Surviving your child’s hospital admission


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Part 1


Baby’s first hospital admission

If your Emergency Department visit concludes with admission to the hospital, there are ways to make the best of it. The first eleven days we spent in the hospital felt longer than all the months after. The age and severity of your child’s needs influence how much you can engage in the advice I share with you. I’ll break this post into two parts.

Caring for your child

Caring for your child may be the easy part because your instinct is to put your child first. While it may feel like an incredible loss of control have your child admitted to the hospital, you are still the parent. You know this child best and your input matters.

The greatest gift you can give your child is your bond. Remaining present, helping to create a stimulating environment, and comforting him are your priceless gifts. Your touch, your smell, your voice soothe this child even if it seems like your baby only cries harder when he hears you. The very fact that your baby responds to you differently than others is a good sign to providers of the baby’s overall wellbeing.

You are also capable of seeing the subtle changes in your child that doctors and nurses may not notice as they do not have the history or quantity of time you have with this little one. Share changes you see with the nurse, but even if you have already told the nurse, request to speak to the doctor or resident, particularly if the changes are concerning.

Regarding stimulation, it is possible to request that if you are not in the room, that the television remain off. You can ask if there are toys in the hospital, a playroom, music therapy, volunteer baby-holders to help normalize your child’s day and exposure. Maintaining a schedule like you would at home can be helpful (for your sake as well). The importance of this varies based on how well your child is and his age.


Maintaining a stimulating environment

Caring for yourself

The reality is that if you are sleep deprived or burnt out, you will have a difficult time doing the things you want to do for your child. You have to take care of yourself.

How to do that? Consider the various aspects that make up who we are: emotional, volitional, intellectual, physical, social, and spiritual. These parts are all integrated to work in you like a mobile, kept in balance. The maintenance of one helps maintain the others. The neglect of one can throw the others out-of-whack.

Emotional Aspect

Keep an eye on your emotions. You may feel depressed, helpless, angry, or hopeless. Or you may feel numb. Hospitals generally have a social worker on call you can check in with in order to care for your emotions. In this the emotional crisis of your child being in the hospital, focus on other areas can help regulate the deranged emotions.

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To keep it together we planned regular weekend visits

Volitional Aspect

Volition refers to the will, to making a choice. The situation is out of your hands and so you must decide how you will respond to that. Sit back and let it all unfold, or take an active role? When you take an active role, whether in creating a more nurturing environment for your child, participating in morning rounds, or giving yourself a break and leaving the room, you help move your heart away from the helpless state. Feeling in control of something helps us function better and mitigates the temptation to ask, “what more should I have done?” You will know you did all you could because you see yourself, now, doing all you can.

Intellectual Aspect

Maintaining your intellectual side can be difficult, especially in a fancy hospital with a great channel and movie selection. As easy as it is to get caught up in watching the movies and spending all day online, don’t! Cultivate your intellectual side even though you are bedside with your child. This is especially important for long hospital stays. Your life does not stop because of the present crisis. Maintaining intellectual curiosity can help keep you feeling like you are living life and not just surviving.

How to do this? Read. If you have no books, find out if there is a library in the hospital or near by. Read online, but because there will be likely be many hours spent with technology, I would encourage you to unplug and engage with real life paper. Learn new hobbies. There are many little crafts you can try while in the hospital. Explore these. Ask friends to put together kits so you can learn new skills. If you dislike crafts and are more technically minded, learn from your computer, research how hospital equipment works. If you are language oriented, learn a new medical term with each hospital stay. There is something for everyone.


Travel set of water colors and books to help my sanity

If your child is mostly asleep make a schedule for yourself to keep you grounded.

Get curious about the neighborhood of your hospital. Ask nurses and doctors about safe places to walk and explore during the day when your child naps. Learn the history of your city. Taking a break to get outside will refresh you mentally, especially after a morning spent holding a crying baby.

Next, we’ll discuss how to care for your physical, social and spiritual needs.

