During our three week saga in the NICU, I received some amazing acts of Charity. There was a friend who sent a packed cooler of food to the hospital which sustained Jon and I for an entire week. There was the husband of someone I once picked strawberries with, who kept us company during the long wait during Tess' first surgery. There was the new blog reader who wrote "Have a Rosary, Will Travel" and kept us company during the second heart surgery.
I read every comment on this blog. I treasured every prayer. There were two long-time blog readers who sent kind notes (with checks) which I received with perfect timing on some of my darkest days.
Those acts of charity shone like stars in the sky.
And that was really critical . . .
because I lost a lot of friends through my daughter's trip to the NICU.
My husband, Jon, calls having a kid in the NICU as "the gold standard of parental need." For one of the first times in my life, I truly needed help. I had four kids under the age of 8. I had a husband who couldn't get more time off his work. I'm a transplant to this city- I have no long-time friends or family nearby.
I asked for help.
And I got turned down. I got turned down by neighbors. I got turned down by family members. I got turned down by Catholics--Daily Mass going Catholics, Bible-School Teaching Catholics and fellow Carmelites.
When I say turned down, I mean turned down flat. Not "this is a bad time, can I do something for you tomorrow." But "No, I can't!" and the empty ringing of a dial tone.
And that hurt, so much, so much.
I spent so much time crying on the way home from the NICU for this reason. My pleas for help got bumped for book club meetings, soccer practice, family get-togethers, home-school lessons, etc.
The "I can't help you now because I've got Adoration tonight" really, really made cry. My husband told me "Sick Baby Tess is Jesus right now on the Cross. Is it possible to miss seeing Jesus in the flesh because of a previous commitment to see Him in the Monstrance?"
I've nicknamed that little crisis "Missing God due to a previously scheduled God appointment." (Lord, please keep me far, far from repeating that same mistake during my future as a Third Order Carmelite.)
I've survived the asking for help and getting turned down. I've discovered that "hope and fear" expectations in specific people are worthless. God will provide help when you need it. Some help will come from surprising sources. Some help will not come from expected sources. All true acts of charity are gifts from God and will make my own heart cry with gratefulness.
Now that I'm out of crisis mode and back in real life, I'm struggling with meekness and forgiveness. (Oh, St. Jerome, pray for me!) The friends that turned me down, are now back. It's really, really hard to hear some of the excuses.
I guess the thing I ran head first into, is the great American sin of "busyness." Everyone means well, of course. But everyone is so busy. Acts of charity that are immediate, that come from a true emergency--like a newborns immediate need for open heart surgery- things that can't be scheduled neatly into a Daily Planner- those are the things that can't get done.
And the irony that made me want to pull out my hair in frustration last week is "why are we doing these things as Catholics?"
What good is home-schooling our children in the Catholic faith, if we can't miss one day of pre-planned lessons to help babysit some older siblings of an extremely sick child?
What good is attending a Pro-Life Committee meeting if on the exact same night a family in our parish whose child struggles with a life-threatening disability has no one to say a rosary over their sick baby's crib in the NICU?
There's a sickness of "busyness" among Catholics that is extremely dangerous because we crowd out God with our previously scheduled God appointments.
I pray hard that I don't commit this sin anymore. Because it sucks to miss out on the real God moments for previously scheduled church activities.
And I need help forgiving people who poke me on Facebook today to say "sorry I couldn't help you last Thursday, but I had a full day"---- when my own "full day" on Thursday required attending to my 22 day old newborn who suddenly had an 18 inch piece of plastic tubing sucked into her heart.
It's a hard thing to be a Catholic! But I just got a double miracle with my newborn daughter, so the least I can do is pray harder to acquire the gift of His Most Merciful Heart.
St. Teresa of Avila, pray for us. St. Jerome pray for us.