the last resch boy

The last of the Resch boys, the five sons of John and Bertha Resch, was laid to rest earlier this month. He wasn’t the last-born, but he was the last to die; an entire century passed between the birth of Leo, the eldest of the five, and the death of Albert. But for those of us who loved them, my father and my uncles, a century wasn’t nearly enough time to have them with us.

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Resch kids,from biggest to littlest: Leo, Marie, Leonard, Tony, Julie, Evelyn, Albert, Jo, Frankie.

My Uncle Al, the last surviving brother, died of pneumonia on January 6, 2016. Today would be his 88th birthday.

I feel as though my heart is broken and bleeding, scattered into dozens of pieces. I always adored my Uncle Al (I think all of his nieces did). More than that, however, he’s been like a second father to me ever since I lost my own 23 years ago. In fact, the moment he walked into my dad’s wake, I flung myself into his arms and asked him if he would give me away when I got married. Which, of course, he did. Miracle of miracles, he even wore a tux for the big event, which according to my Aunt Mickie was quite an amazing phenomenon. (I’m not entirely sure my own father would have agreed to wear one, actually.)

Right before Uncle Al walked me down the aisle…

All of the Resch brothers were handsome, with easy grins and athletic builds. Although my dad, Leonard, was nine years older than Al, I loved watching them together because not only did they resemble each other physically, but they shared the same mannerisms, gestures, verbal expressions, and quirky sense of humor. And they were both just magic with kids. And animals. And growing things. All of those brothers had a strong nurturing, gentle streak. And talk about salt of the earth! If you needed them, you didn’t even have to ask–they were already there. I believe you learn a lot about a person’s character by what they take for granted. Well, those boys, every one of them, simply took for granted that one is there to help. To be kind. To be strong for you when you felt weak.

So many memories…The day after my dad’s funeral, I called my Aunt Barb in a panic, asking her to come over because mom and I’d had a stupid fight over nothing, and she was hysterical. I’d never seen my mother like that. In no time at all Aunt Barb was there, to talk to my mom in a way that I, submerged in my own grief, couldn’t. And Uncle Al was there too…I just recall clutching the flag from my dad’s casket and sobbing, endlessly, in his arms, while he patted my back and let me cry myself out.

He even came to stay with us a couple of times to help us with major repairs on the house–it was a beautiful turn of the century structure, but required constant upkeep. (That’s another thing about those Resch boys, they could fix anything!) While he was here, Uncle Al and I had a number of long talks, and he related stories about my dad, his Army service, all kinds of things I never heard from anyone else. So in a way, Uncle Al gave me the gift of my father. Just as he became a second father to me, for 23 years.

And of course, being a Resch brother meant mischief. It meant that one existed in order to tease and make the lives of their children, younger siblings, and nieces and nephews difficult! My dad always got this special twinkle in his blue eyes right before he was about to tease me, and so did Al, who called me “Sparky” all through my teen years because of my red hair and, er, temper. Furthermore, all through my teen years, every time a boy paid any attention to me, I was terrified my dad would find out–because I’d never, ever, hear the end of it! Everything was grist for the teasing mill. But they were always sweet, never mean or cruel in their teasing. We–children, nieces, and nephews–all knew it was a sign of affection, and we loved it.

Leo, Leonard, Tony, Al, and Frankie. One blog post can never do them justice, but this has to be written. As one of the nieces, and as Leonard’s daughter and only child,  I feel compelled to write something to honor their passing, to tell whoever might stop to read this how truly special these brothers were.  To give witness to the huge void they have left behind. And to honor the amazing legacy they have left for their children, their nieces and nephews, grandchildren, even great-grandchildren.

Al’s death has left a lot of broken hearts. Yet, like his brothers, he also was a man who took a great deal of solace from his faith, and those of us left behind do as well; we know that, someday, God promises to wipe away every tear, that death will be no more, that goodbye is not forever. And in the meantime we have our memories, our stories, to share and cherish. We know that they are never far away from us. And most of all, we know that love never ends.

Al lived in Montana, where he and my beloved late Aunt Mickie raised eight children. Some of my favorite memories are of the trips daddy and I took to visit them all! It is fitting, somehow, that he lived in Big Sky Country, because when I think of him I picture enormous, unending blue sky, and sunshine, laughter and stories and a love even vaster than the sky above.

So goodbye for a while, darling Uncle Al. I hope you know how much I loved you and always will, and what a difference you made in my life.

