Wednesday, December 8, 2010

God In The Plans

     East Coasters usually have one image of Kansas…from The Wizard of Oz. The sepia hued black and white part. Dust. Flat. Wind. The last thing I imagined when I first saw Kansas was the beauty of the steep hills along the Missouri River. We crossed into Leavenworth in June of ‘01 and the limey green, new leaves were lush on the hackberry and oak trees. Fort Leavenworth was beautiful. I was taken aback by the ponds, the hills, the trees, the horse stables and the century old brick buildings. This was not what I had envisioned. I was relieved!

     In a few weeks this widow with two little girls would be marrying again. Bruce was a gift from heaven. If my late husband Bob was asking God for what I needed, He couldn’t have come any closer. This tall, faith-filled Lieutenant Colonel had melted my heart. The move, though, was not without pain. I would leave a home, my work as an RN, my family and old friends. I knew that God was in the center of it all and I was beginning a new chapter with an expanded family. Old friends and relatives would stay emotionally close, and home would be where my husband and children were. It did help that this part of Kansas reminded me of Maryland.

     A month or so later we moved into our quarters, a large 1909 brick duplex. A year earlier you couldn’t have convinced me that life would be so different. Within that year I had lost my husband and my mother. Mom had come to live with us when Bob died. She was my rock. My friends supported me, God led me, but Mom nursed me along minute by minute, day by day, until I could once again take over. As she saw my improvement, she humbly stepped back. Before her unexpected death, she was able to get to know Bruce and see that another miracle occurred in my life.

     I mentioned that the move had its bittersweet notes. My heart broke for Bob’s Mom.  I was blessed to have a saint and rock of a mother, and I was doubly blessed to have a mother-in-law who loved me and taught me so much about living. "Grammy" was raised Protestant, and became Catholic later in life. She loved Jesus and she loved His Mom, the greatest example of motherhood we could have. Grammy’s faith was solid. She lived through the depression with 10 other siblings and lost a brother in young adulthood. She lost sisters and brothers-in-law as the years passed. Now she had lost her son, and I was remarrying and taking her two little granddaughters a thousand miles away. Though I knew it was right, it was not without her suffering. But she trusted God. Years later, as each of Bruce’s and my children were born, she welcomed them as her own. She would tell me how much she loved Bruce and ask me if I knew how blessed we were.

     Grammy, at 80, flew out to be at our sides in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit when Mary Pat was born with life-threatening defects. Grammy’s arthritic, numb hands could barely hold Mary Pat for long but she insisted. She reminded me regularly how very bonded she felt to our dear Mary Pat. Last year, as Grammy lay in a hospital bed dying she reached out to hold baby Margaret. With tears in her eyes she cried, “Oh, this beautiful baby! Oh!”

     Today would be her birthday. December 8th. I find it no coincidence that in the Catholic liturgical calendar it is the day on which the conception of Jesus’ mother Mary is celebrated. Grammy wasn’t a “glass-half-empty” person, but she wasn’t a “glass-half-full” person, either. Through joys, through physical and emotional suffering, she was thankful that she had a glass. She had the grace and the wisdom to see that through the life of her son, God brought her two precious granddaughters. She also saw, profoundly, that through the death of her son, God continued bringing new life. Maybe not the way she would have dreamed, but in His plan. One that brings life from death.

     Kansas is a good state. It’s far from where I was raised, but it has its beauty, Midwest charm and people. It has been good to us. In the decade since moving here, world wide communication has become astoundingly fast and easily accessed. We stay in contact with loved ones and visit every year or two. I miss my East Coast family and friends. I miss my loved ones in heaven. But we trust in God, and He continues to bless us and give us what we need. My family is here. My place is here.

God bless you on this Feast of the Immaculate Conception,

The Abbey Farm

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