beginning of a talk about bringing in men for the priesthood.

No mention of the past week - as though it never existed.

Still, I waited...

Still, he continued in his animated talk about how to encourage young men to the priesthood.

Still, no mention of the violent and life changing week previous to this service. No mention of our shared terror. No mention of friends, relatives, loved ones who may have lost a limb or two, had their lives shattered, or even of the three who died. No mention of thanks to the amazing, brave, cohesive work by all the police, both from Watertown and the many other cities who helped, the FBI, Fire Department and so many others who worked around the clock to keep all of us safe.


Finally, I could take it no more, and rose to walk out. In retrospect, I wish I had the courage to speak up in this large church, but it didn't even occur to me. I was so upset I just stormed out, stopping to speak briefly with the two men waiting to collect donations. They were, in fact, as one of the older gentlemen told me, just talking about the previous week (of course they were - we NEED to talk of this!) I asked the name of the priest (My usual place of worship is St. Anthony's Shrine in Boston) and I briefly shared with them that this was the final straw for me - I intended to go to another church.

I walked over & took the 71 bus the short ride to the Church of the Good Shepard right off of Mt. Vernon St. here in Watertown. I only realized it was Episcopal after I walked in - at that point I didn't care. I previously had looked at their website, and remembered that it seemed to be very inviting. That was all I needed to give it a try.

What really matters is this: the priest, Pastor Amy (yes - a woman!! Hooray!!) spoke at length about the tragedy that we lived though. Their Bishop, the Rt. Rev. M. Thomas Shaw, also was there, along with two young women, parishioners who participated in the marathon and are physically unharmed. They had an enormous, delicious brunch right there after the service - it was to be a Newcomer's Brunch, which, Pastor Amy said, after the events of the past week it turned into an ALLcomer's brunch - because everyone needed it so much.

There's so much more I wish I could write, but this would go on forever - so I'll make it as concise as possible, hopefully without sounding as though I'm gushing (I am!) all over this church: the sign of welcome went on for what seemed forever, with no one making me feel odd or strange at attending a brand new service by myself (I entered late, too). In fact - I never felt so welcome in any parish before - and I can sense when greetings are put-on and not true! The welcoming greetings towards me, and towards people everyone knew, were warm, welcoming, and full of love. And the words of both Pastor Amy and Bishop Shaw were comforting and encouraging, and spoke of our shared experiences in the recent tragedy, on both a personal and larger scale.

Pastor Amy said, before communion, that all are welcome to receive either or both of the bread and wine in communion - or, if  you prefer, cross your arms for a blessing. I eagerly took part in both. I have an aversion to drinking the wine at services, since my immune system isn't all that strong - but I compromised by dipping the bread (which was a homemade bread, closer to the reality that was shared during and after Jesus' time).

I cannot begin to express the joy I feel (granted, I ended up having TWO free brunches, hahahaha - but seriously, I'm not speaking about that). I have been waiting so long, determined to stand and fight in the Church I loved for so long.

If I continued to wait, I would be long in the grave before those serious changes actually took place - if they EVER do! There is so much, so very much I would miss. Instead - I am living my life, now, more fully - and with JOY!!

Thank you, Pastor Amy McCreath and the parishioners of the Church of the Good Shepard in Watertown for your sincere, warm welcome. It was truly a drink of water, living water I need so very much!

As for St. Patrick's and Father Joe's sad sermon on Sunday - I wonder why I'm even surprised. Let me first say that St. Patrick's parish does a lot of good - they have a food pantry in which anyone in Watertown can receive groceries twice a month. They help in other ways, too - I myself am so very grateful for how they've helped me in the past. However, this omission on Sunday was very serious, and cannot be ignored. (let me also add a little hint to Father Joe: the way to make sure you DON'T get anyone interested in any participation as a religious in any church, whether in the priesthood or in other any capacity, is to totally ignore the needs of a parish, a parish that needs a compassionate leadership to keep it from being broken from within).

The standard response by the Catholic Church to just about anything is to pretend nothing ever happens. This is what has been done with the continuing child rape scandal (now we know - there is proof - that it exists all over the world) - pretend it didn't happen and hope it will all just go away (it won't). This is how women are treated, both religious AND worshipers alike, are treated. This is how anyone, male or female, who asks for dialogue about disagreeing aspects of Church policy are treated - ignored - or silenced. And of course, this is also how the needs of our gay brethren are treated - again, ignored as though they are not valued and loved members of our Church - but since the standard ignoring doesn't seem to be working even with the generally clueless Church officials, it has, of late, been policy to demonize anyone who is lesbian or gay.