In paradisium deducant te angeli
May choirs of angels lead you into paradise

in tuo adventu suscipiant te martyres
and at your arrival may the martyrs welcome you;

et perducant te in civitatem sanctam Jerusalem.
may they bring you into the holy city, Jerusalem.

Chorus angelorum te suscipiat,
May the holy angels welcome you,

et cum Lazaro quondam paupere
and with Lazarus, who lived in poverty,

aeternam habeas requiem.
may you have everlasting rest.

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A favorite memory from my wedding–trying to pin Uncle Al’s corsage on his tux without drawing blood. We were both laughing so hard at my clumsiness Aunt Mickie had to take over, the two of us could hardly stand up!

 

 

 

you want to be a…chaplain?

When people ask me why I’m studying theology, I usually just explain, “Well, I want to work as a chaplain, preferably in hospice.” Sometimes I just get a handsstrange look, more often I get the look along with an “…oh, okay…” Occasionally a brave person will speak up and ask me what a chaplain actually does, or why I’d want to do something so depressing. A relative told me once he wished I would do something more worthwhile with my life than prayer. Um, okay.

I did my first chaplaincy internship back in my twenties, before I had to drop out of school to deal with my fibromyalgia and migraines. This is a short story about my first hospice consult (I was terrified) which was subsequently published in our archdiocesan newspaper when they asked for submission on the question: Who Is My Neighbor?

Dwarfed by the hospital bed, surrounded by IVs and beeping monitors, she was a tiny, frail elderly woman with enormous haunted dark eyes dominating a white face. A native of Poland, she spoke little English, but was nonetheless able to understand the diagnosis: inoperable stomach cancer.

Six months, maybe less, to live.

I was a chaplain intern with a grand total of three weeks experience,
observing my first hospice consult. What could I, a 27-year-old graduate
student, possibly say to a lonely frightened dying woman who didn’t
even speak English?

As I stood huddled  in a corner of the room and watched, a tear formed in one of those dark eyes and slid slowly down her face. Then another. And another. Her fragile body began to shake; and suddenly I found myself far from the safety of my hidden corner, my inexperience forgotten, my arms around her and my face buried against her shoulder, I dug out my little blue
plastic rosary, and as we wept and prayed together, the healing love of
Christ transcended the gulf between us, overcoming the barriers of
language and age, binding us together as fellow pilgrims walking hand in
hand on our journey home.

In truth, I have come to realize since, we are all fellow pilgrims on a journey home to the God who created us and loves us beyond our wildest imaginings. We are, indeed, our brother’s (and sister’s) keeper, and we are called to bear one another’s burdens. We have more in common than we realize, as I discovered in my first hospice consult, and  it is
through Christ’s love that we are able to journey with, and heal, each
other.

And THAT is why I want to be a chaplain.

buddies

Crosses at WW2 American Cemetery in Normandy
Crosses at WW2 American Cemetery in Normandy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From today’s Prayer for the Morning in Magnificat, a hymn for Memorial Day:
“Remember, Lord, the fallen
Who died in fields of war,
In flaming clouds, in screaming crowds,
On streets that are no more,
That we today might waken
And greet this day in peace
With grateful prayer for those who bear
The storms that never cease.

“Remember friends and strangers,
And those forgotten now,
Whose names are known to you alone,
Before whose love we bow
And ask that you surround them
With mercy’s endless light
That we may live, and we forgive
The foe they went to fight.

“Remember, Lord, the living,
Who bear the pain of loss–
A death she died who stood beside
Her Son upon the cross.

“Remember all your children,
The dead and those who weep,
And make us one beneath the sun
Where love will never sleep.”
– Sr. Genevieve Glen, O.S.B.
Copyright 2004, Benedictine Nuns, Abbey of St. Walburga, Virginia Dale, CO.

My dad had many close calls while serving in Europe during WWII, and lost many friends, but there is one in particular I want to remember today: his best friend, killed by a land mine in France? Belgium? Germany? I’ll never know. He finally told me the story–which he had never told  anyone else–on Memorial Day 1992. The last Memorial Day he lived to see. It was also only the second time I ever saw my dad in tears (the other was when my grandma died). I’m afraid I wasn’t much help to him. I was so stunned to see tears in my dad’s eyes I didn’t know what to say. But I’ve never forgotten the pain in his eyes, and the way his voice cracked in the middle of his tale.

Photo: This is my dad with, i think, his best friend who was blown up by a land mine in Belgium. My dad always said he "was just doing his job" and the real heroes were the boys who never came home. The second (and last) time I ever saw him cry was Memorial Day 1992, when he told me about his friend. My his soul rest in peace.