For other piece in this series, click below:

How to survive the ER


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For other piece in this series, click below:

After spending nine hours in the Emergency Department (ED) yesterday, I feel it worthwhile to share with you…

Staying comfortable in the ED with a baby is an art form.

Here are my tips. They will not apply to everyone or every situation, but they have been good for me.


  • Do not feel embarrassed over comments that you have brought a lot.
  • Bring a lot.
    • Bring diapers, wipes, and baby clothes. When you need a diaper you need it right away.
    • Bring food for yourself and food (as needed) for baby.
    • Bring a laptop, iPod or internet phone. I find there is too much noise and baby-comforting to focus on a book and electronics help with this. Magazines are good, too, because baby can play with the pages.
    • Bring chargers for your devices. Five hours of texting updates drains the battery.
    • Bring a handful of toys and comfort objects.
    • Bring a rosary. If you decide to pray, the physicality of this sacramental will keep you grounded. Staying grounded to reality is the way to make it through a panic attack.
    • Bring a shirt, pair of underwear, and pair of socks, just in case your kid is destined for a chopper ride and you cannot take much with you. The hospital you arrive at will have soap and a toothbrush.
    • I have found these items to be essential and even with the emergency that takes you in, it is worth it to gather or have someone gather these for you.
  • Stand by the door after you check in. Protect your baby from whatever other people in the waiting room may be breathing out. Holding your baby’s blanket next to his or her face helps as well.
  • If this is your first time to the ED with your baby try to stop your thoughts from spinning in the I-can’t-believe-I’m-bringing-my-baby-to-the-hospital whirlwind. Focus on the here-and-now.

Getting Settled

  • When you are led to your room, assume you will live here forever. Get comfortable!
    • Use doctor’s stool as a footrest. You can use it. The can get more.
    • The doctor’s stool is also fun to sit on because it rolls and spins. This never gets old.
    • Ask for water.
    • If you are okay with sitting up, ask for a crib. You will rest easier knowing your baby cannot fall out of the bed.
    • If you want the option to lay down with your baby, keep the bed in the room. Line one side of the two-foot wide bed with every bag you have because those rails are useless for a baby.
    • If your baby is a newborn or small, you may be able to keep the bed and ask for a bassinet. At a 2am visit, this would be a great option!
    • Ask to have the pole on the same side you like to sit on so you can stand up and soothe baby without being too tightly tethered.
    • Ask to adjust the lighting.
    • Ask for the location of the call button. You will not always get a tour of the room before they abandon you in it.
  • Know that the ED is in a time warp and time slows, stretching one minute to 30. Do not expect to see the doctor who said he would be right back until at least two hours (your time), (four minutes once he leaves the room).
    • Change positions often. Stand. Sit. Lay down.
    • Ask to use the bathroom. It will not be hard to find someone to stay with your baby because that baby is so cute.
  • Ask for food early, before you are ready to faint. They usually have sandwiches or bizarrely flavored mint pudding or really terrible trays.
    • Ask for water.

