Easter Accompanies the Suffering Heart with Hope

When I was in the depths of grief after losing my baby daughter Josephine five years ago, I found it was very hard to go through holidays that focus primarily on being joyful. The pressure to be happy was too much. Christmas is cosy and lovely and normally a huge favourite of mine, but not when the pain is still too raw. In times of struggle, I prefer Easter.

Why? Those of you who know me might be thinking of one thing: chocolate! All the chocolate without all the work of Christmas. I am definitely a believer chocolate’s ability to comfort and to express affection when given. I almost always include some chocolate in the grief baskets my friend Julia and I make for bereaved moms, along with my baby loss poetry book and other encouraging books and self-care items, but no, chocolate isn’t the reason.

Although these days, when things are extra stressful around the world, there are times when I’d like to simply bury my entire face in a Tuxedo chocolate layer cake, there is something chocolate cannot do: accompany me in my suffering. Share my grief. Give dignity to my tears, by saying, “I, too, have suffered. You are not alone.” This is something God can do. This is something Jesus does from the cross.

“There is no evil to be faced that Christ does not face with us. There is no enemy that Christ has not already conquered. There is no cross to bear that Christ has not already borne for us, and does not now bear with us. And on the far side of every cross we find the newness of life in the Holy Spirit, that new life which will reach its fulfillment in the resurrection. This is our faith. This is our witness before the world.” – St. John Paul II

Despite all the wild and crazy things that happen in a complex world where there is human freedom, and also the realities of pain and death, we can be consoled by knowing that we do not suffer alone, for we have a God who is compassionate. As I would tell my kids in homeschool, compassion comes from the Latin “cum” (with) “passio” (I suffer). But why would God want to enter our mess, instead of remaining “aloof in icy splendour,” as the archbishop of Toronto poetically asked yesterday?

Love. A personal love for each person ever created. A tender love for you and for me individually. A desire to accompany us in our hardest moments, and to help us bear them.

I have experienced this same desire myself. After losing Josephine, I had an intense desire to be with others who were in pain, to accompany them in their mourning, to hold their hands on the long road to recovery. I could not make their pain disappear, but I could feel it with them, and let them know their grief was valid–was in fact a beautiful sign of their immense love for those lost.

So if you are in mourning this Easter, I encourage you to reach out to the source of love through prayer. God truly cares about your struggles, and wants to help you carry your crosses, as once he carried his own: with blood, and sweat and tears, but also with the dignity of one who gave his life for others freely, out of love. By reaching out to console others in pain, you, too, share in the healing power of God’s generous love, a love stronger than death.

Thanksgiving: on gratitude and perfectionism

Perfectionism is a happiness trap. It blocks happiness because it prevents us from accepting things as they are.

I can’t be happy because I’m not good enough yet. Once I’m better at everything I’ll let myself be happy. Until then I don’t deserve to be.

This is such a dangerous lie. We can’t be grateful for our lives if we don’t believe we should be happy. If we don’t accept ourselves, we can’t accept our reality either. We will be like drops of water trying to strain against the river’s flow–always frustrated.

A huge part of gratitude is acceptance: I accept my life, all that is good and bad, all that is challenging and beautiful, and I am grateful for it. I receive it and give thanks. I am comfortable in my own skin.

Yes, Mum, I tried to eat a Christmas decoration I found under the bookshelf. Don’t I look lovely?

My friend Monique reminded me of all this. I was fussing a bit about my lack of Thanksgiving plans, as my husband and daughter are on a special father-daughter trip out of town. I told her I’d probably just come home from church and put on my pjs, make a dinner the kids actually like (butter chicken, rice and naan bread), have homemade pumpkin pie and watch a bedtime movie together. I worried it maybe wasn’t good enough. Not the big family dinner of the movies…and then she reminded me of what Thanksgiving is all about: gratitude.

Maybe you should just be grateful you don’t have to cook a huge meal the kids don’t really like. Maybe you can be grateful for getting to just have a relaxing holiday instead of doing tons of work.