In other words, the words and teachings of Jesus are being ignored - which means that Jesus is being ignored. How sad, how alarming - but I'm not waiting anymore. I'm free and full of joy at my decision to leave, and that I actually found a church that truly welcomes both parishioners and visitors, and does all they can to tend to the needs of our little world around us. That's so little to ask - but isn't that what God's love is all about?

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Cardinal Law, The Church, and Why I'm Angry

I'm from Boston, and I'm Catholic. Well, I think I am - that may change. For now, I'm continuing despite my shame, anger and disgust with what so many poor children have endured as the most vulnerable victims anyone can imagine. For Catholics who still question the reality of this, I suggest going to  Bishop Accountability and read up on everything, including Cardinal Law - http://www.bishop-accountability.org

I think it's EXTREMELY important to know the truth, especially if one is Catholic. What he did (in shifting abusive priests from one parish to another, FULLLY knowing they were raping children who were entrusted under the Church's care by believing and trusting parents) is beyond my imagination, and frankly, my forgiveness. I was an active, praying Catholic who adored him before all this - and I feel betrayed. Still.

I give nothing in money to my local church. Frankly, I still can't trust, but I do have more trust towards the Franciscans at St. Anthony's Shrine. They do so much good work & are inviting to all; I would choose them for my 'widow's mite'. Once I get to the Paulist Center, I may trust them enough to give a little in the offering -  I really don't know (St. Anthony's & I have a long history - I'd be devastated if any of their priests or brothers showed up in court records - but I still would want to know). Even if I trusted both centers totally, I still would be careful about donating anything, because of what I know.

But back to Cardinal Law - like I said, I'm still angry, all the more to know that he gets paid $10,000 a month & even has the luxury of maids at his Vatican address. And, what's worse (it gets worse???) is that he has an influence at the Vatican - as you can see by this article:


It's ridiculous. He never faced up to court like he should have. He never reported these priests to the police, ignored parents and continued to send priests all over to continue their abuses - and as a result, the Vatican rewards him in this life (he'll have nowhere to hide in the next life, although it's probably a good thing I'm not God, as he'd already be a pile of ashes).

Ask the victims in those parishes, some in other parts of the country, how they feel about Cardinal Law's 'good works'!

I can't get it out of my mind that while he was "doing so much good," many of his priests were playing tiddly with the children of parishioners who gave complete trust to those priests, our Cardinal and our Pope. And what's worse, HE KNEW and was more concerned with keeping it all quiet and just shifting them around to other parishes, where they could play more tiddly with more babes. Am I being crude? Well, not as crude as how the poor innocence of those children were shattered. I am not even a victim (nor are any of my children, thank the good God above), but I can never give that sort of trust again. Thankfully, my children are wise enough to exercise extreme caution with their own kids. Sadly, none of my kids go to church; some tell me they're atheist or agnostic - the source of that is a combination of how my ex-husband mixed his own abuse with his extreme Catholicsm, with added help by the reported abusive acts of the Church. Even sadder, I cannot give them any words to try to change their minds. How could I?  I pray, and leave their good hearts (and they have VERY good hearts) within the sacred hearts of both Jesus and Mary.

I wonder how many people (mostly boys, but some girls, too) cannot enter a church because of the living nightmares, the sexual abuse that they endured (some have - so, so sad - committed suicide). Add to that, all of their relatives and friends... and people like me, who used to give all my faith to the Church - now feel it shattered in my knowledge of what has gone on, and to some extent very recent, in some places. How many people in the world have turned away because of this, I wonder, when we consider this butterfly effect...

It's all about power for these men. Keep everything quiet, no matter what. Make sure complete obedience continues... keeping that power and control. Play the victim (again, blaming the REAL victims, even children!!!), continue to exert that power - and let's see, lets shift the focus to something/someone else - like "the gays"!! Yep, everything is their fault, the world will come to a halt if two people who have a different sexual orientation actually want to solidify their relationship in marriage (maybe even with a blessing!), and adopt children, and raise them in their love (we all know how perfectly sacred marriage with heterosexuals is treated today) - and let's put some blame on "women", too - the ones who, heaven forbid, are trying to chip away at that ivory tower and actually perform the sacred duty of being a priest - thereby taking away some of this power and control.