This is a picture of them together, I think. I know this was taken in Europe because of my dad’s acne. He was very handsome but he broke out for the first and only time in his life in France from, he told me, eating too much chocolate from their rations! I suspect the stress of being in combat may have added to the skin problems. In any case, this soldier is in a number of pictures my dad took, and this is the only professional picture he had of him with any of his buddies. but I will never know. For the last 21 years, however, I have prayed for my dad’s friend, and all the boys he knew who never came home.

It gives me a pang in my heart every time I remember the time I was planning a trip to France, and I showed my dad all the material that the Normandy Tourist Office had sent me about visiting the WWII beaches, especially Omaha Beach. He looked puzzled and asked me why on earth I would want to go there. Shocked, I said, “Because you were there. You were in the third assault wave to land on Omaha Beach. Daddy,” I said, ” you were a hero.” He turned away to hide the fact, I suspect, that he got choked up. Amazingly, my own father, the man I had lived with for 23 years, never realized before that his daughter thought he was a hero. (Alas, the trip to France fell through. But someday I’m going to see that beach, and bring flowers in memory of all of those who shed their blood n “Bloody Omaha.”)

My dad (on the left) and Lt. “Crazy” Roberts (who once flew his little spotter plane under the Eiffel Tower) and their Piper Cub, somewhere in Germany.

I mentioned a later that day that I was planning to visit the American Cemetery in Colleville-Sur-Mere. I’ll never forget the look on his face when he said, quietly, “I watched them build that cemetery.” And I know he never, ever, got over the images he carried from Nordhausen and Buchenwald.

My beloved and gentle father has been at peace now for 20 years. I believe this with all of my being; I know the memories which tormented him all his life have no power to hurt him now, and that God has wiped away all of his tears. But it still breaks my heart to think of my dad, just a boy really, straight off the farm in Minnesota, facing the evils of Nazi Germany.

Eternal rest grant unto him, and all those who served our country, oh Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon them. May their souls rest in Your peace, until we meet again. Amen.

Fort Snelling National Cemetery

 

me and my neck

I haven’t written here since September? To be honest, this entire semester has gone by in a blur. Really, I ought to say non-semester, since I’ve been on medical leave, yet again. This time, it’s mostly my neck. Apparently, my facet nerves are damaged and inflamed as a result of my car accident this summer, so as well as the physical therapy I’ve already had, I need to have an outpatient surgical procedure called a radio frequency rhizotomy. At least it sounds impressive, eh? (And of course, now the weather is being its usual crazy Minnesota self, so my fibromyalgia is kicking in.)

This is a partial description of the procedure from SpineUniverse.com:

Once you are ready, you will be given an IV with a mild sedative to keep you comfortable but awake during the procedure. A local anesthetic will be used to numb the area where the injection is to be done. An x-ray machine is then used to guide the exact placement of the needle/electrode. Once the needle is injected, a mild electrical current is used to stimulate the nerve and confirm its exact location. You may feel slight pressure or tingling during this part of the procedure. Then the electrode is heated to deaden the sensory nerves. When the procedure is completed, the needle is removed and the injection site is bandaged.

In fact, the nerves are cauterized (as in burnt, yes) so they can no longer transmit pain signals to the brain. It’s obviously a much longer-lasting fix than just having a cortisone shot, which was another option.  In my case, the doctor will cauterized my facet nerves from C-4 to C-7 (In normal English, that means four facet nerves in my cervical spine, or neck.) Apparently the procedure itself isn’t that bad, because they are going to keep me so sedated I won’t even remember the surgery! It’s the healing that is going to be the tricky part. It can be fairly agonizing, I’ve gathered, because my nerves will be raw until scar tissue has a chance to form, which takes at least a week. And it can take up to four weeks for the results from the procedure to become clear. Ugh. And I’m having it done only five days before Christmas!

I was quite busy feeling sorry for myself the other day when my friend Nadine pointed out how lucky I was. Lucky that I have a problem that medical science can actually fix! Imagine the days not so long ago when people just had to put up with this sort of (at times excruciating) neck pain. I remember thinking about that years ago, when I was seventeen years old and had my two scoliosis surgeries. I have never, ever, forgotten the first time I saw myself after the surgery, reflected in the window at the end of the hall. Even wrapped up in a cheesy hospital robe, I could see that my spine was straight. For the first time in years. I actually looked like all the other girls I knew. And boy, did the tears ever flow. I still have quite a bit of back pain from the surgeries, and have degenerative disk disease and osteoarthritis in my cervical spine as a result, but I have never once been sorry I had those surgeries.

