Saving Treyden: Epilogue

Saving Treyden 3If the words Cassie posted on Saving Treyden at Facebook on June 7th are some of the saddest words I have ever read, these words posted yesterday are certainly some of the bravest:

June 13th
Today is one of the first times that I don’t have any words to say.. Treyden received his wings today, he was surrounded by nothing but love. Travis and I held him close and said our goodbyes. We will always be with you Treyden as you will be with us. Love you always and forever for infinity xoxo
Thank you all for your prayers and support for our entire family
Love always
Cassie, Travis and Treyden

No words? Really? What more could you possibly say, Cassie? In those few words, you said everything. In the midst of death you reaffirmed life and love.

Although so many people prayed for a miracle, there was no miracle. Or was there? I have little doubt that Treyden has received his angel wings. But what of the rest of us? We who are left behind must somehow come to terms with living in a fallen world that sometimes brings us disease, suffering and death. How are we to do this?

Two days ago I parked my ATV for a brief respite from my ride. Out of the grass came a piping plover, scuttering on her thin stick legs. She went about 10 feet when suddenly she flopped all askew and cheeped pathetically as if injured. Then she got up perfectly healthy, came over directly in front of me and flopped again. Then I understood. A ruffed grouse mother will do this too, pretend injury to lure danger away from her nest. In other words, this little mother was willing to risk her life for her little ones. Later, I took my wife for a ride and we parked there but this time a distance away. And there was our piping plover with her three little ones, watching them carefully, making sure they didn’t venture from the grass onto the lot. God has built this selfless protective instinct even into his creatures.

Human parents love their children insanely. When they are happy, we are happy. When they are in pain, we feel their pain acutely and ours as well. Like the piping plover, we are there for them, ready to risk everything for their protection. We would gladly suffer in their place. We would gladly give our lives in their place. I can think of no pain deeper or wider than the pain parents have for their children.

God blesses us with children not only to carry on in the world but to teach us about love. Not only how to love but to give us an idea, just an inkling, of how much He loves us. It is no accident that the Lord’s Prayer begins with “Our Father….” If we love our children insanely, He loves us many times that. God is love. Everything He does, He does out of love for us. Not the least of which was sending His only son to suffer and die for us. A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. He told us the world would send us tribulation but to take heart, because He has overcome the world. In His wisdom, suffering is part of God’s plan. St. Philip Neri once said “the cross is the gift God gives to His friends.” Or as St. Paul said, all things work together for good for those that love God.

There is so much more that could be said, but for now I’ve said enough. I would leave you with the following quote  and reflection from Making Sense Out of Suffering by Peter Kreeft, the opening quote from St. Teresa:

“Everything is grace.”

What do we do about that?

Not a passive resignation. For our activity too is grace. Our struggle against suffering and every form of evil, physical and spiritual, is part of God’s will for us and part of our growing. But at the same time as we thus say no to suffering, disease, death, and diminishments, we also say yes to God’s overall plan, which includes both our efforts and their failure to fully conquer…. Resignation to God but nonresignation to the world, not fighting God but fighting the evils of the world – that is our destiny.

This is what you will find at Saving Treyden, not just the nonresignation and courage of Treyden’s parents but the prayers, support and love of thousands of others, most of them strangers like myself. Cassie and Travis may not have been able to heal their son, but they have helped in the healing of many, many others. Perhaps there was a miracle after all. God Bless you all.

(If anyone would like a more personal visit with Treyden and his family, you can find them at: http://cuethelight.wordpress.com/2013/05/06/a-letter-to-treyden/  and  http://cuethelight.wordpress.com/blog/)

Lourdes, Communion and My Conversion

Lourdes WaterAlthough I begin each day with prayer and try to keep every day holy, I must confess that I do not go to mass every Sunday. Or even most Sundays. Although I went through a painful annulment process last year, I do not receive communion as often as I should. However, this past Sunday did not begin like other days.