Cardinal Law was was first Archbishop, then elevated to Cardinal, in Boston from 1984 to 2002, when he resigned in shame after the Boston Globe exposed his part in these shameful abuses. One of the victims of abuse by Fr. parishioner in Salem, MA, and made a movie about when he was sexually abused as a child in that parish (very brave on his part, IMO) about his abuse & the history behind the priest. In the legal documents that Bishop Accountability has published, it shows his disregard for these victims - he knew and did nothing - nothing decent, that is.

One link (of many) about Law's role in this horrid nightmare:


About the film:


Saturday, December 15, 2012

broken hearts, broken lives

We, as a nation, as a world, have experienced one of the worst tragedies that we could ever imagine. I know so many feel as I do: while I don't know anyone personally at Sandy Hook Elementary School, anyone with an ounce of compassion in our hearts are also in a state of grief. We struggle for the right words of comfort, enter conversations about the need for gun control, but through it all, many of us (meaning me) wonder what can we do to help.

There are constructive ideas all over the internet, discussions about gun control, the need for better mental health care, and the isolation that exists in our society today. These are all good, needed discussions, and constructive changes needs to take place - but for now, what I want to share is different.

I'm reading a book I picked up quite by chance at my local library bookstore, My Grandfather's Blessings by Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D. I'm amazed that a something written with such depth of feeling could end up in a library discard pile, but then again, I never would have found it otherwise, so that alone was my personal blessing. 

This is a narrative about touching lessons learned from people. Dr. Rachel has been working with people with terminal illnesses for more than thirty years, and has lived with Chrohn's disease for more than forty years. I find her writing to be sensitive and full of something that seems to be lacking in much of society today: wisdom.  Her book shares some of the wisdom that she's learned from patients and others who touched her life in some other way, including her Orthodox Jewish grandfather (who calls her Neshume-le, which Dr. Remen tells us means "little beloved soul.")

At the start of the book, she writes about how her grandfather was the one person in her life who tenderly shared his faith in God by telling her stories from the bible. (the bold highlighting is mine.)

The story he told me is very old and dates from the time of the prophet Isaiah. It is the legend of the Lamed-Vov. in this story, God tells us that He will allow the world to continue as long as at any given time there is a minimum of thirty-six good people in the human race. These people are called the Lamed-Vov. If at any time, there are fewer than thirty-six such people alive, the world will come to an end.
"Do you know who these people are, Grandpa?" I asked, certain that he would say "Yes." But he shook his head. "No, Neshume-le," he told me. "Only God knows who the Lamed-Vovniks are. Even the Lamed-Vovniks themselves do not know for sure the role they have in the continuation of the world, and no one else knows it either. They respond to suffering, not in order to save the world but simply because the suffering of others touches them and matters to them."
It turned out that the Lamed-Vovniks could be tailors or college professors, millionaires or paupers, powerful leaders or powerless victims. These things were not important. What mattered only was the capacity to feel the collective suffering of the human race and to respond to the suffering around them. "And because no one knows who they are, Neshume-le, anyone you meet might be one of the thirty-six for whom God preserves the world," my grandfather said. "It is important to treat everyone as if this might be so."
And then she writes about her thoughts, responding as a young child about such a great responsibility that must be on the actions of the Lamed-Vovniks.
"How do the Lamed-Vovniks respond to the suffering, Grandpa?" I asked, suddenly anxious. "What do they have to do?" My grandfather smiled at me very tenderly. "Ah, Neshume-le," he told me. "They do not need to do anything. They respond to all suffering with compassion. Without compassion, the world cannot continue. Our compassion blesses and sustains the world."
Without compassion, the world cannot continue.

In a society that places so much value on action, it is comforting to me to think that our compassion links us in the suffering of the people in Newtown, CT, and even defines us. For me, as one who feels helpless in this time of tragedy, I feel - well, more human, in that thought.

Sandy Hook Elementary School - and all who have left this world too soon - we weep for you.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Enduring Heart

I cleaned up my bookcase yesterday.

That was a major accomplishment for me. I don't know why it took so much effort to tackle this, but at least I finally did it. I love my books - I love all books, as any writer usually does. Yet despite my bibliophile love, my neglect made it seem as though my stacks of books were bursting at the seams. Finally, slowly, I cleaned it by sections, put my most important books together at one end, and washed the dust off the wood as I went along.

My most valuable books are now in categories of faith, food, and shelter. My daughter gave birth to the most beautiful baby girl three and a half weeks early.