And it’s true…it was fine. We had a busy day on Saturday with ballet, then having friends for pizza and a movie. Then Sunday was packed with Mass, socializing over lunch, First Communion and Confirmation classes until mid afternoon. By then I was ready for down-time and so were the kids. So the worry was for nothing. I’m grateful for how the day went.

So my Thanksgiving take-home is this: let go a little of your ideas about how things should be in the perfect world. Embrace your imperfect life. Accept your imperfect self. Be grateful for all the people who love you anyway. Love them back. Focus on the good. Don’t wait to be happy. Happiness is accepting your now.

Snow Scent 


Last night it smelled like snow–

when I stepped outside 

the air was crisp and icy–

pregnant with promise.  

In my garden 

the late blooming sunflowers

with their damp, cold petals

looked crestfallen and forlorn

as if thinking:

“I wasn’t expecting this!”

In the early morning half-light

I see the rooftops are powdered with icing sugar.

The kids wake up with excitement

and begin dreaming of gingerbread. 

My seven year old starts spouting:

“Snow says Christmastime…stuff has to stop growing sometime. 

If flowers never stopped growing there would be vines everywhere

Even in the road, and the cars could hardly go.”

Well, there you go. The seasons explained!

The Art of Eating Brownies

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Or should I say the sport?!

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Yummy recipe from spiceupthecurry.com:

Eggless Cocoa Brownie Recipe

We added apple sauce to make them extra gooey, and a crushed peppermint chocolate Ritter Sport bar for some fun minty freshness….definitely worth a try! And great with of cream of course!

Gotta love St. Valentine for giving us all another holiday which involves chocolate, every mother’s love language. My husband cleverly pointed out that I love brownies, too…but hey, self-care is also important, no? 😉

I Want a Power Ranger Suit

The other night, literally as we were eating our Halloween candy, after having dressed up, done a candy hunt in the living room, danced to spooky kids music and painted our faces,
my seven year old daughter asked me, “When is the next holiday?”

Aaaaaaaahhhhh!!!

That was the sound in my head.
Deep breath.

“Could we please just try to enjoy this moment before thinking about the next one? When I tell you you’ll start asking every day how many more days till…”

“I know, but is it Christmas? How long?”

Since then we have discussed at least three times what she wants for Christmas, as well as spent extensive time planning what to be next Halloween. So far a white cat, a ‘Spy Fairy,’ a princess with a sparkly but not hoopy dress, and a Power Ranger of unspecified colour. She told me with a sly smile on the bus, “Mommy, I want a Power Ranger suit.”

Sometimes I wonder if this it a bit what God feels like, being asked for stuff all the time, with little time for thank you’s in between the demands. Can you imagine the clamor of all our requests throughout the world:

Dear God, please gimme, gimme, gimme, and also why, why, why did you let this happen and not that….

One would imagine, if God were more like us, that it would be the source of an (al) mighty headache. Thank goodness for the infinite patience, mercy and generosity of God. Thank goodness that he loves each one of us, demanding as we are, having had us in his mind and heart from all eternity…as unique creations, singular expressions of his infinite beauty and diversity.

May he open my eyes to see my children with his loving eyes, especially on the days when they want so many things, and object to so many others. I guess it’s important to remember that they ask about the holidays a million times not to drive me crazy (-er) but because for them, the anticipation is half the fun.

There are other times when a sudden sweetness bursts through their busy little selves and makes me smile. The other day after mass I asked my five year old if she wanted to say a prayer together. “Let’s say the one we wrote for Great-Grandma.” It’s a song we wrote for her, to make her feel better in the hospital. We sent it to her with some lollipops. Cause that’s the part about going to the doctor that’s fun.
Here it is:

Love is love, and we love you.
Don’t you know it’s always true.
Don’t give up,
There’s always hope,
And we’ll love you forever.

Then she smiled at me with her big blue eyes and said, “Mommy, a heart is the shape of love.”

Today we stood at the bus stop in the chilly November air, munching some cheese and crackers as we waited. My daughter asked me for a cracker. It was the last one. I gave it to her, and after a brief moment she broke it and held it up, “Want half?” I couldn’t have been happier if she brought me roses. The little things…

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