I write this from the bedside of my son, Fulton, for whom all of you have been praying. Innocent child, arms in splints stretched out to either side of him, face thoroughly burned but with recognizable traits that are Fulton’s alone. My son lies here on his bed, and I at his feet, and I am deeply sorrowful. But I am also profoundly grateful for this Cross that has come to me.
It may sound strange at first to think a mother could be grateful for such a tragedy, especially while his wounds are still so fresh. So please allow me to explain.
I am a selfish, slothful woman, prone to all sorts of self-centered thoughts and actions. Not a day has gone by since my conversion that, after my examination of conscience, I have not realized at least some of my countless acts of pride and self-centeredness. I am a wounded woman, only beginning to see my own wretchedness and wanting to make amends any way I can.
Whenever I went through the day without prayer and without my spiritual compass, I unconsciously directed my actions and the actions of those around me to circle around my needs, my moods and my whims. By day’s end, everyone was grumpy (including me!) and not much was accomplished within my home and certainly nothing was done for love of God.
I prayed fervently for Our Lord to teach me how to die to self, to keep me from falling into those moments when my heart longs for that which is pleasing, comfortable and easy. Too much time on the computer, snacking without thought between meals, working on unnecessary projects by myself instead of interacting with my children - all of these things kept my heart and energy focused on self instead of on others and on God.
Apparently I needed more than a few whispered words of encouragement to get me on the narrow path. I needed an intervention. And not just the kind where your friends take you out to lunch and express their concerns. I am talking about a real hard, ‘smack on the side of the head with a 2x4’ kind of intervention. One I could not dismiss and one that demanded more than a half-hearted attempt to get my act together. And on January 8, that 2x4 along with a burning barrel full of scraps of wood and a can of gasoline, exploded and changed my life forever.
Our home is loving, happy, and fairly clean most of the time. I feed my family well and have on many occasions been called ‘mean’ because of my decisions to protect my childrens’ bodies and souls. My children know and love their faith, and as far as I know, everyone who knows us enjoys my family’s company. We have our faults and have had our dark moments, but on the whole, we are a healthy, thriving family and no one has any reason to believe otherwise. I myself though we were doing pretty well.
But God sees my private moments - those times when I would rather bury myself in a book than teach a child how to read one. Or when I dove into worldly hobbies or distractions instead of meet the demands of a homesteading family of 8. Or the times when chatting with people I never even met in real life was more important than chatting with my children about their day. And it was precisely because of these moments that He decided to take my prayers for the grace to die to self to heart and answer them as He saw fit. And it is humbling to realize what a train wreck I must be in the eyes of God, to see that it would take such a dramatic event to begin to truly convert my heart.
Despite all of that, I am not feeling guilty, brooding in self-pity or slipping into despair. Instead, I am energized at the challenge put before me. Fulton is healing each day, and with each passing day, my role in his care increases. Soon, and for many years after, I will be the one giving him the special burn baths, counting every single calorie that goes into his body and forcing him to eat 2.5 times the caloric amount he previously consumed, administering all medications, taking his heart rate and blood pressure multiple times a day, giving him scar massages, working with him 2+ hours a day in physical therapy, and holding him close to my heart when he cries with exhaustion and pain, and encouraging him to keep on going.
Praise God, there is no room for self-love in this schedule! I am sure my weak nature will find time to grab for myself, but as long as I use it to fill my soul with the strength to go on, even my occasional time out with a book or an extra granola bar can be used to help me persevere and dive back into caring for my little boy, the object of my love, my source of sanctification.
I have resigned myself to accept this answered prayer and trust that with God’s grace I will overcome myself and finally learn to love Him as He wants to be loved. Our Sorrowful Mother has already taught me so much - that the suffering of the innocent can, in His great design, bring about much good for many souls and will refine one’s love for Him in ways previously unimaginable. I will attempt to linger at her side, watching her as she teaches me how to minister at the foot of the Cross placed before me, and pray I remain loyal to this calling.