Open my eyes

“Open my eyes, Lord

Help me to see your face

Open my eyes, Lord

Help me to see.” Jesse Manibusan

4th Sunday of Lent marked  our getting past the season’s halfway point. I was looking through past Mass journals and noticed many entries indicated that this is the most challenging time. I have notes about Gospel readings and homilies which discuss different trials; this is the time when the journey gets most difficult.  Not surprisingly, I’ve been reflecting on my own struggles in the last two weeks. I hope the next few weeks and Holy Week brings me more serenity, patience, and understanding.

This week’s Gospel was from John and was the story of the blind man who gained sight from Jesus. Both the reading and the homily show how we make sense of challenges, pain and grief.   A belief from that time, and one that has continued to this day, is that bad things happen because of what we have done. Some call it karma. It can also be seen as the negative consequences of negative actions. We all fall prey to black and white thinking. As a disciplinarian both in my career and in my role as a parent, I know that many behaviors are the result of poor decisions.  That doesn’t mean a person deserves less sympathy or empathy. We all make mistakes; being judgmental makes us no better.

The blind man was an outcast. His family had not protected him; he was forced to survive as a homeless beggar. His parents were probably judged harshly. They felt insecure about their place in the community so they quickly declined defending him. Jesus chose to make conversation with him; Jesus always looked to serve everyone. The Pharisees didn’t believe the blind man was worthy of salvation.  So they were skeptical of his healing.

Why do awful things happen? It’s a question we all ponder. I got teary-eyed as Father discussed this Gospel. I know from personal experience about painful losses.  It sounds strange to say that these things happen and can help us to see God’s glory. Tragedies occur on a global scale. It seems cruel for God to allow these things to happen. Yet we could grow in faith by changing our perspective. We are all blind. We need someone to wipe our eyes clean and to open us up to see. It takes effort, experience, and discipline.

I often think about the people I have lost. I think of my friend Brett when I’ve been faced with challenges or challenging people. I ask how is it right that a good man who was positive, loving, warm, and open-hearted was taken from us in such a horrible way and these other people who seem to lack conscience, morals, or the ability to love have life?  It’s not for me to judge or disbelieve. I have to understand that all is for God’s glory. I struggle to grasp that concept. I’ve made peace with the loss. I have yet to accept that terrible people can help us to see God.  I am still unable to see.  But I know I need to be open to truly see God for the first time.


Dearest Brett

Eight years ago, I was thirty-four.  I was depressed, overwhelmed, and doing little to get better.  I also lost one of my dearest friends to cancer.
Today is the anniversary of Brett’s death.  I honor the day annually. I also still celebrate his birthday.  While he lived, we began a tradition of gag gifts for his birthday including a bulk pack of Irish Spring soap to commemorate the time an aging barfly walked up, took a deep sniff, and wondered aloud why he smelled so good and a box of Lucky Charms because of the goofy leprechaun voice he would use on the phone at work.  It didn’t matter what we gave him. He loved it and made a big show of his appreciation. He was a man of great joy and gratitude.
Some people may wonder why I continue to honor Brett in the way I do. Brett had been my confidant and the voice of reason during a time when I wasn’t the best version of myself. A coach by vocation, he would encourage me as he might have one of his players: he was direct, results-driven, and often tough.  So he continues to be my coach.  For every training run and half-marathon I complete, it is Brett to whom I dedicate the final mile. Every time I face a challenge, I remember Brett during his final months.  While these thoughts may be saddening, they are also empowering.  My friend transitioned in strength, power, and joy.
This is a letter I never completed last May:
Dearest Brett,
When I was in the hospital nearly two weeks ago, I realized I was on your floor.  I don’t know which room you were in but I remember the elevator ride w T. I don’t remember the walk down the hall but I remember how you held my hand as I struggled not to cry. You told me not to worry.  That moment illustrated the man and friend you were. 

What you taught me was to persevere. And so I have. At work.  On training runs and at half-marathons.  Through illness. When I fight, I do so in the knowledge that you are in my corner.  

The changes in my world

“Sounds of laughter, shades of life

Are ringing through my opened ears
Inciting and inviting me.
Limitless undying love, which
Shines around me like a million suns,
It calls me on and on across the universe” The Beatles
Dearest B,
This morning, it feels like a hundred years have passed since you died and yet it seems I talked to you last week.  As a matter of fact, I talked to you on Sunday during that last mile of my ninth half-marathon.  I asked you to help me do it. I told you I wanted to quit.  Every time I want to give up on something, whether it is running or work or any other challenge, I talk to you.  In death as in life, you continue to be a coach. You push me and I am grateful.
My world has changed so much. I am the happy mother of the most amazing child.  She knows you as her uncle in heaven. I know you would have liked her. 
I am still teaching across the boulevard for the cross town rival. While it is a dark, demoralizing time for most teachers, and I can’t lie and say I don’t struggle with low morale, I still love what I always loved: the kids, the books, the conversations.  When I get too assistant principal with my students, I try to channel you and be more of a coach and more of a kid. 
The greatest change is that I embrace life.  Life used to be such a struggle for me.  It is ironic that I had to lose so much before I could finally love this great gift of life.  I am humbled and grateful. 
I know you are well. I like to picture you driving that gold Camaro down the Pacific Coast highway, blasting LL Cool J. 
With love,