Sure, life would be easier without the surgeries and the fibromyalgia etc., etc., but I am not powerless in the face of them. And I am so grateful to all those in medical research who care enough to invent procedures and medications that either cure what I have, or enable me to cope better. George is taking a couple of days off work to care for me and then my birthmom is coming over for a day, and she’s promised to arrive bearing her delicious manicotti! And I have Fiona to take care of me, as she does so well, lots of books (piled everywhere in our bedroom and downloaded onto my Kindle), and podcasts on my iPod I’ve been meaning to catch up on. And the house is nice and cozy, decorated for Christmas. Plus I already have several visitors lined up, whether Fiona likes it or not! So in the end, when I think about, it looks as though there will be many benefits beyond the obvious medical ones.

PS Prayers welcomed! As are lavish get-well gifts, huge flower bouquets, the works!

Image of spine from:

http://www.backandjointpain.com/injection-procedures/cervical-spine/rhizotomy

 

the red thread

The Little Red-Haired Girl as seen in the tele...
The Little Red-Haired Girl as seen in the television special It’s Your First Kiss, Charlie Brown. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is a short post, just an update on our baby situation.

To make a long story short, we are no longer trying to get pregnant. As it turned out, I simply couldn’t handle being off of my fibromyalgia medications. My muscle relaxers, Advil, Excedrin, and trazedone (a sleeping medication commonly used to treat fibromyalgia) are all, without question, definitely verboten for anyone trying to get pregnant. And without them, I’ve wound up in one of the worst fibromyalgia flares in years. I’ve been in too much pain to function: unable to dress myself, drive the car, cook, get myself to class, type on the computer. So, after talking it over with my husband and my physician, the three of us decided that, for me, pregnancy is simply not an option. (If anyone has any doubts about whether fibromyalgia is a real, debilitating chronic pain syndrome, check out the Mayo Clinic website or Web Md.)

I feel as though I have lost an actual baby, not just the hope of one. I loved this sweet, precious little child, our little red-haired girl; she dwelt firmly in my heart and mind, in my very being, and the grief of knowing that she will never come to exist is overwhelming now.

But I know that I will survive this. And George and I KNOW that there is a child out there, waiting for us, waiting to become part of our family. In a funny way, being adopted myself, adoption, rather than pregnancy, seems like a normal way of becoming a family. So that is the plan.

I’m going to close with a quote I have propped up against my keyboard as I write; it is from a good friend when she and her husband adopted a little honey from China, and I have a feeling it’s going to be my mantra for some time.

“An invisible red thread connects those who are destined to meet, regardless of time, place, or circumstance. The thread may stretch or tangle, but will never break.”
–An ancient Chinese belief

Please keep us in your prayers, if you are so inclined.

for emilie

Emilie darling,
I loved you like a sister. I asked you to be my matron of honor because you were one of the closest, dearest friends I’ve ever had–and probably ever will. I feel somehow as though part of my soul is missing now that you are gone; a void has opened that, I know, will never close. All of our other friends have written so eloquently about what you meant to them, about how you will be missed. But for all that you encouraged me to become a writer (nagged, occasionally!) I cannot seem to do likewise. My heart feels like lead, my eyes continually fill with tears, and my mind is a mushy fog. I flounder, helplessly, to find words adequate to express my feelings. So, instead, I am copying the words of a writer far more able than I:

We Remember Them

In the rising of the sun and in its going down,
we remember them.
In the blowing of the wind and in the chill of winter,
we remember them.
In the opening of buds and in the rebirth of spring,
we remember them.
In the blueness of the sky and in the warmth of summer,
we remember them.
In the rustling of leaves and the beauty of autumn,
we remember them.
In the beginning of the year and when it ends,
we remember them.
When we are weary and in need of strength,
we remember them.
When we are lost and sick at heart,
we remember them.
When we have joys we yearn to share,
we remember them.
So long as we live, they too shall live,
for they are now a part of us, as we remember them.
–Jewish prayer

I loved you, Emilie. I only pray that you knew just how much. May God bless and keep you, now and forever.

funeral today

I’m too exhausted to write about the funeral today…but I did want to write something in honor of the occasion. So here are the quotes I used in my eulogy:

“Life is eternal, and love is immortal, and death is only a horizon, and a horizon is nothing save the limitation of our sight.”
–Rossiter Worthington Raymond

“We do best homage to our dead by living our lives fully even in the shadow of our loss.”
–Jewish proverb

And mom’s favorite prayer, the Prayer of St. Francis:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love,
Where there is injury, pardon,
Where there is doubt, faith:
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
–St. Francis of Assisi

Rejoice, heavenly powers!

