Today in Church I was overcome with the fruition of what several people tried to get me to understand six years ago. When someone you love who has had such an impact on your life is suddenly gone, you must learn to live a new kind of normal. Or as close to whatever normal could possibly be in my world.
Six years ago our family was dealt a devastating blow when my sixteen year old niece, Seana, lost her battle with leukemia. In February 2005, while we were vacationing together in Florida she became extremely ill. When we returned to New York she was diagnosed. In a matter of hours we learned a lot about leukemia and felt reassured as we were told Seana had the form that was treatable; chances were very good she would beat this and go on to live a healthy life.
And she fought. And our community rallied for her. And she was starting to pull ahead. Until she developed sepsis. This horrific infection is cruel and unfair. And it took her life.
Having to tell our three young children our beloved Seana was gone was the hardest thing I have ever had to do - as a parent and as a person. I recall standing beside Seana as her Confirmation sponsor less than a year prior as she became an adult in our faith. Now she needed to help me with mine, because I was really struggling with this.
The Fall I returned to college, I remember sitting in the classroom of my first class suddenly overwhelmed in sadness. It would have been Seana's freshman year of college. She should have been the one sitting in my chair, part of the excited young chatter all around me. And I decided I was going to live this experience to the fullest...for her.
On Ash Wednesday I shared with you how all negativity in my life will be checked at the door. You see, Seana died during Holy Week on the Wednesday afternoon prior to Holy Thursday. Every year the time of Lent is like living the entire experience all over again. But this is the year I am feeling the new normal settle in. Instead of sadness, I want those I encounter to feel the love and peace of Christ through me. For Seana.
Today's Mass was said in memory of Seana. Another of my favorite hymns, Hosea, was sung with the refrain reminding me to release the sadness of Seana being gone to allow room to embrace the gratitude of when she was here.
Seana, I love you, I miss you, and am grateful you are always with me, giving me strength to live this new life.
~ In Memory of Seana Marie Hazelton ~
~ March 23, 2005 ~