Tonight, I can't sleep.  I am one hundred and twenty six miles away from her, or approximately two hours and sixteen minutes by bus. One hundred and twenty six miles from helping my baby with her first birth. This precious, beautiful girl, Josette Marie, was born a teeny six and a half pounds, and has lost some ounces since then, because little Josette prefers to sleep and cuddle with her mom, rather than eat. Her momma, my girl, is caught between the indescribable joy of the miracle of giving birth, and the unavoidable worry (and lack of sleep) that is the constant companion of parenthood.

I never felt so helpless in all my life.

My body, curse it (no, I don't really mean that!) does not do what it used to do. I try, I really do, but it responds with aches and pain and if I push my limits too much, then the resulting pain is excruciating, along with fatigue. My reflexes, (and brain) are not as fast as in my younger days.

So tonight, I think about how much I want to help my daughter, how I want to be at her side, and I feel helpless. Despite how tired I feel, I stare at the darkened walls and sleep evades me.

My dogs, Emma and Sam, lucky them, are the picture of relaxation, spread out on the bed that refuses to give me sleep.

I decided to turn on the light and look at some of the books formerly buried in piles of confusion. "Left to Tell," by Immaculee Ilibagiza, is the first one I pick up. While I remember reading about her testimony as the only survivor of her family (indeed, I think her entire village) of the Rwandan genocide in 1994, I didn't even remember buying it.

Sigh. Thank you brain. I will read this soon.

I put that one down, and pick up the book my dear friend Mary gave me so many years ago. "The Enduring Heart," by Wilkie Au. The day before my next birthday, when I turn sixty in April of 2013, Mary (O'Flaherty) Floyd will have been gone for three years.

Her obituary stated "In the past 15 years, she split her time between Winthrop and Ireland. She dedicated her life to serving and sharing the love of God."

She certainly did. Mary taught me the rosary, encouraged me to return to Mass, but most of all, she was an example of the true love of God. She was kind to everyone, stranger or friend, and extended her hand to anyone who needed help. My best memories are filled with cups of tea with Mary, along with one rosary after another. It was said many times that her husband feared she'd give their house away right out from under them, her love for her fellow man and woman was so deep.

I miss her so. And now, when my forth and last born is going through the joys and worries with her newborn baby, I think back to when I was a new mother, and Mary was my guide and prayer partner, helping through my insecurities, fears, worries as a new mom, through ear infections and pneumonia. Mary, a retired nurse, was the one who told me to rush my two year old first born, Carrie, to the hospital. She recognized the signs of pneumonia, something her pediatrician insisted was only an allergy. Thanks to Mary (and a two week stay at the hospital), my little Carrie survived.

Her friendship meant the world to me. Although later, I moved away, and wasn't as close in later years, she never left my heart. It was so comforting to pick up the phone and hear her voice (I seemed to sense when she returned from Ireland).

I miss her so...

Tonight, I looked at that book, the book I never found the time to read. Although I've lost so many possessions throughout the years (even, to my shock and sorrow, losing the precious beads that I used while praying with her), I held onto this book. It stayed with me through my many, moves, from one city to another, from Massachusetts to Arizona and back again. Tonight, I picked it up, and read the inside cover.

"For most of us, living in the good times is easy. When we are young and healthy," (OK, that's when the tears began), "when life seems brimming with possibilities, it's a simple matter to move ahead confidently and believe that the all-loving God smiles on our endeavors. At the same time, we all know those days will not last forever." (now the tears are really covering my face) "Life brings trials and sadness. Not only that, but most of us will live to be much older than our parents. People need a spirituality for the long haul that will last and bear fruit long after the spring rains and summer sunshine are gone. Is it possible to live vibrantly and confidently even then?"

Mary, who was as close to a spiritual adviser as I've ever had, once told me that time means nothing to God. I forgot her exact words, but it was something to the effect that it doesn't exist in the spiritual world. (Which, to me, is so hard to comprehend).

The book my friend gave to me about twenty or twenty-five years ago (while she was then, around my current age) is so appropriate for me right now.

Thank you, Mary, for such a perfect gift, at such a perfect time.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

my dear, sweet shiloh

(warning - severe tear alert for the writing ahead)

I began this post three years ago. That's how long I neglected this blog. During that time, I had many, many changes in my life - and not the very least was what I write below.

My dear, sweet Shiloh lost his battle at the respectable dog age of twelve years old last fall. I began this blog with the intention of writing primarily about my three faithful companions. Life got in the way, of course, as it always does. But writing about this painful loss - well, it took nearly nine months for me to put my fingers to the keyboard and write about something so very painful.

