It was the day the world went wrong
I screamed til my voice was gone
And watched through the tears as everything
came crashing down
Slowly panic turns to pain
As we awake to what remains
and sift through the ashes that are left
behind ~ Steven Curtis Chapman (Beauty Will Rise)
Every day of a life matters. Every day of a life counts. In the book of Ecclesiastes Solomon tells us that there is an appointed time for every event that occurs under heaven. Our days are numbered and should never be taken for granted. In the blink of an eye everything we know our lives to be can change. Those are the days when we wake up one person and go to sleep a stranger to even ourselves. The person we were the day before is gone and all that is left is the wounded canvas to build who we will become.
“There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven. A time to give birth and a time to die…” ~ Ecclesiastes 3:1-2
I often think about how Mary must have felt on the day of the crucifixion. Watching her son, our Savior Jesus Christ, condemned to death by His own people, brutally beaten at the hands of Roman soldiers, mocked, and ultimately killed. How, with her mothers broken heart did she fall asleep that night? Longing for the child she would never hold again but knowing that His death was the blessing the world had been waiting for. Does that blessing soften the blow of loss? Was she able to reconcile her own heartache with the knowledge that God’s plan had been fulfilled? Or in that moment did she allow herself a few minutes to let the soul crushing heartbreak consume her as she processed that the child she birthed into the world, her son, was gone? I wonder in those moments of solitude if Mary secretly wished God had chosen someone else to be the mother of His Son. When the road gets hard and the pain is all-consuming don’t we all wish, even if only for a moment, that this was someone else’s journey and not our own.
It is so easy to gloss over biblical stories and dehumanize them because the details of raw emotion are not shared. I think this happens quite often in context to Mary and Jesus’ death. Because Scripture doesn’t focus on her feelings we tend not to either. However, a scene in the movie The Passion of the Christ completely changed my perspective on Mary in those moments. The scene is Jesus carrying the cross to Golgotha. Mary is trying desperately to see him and through a corridor she spies him as he falls to the ground and they make eye contact. The movie flips to Mary’s perspective and she has a flashback to toddler Jesus falling and needing his mother’s comfort. In that moment, like most mother’s, she kisses her son’s boo boo away. The movie then returns to the present and Mary weeps for the son that she can no longer help or comfort. What a different picture that paints for our imaginations. Mary, faithful and obedient servant of God, was indeed human and watching her son slowly walk to his death was a very real and painful valley for her to walk through. How enlightening it would be to know what fears and doubts she wrestled with in that moment…the very emotions that allow us glimpses into her humanness. The very emotions that make her just like you and me.
January 07, 2008, was an unseasonably warm day in suburban Detroit. Sixty-four degrees is never what one expects to wake up to on a winter morning in Michigan. The day was unusual indeed, almost as if the weather was a sign that on this day nothing would be as it should be. In fact not much in our house that morning was normal. Monday is travel day for my husband. As a regional manager for a large cheese manufacturer, Monday mornings usually consist of an early alarm ringing so he can make his flight to head off to whatever destination the week has in store for him. This morning was different though, no flight to catch and no trip scheduled for the week meant our routine changed. On this weird Monday morning I actually had help getting the boys off to school and I could get our baby girl fed and changed at my own pace. Well, really at her pace cause let’s be honest a 2 ½ month old dictates the pace not the other way around. However, on this particular morning I was slacking a bit. While unseasonably warm weather in winter sounds great in theory, in reality it brought with it a misty rain, fog, and sinus headaches. You know the kind of weather that ultimately winds you up in the doctor’s office waiting for the confirmation that a sinus infection has settled in and the Z-pak would start immediately. It was starting out as a blah day, how I wish it would have stayed that way…
Francesca Isabella Catherincchia came into our lives on October 23, 2007. I will never forget it. American Idol on the television as my mom and I cleared the dinner dishes. My husband was at the church rehearsing for our upcoming Christmas production. As dinner ended I felt lower back pain and cramping but didn’t think anything of it. This wasn’t my first rodeo and having had false labor before I wasn’t getting too excited. I let my husband leave, never for one second thinking that this was the day. I was still two weeks away from my due date and while I had never had a late baby I was never lucky enough to go two weeks early. But it soon became VERY clear that this was it. How perfect, my mom was already at my house; babysitter for the boys, check, husband on his way home to get me, check, prayer warriors in place (my husband was at the church…duh), double check. This was it…we were having our baby!
All babies are special but Francesca was extra special because she was a dream come true and an answer to prayer. After our son, Santino’s, autism diagnosis I had all but given up the idea of having another baby. However, about 9 months after his diagnosis God had placed an unbelievable desire in my heart for another baby. Intense prayer ensued which included me crying out all of my fears of having another child. Studies had shown that families with one child with autism were more likely to have other children on the spectrum. What if that happened? Santino’s therapy schedule was rigorous and already adding stress to our family. Would another baby take us over the edge? Eighty-seven percent of parents with a child with autism end up divorcing. What if we didn’t make it? Autism was still so new to us what if we couldn’t handle a new baby too? I was scared to death and I needed God to understand that I had to trust His decision in the matter because I was all over the board. I vividly remember ending that prayer with these words “God if our family can handle another child please give me the desires of my heart, if we cannot please do not let it happen.” Five months later I was pregnant. God had given His answer and our precious girl was on the way. Interestingly enough, it was this very pregnancy that opened up the door for Santino to receive an in home therapy aide provided by the state of Michigan. The state has a program called the Children’s Waiver which is distributed to children with autism based on the number they score in an intake questionnaire. The more stressors you have on your household the more points you get. In the summer of 2006 we applied and Santino did not have enough points to qualify. However, when the time came to reapply in the summer of 2007 my husband had just lost his job and I was smack dab in the middle of my pregnancy…our stressors were off the charts and Santino qualified. Now, you tell me God doesn’t work in the details.
Throughout my pregnancy our oldest son Sammy would pray “Please God don’t let my baby have autism.” I think in his little 6-year-old mind he saw this baby as a do over. He was struggling with his brother’s autism so this new baby was his opportunity to have a brother or sister that would “talk to him” as he used to say. That was his prayer every single day, at home and at school. He would pray for his baby. Somewhere along the way the baby I was carrying had become his and the excitement would sparkle in his eyes when he would tell me all that they would do together. Yes, this baby was our family’s dream come true.
The moment the doctor said “it’s a girl” my heart soared. Two boys at home and now the little girl in my arms completed the perfect family I had always envisioned for Matt and myself. Sure autism had derailed us for a moment but in the wee early hours of that October morning we had victory…everything was right in the new world we created after our setback. I remember giving birth to my boys and seeing the tears roll down my husband’s cheeks at the precious lives God had given us. But when Francesca was born it was completely different. For the first time in 11 years another girl had captured my husband heart and it will forever remain one of the most beautiful moments I have ever witnessed. Francesca was born a daddy’s girl. Matt had always been a hands-on dad with the boys but with his girl he was absolutely smitten. Often allowing me to sleep, he would do night-time feedings just to have her all to himself. He had big dreams for his Bella girl, as he called her. Isabella being her middle name it seemed that his nick name was only natural. Actually his reference was always drawn from the fact that “bella” in Italian is beautiful and Francesca was his beautiful girl. She signified all that was right and good in our world.
To Be Continued…