Surviving the Hours

  • Be the favorite parent/patient in the ED.
    • Be nice to your nurse. He or she knows where the coffee is.
    • Play fun music so your room is the most cheerful room.
    • Remember your nurse’s name. Use it.
    • Smile if you are able, say please and thank you. If you are emotionally able, expand the compliment to a specific thing the nurse is doing well or that you appreciate. It is good manners. It also helps improve service, as well. You are more likely to get a nurse who lingers if you are pleasant, adding to the opportunity to ask questions or voice concerns you had not thought of during the swift interactions.
  • Assume they will tell you nothing of what they are doing. If they do voluntarily, that is a plus.
    • Ask for what tests the doctors plans to do and how long it will take those tests to result. Otherwise, they may not tell you, depending on the modus operandi of the particular ED and doctor.
    • Write down questions if it is difficult to remember them during the flyby checks.
    • Ask, “Do you really need that much blood?” Labs seem to be known for wanting a luxurious amount to work with. It is unlikely they will put a normal healthy baby at risk, but if you have a baby with special medical needs, hold on to that blood.
    • If you use medical jargon, you will get respect more quickly.
    • Do not hesitate to ask why. Why are you running this test? Why are you not running this test?
  • Know your limits. It hurts to see your baby hurt. You are human, too.
    • You can leave the room if a procedure is too painful to watch. You can stay for any procedure you choose.
    • Keep your mind occupied. Along with the time warp, the numbing quality of the beeps, strange lighting and smallness of the room will make you lose your mind. Approach it as you would solitary confinement.
    • Pray the rosary.
    • I do not know if this was allowed, but the nurse allowed us to step outside the doors where the ambulances pull up. It made all the difference for my morale and patience during the last hour to get some sun and fresh air. This was an option because my baby was not tethered by any tubes and was stable. We were only waiting for transport.
    • Ask for water.
  • Above all, guard your mindset. A three-hour visit to the ED is pretty good. With the time warp, that is like being in and out in an hour, very impressive. It only feels like three hours because it actually is three hours.


It is okay if the distress of what is happening makes it too hard to function, to ask questions, to learn anyone’s name. Do what you can for your baby and yourself. Still murmur those “please and thank you’s” because the staff really is doing all they can. It is okay to leave it to them.

It takes practice and strength to intervene and ask the question. It takes time to develop the strength. It is okay to use all the strength you have to just hold your hurting child. If you have to do this again, likely you will be even stronger, and can take on a little more. With each difficult time, you can grow stronger.

People may tell you are strong, but you feel weak. We start out weak. It is okay to acknowledge that. If you guard your thoughts from the destructive whirlwind, if you talk yourself out of blaming yourself, you will get through this standing. If you leave this experience on your knees, you still got through it. Some times, that is our only comfort. You survived.


For other piece in this series, click below:

Do not let your hearts be troubled



Last Monday I was in turmoil. The fear of the unknown sent me spiraling downward. I could not talk or pay attention my children. I was just grateful my husband was home. I went around in a trance if I was not avoiding my son all together. He was sick, but likely with a cold, nothing I recognized as too dangerous, but we don’t call him “Sneaky Pete” for nothing.

And the next day he was fine. Monday afternoon I felt like I was being hit in the head with a 2×4 of my trauma: the trauma of what happened one year before, the trauma that happened one week before, the trauma that happens when the first time you see your baby you know she is dead. The fear paralyzed me.

And then he was fine. Nothing happened, nothing changed. His labs show he is a little more dehydrated. His doctor is trying to figure out why he is losing fluid, but we passed a normal week at home with him crawling around the place like he owns it, eager to follow and find his siblings who run so fast.

I reflected on this. I was so afraid. My reaction was so big and so out-of-control. I lost all peace I had. I need to learn how to stay cool when these things come up. It is exposure therapy. If I work through the worry, I will learn to not let the trauma control me. The words, Searching for and Maintaining Peace, came to mind. I have that book. I picked up that book.

The author writes, maybe the goal of spiritual combat is not to be invincible and victorious. Maybe, for those who seek to follow the will of God, it is to maintain our peace in all things. We are weak enough. At times, we will fall into temptation, sin, make mistakes, but God calls us not too worry too much. He calls us to pick up and keep moving. Isn’t this just what God has been asking, that at each turn Peter takes, that I adapt and maintain peace to get through it? Isn’t that the project I saw with each new set of bad news, with each return to the hospital? We move back and forth, requiring more and more flexibility, more and more understanding that we are not looking to flip the switch and wake up, but simply to turn the corner and keep moving.

So he threw up this morning and I am waiting for the doctor to call me. But Peter is playing and all signs point that he is probably okay. We will cover our bases. I can stay calm and attentive in this. The fear of the unknown need not paralyze me. I will keep walking.

Better than Netflix


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This article to appear in the Hughson Chronicle-Denair Dispatch.

