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Alyssa Azul Ink Slingers Loss

Loss and Legacy

 

2019 has so far been a year of many losses. I lost my great aunt, my mom’s good friend, and my boss (may they all rest in peace). Losses also came to me in the form of losing a mentor to a layoff, and losing a friendship. I think one of the most sorrowful losses I experienced this year was one that I saw coming: the death of our Lord during Lent.

This Easter was tough for many reasons. All of my losses seemed to fall one after another during Lent and afterwards. The most recent one was quite jarring for me.

I lost my boss this week. I write this in honour of him, who honoured my writing. He was a brilliant architect and an insatiable storyteller; a creative mind that couldn’t be contained. He understood me on that level, and that need to create something that changes the lives of others in whatever form that may take.

I don’t like funerals for obvious reasons. I sit there with a lump stuck in my throat that doesn’t seem to go away. It’s the kind you get when you try not to cry, and it swells up when you attempt to get out a few words. It feels like there is nothing in the world at that moment that can make the pain go away. You look at the faces of the people grieving, and you realize just how loved this person was. That there’s a love even death cannot conquer.

I can’t help but reflect on Jesus, and what it must have been like for Him, who had to die without a ‘loving’ send-off or a funeral. How lonely and devastating His death must have been. Yet he knew that His suffering would have purpose.

Through death I begin to understand what it means to honour someone else’s legacy. Oxford dictionary tells us that a legacy is “something left or handed down by a predecessor.”

What did Jesus leave us when he left this earth? He gave us forgiveness and salvation. As Christians, we understand that we cannot have those two things without love. Jesus left us with perfect love. Just like heirs to a throne, we are called to honour that legacy and pass it on. We pursue holiness through the cross – the passion of His perfect love He left us with.

I picture a brazen warrior suited in gleaming armor on a steed, taking down foes with her bare hands to defend and uphold the king’s legacy. Unfortunately, this is not typically what happens immediately when “moving on” from a great loss. There are days when we are indifferent. Days when we are angry. Days when we forget. Days when we grieve all over again.

At my beloved boss’ funeral, many beautiful tributes were shared, and the word “legacy” came up. They said he left us with a very important legacy- not his awards or accomplishments, but his children. This man left the world suddenly, but not without leaving us his pride and joy, and what one might say, his idea of perfect love itself.

Perhaps in some similar small or big way, we as children of God are a legacy. We have purpose upon being brought into this world. The legacy doesn’t end when the person leaves this earth. We continually deepen a relationship with a God that is not “physically” with us right? Just as my boss’ children will not forget who their father was and what he did in his life.

The future holds a lot more for the people left behind by great tragedy, but I am also of another perspective. I think that part of moving on means never forgetting. It means looking back every once in a while to remember who came before us. Memories are powerful, in that there is a constancy to them. As if a snapshot was frozen in time. We draw on those memories to remind us how important it is to live for others. The resurrection of Jesus transcends this lifetime and the next, and as heirs to the kingdom, how do we make our father proud?

One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts. – Psalm 145:4

 

Loss and Legacy
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Amy M. Ink Slingers

Planning for the Unexpected

Plan for the Unexpected

“Jesus replied, ‘No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.’” -Luke 9:62

