Tag Archives: catholic faith

When Good Friday Eclipses Easter

Regular readers to this page know that I have a condition known as degenerative disc disease.  This is sometimes called disc and joint disease or DJD.  It was precipitated by a genetically inherited “bad back” on my mom’s side of the family (her brothers have both suffered similar fates) and a traumatic injury to my back when I was four years-old.  The whole thing came to a head for the first time when I was 23 years-old and I had my first spinal fusion at the L5-S1 level.  Fun.  Thirteen years later I had another spinal fusion at L4-L5 (the adjacent level).

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This pic is tired, I know.  I’ve used it before but it shows the current state of my spine in case you didn’t know.

I had really hoped that I would be able to avoid another fusion (or at least the symptomatic back pain and debilitating sciatica for at least 5-10 years at the next level.  So far, I think I’m doing well in that regard.  I got more serious about my health than I ever have before.  Hell, I started eating vegetables and lots of them.  I took up running before realizing that it required one to run.  The thing I’m proudest of, however, is that I got serious about getting jacked.  I haven’t had the kind of success I had hope but I’ve done OK.  You see, it’s important for me that I build up ever single muscle in my body in order to safeguard my spine.  It’s not really a vanity thing – not really.  Still who wouldn’t love being almost 40 and looking like one of the Jersey Shore crew on summer vacation?  I won’t lie, that’s a cool prospect considering I looked far from that from the time I was about 15 until recently.  But I stepped it up and looked into things I had never done before, all the while remembering the lessons learned from surgeries and physical therapy.  In other words, I’ve been doing all of this safely.  Currently I’m doing a program called Body Beast designed to bulk up.  I figure the more muscle the better.

About a year ago I was at my standard weight, hovering around 200.  I have a medium sized frame so that’s not impressive.  But when I got serious-serious I dropped down to 173 with Insanity.  I felt great knowing that I could complete something most men (including many athletic men) attempt and give up because it’s hard.  I took heat for it, good natured I believed.  Then I decided it was time to build up.  I’m going back toward 200 but this time hard-core, solid muscle because I need it.  I’m up around 187 after two months and again, I feel great.  I’m enjoying seeing results (even if I’m the only one who sees them).

So why is God screwing with me?

Just when it seems I’m doing something good for myself, for my health, sacrificing time away from sleep or from my wife and kids to get in that workout I need to do I start to notice twinges of pain here and there.

About a year ago I began to experience what I knew was Restless Leg Syndrome or RLS.  It’s not painful just uncomfortable.  Fortunately it only hit me at night so my job and family life wasn’t affected.  I looked it up and it seemed to be a common side-effect of spinal fusions at L4-S1.  Then in the past few months (following around the time of my dad’s death) the symptoms morphed into painful leg cramps that strike in the middle of the night.

Time to see the surgeon.

I went for a visit to a man I trust with my life.  Hey, I’ve never let anyone cut me before nor even put his hands inside my body.  That’s how much I trust this guy.  He’s Mayo Clinic trained.

I love his response after looking at my X-rays.  “I can’t know what’s in the box until I open the box.  But before I cut you let’s run some tests.”

I had a nerve conduction study first.  This showed no nerve damage.  Praised be God.

Then it was time for the Myelogram CT.

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Me after my Myelogram.  See, it’s not that bad.  I’m smiling.

This past Thursday (Holy Thursday) I went to an imaging center and had a dye injected into my spinal column so images could be taken.  The procedure is painful in itself.  The after effects aren’t pleasant either.  I went home and went on bed rest for 48 hours.  My dear sister, an RN, came to town for an Easter visit and was put to work as my caretaker.  This consisted in lying on the couch watching 85 episodes or the 1980’s-90’s crime documentary Unsolved Mysteries while drifting in and out of sleep.

On Good Friday I had an opportunity to unite real physical pain with the crucifixion of Our Lord.  I was truly thankful.

Then came Holy Saturday.  And… unfortunately it still felt like Good Friday.  Throughout the day I tried to make myself believe that the pain was dissipating and I could do things like mow the lawn.  I had been told that by 48 hours I’d be golden.  On Saturday night my wife, kids, and I got dolled up and headed to the Easter vigil – a tradition for us.  Unfortunately I made it into the first of seven readings before the splitting headache got the best of me and we had to leave.  A consult with the surgeon’s office on a Saturday night uncovered that my puncture wound from the Myelogram hadn’t healed and I was leaking spinal fluid into my body, thus causing a spinal headache.  He called in an awesome script and after more rest I felt better.

Here’s the thing.  For the Christian the pain of loss and agony of death on Good Friday makes sense because of the promise of resurrection and joy of a new life and a glorious body on Easter Sunday.  Tomorrow I’m going in to have something called a blood patch performed.  They’ll take blood from my arm and inject it into the puncture wound to clot and stop the leaking of fluid.

I think I can take it that my Easter is coming a bit later?  That’s OK because I know myself and I know I deserve a bit of a longer Good Friday.

I’m writing all of this because I’ve received comments over the years from people who’s been faced with spinal problems and have apparently been helped by reading about someone else’s experience.  I’m also writing to ask prayers.  Pray the procedure goes well.  It’s not a big deal.  But also pray I can get back to my Body Beast.  LOL.  I’ve only got five more weeks until I look like Charles Atlas (in my mind) and I am pumped about that.  Of course, since it’s just me who’ll notice the difference I suppose I can convince myself I look that good now.  Yeah… that’s it!  It’s an Easter miracle!

Happy Easter to all of you reading this!  In the Catholic liturgical calendar, Easter lasts for seven weeks so enjoy every minute of it.  Remember the Lord is risen indeed.  This isn’t a spiritual resurrection.  He conquered death, destroyed that bastard.  He is all-powerful and lives and reigns forever and ever for you and me.

