Thursday, April 12, 2012


"On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb."
-John 20:1

On the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday / the beginning of Lent, my wife Emily started to show signs of being sick with our second child. About 5 weeks pregnant at that point, both she and I had hoped that it would not be a sign that this pregnancy would mirror our first. Emily was sick until about week twenty with Elizabeth.

I had high hopes for my Lenten journey (as I always do). I would pray more. I would reach out to those I love more and do a better job at staying connected via phone, email and other long distance communications. As such, I had high hopes for Easter (as I always do). Because of my sacrifices and discipline, I would enjoy the Resurrection of Jesus Christ with that much more faith. Little did I know that my Lenten journey would be one of the toughest and most arduous of my life.

Enter hyperemesis gravidarum: extreme, persistent nausea and vomiting during pregnancy that may lead to dehydration. Symptoms: Severe, persistent nausea during pregnancy, often leads to weight loss; lightheadedness or fainting. It did lead to dehydration. Twice. The nausea, despite medications and monitoring, persists...constantly. Emily's weight loss has been severe; luckily her drop has leveled off. Two hospital visits, one with a two night stay. Home health care to change IV's and the pump for her medication. And despite all of this, perpetual vomitting.

Before going any further, let me clearly state my love and admiration for my wife. While I have and will continue to relate my struggles through this first trimester, I know that what I am enduring pales in comparison to the torture she has suffered. In no way am I saying that my plight has been worse than hers or more challenging than heroic single moms, dads, or any family members of anyone with an illness. But, it has been difficult.

Normally, trying to balance leading a school, being a husband and the father of a 17 month old, trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle, keeping up with friends and family, working around the house and actually relaxing every now and never and keeps me pretty busy. All of this was hard enough when I had my wife to share the load - true partners in our journey through life. Take her out of the equation, almost completely, and my journey throughout Lent took on a lonely, trying, exhausting and taxing spin.

Fortunately, things for Emily have seemed to turn a corner. Furthermore, the amount of love and support shown to us by both friends and family has been truly humbling. I am always amazed by how giving people can be and I have been touched multiple times by multiple people over the past month and a half. In case I never get around to it, and by the volume of things on which I'm behind this seems likely, thank you to all that have helped. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Having gone through an unexpectedly difficult Lent, I expected that Easter Sunday would bring some sort of immediate hope/peace/calm/change. It didn't. Much like Easter bringing the fulfillment of other Lenten sacrifices in years past, I thought that my "suffering" during Lent this year would turn into the same joy I had experienced on Easter Sundays before. While I did have a great day, I still feel empty.

Some connections:

First, how often do we look for Jesus in empty tombs? How often do we go to the wrong places expecting to encounter Christ? Whether it's in other people, or disciplined sacrifices, or the nightly news, or music, or TV, or anything, we most likely come up empty. St. Augustine explained this phenonemon well saying, "Our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee." We can go to just about anywhere looking for Jesus. No matter how deep a particular Earthly fulfillment is, the encounter will still leave us unfulfilled. This is both good and bad. It causes us to still search. But, it can also cause us to give up the search and/or become complacent with something that is less than the Christ (which is everything). Easter Sunday has come and gone. The eggs no longer contain jellybeans. The plates are bare. The Churches are closed. Stores are already focusing on summer - swimsuits, suntan lotion and shades.

The passion we hopefully experienced during Lent shouldn't fade just because Easter Sunday has come and gone.

Even if Emily had somehow miraculously recovered today, my commitment to her shouldn't wane because all in my life is back to normal (whatever that is).

Lent is over, but our crosses remain. What Easter should do is change our perspective. Life is hard, but Jesus conquered both life and death. "In the world you will have trouble," He tells us, "but take courage, I have conquered the world" (John 16:33). Maybe instead of hoping to find Jesus someplace that we haven't been yet, we should look for Him in our current circumstances. We should look for Him standing right beside us because that's exactly where He is.

Second, how often do we look for the same in our Catholic Schools? We would like the best and brightest students. We would hope for the parents that always support us. We would desire that the problems inherent in all schools not be allowed out of the hallways of our public school counterparts, and if they happen into our Catholic institutions, we would quickly and gladly like to put them back where they belong. Instead, let us accept the fact that if our schools were perfect, we wouldn't have jobs.

If we were perfect, we would have never needed a Savior.

Jesus never said it would be easy. He said that it would be worth it.

The tomb, like our hearts, is empty. Our hope, though, need not be.

Death will lose and we will win. Today. Tomorrow. In six more months. At the end of our lives. For now and always...

Happy Easter.