05 August 2014

A saint for us to turn to

I've sat wondering why and how could it be that God willed last week to unfold the way it did.

I mourned.  I mean truly mourned- just like the rest of my classmates, but I have no real claim to my grieving.  I certainly can't claim my grief like so many who were so much closer to Sarah Harkins and yet so many of us have mourned a great loss.  This is my attempt to process it.

A Franciscan University alumni mother of four children born and one in utero passed away, as well as her unborn baby, Cecilia.  They died due to a tragic series of events from multiple bee stings and a brain aneurysm.  You've most likely read the story because I've posted it several times on my wall this week.

Sarah and I were never actually friends.  Uh, yeah I know, and I took it really, really hard when I heard  she was rushed to the hospital and the outcome looked grim.  I cried for a week straight- no joke, and Lena often asked me why I was so sad.  She and I took many moments to pray for the Harkins family together.  I initially saw her name and thought, "I totally remember her.  I remember passing her in the halls of Marian.  I actually remember passing her on the way to and from classes and strolling past the caf'."  She lived in the same dorm as I but a lower floor and yes, I do remember her.  That's about all our earthly encounter ever was.

But something else tugged at me and then it hit me- my husband works with her husband.  When he accepted his job we were both so excited to learn that several states away there was another Catholic family like us in our now "work family".  Whenever Dan would head to the DC area I thought of them.  He had gotten together with Eric a few times and I always wondered what his wife was doing at home with her littles while he was working.  How did she handle being the wife of someone with this crazy job?  What was she like?  And I prayed for her because I know how this job can take a toll on the family.  I thought of them often and felt so connected to someone I didn't know.  I didn't realize then that I had seen her on campus until this week.  When I realized who she was I panicked- I cried- I called Dan.  He was shaken as well and we prayed.

The night of her passing Dan was out and I called him crying.  He came home and we cried together.  I felt like I lost someone so important, so connected to me.  And I have.

It is so hard to imagine what her family will be going through and how they will move past this.  How will her husband work?  How will he ever go forward from here?  Her dear children will have to adjust to a life at school without their mom, who homeschooled them.  And their littlest, Faustina- a beautiful baby with Down Syndrome who had a momma who embraced her and loved the little gift her daughter was.

And we have all asked WHY?!

Why her?

For those who've read about her this past week, she's already accomplished much.  You see, although this is barely a consolation right now, God brings beauty and grace out of tragedy.  Her death has called us all to a new fervency in our faith.  How would we be remembered if we passed away suddenly?  Life is a precious, fragile gift and we have to live it realizing just how fragile it can be.  On the way to the funeral in VA, my husband "ironically", though I think it was from the Divine, heard on the radio a sentiment posed: "Live your life today as if you're writing your own eulogy."  And there it is.

The Lord took someone incredible from this world to wake us up.  He took a humble housewife.  He gave us our modern day St Gianna to turn to.  And He wouldn't have taken her away from an ordinary family.  Imagine how much God thinks of the family she has left behind.  He never gives us more than we can handle.  In times like these it's hard to see that truth but He chooses the strong and the bold to carry on in the midst of such sadness.

Having had a terrible week with toddlers, I can attest to the grace we receive when we cast away from ourselves and look to Him.  I had multiple sugar bowl sneakings and gritty floors because the potty-training-two year old wanted sugar as a "good job" treat.  That sentence in and of itself should tell you a lot.  And the clingy baby didn't help- at all.  But I was here to clean up those messes, to pick up and snuggle and kiss the baby, to leave the laundry and help the two year old with her business.  I was here to read to the older ones.  I was here to receive their pictures and letters they made for me.  I was here to cook dinner and hug my husband and just simply be with him.  I was here.  My husband was here.  We are both here, together.  And although Dan is away for 10 days, I'm still able to physically talk to him.  Every time I've had a momentary "I'm going to lose it moment", I've begged for Sarah's intercession.  I've asked her to help me be more like our Blessed Mother- to be kind, gentle, patient.

What's more, we prayed the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary on the day Sarah was laid to rest and the Glorious Mysteries the day after, on Sarah's birthday.  Through death comes life.  Through sorrow comes joy.  She who had such a deep devotion to Our Lady has brought us all closer to Mary through the rosary.  Her ministry and devotion to the rosary has touched us all and reminded us what is worthwhile in this earthly life.  She has brought us mothers closer to Jesus through Mary.  We can relate to her as mothers and we can now ask for her intercession.

So even though I don't understand it and am so unimaginably heartbroken and sick for her family and her husband, thank you Lord for your gift of Sarah and an awakening that has been stirred in each one of us.  Sarah, pray for us and help us here below.

"To Jesus Through Mary"
A Sarah Harkins Clay Bead

Read more here for another beautiful articulation of how Sarah touched so many lives and gave of herself.

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