Finding Faith

If you have ever been to my house in Virginia Beach, you would have noticed more pictures of Jesus and Mary than ones of my brother and I.  I cannot talk about my faith without mentioning my mother’s strong faith.  When I saw my mom after being diagnosed, she looked me in the eyes, put her hands on my cheeks and said, “I’ve been going to church everyday for 30 years for this moment.  God loves you.  You’re going to be ok.”

Part of my mom’s unwavering faith came about while she was pregnant with me.  At first, my mother was unaware she was pregnant and a doctor prescribed her medication which could cause severe birth defects.  Later during the pregnancy a doctor told my mom that there was a strong chance that I could be born with birth defects.  He provided her with the option to terminate the pregnancy.  My parents went home and prayed and continued to pray throughout the pregnancy.  Thankfully, I was born without any birth defects.  So I guess God has been looking out for me since day one.

My mother showed me the importance of helping others through her own actions.  Many times I would accompany her to help volunteer at thrift stores, food banks, and soup kitchens.  I saw first-hand how valuable those interactions were.  Through those experiences I found joy in helping others and learned the power and simplicity of being nice.

Even though I grew up in a Catholic family that went to church every Sunday, I wouldn’t call myself a devout Catholic.  As a boy, my favorite things about church were the free doughnuts after mass.  As I grew older my behaviors didn’t change too much.  During my high school years, instead of going to church, my brother and I would go out for breakfast, check the waves at the beach and stop by church after mass to pick up the weekly bulletin.  We would show the bulletin to our mom as “proof” that we went to church.  Since being diagnosed, I’ve made my faith more important by changing my schedule at work to allow time to attend daily mass, doing pro-bono psychotherapy for fellow parishioners, and joining the parish council.

When I heard the words “you have cancer” my mind jumped straight to thoughts of death and dying.  The words “miracle” and “faith” are what get me through the hard times.   I now see daily miracles that I overlooked before in life.  Now that I am facing death I think about an afterlife and wonder about what it is like.  Especially during the season of Lent, I would get anxious about walking into church everyday because the message would focus on either death or healing (I preferred the healing readings).  Whenever I am feeling down, I pray and something good always happens to cheer me up.  Like a favorite hymn sung in church that reminds me of my grandmother, a sermon that speaks to me, vivid dreams of loved ones who have passed away, friends (some that I haven’t talked to since grade school or college) calling and texting me that they are praying for me and telling their friends to pray for me, random Rocky meanings, or my daughters doing something that sparks joy and hope.

I’ll always cherish this memory from when I was newly diagnosed.  I was changing Anabel’s diaper and I became overwhelmed with sadness because it hurt to think…I might not be there for my children.  Will Anabel remember me if I die?  I began to cry on her belly.  She reached for my head in a comforting way, almost like expressing it’s okay, you’ll be okay.  Moments like this I can’t explain and don’t care to because it’s exactly what I need at the time.  I’ve experienced these occurrences many times and it’s impossible to describe the inner peace it creates.  I believe God holds close those that are suffering no matter the outcome and I know he’s holding me close.

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