Before you read this post, please make sure you read this introduction first.
*** triggers mentioned: surgery, miscarriages, murder, abduction, sudden death ***
It was also my wedding day.
I could lie and pretend that I sit here as a happy person today....wistfully looking back at the joy of such a wonderful day. I could tell you that a smile comes to my face when I look back at the me of last year who didn't know about all of the wonderful things ahead. And this being the internet, you'd just sit there and read it and pass right by it like every other Catholic retelling of the joyous life of newlyweds.
But that isn't my story. And telling tall tales about it isn't going to change how I remember that day, or the 365 that came after it. And it isn't going to get me or my spouse to Heaven. I might as well be honest so that anyone who can even marginally relate to this knows that they aren't alone. And maybe also so that I can find a bit of peace in finally admitting it all out loud.
I was diagnosed with endometriosis a couple weeks before my wedding. It was a leap of faith to say yes to surgery a few weeks before I would hop a plane to Ireland to get married. If things didn't go well... well, there wasn't even time for a back-up plan. Things either were or weren't going to be OK.
At the time, I barely knew the Catholic surgeon who operated on me, only having met her once before the date of my surgery. I vividly remember the moments leading up to the anesthetic that morning though...where she gave me a rosary that Pope Francis had blessed and held it tightly in between our hands as she prayed over me for peace and healing. I remember waking up and hearing about the endo that was excised from my uterine ligaments and ovary.
I remember my stomach being ripped to pieces by the antibiotics in the days afterwards. And the extreme reactions to my first doses of T3, one of which involved passing out for hours on the floor - only to awake to irritated voicemail messages from the priest who would be marrying us because he couldn't get in touch with me over last minute paperwork before I traveled overseas.
I remember feeling defeated at having to manage so much luggage en route to the airport when I could barely manage walking without using both hands pressed against my stomach to 'keep my guts in place'. I remember the airport staff that took pity on me, the extra luggage fees that were waived, the help that was offered to get me over the Atlantic.
I remember the cantor who tried to charge us an additional 350 Euro the day before the wedding, figuring that we'd pay it like a ransom. And I remember all of the people who selflessly offered help in making things go off without a hitch.
I remember my extremely (read: more extremely than you're taking that to mean) introverted fiance struggling with the social interactions, the demands of last-minute wedding details, and not having any idea how to comfort me as I threw up in a tupperware container while wincing in pain with each heave as I felt my stitches being pulled to their limits against the skin they had been sewed into.
I remember having to drink three glasses of champagne just to manage the stairs walking into my own reception and how often my glass had to be filled after that so I could manage the rest of the evening without feeling like I would pass out.
I remember being nauseated and passing out on our honeymoon and feeling like something was really wrong. And I remember that day at work after the honeymoon when I was stuck in the bathroom - marooned in a stall - bleeding out and miscarrying a child I didn't even know I was carrying.
I remember the ultrasounds after that where I focused on the knowledge that I had more experience with those 10 days of invasive procedures than I did with the sacrament that had made me a wife and a mother.
I remember the weeping so hard that I burst blood vessels in my face. And feeling dead inside. And I remember the next months where that hCG mimicked the feelings of 1st trimester illness I had felt on my honeymoon and how hopeless and lost and utterly shattered each reliving of that and each CD1 made me feel.
I remember the hope of lots of two-week-waits and the confusion when no pregnancy came. And news that we now had a problem. I remember all of the severe side effects of the fertility drugs that I took, the anxiety and panic attacks that they caused, the appetite that disappeared, and the weight that was gained. I remember the changing of medicine doses and the disappointments that came with each one of them, the hormone profiles that made me feel like a death trap, and how all the small victories seemed stale. I remember asking my wedding photographer if there was even one picture with a smile in it and expecting to hear a quick 'no'.
I remember the murder of Paul, the murder of Nathan, the sudden death of my godmother from aggressive ovarian cancer that changed my own treatment plan, our 2nd miscarriage that persisted over my own birthday, and the disappearance of Zulma.
I remember being fired after the 2nd miscarriage because I had taken three days of bereavement leave and the lesbian interim HR director that considered it an inappropriate use of leave time because 'it was not an immediate family member'. I remember having to prove that I hadn't been involved in any misconduct when the unemployment office called to question my dismissal. And I remember the envelope that contained the letter that read 'dismissed after miscarriage, no evidence of misconduct apparent'.
And I remember staring at this once-blank-blog-post - wondering how I could write anything today and yet knowing I had to anyway. Last year we celebrated the Feast of St. Thomas More on June 22nd and I chose to pray a special prayer. This year on June 22nd, we also celebrate the Feast of Corpus Christi, so I think it's interesting that I'm in the middle of praying to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. This year I renew my prayers for intercession from the patron saint of adoption and foster care, and I add my prayers to Christ and Mary. The celebration of the mystery of the Eucharistic miracle is something we acknowledge and receive each time the bread and wine are consecrated at a Mass. We ought to spend some time in prayerful contemplation of what that means and I'm taking that seriously this year.
Jesus did not die on the cross so that I might live a fairytale wedding day and frolick through the fields of the first 365 days of marriage. He was not born into poverty while whispers of the scandal against His Mother were on everyone's lips so that I could live a comfortable life devoid of pain. He did not pay the price for us with his own suffering and death so that I could sit here and write a glib post about the top ten things I love about the first year of my marriage.
Jesus promised that He would be here to suffer with me if I sought Him out. He promised He would comfort me when I felt alone. And that my reward in Heaven would be contingent on the faith I breathed on Earth. He asked me to be faithful because He died, not in spite of it.
So yes, I sit here today with 365 days behind me, broken and numb hearted, with another rash and fever, again with my period and angry uterus screaming to bring down the last bit of resolve I can muster, and certainly with several more grey hairs to count on my head, listening to all the cliches about how newlywed life is filled with unbridled passion and wanton abandon and how these are the best days of my life. Being told to be thankful for this past year and all of the good it must have involved. All of that may very well be the truth I can't see right now.
But you won't find me complaining in my misery. God calls me to live out my faith and I'm trying my best to do it. No matter how ugly it looks from the outside. No matter how ugly it feels on the inside. Trust is trust. And you don't gain it by anything but practicing it. That's how my faith needs to be. And that's very much how my marriage needs to be. The sacrament has meaning beyond and above the pain and suffering. The vocation has worth beyond and above the shortfalls and disappointments. The struggle is worth the promise of the eternal reward.