           As we enter the second week of 2017, I am finding I’m having trouble getting myself into the present.  I’m stuck looking back at 2016.  It was a year of medical problems for our family.  We had four different people in the hospital, two surgeries, two broken bones (different children).  It was a year full of physical therapy for our oldest as he tried to recover, then prepare for surgery, then heal from surgery, and recover once more.  And it was also a year of great joy as we welcomed our youngest in May.
            Two of the hospitalizations were planned (the birth of our daughter).  One of the two surgeries was scheduled months ahead, and we were well-prepared to deal with the recovery process it involved (our son’s surgery).  The other surgery seemed to come out of nowhere.  My husband became sick, was admitted, and had surgery within 48 hours.  It was a whirlwind.
            The preparation for the first surgery didn’t make it less scary than the second.  One way wasn’t better than the other, in my opinion.  We called on faith and prayers in both situations.  I can’t say I felt God’s presence more in one surgery than the other.  He was there in both, in the people helping us with our other children and in the peace that only He can give in our hearts.
            Four years ago, my husband lost his mom the day after Thanksgiving.  She had been in the hospital for over a month and had been sick for many years.  When she passed away, he was at her side.  It was sad, and we miss her.  However, we felt she was at peace.
            Six weeks later, on the feast of the Epiphany, we returned home from church to a phone call from a local police department.  They had been called to do a well-check on my husband’s aunt.  She had died suddenly overnight.  His mom and aunt were twins, but his aunt seemed to be in much better health.  We didn’t expect that phone call at all, and the grieving process was much different.
            As 2016 drew to a close, we lost our two furry pets.  Our cat was 18, and we were seeing signs of decline, so we tried to prepare ourselves.  Then, Christmas night our younger dog started acting sick.  By the middle of the night, we were aware that it was serious.  We started to get dressed to take him to the emergency vet, but he died before we left the house.  We were devastated.  Less than a week later, our cat passed away.Planning for the Unexpected
            In each of these situations, there was a planned and an unexpected.  Looking back at each, preparing and planning helped, but no amount of control would make it easier.
            The more life throws at me, the more I try to control my circumstances.  I need to do x, y, and z by a certain time in order to consider the day “successful.”  Pulling in tighter, circling the wagons, so to speak, doesn’t help build trust, increase faith.  Knowing my son was going to have surgery and six extra months of physical therapy didn’t guarantee he would be ok.  He is still relearning how to run, waiting to be able to jump, only halfway through his therapy time.  My husband’s surgery happened before I could worry about it or try to control the outcome.  He needed surgery and needed it now.  It wasn’t a time for debate.  It was in God’s hands from the beginning.
            Losing our pets so close together brought back a lot of the time when we lost my husband’s mom and aunt so close together and also at the holidays.  I feel like I’m getting somewhat lost in the past, dwelling on what has happened and how it affected us.  How can we control situations better in the future?  How can we keep ourselves and those we love from being hurt?
            Dwelling on the past isn’t what Jesus wants for me, for us.  He wants us to go forward, living each day for Him and in His will for our lives, striving to be with Him one day in heaven.  That day may be years from now and expected or may come suddenly.  It’s up to us to be ready for the unknown, not by guessing what could happen but by trusting in the One who knows how everything turns out and only wants the best for us.
            At the beginning of 2016, the events and situations in which we found ourselves as the year unfolded had never crossed our radar.  As much as we planned and thought about the future, these things still caught us off-guard.  Yet God was still there in our midst.  He was still the Guiding Light.  We needed to stay in His shadow and let Him navigate us through the storms.  Once we let go of the helm and let Him take over, He will shelter us in the rain.

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” -Jeremiah 29:11

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Charla Ink Slingers

Fear of Mortality

fear of mortalityA string of recent celebrity demises has struck many fans profoundly. It is shocking, tragic, and downright sad when we think that icons of secular society are human just like the rest of us.  Their talent was inspiring and imagining the world deprived of their gifts is depressing.

The most impactful part of these deaths is that it forces us to face our own mortality. We realize that those we think of as vibrant and lively individuals succumb to ailments such as cancer and pneumonia, just like the rest of humanity. If the “Goblin King,” “Snape,” and the founder of The Eagles are gone just like that, then what does that mean for the rest of us?  Their immortality rests in their incredible, exceptional, artistic abilities, so it begs the question: Must we too be immortal in such a way?

The human sides of us have a longing for some type of fame. There is a small bit of desire for popularity and prominence within everyone. It is nice to feel important, to know we have made a difference, and that our lives we lived actually meant something. This may indeed come from that want for immortality—the resistance to death and dying.  None of us want to die.  There is an uncertainty and fear. What happens when this is all over and we are forgotten?

Fortunately, our belief as Catholics leaves us, hopefully, with a healthy understanding of death.

“I heard a voice from heaven say, ‘Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’ ‘Yes,’ said the Spirit, ‘let them find rest from their labors, for their works accompany them.’” (Revelation 14:13)

There is a hopefulness that accompanies death. Our works and our faith bring us to a belief in the immortality of our souls. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “The Christian who unites his own death to that of Jesus views it as a step towards him and an entrance into everlasting life.” We believe in everlasting life, therefore the thought of death should only scare us if we fail to seek Christ. We also know we must be patient in achieving salvation after death. We need to really earn and understand the path to Heaven. I have always thought it sad that non-believers believe physical death is the end and that there isn’t more after this worldly life of suffering, pain, and fear.

However, the CCC also states “All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.” This is basically the definition of Purgatory. Purification is necessary therefore we must pray for those souls who have not reached Heaven yet.

What does this all mean for our own mortality? Seeking Christ, doing good works, and following the Church is a good start. Purgatory is a reality. Worldly fame and worldly talents are all well and good, but unless they contribute to seeking Heaven, they do nothing to support our true immortality. The fear of death and the unknown should only spur us on to goodness. Living for the hope of Heaven is key to expelling the fear that the realization of our own mortality instigates.