Skip to content

Oceans of grace: keeping my eyes above the waves

This is one of those songs that stopped me in my tracks. I happened to have on K-LOVE, when I heard these words sung so sweetly:

You call me out upon the waters

The great unknown where feet may fail

And there I find You in the mystery

In oceans deep

My faith will stand Read more

Proving that age really is a state of mind

“It’s all about having a purpose, and that’s why I think to retire is dangerous,” says one woman featured in the Fabulous Fashionistas documentary about older women who still have a sense of style and a sense of purpose. “…The minute you give an inch, life or illness or something else will take a mile.”

And this from the narrator:

“For all six women, their style and attitude was not just about the clothes they wore. They all have the same steely determination. They all share a quality, a spirit that keeps them going regardless.”

Can I get an Amen? Read more

Receiving unexpected grace via the U.S. mail

Grace can be hard to put your finger on, like trying to grab at fog or hold onto a breeze. I remember even back when I was writing The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Catholic Catechism that I struggled to define it in a way that would make sense to people, especially people who maybe had never really contemplated that word before and what it might mean in their lives. Read more

Metamorphosis…

A sign? An omen? A “God breeze,” as one Facebook friend suggested? I don’t know if it’s any of these things, but this butterfly certainly made my night last night. The doorbell rang around 9 p.m., and, when I answered it, this beauty was fluttering around under one of our Adirondack chairs. As I took the manila folder full of medical forms my son’s Boy Scout leader was dropping off for our weekend camping trip, the butterfly flew out from under the chair and landed smack dab in the middle of the folder I was holding.

I was thrilled, calling for the kids to come look before it flew away. No worries there. It flew right into the entry way of our house and landed on the slate floor. Olivia gently picked it up, which is when I snapped that picture above. We brought it outside but it didn’t want to leave. We had to pry it — ever so softly — off Olivia’s hand and back onto the arm of the Adirondack chair.

I have to admit that it’s hard not to think of this little God moment as a good sign. I’ve never had a butterfly land on me, much less fly into my house. And at this time in my life, when so much is changing and expanding and challenging me, it feels like a very good omen. “Metamorphosis,” as another Facebook fan wrote.

Remembering the power of one small life

My annual post in remembrance of the baby I never got to meet:

For the past few days I’ve been looking at the numbers on the calendar, growing more and more introspective as we inched closer to August 6. It was 14 years ago today that I learned the baby I was carrying, my second baby, had died 11 weeks into my pregnancy.

With a mother’s intuition, I had known something was wrong during that pregnancy from a couple of weeks before. The day Dennis and I — with Noah in tow — went to the midwife for my regular check up, I didn’t even take the little tape recorder with me to capture the sound of baby’s heartbeat, so convinced was I that I would hear only silence. I went back for the recorder only after Dennis insisted. But somehow I knew. Because when you are a mother sometimes you just know things about your children, even when there is no logical reason you should, even when they are still growing inside you.

When we went for the ultrasound to confirm the miscarriage, we saw the perfect form of our baby up on the screen. I remember Dennis looking so happy, thinking everything was OK after all, and me pointing out that the heart was still. No blinking blip. No more life.

With that same mother’s intuition, no matter how busy or stressed I am, no matter how many other things I seem to forget as I drive my other three children to and fro, I never forget this anniversary. It is imprinted on my heart. As the date nears, I feel a stillness settling in, a quiet place amid the chaos reserved just for this baby, the one I never to got hold, the one I call Grace.

Four years ago, when I posted about this day, I talked about how Grace had shaped our family by her absence rather than her presence.  I am very much aware of the fact that life would be very different had she lived. She managed to leave her mark on us, even without taking a breath. She lingers here, not only in my heart but around the edges of our lives — especially the lives of our two girls who followed her. I know them because I did not know Grace. What a sorrowful and yet beautiful impact she had on us.

So thank you, baby, for all that you were and all that you have given us without ever setting foot on this earth. The power of one small life.

Embracing life, with death in sight

My latest ‘Life Lines’ column, which is running in the current issue of Catholic New York.

By Mary DeTurris Poust

Some people know how to live, even as they’re dying. I have a friend who is just that kind of person, and I am continually awed by her strength, her faith, and her grace as she journeys through each day knowing full well that what’s left of her life on this earth is coming to an end. Quickly.

