Last night started off so promising; but I was skeptical right from the start that it would really be as easy as all that. Anthony was falling asleep at dinner so I went to put him down while everyone else finished up with dinner and the other kids started to get their pajamas on etc. We got Ben, Sophie, and Bella to bed early too. Sophie has started picking up Ben’s habitual protest: “I don’t want to go to bed!” But she still fell asleep before I’d finished tucking in Ben and Bella. Ben did his standard scampering for a snack when I’d turned out the night light. We indulge this habit because I’d prefer to give him a snack then rather than feed him in the early morning hours, as has sometimes happened when Mr Picky didn’t eat a good dinner. But after his snack he just asked me to carry him to bed. I tucked his blankets around him and gave him a kiss and then left. He didn’t protest or make me sit there in the dark until he fell asleep. So since it was early I felt confident in watching an episode of Castle with Dom. Then I went to take my shower, it was still before 10 and I was hoping to get to bed early and maybe get ahead of the sleep game for once. Fat chance.
As I got out of the shower I heard Ben whimpering. I went in and found his blankets thrown off so I tucked them back in and he settled right down. I kissed him and walked out. No problem. So I said good night to Dom and my sister and my sister’s friend Debbie who is visiting. Then I crawled into my bed at about 10:30. Just as I was about to plug in my cell phone I heard Ben crying again. Drat! This time he didn’t settle back down. He wouldn’t let me put his blankets on him. He screamed more loudly when I offered him water, a tissue, to move him to the couch. Finally, I changed his diaper, which was rather wet, doing it quickly by feel in the dark. I’m an old pro at changing diapers in the dark. Then I sat down in the chair to wait until he’d cried himself out.
Finally he sobbed my name and so I went to him. His pajama pants were soaked! I know they hadn’t been when I’d changed his diaper. I reached down and sure enough I hadn’t fasted the diaper well and there was a gap at his crotch and he’d leaked all over. So I changed his pajamas and pulled off his soaked bedding. Then I asked if he wanted to get back in his bed or go sleep in the living room. Neither, it turned out. He wanted to go cuddle with me in the rocking chair in the living room. And he didn’t want any of his blankets. Just a quilt from the stash we use to cozy with as we sit.
So I sat with my sleepy little boy in my lap. He snugged right in with his head on my chest and his little hand in mine. It was cozy and sweet and if I had to be awake I’d much rather be cuddling Ben than anxious and frustrated listening to him scream while I couldn’t do anything to make it better. Eventually his head dropped and he snored a bit. I sat for a while longer to make sure he really was in deep sleep then I tucked him in on the chair and brought his blankets from his room. Usually when I leave him in the living room he’ll stay there all night without a wake up. And indeed that was what happened.
At 11:30 I stealthed back into my bed—so, so quiet so as not to wake up Anthony, who snuffled and turned but didn’t wake. I slept soundly and blissfully until 2:30 when our door opened and Sophie walked in, clutching her blanket and sniffling. She didn’t want to go back to her bed so I gathered her other blankets from her room and settled her on the couch in the living room. What has become the usual midnight shuffle. Then back to my bed. But this time I couldn’t get back to sleep.
I lay half awake for about half an hour, listening to Anthony stirring restlessly. Finally around 3 he sat up and started wailing. I changed his wet diaper, being sure to check that it was well fitted around the legs. Then I dosed him with ibuprofen, which I’d already measured out in a syringe and left on my bedside table. This cold has hit Anthony the hardest. Everyone else is well but his nose is still dripping and he seems fairly miserable whenever the ibuprofen dose runs out. You can measure it like clockwork. He had been fairly well night weaned before this round of illness; but I don’t have the heart to say no to a sick baby who fell asleep rather than eating his dinner, so I gave in to his demands for milk and lay down to endure until he was done nursing.
When he was a baby I could often sleep while he nursed. Not anymore. This big toddler boy has roaming hands and kicking legs. He is a restless nurser and I am a light sleeper. An unhappy combination. He nursed forever. At 3 or so he was done on one side and wanted more so I switched him over. After another half hour I decided that he was done. I gently pulled him off and then rolled away from him to try to sleep. He didn’t fuss but neither was he asleep. I heard him muttering quietly to himself at my back. Dom was snoring and my internal thermostat was doing it’s usual early morning crazy act so that I felt like I was roasting. I couldn’t fall asleep though I was desperately tired. I lay in bed sobbing, trying to be quiet but evidently Anthony had kicked Dom awake and he heard me crying and asked what was wrong. I explained that I’d only had two hours of sleep and I had been awake for an hour and a half, maybe two hours, and was so, so, so tired. Dom was sympathetic but went back to sleep. I crawled out of bed and went to the bathroom, hoping Anthony would fall asleep, hoping the cold tile floor on my bare feet and some cold water splashed on my face would make me feel less overheated. I sat in the bathroom and sobbed for a long time, trying to pray and offer up my misery but mostly complaining to God and begging for some rest.