I was in an extreme amount of pain. I had been praying hard for healing of the Treyden Kurtzweil family (Saving Treyden on Facebook), people I probably will never meet. I too am a parent, and I am also a grandparent of a beautiful, healthy 8-month old boy. And even then it has been hard to imagine the grief Cassie and Travis must be experiencing. I have two vials of holy water from Lourdes that belonged to my mother. I had never opened them, not even when my elderly mother was dying. I did not feel that would have been right. God’s will trumps holy water. But Saturday morning I did open one, blessed myself with it and prayed for the healing not only of Treyden but especially for his family. Although I saw no moisture on the tip of my finger, it felt cool on my forehead, unnaturally so. Like alcohol evaporating. Except that the coolness lasted a long time.

I was disconsolate with grief. How could so many prayers from so many people go unanswered? My prayers and my grief had taken me out of myself for a change, and in so doing, I was able to step back and take a good, hard look. I realized that the person I saw was himself in desperate need of healing. How disordered and self-indulgent his life had become. He was only able to see this when he became concerned about someone else.

So Sunday morning I took the bottle of Lourdes water again and blessed myself. My prayers would not only be for the Kurtzweils but for my own healing as well. I was desperate. Let’s be clear about what happened next: I do not hear voices. But I might as well have, because my next thought came as a complete surprise. You anoint yourself with holy water when you could be receiving the body and blood of my son.

The power of this thought was irresistible. I would have to go to mass. Instead of finishing my usual prayers and the mass readings, I prepared myself for mass and receiving the Blessed Sacrament.

The opening hymn was “Jesus Christ, the Healer.” Tears began to well in my eyes, and I could not even choke out most of the words. The water from Lourdes had sent me exactly to where I belonged. I had not realized the daily mass readings would be about death and healing, about the sons of two widows being brought back to life. I had not realized the whole theme of the mass would be about Christ’s power to heal. I had not realized Father Andrew’s homily would be rooted in all the funerals he had attended and about grief and how shared grief brings us closer together. And most certainly I had overlooked the healing power of the Blessed Sacrament.

During the entire mass, I felt I was truly living something miraculous. The deep healing my soul needed so badly had begun. When we really need Him, God will be there for us.  If He can be there for me, I am sure He is there for Treyden, Cassie and Travis in their time of deepest need.

Saving Treyden: The Final Chapter

Saving Treyden 2These are some of the saddest words I have ever read, which appeared today on Facebook, Saving Treyden:

With a heavy heart I am so very sad to share that treydens MRI results showed something that none of us were expecting. There shows an extreme amount of leukemia in his brain and spinal cavity. The doctors told us there is nothing more we can do. Devastated doesn’t even come close to what we are feeling… I have no words we are currently in route to go back home and be surround by all the love that we all three desperately need.
I cannot thank you all enough for your love and support we will need it more than ever with the days to come
Much love the Kurtzweils

They are now on their way home from St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. These courageous people whom I have never met have fought so hard for their brave little man. So many, many good people have pledged their prayers for Treyden and his family. I simply could not let myself believe that God would not give us the answer we all sought. This without regard that the CCC clearly says “even the most intense prayers do not always obtain the healing of all illnesses.”

I still have faith that God answers all our prayers, although sometimes He doesn’t answer them in the way we would like or understand. He acts for our good. The wisdom of man is folly to God. Who are we to question His works?

And yet the suffering of innocents remains one of the most difficult issues for Christians to wrap their arms around. We have faith that God is infinitely good and infinitely powerful. He could grant Treyden a healthy life in a twinkling. But it appears He will not. Surely He will welcome Treyden with open and loving arms. The suffering of that small child will be as nothing compared to the glory that will be revealed to him. Treyden will serve his Lord and Creator in Heaven rather than on earth. The Lord has His reasons.

Unfortunately, for those of us left on earth, His reasons will remain a mystery. Oh, the suffering of his parents, past, present and future is so very real. I wish I could wash away their pain with my tears. I wish I could mend their broken hearts with my prayers. I do not ask for whom the bell tolls. I only hope that this sad event will not lead them to question their faith.