I started and put down In this House of Brede, Brideshed Revisited, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and Shakespeare’s Complete Works (do not make the mistake of starting with “Titus Andronicus”). I read Flannery O’Conner’s Manners and Mystery, a quick read about writing. Still, I wanted something I could sink my teeth into. As an adolescent, I read for hours. Those worlds of Austin and Bronte were my worlds. I relished the characters and the stories, though many things I did not understand. Dissatisfied in my quest for another novel, I decided to turn to an old standby, Charles Dickens. This is how I met David Copperfield.

750 pages. And I finished it, 750 pages later. At first, I attempted to read during the day. I found little progress or pleasure amid the interruptions. So I took my reading to bed, without the phone or computer or children nearby. For one to two hours I read, ten, twenty, fifty pages. At times, it dragged on in the labor of Mr. Macawber’s monologues. Other times it flew, and I felt drawn into the love of Agnes, the heroism of Mr. Peggoty and life lessons of Mr. Copperfield himself.

To leave these characters is more than leaving a habit. When one engages in deep reading of great literature, the characters come to life. You know them. You love them. You are as sorry to leave them as it seems they may be to leave you, at the end of such a long novel. I rush to the finish, and relish the satisfaction of a Dicksonian ending, but I am sorry to have no more.

This is the way in which deep reading can teach empathy. We are brought along someone’s journey, asked to walk in their shoes, as Ms. Hepburn defines the term in the movie Funny Face. Reading occupies the mind in a way watching a movie cannot. The time it takes to know these characters, and in classic literature, to see them grow works in our minds as relationships in real life. You not only feel what they feel, you strive to anticipate what may happen, based on the events and personalities you observe as you read.

Watching movies and even very good television is a passive effort. After enough seasons, you may know and feel attached to those characters. Discussions of the particular Netflix show will drive that connection even deeper. Nevertheless, the encounter itself does not settle as deep in the mind as it does with reading.

It is a priceless effort. But how can one find the time or space in which to engage it? Consider the time you spend online or watching television. There may be some space there. I am too tired, we say, I just want to relax. What truly relaxes us? A drink in the evening may seem to relax us, but it can negatively impact sleep. Social media and television helps us vegetate. Passively feels like it should relax us. Yet it does not. The screen lights, the noise of electronics, cannot calm us interiorly.

What is the next objection? I cannot find anything I want to read. This is a difficulty. The hot right-now novel may read easily, and may engage you, but to truly gain the great benefits of reading, one must read a great work. In a classic literature, characters are more deeply and thoroughly formed. Thus they can come alive and stand on their own feet. In lesser novels, a screenwriter can flesh out these people. In well-written books, no movie can satisfy the conception our mind has made.

Find recommendations where you gain. Love good period TV? I recommend Dickens. Love female driven romantic comedies? Try Austen. Love Sci-Fi? H.G. Wells has goodies for you. Pick up those high school novels you vaguely remember reading half of. See what you think now. They are an excellent place to start. The American cultural cannon possesses many great books.

In the way of novels, I do not know what I will read next. But having broken the habit of a nightly binge watch I am excited to find what other places my mind can go, and the characters on the journey.

Sophia Kramskaya Reading

Easter Plans



We have such a day planned! I spent Holy Saturday in a delicious frenzy putting into motion plans that had been swimming in my mind for months. Early this year I made bunting using a stained thrift-store crocheted table cloth, cut into triangles and sewn by machine to two-inch baby pink grosgrain ribbon. I made two, one for the fireplace mantle and one for the bay window behind our dining table.


I went to the garage and carried in the dusty box of Easter decorations. Inside I found a mess or artificial flowers, some ceramic Pottery Barn rabbits and bird’s nests, lots of bird’s nests!

Inspired by Pinterest and Pottery Barn I used the longer flowers to create a wreath around the dining table chandelier.


I placed our newly-made table cloth (courtesy of my mother’s surging machine and dedication to making endless supplies of table clothes and napkins for everyone she knows), and covered the seam with a table runner bought on a whim in my first year of marriage. My father supplied disks of almond wood from his orchard and the flowers came from Kelley Flower Farm in Modesto. With this plan it came together quickly and beautifully.




