Meet the Author Monday III

Another sincere thanks to everyone for all of your comments, questions, and well wishes. Here are your weekly Monday answers!

For Tracy who asked, “Who is your favorite Saint and why?”

This is another toughy! I guess I technically have 2; one for before Nate’s death and one for after. Before Nate’s death, I have always felt a devotion to Saint Maria Goretti. She was my confirmation saint and ever since learning about her in my high school youth I have been drawn to her story. She was only 12 when she died, and knowing that such a young woman could love God enough to become a saint was an inspiration to me. Knowing her story and now living the tragedy of my husband’s murder, I feel an even stronger devotion to her. Her story is as follows: (from americancatholic.org)

She was the daughter of a poor Italian tenant farmer, had no chance to go to school, never learned to read or write. When she made her First Communion not long before her death at age 12, she was one of the larger and somewhat backward members of the class.

On a hot afternoon in July, Maria was sitting at the top of the stairs of her house, mending a shirt. She was not quite 12 years old, but physically mature. A cart stopped outside, and a neighbor, Alessandro, 18 years old, ran up the stairs. He seized her and pulled her into a bedroom. She struggled and tried to call for help. “No, God does not wish it,” she cried out. “It is a sin. You would go to hell for it.” Alessandro began striking at her blindly with a long dagger.

She was taken to a hospital. Her last hours were marked by the usual simple compassion of the good—concern about where her mother would sleep, forgiveness of her murderer (she had been in fear of him, but did not say anything lest she cause trouble to his family) and her devout welcoming of Viaticum, her last Holy Communion. She died about 24 hours after the attack.

Her murderer was sentenced to 30 years in prison. For a long time he was unrepentant and surly. One night he had a dream or vision of Maria, gathering flowers and offering them to him. His life changed. When he was released after 27 years, his first act was to go to beg the forgiveness of Maria’s mother.

I am sure you can imagine why I would feel so drawn to her now. I still pray for the conversion of Nate’s murderer and through her story, I truly know that through God anything is possible.

My other favorite saint that I have found a special devotion to after Nate’s death is St. Joseph. He was the earthly father of Christ our Lord and because of this has now often been called the “father to the fatherless”. Among other reasons, a friend of mine shared a story with me after Nate’s death that through prayer it was revealed that St. Joseph was with Nate when he was dying. Perhaps one day I can ask her to share this story with you all, as it has brought me so much  peace.

To give a “Catholic disclaimer” to those who may not have understand our devotion to the saints, I want to emphasize that we do NOT worship nor do we “pray to” the saints. We pray with the saints and ask them for their intercessions. The same way I have asked you all for your prayers, I too ask the saints for their prayers. Who better to ask than those who have all the time to pray? To ask those who are already closest to the Lord? A simply summary of the Catholic belief on saints is “the Bible directs us to invoke those in heaven and ask them to pray with us. Not only do those in heaven pray with us, they also pray for us.” Feel free to ask your favorite Catholic if you have further questions on this <3

For ifyoukeeponbelieving and Warrie McBrearty who both asked about my birthing experience.

I could type this up in an entire blog post, and maybe one day I will. For the moment, I will simply share the quick story. Thursday, April 24th I had scheduled to do maternity pictures with my best friend. During that day I felt some contractions but they were irregular and I had brushed them off as Braxton Hicks. Later that evening however, I realized they were getting stronger and more regular so I began timing them – they were 5 minutes apart! I called my sister home from college and my mom and friend began packing my overnight bag (Cecilia’s had been packed already thankfully!). In the mean time, I called my OB and my doula, both of who said Cecilia was probably coming soon but to wait it out at home a little longer since I wanted to go natural. (I knew I had wanted to go without pain meds – mostly just to use the physical pain to distract me from the intense emotional pain of not having Nate with me.) I ended up eating dinner that evening, took a walk, had a bath, watched a movie, and then fell asleep for a few hours. Around 1:30am I woke up and timed the contractions again for the next 30min and they were consistently about 2 1/2 minutes apart. Around 2am we called the doula to come over, did some stretches to help with the contractions and around 2:30am we headed to the hospital. At 3am we were checked in, around 4:30am they broke my water and at 4:52am she was born! I was able to do it natural and had my mother and sister by my side to welcome my baby girl. I know Nate was watching over me. I hated going through it without him, but as smooth and easy as it went, I can’t help but be thankful to his watchful eye and the hundreds of prayers that had been sent up for us.

Here’s one of the maternity pictures from the day before she was born:

RVP_5677(I am in the white on the left and Sarah, my best friend is on the right in the grey)

And Warrie McBreary who also asked: “How you’ve managed to juggle being a new Mommy while also being in school?”

I will preface this by stating, it isn’t easy. And while I had known for a while that I would be a mother while I finished school, I had no idea I would be doing it on my own. There was a huge adjustment to knowing I had Nate by my side to having to do it all by *myself. I must note, that I do have a huge support system, even without Nate. And I think, at least for my circumstances (and would recommend to other mothers), that a support system is necessary. Someone who can take charge of the children on the nights you have to study. Someone who can be in your cheering section, rooting for you until the finish, giving you nourishment at every milestone. My parents, siblings, and close friends have been in this section for me. In many aspects for me, Cecilia is also in my cheering section – even though she doesn’t know it yet. I have sincere doubts that if it weren’t for her and a want to provide for her future, I would not have had the will or desire to continue on in school after losing Nate. I am choosing to continue for her sake now more than mine, but am glad I still enjoy and am passionate about my studies as I continue. I’m still figuring a lot of this out while I go, so I wish I could provide more feedback. Most of this summer during classes were such a blur that it is almost impossible to decipher how we got on. I will tuck this in the back of my mind and perhaps one day will write about it again… with more experience under my belt and more distance behind our tragedy.