I will try not to question mine, but suddenly that has become ever so much more difficult. At the moment I have been muddling through Making Sense Out of Suffering by Peter Kreeft. After that I will re-read The Problem of Pain by C. S. Lewis. I need to get a better handle on the world’s suffering. I need to strengthen my faith. Many, many others who prayed for Treyden will be doing the same. I hope none of them decides that their prayers fall upon deaf ears. I hope none of them loses heart. I will pray for that too, along with that gift of the Holy Spirit called understanding.

God does hear our prayers. God does answer our prayers one way or the other.

He does.

Postscript: None of this is intended to deny the occurrence of miracles. They happen. It would be contrary to my faith to deny them. One should never, ever give up hope. I still pray for a miracle. Continued at Saving Treyden: Epilogue.

Saving Treyden

Saving TreydenI have never been very successful trying to understand the pain in this world. Yes, I try to understand what Pope John Paul II said in his Apostolic Letter Salvifici Dolorus and in his Letter to the Sick at the National Cancer Institute. This is not easy going. I’m not as concerned about my own salvation as I am about those who suffer, animals and human.

We were on our way to Texas for my mother-in-law’s funeral. My cellphone rang. A call from the animal hospital where I was boarding my cat, Sonny. There was a lump on his hip. Should they take a sample and send it to the lab? “Why, yes,” I said, “of course.” I didn’t even ask about the expense. Animal or not, Sonny was my friend and I would take care of him like any friend.

Next day a call from the veterinarian, the cells looked funny to her and the lab. Although they could not be positive they were cancerous, she thought it would be best to remove the tumor. I did not hesitate to say yes. Damn the cost. I had already lost one dear feline friend and I wasn’t going to make the same mistake with Sonny by not getting him care.

The tumor was successfully removed, and I was grateful. It was an aggressive, malignant sarcoma. But a month later he fell ill. Even though he was in the house, we could not find him for hours. When we did, I could see how sick he was. I had watched my other feline friend die an agonizing death, perhaps because I did not get him the medical care he needed, and if given a second chance I would not let that happen again. It was an awful night. Sick as Sonny was, he came to the bed to say good night in his way, as he often did. I too was sick, sick at heart. I could never understand why animals had to suffer. Oh sure, I’ve read that they do not comprehend pain as we do, but the fact of the matter is they do feel pain. And they are innocent. They are without sin. Yet they suffer for our sins.

I too was suffering, full of anguish and worry, and it made me reflect upon suffering and pain once again. It was always easier to understand my own suffering than it was the suffering of others. The worst of suffering was never physical pain, but the suffering of anguish and worry and loss. Of watching and trying to comprehend the incomprehensible suffering we see all about us. I think it was Percy Bysshe Shelley who once said he was like a nerve “over which the else unfelt oppressions of this earth do creep.” Yes, I was feeling pain and anguish for Sonny, perhaps comprehending life without him coming to our bed at night. But what I was thinking went a lot deeper than that.

The Catholic Church teaches a couple of things in relation to animals. First, we should not spend money on them that should as a priority go to relieve human misery. Well, that wasn’t going to stop me from taking him to the animal hospital and letting them put him on an IV and anti-biotics. That’s what I did and once again I didn’t ask about the expense. Sonny was a better friend to me than many people had been. Perhaps the message to me in this was that I should also give more money to human causes.

The Church also teaches that while it’s OK to love animals, we should not direct the affection toward them that are due to human beings. Well, of course not, but that did not prevent my empathizing with his suffering or my anguish at the thought of losing him. He had done nothing to deserve his suffering, much less death at a relatively young age. Was I wrong to pray for him? If God knows when a sparrow falls from the sky, surely He knew that Sonny was sick as well.