After decorating the house, we decorated Easter baskets using ribbon, hot glue and artificial flowers from the dollar store. They call the shots, I stick and glue. The children set them out at night and find them filled in the morning.


I anticipate the kids will wake, discover the Easter Baskets and ravage the poor things. Bowls of cereal will await the hunter-gatherers. Then we’ll head to mass and return for egg hunting. To eat, we’ll start with Easter Brunch at our house.

Brunch Menu

Cucumber and tomato salad

Berry citrus Fruit Salad

Breakfast strata

Italian Easter bread

Raspberry Sorbet

After naps we’ll move to my parents house, where my introverted husband will prepare dinner.

Dinner Menu

Deviled eggs

Carrot Ginger soup

Roasted Green beans with caramelized pecans

Rack of Lamb with pomogranete and fennel glaze served with St. Francis Cabernet Sauvignon

Farmer’s Market Strawberries and three-year aged cheese

Crème Brulee


Easter Joy


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I took care of myself yesterday. I exercised in the afternoon, walked in the evening and read at night. I walked three laps around the park in order to clear my head from the afternoon onslaught of crying and screams from hell-bound ruffians, I mean, my blessed little children. Emotional survival is such a process until the very exciting comes along. And the exciting has come along.

One year ago ’twas Easter. We abandoned our plans and our menu to try to make it work in San Francisco. Peter had been there so long already. By the generosity of the Mark Hopkins hotel company (Intercontinental, I think), we were going to stay for free in a fancy hotel for Easter.


Kyle and the kids came. That week the kids decorated baskets with Grandma and everything came together.

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I bought delightful little goodies at Williams-Sonoma combining retail therapy with indulgent motherhood. It all felt good.

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It is difficult to stay in one room with a bathroom from the 30’s with five bodies, three of which move a lot. It was cramped, but we would be positive! This was such a gift after all. The kids went to bed. Kyle and I stayed in hallway waiting for them to fall asleep. We filled the baskets and went to bed. We thought, surely in a place like this, nothing will happen to those baskets.

Naive little out-of-town small town country folk. The kids woke and the baskets were gone. I went crying to the hotel management and she apologized, sent security to search the halls and came to our room with a basket filled with cookies, candy and teddy bears. They found the kids’ baskets and we made quick work to tell them the Easter bunny had gotten confused because we were in a hotel. Their ages made this possible.

Easter mass at St. Dominic’s was beautiful. We sat in the choir loft and saw such a view of that grand Church. As positive as I tried to be, I felt heart-broken. For whatever we did with the kids to make the day feel special and like Easter, it was incomplete. Peter was not with us. I cannot remember the rest of the day. I felt tired of trying, tired of pretending we could make this day anything other than a spiritual reference in our heart to the meaning of it all.

I would not be caught off guard again. I made plans for every holiday and every birthday should any of the rest of them take place when we were in the hospital. When did we return? Lots of times. But around the holidays?

Shortly before Miriam’s birthday party (I missed the party but we were together on her birthday). All Souls’ Day (November 2 = home for Halloween). The day after Thanksgiving. The week before Christmas (returned home on the 23rd). The first half of Holy Week.

We went Regina’s birthday in San Francisco. The lesson came home to me that day. The imperfect moments become perfectly imperfect, when we are all together. It does not matter that it is cramped, or undecorated, or improvised, so long as we are together. We are connected to Celeste by the invisible string. Tomorrow is Easter…and we are all together!

Time to take steps


When we returned home from the hospital I had to rest. I had to cope. I had to keep it together. After drinking too much a few nights, I wanted to find other ways to cope. The key ingredients for a day of sanity consisted of

  1. Licorice Tea
  2. Reading David Copperfield
  3. Reading Cut Flower Farm
  4. Walking
  5. Planning projects

Bonus activities were

  1. Arranging flowers
  2. Completing projects
  3. Talking with my counselor once a week

For three weeks, I focused on myself, made possibly by my husband’s leave from work. My six-year old and I went through Celeste’s things every night the first week and a few times the second week. She did not ask the third week.

