This had been a week of some physical suffering. I had attempted to be brave about it, and on the first day, it did seem that I would be able to weather it. Then, I was shown the words, Prepare for Holy Week, and so I offered up my pain and worries as my part in my Lord’s passion. The moment I did, everything changed. The suffering intensified overnight. I began to wobble.
Yesterday found me telling God, I’m so sorry. I can’t do it. I want to but I can’t.
This time, my mind took over, trying to cajole me into not relinquishing my suffering, but my will had been weakened beyond words. I could not find it in me to join my sufferings with Jesus’.
I knocked on every door of every saint who had come to mean something to me. I prayed to Mother Mary. Through it all, heaven stayed silent. I didn’t sense that I had been abandoned, but it felt as if everyone I invoked had retreated behind closed doors, except for St. Therese the Little Flower – I sensed a ‘movement’ when I called her name.
Then, I remembered two I had missed out.
I hastened to St. Anne. This time, I felt the door yield to my pleading. Just.
Following this, the name of another saint appeared before me. St. Gianna Beretta Molla. I knew she had been a doctor, and I desperately needed the comfort of one at that moment. I prayed and prayed that she speak to me.
St. Gianna did. She corrected the medication I was on.
That night, before I slept, I tried to do some spiritual reading to take my mind off things. But exhausted from work, my suffering and two days of almost no sleep, the words swam before my eyes. I struggled to focus, my eyelids were coming down.
Then three lights emerged from that mist:
St. Therese the Little Flower
Place your sufferings into the Wounds of Christ
I was so exhausted that although my heart acknowledged all three, it was the last – Redemptive Suffering – that stayed with me. I went to bed that night, with a prayer on my heart to St. Gianna and St. Anne that they help me to suffer my pain for Jesus, in honour of His Passion, so that my suffering might be of use to someone.
What had slipped my mind was that St. Anne and St. Gianna were also the patron saints of mothers.
I slept well but was awakened close to six in the morning by a dream.
I was outside a building. I had the feeling that there was water nearby, that it was a waterfront building. There were cars. I saw one, a humble, old car, a father and kids inside. The kids were slightly impatient. I heard the father calmly tell the children to be patient a while longer. I sensed he and others were waiting for something or someone.
Then, I was inside the building. A priest was just ending the celebration of Mass. For some reason, I went right up to the altar, but to the left of it. Behind the altar, doors opened out to a huge, huge, flowing river. The waters seemed to be even higher than the building I was in.
Suddenly, the moment the Mass ended, a great mist rose from the river and began to swirl around. There was something so deeply beautiful in that mist that the congregation collectively gasped at its beauty.
But I didn’t have time to immerse myself in it. For I saw something the others had not seen yet.
That it was not mist.
It was children! Little children. Hundreds of them!
The children were alighting from a sort of river bus. Each one had a photo. I knew immediately that the little ones had come from heaven. And that they were going to be ‘matched’ to the person in the photo that each one clutched.
In such a crowd of busy, silent children, it should have been impossible, but I immediately saw the one I sought. I rushed towards him and hugged him tightly as I sobbed. All around me, the rest of the congregation at Mass, all of them parents too, surged forwards towards their children in tearful joy.
But the little boy in my arms didn’t hug me back as I expected. He didn’t pull away either. He was contented to remain in my tight embrace. But there was something in the way he looked at me. In the way he searched my face.
It was as if he knew me, yet was learning about me for the first time.
Looking down, I saw that this beautiful boy dressed in the smart wedding finery of a ring-bearer’s white silk shirt and clean, pressed black pants, had his arm tight to his chest; like all the other children, he too was holding a photograph.
As I was about to see take the photo to see who it was of, I caught sight of a smaller child. A girl, standing a little away by the side of the altar.
At that moment, two things registered.
The altar had been stripped of its white cloth. The altar was now bare, clean unadorned wood.
And the little one was standing by it, holding her photo and gazing at it with deep, deep love. A love so rarely seen in one as young as she was.
There was no one else there at that moment. All the other children had been claimed by their parents. They had left. The building had fallen silent. All that remained was me and these two children.
Stunned at seeing her, I asked the little boy, Who is that?
Hearing me, the little girl turned to face me. She had my daughter’s eyes. She had another daughter’s soft hair. Little though she was, she had her hair tied up in a low, little bun, soft waves framing the sweetest, purest face.
She looked straight into my eyes.
She was wearing her hair just as I always did. As none of my other daughters did.
In that moment, I knew her.
She was my daughter!
My wee one whom I had miscarried at eight weeks of pregnancy. The love of our lives whom my husband and I had grieved for, far away from human eyes. The precious one no one had known, no one even remembered now, save my husband and I.
She had now come home.
And then, I realised who the little boy was.
He was my eldest child!
The long awaited baby I had miscarried after long years of barenness. I hadn’t known if it had been a boy or a girl. Today, finally, I knew.
Many years ago, Jesus promised me that my children would be returned. At that time, I struggled to understand. Even as I continued to be blessed with children, even as I found exquisite joy in each one, my heart knew they were not the ones who had gone. Many times, I asked God if to long for them was to be ungrateful for the beautiful children we had been blessed with.
I wondered if it was even right to wait for them.
Today, on the day the altar is stripped bare in the grief of the Ultimate Sacrifice, God told me I had not been wrong to wait. That I had not been wrong to love to the depths that I had the babies who had died in my womb. That if there was anyone who was wrong, it was those who denied us our grief.
And those who rejoiced in our loss.
Today, God fulfilled His promise to me and to all other waiting parents on this 30th day of the month of flowers.
God returned my children. Just as He had promised.