After a night in the hospital, Sonny fully recovered. Prayers answered? I don’t even think about that. I’m just grateful to have his friendship back. But that’s only the lead-in to why I came to write this post. My daughter-in-law has been posting and sharing entries from a Facebook site “Saving Treyden.” Treyden is a baby. He is very sick. His parents are going through a hell no one deserves. Until this time, I had thought very little about these posts. To be honest, I still have not read them in great detail because I simply cannot bear it. See, Treyden being a baby, he too is innocent.

Being a parent and a grandparent of an infant grandson, I simply cannot comprehend the agony his parents are going through. I don’t need to read their posts to pray for them and for Treyden. It’s all we can do to pray into the darkness of this fallen world and pour some light into it. It’s all I can do. That, and ask anyone else who reads this to pray for Treyden and his suffering parents. They all need the strength that only God can give.

Please take an extra moment today and pray for them. God Bless You.

Ghost Dog

Originally posted on Spirit Island:

Offering of St. Ignatius Loyola

Take, O Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding and my whole will. Thou hast given me all that I am and all that I possess; I surrender it all to Thee that Thou mayest dispose of it according to Thy will. Give me only Thy love and Thy grace; with these I will be rich enough, and will have no more to desire.

The air was a crisp 15 degrees. Although the sun was breaking through the thin clouds, a few random flakes of snow were still drifting down, like ashes from a distant fire. Lake Superior sometimes gives us snow no one else gets. The trail was mostly packed from use, and the snow crunched beneath my boots. I would have needed snowshoes to go elsewhere.

Our golden retriever, Cooper, moved easily and silently in the deeper snow. Sometimes I…

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If I Should Never See the Moon Again

war graves

I ran across this beautiful poem this morning in Medjugorje Day by Day.

If I Should Never See The Moon Again

If I should never see the moon again
Rising red gold across the harvest field
Or feel the stinging soft rain
As the brown earth her treasures yield.

If I should never taste the salt sea spray
As the ship beats her course across the breeze.
Or smell the dog-rose and new-mown hay,
or moss or primroses beneath the tree.

If I should never hear the thrushes wake
Long before the sunrise in the glimmering dawn.
Or watch the huge Atlantic rollers break
Against the rugged cliffs in baffling scorn.

If I have to say good bye to stream and wood,
To wide ocean and the green clad hill,
I know that he, who made this world so good
Has somewhere made a heaven better still.

This bears witness with my latest breath
Knowing the love of God,
I fear no death.

Inscribed in the Bible of Major Malcolm Boyd, killed in action in France, June 1944.

No Cilices for Me, Thank You; or I Let God Feed the Bears

TurkeyI look out the living room window and wonder whether to take the dog for a walk in the woods. It’s drizzling icy rain. A half inch of slush sits atop old, soft snow. The trail will be icy and treacherous. But there might be new turkey tracks, and Cooper won’t care about the weather.

As always, Cooper is so grateful for his release from the kennel he jumps about nipping at the shoulders of my hunting jacket. Even dogs know joy and gratitude. I take him even on days when I don’t feel like it, because his gratitude makes it all worthwhile. Hmmm, I wonder, maybe God would like a little more jumping up and down from me, spiritual jumping of course. I have much to be grateful for, this walk for instance.

Cooper forges on ahead. He has far too much pent-up energy to go at my speed. The winter-bare trees loom gray and wet and awaiting spring. The trail is a hazard for 61-year old arthritic knees. In some places the snow is firm and in others it slips away. By now I know where to expect the ice. My knees are firmly wrapped in Ace bandages, which I do every day because of loose ligaments. They have felt better lately, but I could do more for them. Sometimes the pain getting up from a chair is excruciating. I make a point to consecrate my aching knees to Christ.

That does not mean I want the pain. It just means I accept it as God’s will. I use it as a form of prayer. That does not mean I shouldn’t lose weight and do the exercises the therapist said I should do. We don’t have to go out of our way to suffer; there’s suffering enough in life without helping ourselves to it. No cilices for me, thank you. My hunting jacket is warm, dry and comfortable. My boots are waterproof, and I don’t feel a bit guilty about it. Just infrequently grateful.

