This has been an insane school year! In September, I went in for a routine pregnancy checkup with my OBGYN. She noticed something was off and sent me to the perinatologist. Sure enough, my fluid level was low and the placenta was dying. As such, I was rushed to an emergency c-section. When Andrew was just 15 days old, he had surgery for Hirschsprung's Disease. Andrew spent 30 days in two different NICU's. Watching our newborn son be transferred in an ambulance from one hospital to another and then watching him be wheeled back for surgery... it was a very scary time.
Around the same day that Andrew was born, my dad was helping my uncle build a deck in Colorado Springs while my mom took a flight out to Virginia to be with us. My dad had a pain in his knee and heard a popping sound. Sure enough, my dad had a staph infection in his knee. Four surgeries and nearly nine months later, he is doing MUCH better. From October-January, I was extremely sick with GI issues and was admitted to the hospital more times than I care to remember. I spent part of Spring Break at the Mayo Clinic. In March, Andrew was hospitalized for a couple of weeks for breathing complications due to the flu. A week ago, my mom had heart surgery.
Needless to say, this has been a VERY stressful time for our family of five. Unfortunately, we do not have grandparents, aunts or uncles less than 6 hours away from us. I am not posting all of this because we need sympathy. Quite the opposite. I am posting this to help bring encouragement to others. You see, my husband and I are much closer and stronger because of the difficult times that we have been through.
Marriage is a joyful and difficult sacrament to be a part of. It is joyful because you always have someone by your side for all of the hills and valleys that you journey through in life. Marriage can be difficult because it requires two different people with different personalities to learn to live as one. I am so unbelievably grateful for my husband who has stood at my bedside when I have been too sick to lift my head off of the pillow. When I was too weak to advocate for myself in the hospital, Jason took up the fight. My husband stayed home with three kids while working a very demanding job so that I could go and take care of my parents when they needed me there. Because we don't have family in town, Jason and I have learned to depend on each other for everything. We're becoming quite the experts at this. Next week, Jason and I will celebrate our 11th wedding anniversary and I couldn't imagine a better person to share my life with!
In the last 9 months, there have been at least 8 hospitalizations in my family. Through all of this trying time, we have prayed more fervently and offered up our suffering for the good of others. Every time I have been in the hospital (which is A LOT) I have had the opportunity to have a Christ-centered discussion with someone from the hospital staff- be it a doctor, nurse, or maintenance person. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. I have to believe that God uses the sufferings of the faithful to benefit others spiritual journey.
Alexander and Abby are 8 years old and 6 years old. During the past school year, they have seen their newborn baby brother in the hospital hooked up to a bunch of needles and wires. They have also taken mommy to the hospital and picked her up far too many times to only see her remain sick and weak at home. Through all of this, I am so proud of them for remaining steadfast in hope and resiliency. They have said countless prayers for the health of their baby brother and mommy. Alexander was even recognized at school as Student of the Month for displaying the virtue of Hope during this trying time. During my illness, I tried to teach my children that suffering has a purpose. I pray that they learn from my experience and will know that they can always fully rely on God and have hope in him, even during the most difficult moments in life.
St. Teresa of Avila said, "One must not think that a person who is suffering is not praying. He is offering up his sufferings to God." She goes on to say, "we find that those who walked closest to Christ were those who had to bear the greatest trials." Based on these words, I have to take it as a compliment from God that he trusts my family to bear witness to others through our sufferings. If we didn't bear witness to God's greater glory, then what would be the point of suffering? We are called to be Christ-like. If Christ suffered, then we must also suffer. Christ suffered and died so that others may live. If we don't offer up our sufferings for others, then what's the point? It would all become "wasted suffering" as St. John Paul II said.
I leave you with this last quote from Fr. Joseph Rampino, a priest in the Diocese of Arlington. "The hope of the Resurrection reminds us that when we offer ourselves on our own crosses, we are not simply going to our deaths, but are passing through the moment of pain and sacrifice on the way to our true glory. If we remain close to Jesus, offering our lives with his, we will also share his new life, and, as he promised the apostles, we 'will sit on thrones,' ruling peacefully in the kingdom of our Father forever." (Luke 22:30)