Week four I attended mass by myself and prayed deeper than I had praying in a long time. I asked God for help, for…something. I do not think I knew what I was asking for in that moment. I suppose that makes it all the better.

Then came the grace. I saw in my mind’s eye Christ and my daughter together. I felt close to her again even though her body was in the ground and her soul was beyond space and time. It is because her soul is beyond space and time that I could feel close to her. That is the communion of saints.

The next day, Thursday, I read to my children. On Friday, we prayed the Stations of the Cross at home. I felt attentive to them. I felt I could take their needs into my mind and parent them. It felt amazing. On Saturday I think we went to the farmer’s market. I don’t remember exactly…


Because on Sunday at 5am, Peter’s temperature was 103. I packed and rushed him to the hospital. My husband stayed behind to prepare the children. We arrived in San Francisco at UCSF around the same time, Peter and I in an ambulance, my husband with the kids in the van.

When they left Tuesday morning and I knew we would stay, I had to explore what I need to do to keep myself going. I once longed to go back to San Francisco because there I knew how to cope. Peter was safe there. Now I longed to be home, because there I knew how to cope. I felt safe there. It was time to erase the geography from the equation and take to heart the words of my counselor: the ability to do this is in me.

I walked. I read. And I wrote. There was such joy in writing again…and fun. I walked. I read. I wrote. I worried. Peter grew worse and so I wrote more. I could not control the situation, so I explored it in my heart through the thin veil of fiction.

Peter grew better. I forgot the steps that helped me because of the joy I felt in his energy. We returned home soon after.

Time to learn again. Time to pick up the book I read daily at the hospital. Time to write again. Time to pray again. I think this will make me more flexible. It will make me more happy. So much of it is simply the decision to do. It is a decision to do the things we know we should but feel too lazy to do. The temptation is to vegetate or numb, but that does not help. It is time to take steps.


A Girl and Her King: Turning the Corner


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She reflected on the events of the past week, how close to the precipice she had been. It was first a fever, than inconsolability. Yet her child still tried to play. Then he became tired. Like those days one year ago. She had no energy to fight with the king in these days. She wished she could muster up the mental energy to share with him what happened.

What had happened? There they were, her baby on the bed, lying so very still. He was so tired. He only slept. Her child, whom a week before she could not pin down, as fast as any of his siblings, lay so still, asleep. She rested her head beside him, stroked his arms and legs and feared to think, “Would I lose him, too?” She could go mad with fear.

And then, with the visit from a friend, a new trial of medicine, he sat up. An hour later he stood. An hour later, he sang and swayed. A day later, he was himself again. They turned the corner now.

She thought perhaps she could tell herself they were off they edge, that they now moved toward the meadow again. It seemed best to let those thoughts wait for tomorrow.

Yes, Philothea’s child had come through again. They were turning the side of the mountain. They might see the meadow again. She breathed with excitement as she traced her finger along the pencil curve on the wall. Soon, she could think of it. Soon.

The Story of our Year: a eulogy


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Man cannot truly find himself, except through a sincere gift of self.

We learned from John Paul II that to love truly is not only to will the good of the beloved, but also to be willing to give of oneself, to sacrifice oneself, to that end. There is no title or status change when a parent loses a child. Until recent history and place, parenthood was synonymous with loss. Indeed it still is. From birth when they are no longer protected in the womb, to the first time they fall, to the two-year old insistence that only one parent may help with shoes, to the four-year urge for independence “I can do it myself” to the age when they really and truly can. Or, more painfully, the first illness, the first injury, the first hospital visit, and the first terrible day when you think of what could have happened, and thankfully did not.