Shiloh was an amazing dog. Of course, all dogs are amazing - their love, their dedication, the way a dog is willing to die for the one (or ones) they love continue to amaze me. Most of all, they carve a deep spot in our hearts that just can't be filled by anyone else, and their lives are just too darn short.

But, as far as dogs go, Shiloh was truly amazing. He was smart - so smart that he understood human-talk. He just didn't learn what certain words meant (and I know those of you who haven't been blessed with a bond like this probably doubt the validity of my statement - but it's true). He was more independent than Sammy (and definitely Emma, who is so bonded and dependent on me that she won't let anyone else take her outside to go to the bathroom!) He had no fears - except the vet! His loves included the ocean - and trucks - we never had one, but except for his failing health during the last few yrs of his live, I would have expected him to jump up into a stranger's truck just for the fun of it! We took him by car when we moved to Arizona (turned out to be for 2 1/2 yrs) with Sammy, and returned again by car (this time with both Sammy & Emma) - they all loved it, but Shiloh would get excited for years if I ever brought out a suitcase or travel bag!

Although he battled poor health off & on for the last two or three yrs of his life, his worst suffering was, at least, only about 24 hrs. Our vet told us that he had gone completely blind - I knew he had also lost his hearing before that - and when he was no longer able to stand up (all happening in such a short time) - I knew that it was time.

I thank God that my now-full grown son, John, was (and still is, at least for now) sharing the apartment with me, as I could not have done what he did. He stayed up with us for nearly all of those 24 hours, and carried him to the car twice - once for the first visit to the vet, next for that oh-so-painful last trip. He sat on the floor (I'm disabled, was in really bad pain - and never could have done any of that) - since we didn't want to move our dear, suffering Shiloh anymore.

He held and patted Shiloh as he crossed over Rainbow Bridge, as I bent over as best I could to touch my 'big guy' as I used to call Shiloh - and said our final goodbyes to the guardian angel-dog, who I believe, is now with Joe, in heaven. (more about Joe later... I have some tears to wipe away..)

Sunday, August 17, 2008

on death and dying

I've been thinking about my own finite nature lately.

I'm not trying to be morbid. But I'm seeing a lot of changes around me, changes that are normal and part of life. (I can't help but remember one of my mom's sayings, "Where there's life, there's death". She also told me that whenever I felt bad about my life, to look around at someone who's worse off - then that should make me feel better....what can I say? She was ... Sicilian.)

Recently, I was devastated with the news that a dear, dear friend of mine has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's. This is a friend who many turn to for her love and kindness, and probably the most powerful prayer I've ever encountered. I owe Mary for showing the way to find the faith within my heart, faith that has held me up during life's difficulties. Most of all, it was Mary who showed me that no matter what, a kind word, a cup of tea and a bit of food can wash away a mountain of problems - that's the sign, to me, of a faith-filled person. No words of preaching, no hell and damnation - just plenty of kindness that goes right along with the fingering of her rosary beads.

I've cried many times, thinking of what's ahead for Mary, and maybe more so, what's ahead for her children, who will be her caretakers. It ignites my own fears: what is that name? where did I put that? did I really say/do that?

This is the fear that accompanies all of us as we age.

Yet Alzheimers is not confined to the elderly, even though that's the usual viewpoint. A neighbor told me of their relative, who is in the beginning stages of the disease - and he's in his thirties. Once more, I was reading how scientists have discovered that a brain that looks perfectly normal one day (through scans), can have the signs of Alzheimer's the very next day.

Our lives here on earth are truly fragile.

I have an uncle - a favorite uncle, my deceased father's brother, and the only remaining sibling of either side of my parents' respective families, who is very, very ill. No matter how much I've tried to get there to visit, I haven't been able to make the (albeit short) trip to Connecticut to see him. The constant rain we have been having here in New England has caused some pretty intense pain with me, and.. sad to say, I don't have the means to get there.

Today he's ninety years old - and while, in the past few years, has survived three - yes, three - different cancers, including bone cancer (a most difficult cancer to successfully battle), his health is failing fast. My aunt is ninety-two years old, and has her grandchild and great-grandchild ("the apple of our eyes" she has told me, more than once) living with her. My Uncle Eddie is confided to a "rehab center" (a strange name, since they know there is no rehabilitation in his cards at this point).