When I saw Maureen this week, she told me the last thing on her Bucket List – now that she’s checked off a trip to the Cape with her husband– is to live long enough to see her newborn twin grandchildren when they visit in December. “I think I can make it,” she told me, and I believe her.

It was not that long ago that I sat in her living room and she told me her daughter-in-law was pregnant but she didn’t know if she’d be alive for the birth in September. Now September has come and gone and she has her sights set on a new goal, all the while managing her life and her pain from home, thanks to Hospice care and a devoted husband.

Maureen has been battling ovarian cancer for years. Long before she became ill, however, I saw her as an inspiration and a role model. Hers is a peaceful, prayerful presence. She’s quick with a smile and an offer to help in whatever way she can. Cancer has only increased those wonderful qualities, it seems.

When someone needs prayers, I email Maureen. I know without question she will remember my friends and loved ones in prayer, even as I often forget. Just this past week, she asked me about a little girl I had asked her to add to her prayer list. To be honest, I haven’t remembered that little girl in prayer in quite some time, but Maureen prays for her every morning, along with a laundry list of other people and problems I’ve asked her to remember. I have come to believe that her prayers – coming from a place of such deep faith amid such incredible suffering – are especially powerful.

Although she no longer receives any treatment, she mentioned that when she did have to sit through those difficult appointments, she’d pray for all those people who had much worse things to bear. And I found myself wondering, even as she spoke to me, who could have much worse things to bear than a woman dying of cancer before her time? But Maureen doesn’t seem to see it that way. As I sit with her, spinning tales of my kids’ latest escapades or my own spiritual struggles, I get the sense that I am in the presence of someone who is at an advanced and somewhat rare spot on the spiritual journey.

So often it’s not until someone is gone that we realize the impact they’ve had on our lives. I feel blessed to recognize right now the impact Maureen is having, and will continue to have, on my life even after she’s gone. Her example of courage and determination and faith will not fade, nor will her peaceful acceptance – when it was clear there were no more treatment options — of what life had handed her.

None of us know the day or the hour. Logically I realize I could die before Maureen, but I still can’t seem to wrap my brain – or my everyday attitude – around that reality. Life doesn’t always go according to plan, at least not according to our plan. Life goes according to His plan, and we can either embrace the journey or be dragged along kicking and screaming. Too often I choose the latter, but Maureen is teaching me another way, the only Way.

Life isn’t always pretty or easy, and sometimes the lessons are learned the hard way. We can either stay stuck in regret or move forward with grace. Choose grace.

Remembering the power of one small life


For the past few days I’ve been looking at the numbers on the calendar, growing more and more introspective as we inched closer to August 6. It was 13 years ago today that I learned that the baby I was carrying, my second baby, had died 11 weeks into my pregnancy.

With a mother’s intuition, I had known something was wrong during that pregnancy from a couple of weeks before. The day Dennis and I — with Noah in tow — went to the midwife for my regular check up, I didn’t even take the little tape recorder with me to capture the sound of baby’s heartbeat, so convinced was I that I would hear only silence. I went back for the recorder only after Dennis insisted. But somehow I knew. Because when you are a mother sometimes you just know things about your children, even when there is no logical reason you should, even when they are still growing inside you.

When we went for the ultrasound to confirm the miscarriage, we saw the perfect form of our baby up on the screen. I remember Dennis looking so happy, thinking everything was OK after all, and me pointing out that the heart was still. No blinking blip. No more life.

With that same mother’s intuition, no matter how busy or stressed I am, no matter how many other things I seem to forget as I drive my other three children to and fro, I never forget this anniversary. It is imprinted on my heart. As the date nears, I feel a stillness settling in, a quiet place amid the chaos reserved just for this baby, the one I never to got hold, the one I call Grace.

Three years ago, when I posted about this day, I talked about how Grace had shaped our family by her absence rather than her presence. I am very much aware of the fact that life would be very different had she lived. She managed to leave her mark on us, even without taking a breath. She lingers here, not only in my heart but around the edges of our lives — especially the lives of our two girls who followed her. I know them because I did not know Grace. What a sorrowful and yet beautiful impact she had on us.
So thank you, baby, for all that you were and all that you have given us without ever setting foot on this earth. The power of one small life.