A year and a half ago, we faced for the first time, the knowledge that a child of ours would have a birth defect. Following the birth of Peter, we faced our first NICU visit, first ER visit, first long hospital stay, first fear of losing our child, first surgeries, first inherited genetic mutation, and first understanding that this could have happened with any of our children and future children. But we also faced our first cleft smile, which is the biggest and brightest full-faced smile you can imagine, first easy going baby, first baby to self-soothe bringing some much needed night time relief. No cup of suffering came without the relief and joy of meeting this boy and knowing him and living with him in our family.

We were changed by these early experiences. Armed with the strength of the previous year, we learned of a diagnosis much worse than what we already knew. At 18 weeks pregnant, I could see the sonogram images were not as they should be. Our baby girl had anencephaly, a condition that develops in the early weeks of pregnancy, in which the child does not grow a brain. In my womb, she could continue to grow to full term, be born naturally, and then pass peacefully away. Guided by the Catholic Church’s teaching, we came to understand her life should not be cut short. Over the course of pregnancy Celeste Casey became part of fabric of this family. “Celeste in mommy’s tummy” entered the cannon of toddler speech. To their joy or bewilderment, the older children felt her kick. We experienced an even greater outpouring of love then we had already known.

There has been much grieving in this family this year. In the summer, the loss of a Grandma P, who lived a long-lived life surrounded by 3 children, 13 grandchildren and many great-grandchildren. In the winter, the untimely death of our brother, Trevor, a man full of potential and love. And now it is spring, and now the death of Celeste who went from the peace and security of the womb straight to the arms of the Father to join her two other siblings lost through miscarriage. With the saints of God she will pray for this family, she will care for us, as we ached to care for her.

Richard John Neuhaus wrote, “At the heart of darkness the hope of the world is dying on a cross, and the longest stride of soul is to see in this a strange glory… The cross is not the eclipse of that glory but its shining forth, its epiphany.”


There is no title for a parent who has lost a child. The grief that comes with faithfulness is built into the definition of mother and father.

We will walk forward in the mystery of life with the joy and suffering that it brings, and will one day, in the hope of God, find meaning in it all.


A Girl and Her King: Drawings on the wall


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Philothea reached her home just as the storm settled in for a strong blow. On her walk, the wind first held her back and then pushed her forward. Light rain that speeded her step moved in sheets as the wind blew. “This is just one side of the mountain,” she told herself. “Another day we’ll see the meadow…and then we’ll eventually see the other side again.” These words played in her mind again and again.

It had been a terrible day. It was a day of movement, conversation, and worry. There was no silence that day. There were but a few moments when she tried to remember those words and the mountain, trying to find her way through the voices of those telling her how she felt, reassuring her in ways she did not need, distracting her from the understanding she had gained in that simple, short conversation.

When she returned home, Philothea rushed into the doorway out of the rain, took of her coat and hung it on the hook near the door. She removed her scarf and draped it over the collar of the coat so they both could dry. Her feet flexed with relief as she removed her boots and tossed them near the threshold. She stood in her home, surveying the scene of simplicity and quiet.

In this one room she beheld her table and chairs with her cabinet of shelves that held the ominous teacup around which so many of thoughts centered. Across the same small room sat a gathering of chairs and a fireplace. Through another door with a large wooden frame was her kitchen. There was a hallway with two bedrooms: one for her children and one she shared with her prince.

As Philothea surveyed her room, she fixed her eyes on the large wall behind the two spaces of this room. It was a plain wall on which a vision could be written. She took her drawing pencils left haphazardly on the table and walked up to this blank wall.

From the left bottom corner of the wall, she drew a line to the center as high as she could reach. Lifting her pencil, she walked to the right corner and bending down, began the same line, meeting just above the other in the middle, as high as she could reach. Her right arm could reach higher than her left.

Philothea walked back and forth along the wall, tracing the trail on which her life journeyed. Smooth at the bottom and gradually more perilous, ever going back and forth, back and forth, along this room, along this wall, until she reached the top. The top plateaued before the peak. She did not finish the path. She did not know what the rest would look like. But she drew this reminder into heart of her home.