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Sunday, July 15, 2018

On Retreat with Brendan

I just returned from my annual five-day silent retreat using the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. I asked my blogging partners, Susan and Chriss, to fill in for me while I was gone and they did a stellar job of it. Thanks Chriss and Susan! And, really, you need to post more often.

Having the time and freedom to retreat from the world is a great gift. Doing it in silence is an even greater gift! I think of the movie a few years ago, Into Great Silence, about life in a Carthusian Monastery where the monks live in profound silence offering their lives and work for the glory of God and the salvation of souls. What a blessing it is to be engulfed, even for a few days, in profound silence.

I was awake and walking one morning before sunrise and heard the birds in symphony as they welcomed the new day. The wind was blowing rustling the leaves. I felt like I was hearing God's voice as Elijah did in the small whispering sound which is often lost in our noisy world.

Because of my grandson's suicide in May this was a particularly difficult retreat for me. I had a hard time focusing on the topics of the meditations. Brendan was continually before my eyes and in my heart and mind. But it seems to me, that was at it should be. How can such a cataclysmic event not shake the soul like the earthquake that tore the temple veil in two.

Christmas 2017 --Brendan cuddling
the two youngest grandbabies
The first week of the exercises calls us to pray for the grace to be sad and even weep over our sins in preparation for the general confession. Weeping came easily. In fact, I couldn't stop weeping as I reflected on Brendan's suffering and the culture of death that eats our children alive. Is there even one of us past the age of reason who hasn't contributed by our sins to the evil culture? All those sins rippling out to capsize Brendan's little boat.

No matter what the meditation, I spent much of the five days crying: the silence, the sadness, thinking of the pain of all the members of our family, especially Brendan's parents and siblings. Everything reminded me of Brendan.

And there was other remembering: rocking the baby in my arms, reading stories and singing lullabies at night. His favorite was Shule-La-Roo. "Sing it, Grandma," he would say, "And do that to my eyes." I would run my fingers gently down his face over his closed eyelids as I sang and he would often drift into sleep before I finished.

The grief was overwhelming at times -- not a grief of despair -- never that!  A grief of separation -- of lost opportunities: to laugh -- to share -- to watch the unfolding of our precious bud into the full flower of manhood.

We will never see that.

But God is so good. In one of my tear times a thought came to me and an image of our Brendan -- the baby lover, the baby whisperer -- with Our Lady.

At that terrible moment, as Brendan slipped from life into death, I could see Mother Mary holding Baby Jesus out to Brendan and the baby in her arms reaching, leaning as if to leap into Brendan's arms -- smiling and laughing in that way babies do.

And Brendan, our baby lover, our baby cuddler, our coaxer and cajoler of babies -- reaching back to receive Baby Jesus in his arms and enfold him, their cheeks together, Brendan whispering in his ear, "I love you, sweet Jesus."

And Mary, that loving Mother, that comforter and consoler, wrapped both her babies in a loving embrace and whispered in Brendan's ear, "Welcome home, beloved boy.""

My Jesus, I trust in you.


Chriss Rainey said...

Mary Ann, for as long as you are sad, I am sad. For as long as you grieve, I will be here to listen and comfort you. I am so sorry for your loss and the painful sorrow that has come into your life.

Mary Ann Kreitzer said...

Thank you, Chriss. Friendship and prayers mean so much at a time like this.

Dymphna said...

I have learned something about grace and courage after reading this. May God bless you and your Brendan.

Unknown said...

I have never experienced such a tragedy. I am so very sorry. But you have shown me the most grace filled way of going through such a storm. Praying for Brendan and all of his family.

Mary Ann Kreitzer said...

Thank you, Dymphna and Patricia. Your prayers for Brendan and our family are very much appreciated. I am so grateful for my faith at this time because it's the source of my hope. May God spare other families from this tragedy. I often pray now for young people thinking of suicide that there will be an intervention that saves them from making such a tragic choice.

Unknown said...

I ask you all to pray for an intervention for my brother John, also Mary Ann's brother, who wishes in his paralysis and chronic agony that he could actually be taken from this world by someone's hand, anyone's if not his own. In the past, he has asked another to slip him a gun. It is in these moments of feeling abandoned or unworthy of love and attention, that the inclination to seek release from this life seems to lurk. What can any of us do to relieve that kind of suffering? Who of us can answer that call, that challenge? Stay awake, pay attention, take care of oneself, calm one's mind and recognize one's limitations and then, I have been told, we can do more than we are even doing now. Blessings on our jouneys. Susie