Unexpected moments of grace

A few things have happened in these first few days of 2011 that make me believe that either a.) This is going to be a very good year, or b.) I am looking at the world through gentler, more welcoming eyes.

First was New Year’s Day, the day Noah, our oldest, was born 14 years ago, which also happens to be the day that my paternal grandmother, affectionately known to all as E-ma because of a nickname I came up with when I was little, was born 98 years ago. But, for various reasons, I couldn’t be with my grandmother on her birthday, so I felt a little sad over that.

We decided to go to 5 p.m. Mass on New Year’s Day, but I was handling hospitality, so Olivia and I went over to church early, set up and figured we’d meet up with the rest of the gang inside. Minutes before Mass was about to start, we tiptoed up the center aisle to our usual spot in the one of the first few pews. I saw Noah at the end of the pew and Dennis and Chiara toward the middle, but who was that old lady sitting between them? Dennis shrugged his shoulders as I approached.

I sat down and smiled at her and she nodded, still not aware, I don’t think, that she was sitting in the middle of a family. Then Olivia climbed over her and Chiara tried to get to me and she had her “aha” moment. She asked if she should move, and I said, “No, you can be part of our family tonight.” Dennis whispered something to me and the lady looked at me and said, “My name is Mary too.” Another big smile. Mass began and Mary was singing her heart out beside me. A few minutes into the opening prayers, I found myself alternately smiling and on the verge of tears. I had my birthday boy on one side and there, on my right, a surrogate grandma filling in for my own.

The woman’s actual granddaughter showed up and sat in the row behind us and, at the Sign of Peace, I reached over to tell her how happy I was to have her grandmother sitting with me and why. (I can squeeze a lot into the Sign of Peace.) I think that made her happy, and maybe made up for the fact that she was supposed to attend Mass with her grandmother and ended up sitting behind her? Anyway, that was one of my first moments of grace this year.

The next day I went back to my first yoga class in a long time. I knew I was taking a chance because it was not a beginner class and I was too out of shape to be attempting anything more intense. But I settled onto my mat. Within minutes of beginning the class, I felt my shoulders relax and tension melt and peace flood into my heart, and I knew I was home (even in a sweaty YMCA studio). I wax and wane when it comes to my yoga practice, but standing there on that Sunday morning with 50 other people, I felt — for the second time in 24 hours — that deeply spiritual sense of community that comes when people join their hearts and minds, and, in this case, bodies in an effort to move forward physically, mentally, spiritually.

My next moment of grace came the next day when yoga class did not go as well. Obviously I was right when I guessed that attempting the athletic yoga class after months away was too much, and my body was rebelling. As I attempted a simple stretch, my elbow screamed in pain. Not being one to want to admit defeat, I struggled through the class, wondering what could be wrong. (The friend who came with me reminded me that it could just be because we’re getting old. Thanks, Michelle. The truth hurts.)

I came home and iced it and rested it on a pillow, admitting that I would have to skip any exercise the next day. And I could feel the tension beginning to rise as I fought back disappointment over my scuttled plans. But slowly, maybe during the night and certainly by this afternoon, I felt a realization that it was okay. (Thanks, Scott, for reminding me that listening to my body is more important than striking a difficult pose.) My body is telling me to slow down, forcing me to focus not on being “the best” or even at the top of my class but on the journey at hand. Gains don’t have to be made all at once. In fact, they rarely are. Bend with the obstacle, rather than break trying to beat it. So, here I am, in a little bit of pain — especially when typing or writing — but at peace with my middle-aged elbow and the fact that I just can’t do all that I once did with as much ease. Then again, it’s not all about the physical stuff, is it?

Finally — And it’s only “final” in this post. I’m hoping for many more grace-filled moments this year — I began reading a book that seems as though it was meant to be placed in my hands at precisely this time. “Prayerfulness: Awakening to the Fullness of Life” by Robert Wicks (Ave Maria Press) came to my attention by accident, or so it seemed, as I flitted around Facebook one day recently. My publisher sent me a copy (Ave also published my Walking Together book), and I just began reading. It is a perfect fit, considering where I was spiritually at the end of Advent and where I am now. It’s filled with great stories, sage advice and practical spiritual suggestions. I plan to post more on the book once I finish it. Still, as I read it and nod my head, I feel more and more grace and peace and stillness settling in. And that’s a very good place to be at the start of a new year.