His treatment at this facility is horrid, and my aunt is doing all she can to fight to get him home. She's hired a Personal Care Attendant who is actually now living with them, and connected with a local hospice, who will send a nurse there several times a week.

But his doctor is on the board of the rehab center there in Norwich (can we say, "conflict of interest"?), and not only are they insisting on keeping him them there, but since his insurance has run out, they demand $9000 a month - that's NINE THOUSAND dollars - each month, for payment.

They have also told her that she has to turn her house over to them - oh, they are so kind, though. They'll let her live there until the day she dies - then this home, this home that my aunt and uncle worked so hard to pay off so many years ago, she as an elementary school teacher, he, who worked at a jewelry store in Norwich his whole life - this home which is also the home for a young mother and baby - is supposed to be turned over to these vultures.

And what does my uncle get in return for this? Well, the care is so considerate that the patients end up sitting in their own urine. My uncle fell and required stitches recently, and, as I already mentioned, his doctor, who is recommending he stay in this facility that is trying to take their only possession away from them, their home - this doctor is on board of this very same center.

How much more abuse can a facility cause before the state closes them down?

All of this makes me feel so helpless.

I don't have much, and certainly don't mind living a simple life. But times like this makes me feel so very helpless.

Getting back to my friend, Mary - I guess the worst of this will be what is ahead for her children. She doesn't know about her diagnosis. (side note: My mom had some dementia a short time before she passed away. When I realized how sick she was - she kept telling me she hadn't eaten in about three days, but told me this for longer than three days - I went against her wishes and called her doctor. Despite my telling him not to tell her I called, he did - and I related that while she was really mad, on the plus side, she forgot it by the next day).

But what Mary has is a very close relationship with God. No matter what (for as long as she remembers - and I hope this is something she'll never forget), she has a loving relationship with Jesus, with the father and Holy Spirit, and with the Blessed Mother. It gives me comfort in hoping that, even if and when she gets to the point of not being able to communicate with others around her, she'll bathe in that love, be caressed in that faith.

emma's saga

Epilepsy is an insidious disease. No wonder that throughout the ages it was believed to be the result of demons, and a reason to be burned at the stake.

Today, despite the fact that modern medicine recognizes the source to be within the workings of the brain, and while there are medications to treat the symptoms, we still do not have a cure. Once more, a treatment that may work today, could stop working tomorrow.

I can't begin to explain how stressful it is to watch a pet having a seizure. There's a level of helplessness that exceeds anything that I've ever experienced. Pretty soon, with the help of the shared knowledge on the Internet, I learned that with each seizure, Emma's brain was being trained for more. When she started having cluster seizures, I learned that this was the most dangerous - she would run the danger of going into status - that's a seizure that doesn't end, and could result in death without emergency treatment at the vet's.

I have done what countless other people in this situation are doing: I've adjusted my life in ways that I don't even think twice about.

I now clean without chemicals (countless chemicals, including bleach, can trigger or cause seizures). Emma knows my usual patterns - if I am gone away from home beyond the usual amount of time, this can trigger a seizure (she only began clustering when I started taking classes for five too-long weeks, in a city with very poor transportation - I ended up being away from home for many, many hours, something that is out-of-the norm for me.)

My bed is directly on the floor - not easy for this not-too-young gal. But her seizures nearly always occur at bedtime, and I can't even imagine how she'd injure herself if she fell from the bed during a seizure. I don't consider this to be much of a sacrifice (don't ask me first thing in the morning, though, when I need to climb up from the floor!)

Above all, our home is very peaceful. On the very unusual occasion when some discord broke the usual peace - that has triggered a seizure for my poor Emma. She is a very sensitive, gentle dog (although we changed her name when we adopted her, her original name told to us by the Human Society is still her nickname: Sweetie).

Which brings me to how much I am connected to those I love. Just as I can sense when something is wrong with one of my now-adult children, I can sense when Emma is going to have a seizure. It's a strange sensation - and a couple of times, even little Sammy gave me a warning when I wasn't paying attention (brings to mind the dogs that are trained to warn their owners of impending seizures).

I am fortunate, though. After months and months of trying to battle the invisible monster, Emma's seizures have been controlled with a very low dose of phenobarbital. She's had no seizures for almost three months - which, in epilepsy years, seems like forever.

Still, I'll jump when I hear a movement behind me as I sit at my computer. The fear of yet another seizure doesn't leave - it lessens, now that she hasn't had any seizures for awhile, but it doesn't go away.

For now, though, I'll accept the peace and celebrate the fact that my baby is seizure free!