A few extra fun facts:

  • I don’t eat the peels on apples, even though I love apples.
  • Nate and I wrote letters back and forth for almost two years while we were long distant.
  • I still don’t know what Cecilia will be for Halloween… :/ Feel free to share an idea for us!
  • My favorite vacation location is anywhere with a beach, I love to feel the waves and hear the ocean. With that said, here’s a picture of our recent vacation to the mountains of Denver.

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Jennifer Trapuzzano

Grief: the thief in the night

While I haven’t been able to make new posts every day, I have found that the few posts I have been able to write have provided a new source of healing for me. Writing has been a way for me to release some of the thoughts that plague my mind, often on repeat, going around and around and around, almost waiting to be dropped off. Having a blog has been a way to “drop them off”, to get them out of my mind, to let my heart breath.

And yet, there are some thoughts that don’t have this roundabout way to them, they can’t be put into words. It’s almost like a black hole – that part of me where my fears and pains run to, where no words can even begin to describe what is going on. I often have difficulty expressing this part of me, this part that almost controls my being, my mind, my strength. I have sat many a times staring at a blank screen, trying to convey what I truly want to express – what grief truly has done to me. Like a thief in the night, it came in suddenly and took everything I was, everything I had known, and  disappeared without a trace. Leaving me empty, alone, and dark. I wish my words could even do justice to the impact Nate’s passing has had on me.

Thankfully, there are those out there who have been robbed like I, but have come back into the light. They have found their footing again and are able to look back and laugh at this thief, to take back what is theirs. It is so inspiring to me to read their words of wisdom, to know that one day there will be light again. One book I have been reading recently is Second Firsts by Christina Rasmussen. This book was given to me by another widow and finally, there are words on the page that describe exactly what I am going through now, along with words of hope for the future. Words that I could not even find myself, are there staring at me in black type, explaining every thought, every emotion, every sense of what I am experiencing. I know there is a future for me, I am thankful to God for giving me another new day, as painful as they often might be. While the present is painful, the future is so full of hope – because God gave us his son, he crucified him on a cross so that we might have life. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life grieving. This thief will one day return to me what it took – and not on its own accord – but because I demanded it back. Slowly, surely, I am gaining strength to take it back. To take control of my life again and to make it mine. To live in the present, not the past, but always remembering to live for the future – knowing that heaven is my destination and God is my strength, He is my courage and my provider.

Because I have finally found words that describe so clearly how I feel currently and since Nate passed, I wanted to share some of them with you. So that not only will it help you to understand the pain and loss that I feel, but also to allow you to see into the eyes of others you may one day encounter who have similar loss. The following words have been paraphrased from Second Firsts:

I have lived in the shadow of loss – the kind of loss that can paralyze you forever.

I have grieved like a professional mourner – in every waking moment, draining every ounce of my life force.

I died – without leaving my body.

Loss is devastating.

It’s painful and sad, and it truly stops us in our tracks.

It brings up fears about our safety and abilities.

It makes us question reality. It’s so damn unfair. It’s literally one of the hardest things we ever face – and we don’t get a choice about that.

You see, before your loss, you were one person. You knew who you were. You made sense in the context of your life. But that identity was ripped away in the moment of our loss. That moment did not only bring pain and sorrow, it also brought confusion and fear.

Your brain lost its ability to plan and reason.

There’s a lot of uncertainty at this time. Even though going back to the old life isn’t possible, part of you wants to do that anyway.

In the midst of his death, I lost my life, too. He died on April 1, 2014 at 7:40 A.M. I died with him, at 7:41 A.M. His body was lifeless. My body was numb.

Loss felt like a tsunami hitting me from the inside – my brain, my heart, my arms, my legs – and washing away my inner knowing of what life was supposed to feel like.

There are no words to describe the experience of losing someone you love more than life itself. You cannot know the feeling unless you have experienced it.

It felt like I was having an out-of-body experience or watching a movie in slow motion. I wish I knew how it was for him. I wanted to go with him. But I knew I couldn’t. Our one path split in two. It was time to say good-bye. Forever.

The memory of the realization that my life was about to change is imprinted indelibly in my mind. I knew then that the death I felt within me was something I had never been prepared for, and that it was possible I might not survive this powerful kind of grieving.

I already missed him, in the few seconds I had been without him. I remember looking around me, taking in the room. And then I took my first breath of this new life. Gasping for air, each breath was immense struggle. My body did not feel like my own. It was heavy, and tired, and acted as if it did not want to go where I was taking it.

I was emotionally tormented, mentally deranged from the grief, brokenhearted, and above all else, in love with a dead man.

It had happened.

He had died.

Forever.

The silence I experienced that early morning had a physical manifestation. The silence of grief attacks your body. It makes its mark. It is so heavy that it is almost like life slows down until everything pauses. Every time you move and every time you speak the silence is amplified.

I never knew that silence was so loud during grief.

It was screaming at me.

It was speaking to me, but I could not hear it. I felt insane.

What I experienced upon my husband’s immediate absence was disbelief. I couldn’t believe I’d never see him again. I was even questioning whether my husband was dead. I could not understand how he could never come back. I was a human being experiencing an inhuman condition. Grief.

I remember the water running in the shower. It was so loud. Even water felt painful.

The pain I was experiencing…my body truly could not endure that kind of experience for long.

Nobody could help me.

Nobody could help me.

Nobody had warned me that I wouldn’t be able to go back to what I had left behind. Not only was he gone, but nothing in my life felt the same. Everything about me changed, and everything about the world around me was altered forever.

Jennifer Trapuzzano