Thursday, January 3, 2019

Keeping Christmas

"the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it"
-St John 1:5

I'm usually the first to start tearing down the Christmas tree and decorations on New Year's Day, if not before. In past years I couldn't wait to "get back to normal" and clean the house. Christmas decorating previously seemed like a necessary burden, one that had to be done, but one I didn't enjoy.

But everything changed this year. In the early morning hours of December 18, I got a call from my sister Colleen, telling me that our middle sister Lisa had died suddenly and unexpectedly the night before. Both of us were in absolute disbelief.

I had just visited Lisa on Saturday December 15. She was weak and having trouble breathing from blood clots damaging her lungs. She wasn't able to easily walk from her bedroom to the bathroom, even on oxygen, getting out of breath. She was definitely sick, but I never had an inkling that she would be gone in two days times.

Her health had begun a decline in October, and she spent 10 days in ICU over Thanksgiving. But she had been home two weeks and was supposed to be getting stronger. However, she was depressed because she didn't feel any improvement at all.

Julie, Aunt Martha, Lisa, Colleen
At age 51, she had been the strongest and healthiest of the 3 of us sisters. She worked out several days a week, ate healthy food and generally took care of herself. It was inconceivable that she could die. We had all just been together in October for the bridal shower of her son Michael's finance, Ann Louise. A great light of happy times with our family joining to Ann Louise's family.

Kristin, Kate, Mary, Caroline, Ann Louise
December 17 Lisa's husband Mike took her back to the ER and they admitted her to ICU. They found an infection and she died that evening from sepsis. Michael, Ann Louise and Kristin flew home, funeral plans began. We gathered for a somber "Kavanaugh Christmas" dinner December 24.

Along the way, God did give us lights in this darkness. Christmas Eve Mass was one of the most beautiful at St Raphael. Mike, Michael, Kristin and Ann Louise and her parents all joined us. Fr Kevin asked everyone to pray for the repose of the soul of Lisa Fields during the prayers of the faithful. Eight of the Kavanaugh cousins were together-- not as children any more excited for Santa to come, but as young adults, sharing a craft beer and remembering Aunt Lisa or "A-isa" as they called her as toddlers.

The memorial mass for Lisa on December 27 was packed. As we took our places in St. Frances X Cabrini Church, I gazed upon the Nativity scene in front of the altar, the alter itself and the huge crucifix that hung above it. I remembered that Venerable Fulton Sheen said something about Jesus being the only man that ever came to earth to die. I reflected on the entire Pascal Mystery before me- Jesus's birth in a manger, a feeding trough for animals, Jesus, the bread of life, as he becomes on the altar during mass, and Jesus's death on the cross, that frees us from sin and opens the gates to heaven. Our beautiful Catholic faith- a great light in the darkness.

We had buried both our parents from the parish, Mom in 2006 and Dad in the Year of Mercy, 2016. Fr. Jay Jancarz was the celebrant for all three masses. For Lisa's mass, he chose the gospel where Lazarus dies and Martha makes the great confession of faith. How fitting, as Lisa had been such an important part of our own Aunt Martha's confession of faith, as she returned to the Catholic church after being away for 40 years.

Lisa, Mike, Kristin
The week between Christmas and New Years was filled with family and friends- many lights. Our own six children were all home from work and school. Our Mother's dear sisters Martha and Ann flew in with their husbands Randy and Ron. We celebrated life as best we could and reconnected. We all tried to comfort each other as best we could.

New Year's Day, the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God came and the power of Mother Mary's intercession was a bright light. What a treasure that Jesus gave us his own mother, Our Lady of Sorrows, to be with us in times of darkness, always pointing us to her son.  I had no desire to take down the Christmas tree. In fact, I've kept the lights burning almost all day long and into the night. And I've kept the Christmas crib up in the foyer, awaiting Epiphany when the kings will arrive bringing gifts. It took tragedy to teach me to live the full Christmas season- all 12 days. This too is a light. To put the world behind and focus on the truth.

I know each day God will supply the grace we need. So many friends have emailed, called, texted and even sent a spiritual bouquet, here. All of these great lights have given us love and courage we need. We are asking all who are able, to join us at 3pm each day and pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet, details and prayers here

And so, I am "keeping Christmas" and looking for lights in the darkness each day. 

I love you my dear sister!

Kristin and Peter
Ann Louise, Michael, Lisa