Last night was the first Halloween ever in which I did not participate. I did not dress up. I did not have children to help get into costume. I did not attend any parties. I did not give out candy. I did not decorate or bake. We turned out our front porch light and our living room light and went upstairs.
I don’t hate Halloween. In fact, usually I enjoy greeting the children who come to my door. This year, however, it did not seem like fun. It seemed like a chore to buy the candy and answer the door to give it out. And so, I gave myself permission to opt out of the holiday.
Too many times in my life, I have done the expected. I have gone along with convention even when it brought me nothing but resentment. I have decided to live more mindfully, part of which means knowing when to say “No.”
Another year, I will again embrace Halloween. I will joyfully greet the children who come to the door and give them lots of candy. I will tell the ghosts and witches that they are scary and the princesses that they are beautiful and thank batman and spiderman for keeping our city safe.
But this year, I couldn’t do it. And that is okay. I have come to a place where I know myself and I accept myself and I can be gentle with myself. I can embrace all of the things that I love and let the other things go. I look forward to Thanksgiving and Advent and Christmas with happy anticipation. I can say “Yes” to the traditions that make my family happy. It’s good to be able to discern what brings joy into life. And let the things that don’t matter fall away.
I have had a very rough couple of weeks. On Thursday, August 15, I received a call that my Dad was in the hospital. I rushed to Noyes Hospital in Dansville and met my sister. When I arrived, I found that Dad was on a respirator and was being moved into ICU. It turned out that he had a severe cerebral hemorrhage. I had the privilege of spending the night in his room and praying and reading Psalms that I knew would comfort him. The staff was able to keep him alive until we could all be there (one sister lives 9 hours away in southern Ohio). Sadly, Dad never regained consciousness, but we were all with him to say our goodbyes before he slipped peacefully away. We believe that he knew that we were with him and that he was surrounded by our love. We are comforted knowing that he is now with our Mom, whom he has missed terribly in the 15 years since she died.
My siblings and I made it through the calling hours and funeral and began the emotional work of coming to terms with being orphans and the physical work of cleaning Dad’s house over the following days. I also put in just a few hours at work. I was not feeling well, but thought that I was suffering from the effects of grief. On Sunday, August 25, while working at my parish office, I became extremely dizzy and nauseated. After a good night’s sleep, I returned to work Monday morning but was unable to function. I made a doctor appointment for later that afternoon and returned home. The rest of the day was a nightmare. My doctor was away and the doctor who was covering offered little help. Later in the day, I could not even stand up and was continuously vomiting, I ended up going to the Emergency Room and was admitted to Strong Memorial Hospital on Monday evening. After many tests, they discovered that my Vertigo was caused by an inner ear problem, so they began to treat both the symptoms and the underlying problem itself. I had some Physical Therapy to learn to walk safely with the Dizziness. I was finally released yesterday, but still have a distance to go for full recovery.
Desolation and Consolation are a part of the cycle of our faith. Rarely have I felt both spiraling around me in such quick succession. The Desolations are probably obvious. The Consolations include: the knowledge that my Dad is finally reunited with my Mom in the Communion of Saints, the fact that I had a long time to speak to him alone in his room and say the things I needed to tell him, that his children were with him when he died, that we were able to say goodbye, that our family and friends supported us through everything, I love my sisters and brother and we clung together to get through the process of saying goodbye to Dad, I was able to help somewhat with beginning to clean the house, John knew to take me to the hospital when I needed to go, I received wonderful care at Strong, John was able to spend a huge amount of time with me at the hospital, my illness was not serious and will most likely never occur again, I feel loved and cherished by family and friends and all the communities of which I am part, and I know that God has walked with me every step of the way. Many Consolations. I know that the days ahead will not all be easy, but I recognize that I am truly blessed.