If you want to know what holds me together–and has for years–it’s the Exsultet. This once a year Easter proclamation is my rock. It is proclaimed, usually sung, by the priest at Easter vigil after the lighting of the Easter candle, once in Latin and once in English. For me, it’s the climax of the year, it’s the way I make sense of my life, it’s my comfort and my hope. It gives me the courage to get our of bed in the morning, knowing that today I will go to visit my mom and witness her suffering. I have never made it through listening to the entire Exsultet with crying: I probably never will!

The Exsultet

Rejoice, heavenly powers! Sing, choirs of angels!
Exult, all creation around God’s throne!
Jesus Christ, our King, is risen!
Sound the trumpet of salvation!

Rejoice, O earth, in shining splendor,
radiant in the brightness of your King!
Christ has conquered! Glory fills you!
Darkness vanishes for ever!

Rejoice, O Mother Church! Exult in glory!
The risen Savior shines upon you!
Let this place resound with joy,
echoing the mighty song of all God’s people!

[My dearest friends, standing with me in this holy light,
join me in asking God for mercy,
that he may give his unworthy minister
grace to sing his Easter praises.]

[V. The Lord be with you.
R. And also with you.]
V. Lift up your hearts.
R. We lift them up to the Lord.
V. Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
R. It is right to give him thanks and praise.

It is truly right
that with full hearts and minds and voices
we should praise the unseen God, the all-powerful Father,
and his only Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

For Christ has ransomed us with his blood,
and paid for us the price of Adam’s sin
to our eternal Father!

This is our passover feast,
when Christ, the true Lamb, is slain,
whose blood consecrates the homes of all believers.

This is the night when first you saved our fathers:
you freed the people of Israel from their slavery
and led them dry-shod through the sea.

This is the night when the pillar of fire
destroyed the darkness of sin!

This is the night when Christians everywhere,
washed clean of sin
and freed from all defilement,
are restored to grace and grow together in holiness.

This is the night when Jesus Christ
broke the chains of death
and rose triumphant from the grave.

What good would life have been to us,
had Christ not come as our Redeemer?

Father, how wonderful your care for us!
How boundless your merciful love!
To ransom a slave
you gave away your Son.

O happy fault, O necessary sin of Adam,
which gained for us so great a Redeemer!

Most blessed of all nights, chosen by God
to see Christ rising from the dead!

Of this night scripture says:
“The night will be as clear as day:
it will become my light, my joy.”

The power of this holy night
dispels all evil, washes guilt away,
restores lost innocence, brings mourners joy;
it casts out hatred, brings us peace, and humbles earthly pride.

Night truly blessed when heaven is wedded to earth
and man is reconciled with God!

Therefore, heavenly Father, in the joy of this night,
receive our evening sacrifice of praise,
your Church’s solemn offering.

Accept this Easter candle,
a flame divided but undimmed,
a pillar of fire that glows to the honor of God.

Let it mingle with the lights of heaven
and continue bravely burning
to dispel the darkness of this night!

May the morning Star which never sets find this flame still burning:
Christ, that Morning Star, who came back from the dead,
and shed his peaceful light on all mankind,
your Son who lives and reigns for ever and ever.
R. Amen.

as we remember them

I meant to post this yesterday in memory of my dad, but was so overwhelmed with my mom’s illness I never managed to get it done…however, I don’t want the anniversary of his death to pass without doing anything in his memory. This is a Jewish prayer I found in a book about grief after he died, and I’ve always found it to be a tremendous comfort; it expresses so many of the feelings about grief and loss, and the world to come that I’ve come to believe since he died. He’s always with me now; I can feel him patting me on the back and saying gruffly, “Good job, kid” or “hang in there kid, you’re stronger than you think” or just being with me, smiling at me with that beloved twinkle in his blue eyes. So here’s to you, daddy:

We Remember Them
In the rising of the sun and in its going down,
we remember them.
In the blowing of the wind and in the chill of winter,
we remember them.
In the opening of buds and in the rebirth of spring,
we remember them.
In the blueness of the sky and in the warmth of summer,
we remember them.
In the rustling of leaves and in the beauty of autumn,
we remember them.
In the beginning of the year and when it ends,
we remember them.
When we are weary and in need of strength,
we remember them.
When we are lost and sick at heart,
we remember them.
When we have joys we yearn to share,
we remember them.
So long as we live, they too shall live,
for they are now a part of us, as
we remember them.

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