Amen.

Alleluia!

What Family Means to Me, Part II

In my last post I discussed my mother-in-law and her sunny disposition.  In continuing the theme and moving on to my side of the family — geographically more removed than my in-law’s and thus the second leg of this blog journey — I am faced with a daunting task.  As you know I hail from a rather large family.  There are so many people about whom I could write that would serve as the stand-out figure representing what family means to me.

I could write about my own wonderful mother.  After all, I did write about my mother-in-law.  Can I just mention, in case you didn’t know, that my mother is a saint.  No, not a canonized saint of the Catholic Church…  When she dies, which I am convinced will never happen because death fears her, the Church would be too ashamed not to have found a way to canonize her during her lifetime and will declare that she had actually always simply been a saint.  She brought sixteen — yes, 16! — children into the world.  She taught us all so much.  She was always my traveling partner, my drinking buddy, my counsel, my example.  But I feel like she deserves a post all to herself, not as part of a series.

I could write about any of my sisters.  My sisters are the most marvelous people on earth.  One of the reasons I pray my wife and I have more children is because there’s a possibility that even one of those future children will be a girl.  I tell my son all the time how lucky he is to have a sister because “Daddy knows from experience, sisters are the best” especially if you’re the baby boy of the family.  Shall I list some of the many benefits of having sisters?  They make you laugh, keep your secrets, share your secrets, keep you company, lift you up, drag you down, and will tear the eyes out of anyone who crosses your path.  Because of my sisters I went to Disney World, saw my first Broadway show (and countless more), played endless rounds of Trivial Pursuit, drank tens of thousands of gallons of coffee at the diner in the middles of various nights.  I learned how to drive a car from one sister without crashing into another sister’s house.  I learned how much fun the words road trip can be.  I became godfather to so many kids.  Should I go on?…  Sisters are awesome.

I could write about my brothers.

I was going to leave it like that, as a joke.  Then I thought better.  OK, from my brothers I learned some important things.  For starters I learned many things not to do.  But I also learned many things to do.  I learned how to be funny.  I was, after all, the aforementioned “baby boy” of my family.  Let’s just say that I had some good reasons to need sisters who would tear the eyes out of other people who might do me harm.  That being said, I saw in some of them loving husbands and fathers who took care of their families.  I saw a man who’s devotion to his family impelled him to fight on foreign soil to protect us all.  I can’t say I learned how to rough-house.  I was too much younger than the rest of them.  I didn’t have an opportunity to learn much about typical things like style and dating and whatnot.  They were in college before I graduated grade school.  That could also explain why I didn’t get married until I was almost 30 and why I’ve often received the “Wow, that’s a different look” remark from people over the years.  But no matter what, brothers are generally two things with their brothers.  They are generous with everything they have and they are constant in their relationship.  If I ever needed anything I know I wouldn’t have to ask.  And if I didn’t talk to any of them for the next decade I know I could pick up a phone and it would still be the same.

But the figure I settled on for this blog is my dear old dad.  Let me tell you a story.  My father has been a daily mass-goer for as long as I can remember.  On New Year’s Eve 2007, when my wife and I were still living in New Jersey, my dad called me up and asked if I had been to mass yet.  He needed a ride because his car was in the shop.  Of course, I drove over, picked him up, and the two of us went to mass as we had so many other times.  Arriving back at his house I walked him to the door.  There was ice on the ground and patches of snow around.  As we got to the top step of the porch he reached into his jacket pocket and took out a leather-bound booklet.  He leafed quickly through the pages.  “Not bad,” he said.  “What’s that?” I asked.  “Only missed three days this year.”

Good?  Bad?  It's a start.  Also, note the use of my own "excuses" like Wilma being in the hospital or Vicki coming to visit.  LOL.

Good? Bad? It’s a start. Also, note the use of my own “excuses” like Wilma being in the hospital or Vicki coming to visit. LOL.

That was it.  I knew what he meant.  He had methodically marked down days that he had missed daily mass throughout that year.  It totaled three.  That means that he made it to mass 362 times that year (not counting additional masses like funerals and weddings).  I was so impressed that I made it a goal to try to be more devoted to the practice myself.  It took my several more years to realize that, like him, I needed to keep a record to motivate me.  So on New Year’s Eve 2012 I decided to make use of the Notes App on my iPhone and start keeping a record throughout 2013.  As you can see, I was not nearly as successful.  I just tallied it and said to my wife “I can’t believe I missed 59 days this year…”  “Look on the bright side,” she said, “that means you still went over 300 times this year!”  I could also use the excuse that daily mass is not as readily available here in Texas but where there’s a will, there’s a way.

So there you have it.  A good father protects his wife and children from harm, provides a living for them, and above all, places himself humbly before the Lord each and every day.  Would that we all had that grace.  Perhaps 2014 will be more “successful”.

Ready for part III?

Donuts for Everyone!

Sweetest kids in the world!

Sweetest kids in the world!

My kittens were so good at mass this morning…  How good were they?  Thank you for asking.  Well, let’s consider a few things first.

  1. It’s Palm Sunday.
  2. That means that the church was packed with people who (in a totally non-judgmental tone) could care less about our Lord and Savior any other day of the year but feel the need to be in my church this morning like they own the place because they “get” something — namely, a dead palm leaf.
  3. Said interlopers (God bless them all, truly) took the good parking spaces and would not move in when we arrived at our pew.  Thus, we had to climb over these good, God-fearers.
  4. The Passion according to Matthew was the proclaimed Gospel.  It takes four hours to read.

Despite all that, my babies did me proud.  We marched into the Korean donut shop after mass, heads held high, and I told my kids: “Go nuts!”

This is what it’s all about.