The snow is noisy, crunching beneath my boots. I am seeing no tracks, except a few rabbit prints. Cooper emerges from the trees ahead. He has his favorite detours where the aromas must be of special interest, and so I catch up to him. I can scarcely wait for the snow to be gone, even as winter seems to be clinging to its last icy breath. I can scarcely wait to hunt turkeys next week, although I know the week of my permit will be over quickly, assuming I need to hunt that long, which is likely.

I am no expert turkey hunter, but that isn’t important to me. I pull a crow call from my pocket and send a few caws into the soggy air. I stop and listen. Cooper turns and looks at me. He wonders if I am calling him. No, I have a whistle for him when he ranges too far. There are things in these woods even a seventy-five pound dog does not want to meet. Wild turkeys will sometimes gobble to various calls, so I was just sounding out the neighborhood. I am at the turn where I saw a pair of turkey tracks ten days ago or so. Until January when I found tracks across our front yard, I have never found turkey tracks on our property before, although turkeys have been seen nearby for several years now. This is no turkey hunting mecca, but I will try hunting our own property the first couple of days. I listen a little longer, but I hear only the neighbor’s chainsaw grinding.

Slipping a little, I put the call back in my pocket and move on. So does Cooper. We pass the tree stand where I wait for deer in season, so far unsuccessfully. I have shot some nice ones, though, with the trail cam, but pixels don’t fry up very well.

Pilated Woodpecker WorkWe stop at the bend where the trail turns down to the creek. There is a dead balsam pine here full of perfectly drilled holes made by a pileated woodpecker, the largest and in my opinion most beautiful of woodpeckers. I marvel at his handiwork. One morning sitting in the tree stand I heard what sounded like someone pounding a small hammer on wood. I didn’t know what it was then, but I do now. Even in winter time, the Lord feeds his Pileated Woodpeckercreatures. The bird must find dormant bugs in the dead wood. Last fall, while sitting in a blind, a pileated landed not eight feet from me. What beautiful, graceful birds they are. Yes, Lord, they make me want to jump up and down. Thank you.

I pull an owl call from my pocket and blow some hoo-hooing. Once again, Cooper looks at me cockeyed, like the RCA dog, although he has heard me do this before. My calls are once again met by silence.

Another hundred yards and we are at what is most of the year a creek. Right now it is full of ice from melting snow. There is no surface flow yet. I stop short of the ice and pull a wooden box call from another pocket. It consists of a paddle bolted over a hollow, resonating box. The contact surfaces are made to emit almost any sound made by turkey hens when the paddle is scraped over the edges of the box. I try a few clucks and short calls called cuts. I am not surprised to get no response again. Cooper is jumping up and down next to me, knowing this is the end of the line, the place where I give him a treat and turn around. I pull one from my pocket, and he takes it before I can offer.

On the way back, I hear a strange tweeting overhead, like a small creature blowing a whistle. When I hear it again, I stop and look up. I see black-capped chickadees dancing in the pine branches. They appear to be following us. Maybe they recognize me as the person who leaves them black oil sunflower seeds on our deck all winter. Winters are hard here, and I don’t mind helping the Lord feed his creatures. The chickadees don’t explain the tweeting sound, however, never having heard them tweet like that. There is still so much I don’t know about these woods I’ve lived in for almost 30 years.

When we get back to the house, the birds are at the last of the sunflower seeds, redpolls, nuthatches, blue jays, chickadees. We had pine grosbeaks earlier in the winter, but they have moved on now. There will be no more seeds for the birds this year, because the bears are waking up. The garbage can where we keep the sunflower seeds still wears the dent it received from two bears arguing over its contents. The bears will break into a garage for sunflower seeds. They instinctively know what doors are for, and they care little for locks. For years now, I’ve left the feeding of the bears exclusively to God.