The cry must have done me some good because when I went back to bed, I just shoved Anthony over and went to sleep. I woke again to Anthony hitting me in the face and pulling my hair. The clock said 5:30 and he wanted more milk. I refused. Firmly. No! you already had your milk. It’s the middle of the night and you need to go to sleep. He whimpered a bit but then lay down and tossed and turned for a bit but finally went back to sleep. At a quarter to seven he started to do the face slapping and hair pulling routine again and I realized I needed to get up and face the day. I said morning prayer in bed while Sophie and Ben and Bella all came in to say hi. Ben spent a few minutes showering Anthony with kisses. Then when Ben left Anthony crawled off the bed and toddled after him.
My sister had agreed to watch the kids so I could go to Mass today. I’ve been going on Tuesdays; but Ben had a dentist appointment on Tuesday morning so I rescheduled. As I approached the door of the church I saw a group of people dressed very nicely in black and gray entering. Oh dear, is it a funeral? It was. There was the pall folded up on a table at the back. There was the Easter Candle, front and center. It seemed a bit weird; but I decided to stay. I don’t know the deceased but we are all brothers and sisters in Christ. When praying the Liturgy of the Hours I have learned to pray with the whole body of the Church, to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. And somehow it seemed that maybe this was the Mass I was supposed to go to. Perhaps there was a purpose to my presence here this morning. So I would attend the funeral of this unknown brother in Christ, though in the course of the funeral I came to know a little about him. His name was Frank and he was a husband and father with two grown children. His parents were there as were his brothers and sister and his wife. He died from cancer.
But before I knew that I stood in my pew in the back of the church and watched them carry his coffin in and cover it with the white pall. Suddenly my midnight tears seemed so trivial. Somewhere last night a mother wept and could not sleep because her child was dead. Somewhere sleep eluded a wife because her husband was gone. My tears were tears of self pity. Though now I cried again, this time they were tears for others.
As I was brushing my teeth this morning I was thinking about my midnight tears and a phrase came to me: tears are a grace. This idea returned again during Mass: Blessed are those who weep and mourn. I felt a bit silly this morning as I sat through the funeral of a man I never knew and cried and cried and cried. But I also felt that they were somehow holy tears, a grace, a gift. Finally I was able to thank God for my tears and then to thank him for my midnight vigils. I was able to thank him for this unexpected and unasked for Lenten fast from sleep. It wasn’t the Lent I chose but it is the Lent that has been given to me. If I haven’t always been able to accept it without grumbling and complaining, still I can see how it has drawn me closer and closer to Christ as I become more and more aware of how much I need Him. How much I long for his grace and his love. How much I long for the rest which only he can give.
I wasn’t able to go to my grandmother’s funeral this fall. Somehow being at this stranger’s funeral brought me closer to hers. And somehow it made me think of future funerals. As Father talked about the significance of the white garment that Frank was clothed with at baptism and which he is clothed with today for the final time, I suddenly saw my own children’s baptisms. One day they too will die and be clothed one final time with the white garment. Once Frank, too, was a tiny infant in his mother’s arms.
The gospel was Matthew 11: 25-30:
Jesus said, “I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike. Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.
“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for your selves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”
Here we are again at “my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Suddenly the words seemed true and my burdens didn’t seem quite so heavy. Suddenly I felt perhaps I could be childlike and trust in my Father in heaven to give me the rest that I need.
After the funeral Mass was over I had decided to linger. It would take a while for everyone in the funeral procession to leave the parking lot anyway. I had forgotten that on Thursday mornings they have adoration after daily Mass. The twenty or so regular daily Mass goers were scattered around the church. Some of them moved forward now. Before I really realized what was happening the deacon had placed the Blessed Sacrament in the monstrance. They sang a hymn but I didn’t have the song sheet. So I just knelt and listened. I lingered for a long time, just resting. Oh what a gift, that rest! Then I left to go to the grocery store.
I am still tired. Still snapping at the kids. Mass and prayer and Adoration don’t take all that away. (And despite going to the grocery store, I still don’t know what I’m going to make for dinner and it’s already half past four!) I’m still far from sainthood. I’m still not supermom. Go figure. Still, Mass and prayer and Adoration do seem to give it all a focus, if only I can remember it. There is a bigger picture than my tired, tired self can quite glimpse right now. And there is a final rest that is my goal if only I can finish this race.