It’s Not Over, Dear Heart

As I mentioned in my last post, one of the priests at my church recently passed away.

I guess I was fine until the funeral Mass because that’s when it sunk in. He’s gone. He won’t be walking around the church and clicking his heels or asking everyone to say “Amen!” at the end of the homily. He won’t be buying donuts or filling the candy jar in the rectory. He won’t mispronounce my name but make it sound beautiful anyway by rolling the R. He won’t laugh off the crying babies in the middle of Mass and tell the congregation that they’re letting him know it’s time to stop talking. He won’t smile down at me with the clearest and most joyful blue eyes you’ve ever seen. He won’t be around to never get frustrated with anyone. He won’t call anyone “dear heart.” He won’t listen to political rants from our other priest in the morning. He won’t hear confessions.

He’s dead.

But it’s not over.

This is not the end.

And these tears will be forgotten when an immense joy takes their place.

The pain that you’ve been feeling can’t compare to the joy that’s coming. – Romans 8:18

He lived Christ’s love.

He was so joyful. I never saw him get frustrated or angry. That wasn’t him.

And I guess I never thought about what he had gone through before I met him about thirteen years ago. But I learned yesterday that he had three brothers – two of whom had died in World War II. One died on a sinking ship and the other was killed. The third died in 2013 of cancer. Father Bratus was so devoted and cared so much for his brother.

This holy man felt pain. But that didn’t bring him down. And I need to live his example. I need to be selfless and generous like him.

You know, I feel very peaceful about all this though.

Obviously, it’s like something important is missing and the parish will never be the same, but Father was dying from liver and pancreatic cancer. And he’s in a better place. He’s not in pain, he’s not grieving; he’s clicking his heels and singing as loud as he can to bring joy to God and I know he’s succeeding.

Take courage, dear heart.

This is not the end.

End? No, the journey doesn’t end here. Death is just another path, one that we all must take. The grey rain-curtain of this world rolls back, and all turns to silver glass, and then you see it.

J.R.R. Tolkien, Lord of the Rings

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Update x 3

Howdy!

I don’t feel much like writing an introduction as I’m eating French toast and have at least three assignments to get done afterwards. So let’s hop right in:

Update #1:

This is the most important and, as the case seems to be, priority = precedence.

Father Walter Bratus went home to Heaven either late Sunday night or early Monday morning. He was one of the pastors at our church and I need to talk about him. Here’s the kind of man he was:

  • He was the kind of man who bought everyone donuts on certain occasions.
  • He never got angry.
  • He had the clearest blue eyes.
  • He was the most joyful person I’ve ever met.
  • He could (and did) click his heels before/after Mass on Sundays.
  • He greeted everyone at the ends of the pews as he processed to and from the altar.
  • Just before he processed out, he would hug everyone in the front rows.
  • Once, when I was serving, I sat two seats away as usual. He called me over to sit in the chair beside him.
  • He loved the chorizo that we sold at my father’s store, so he’d stop by every once in a while to pick some up.
  • He loved Polish food.
  • I believe he could speak Polish (at least some) as well.
  • When I would serve at Mass, he would say a special prayer asking God to make me a saint – at least for that day.
  • He never said an unkind word.
  • His homilies could get long.
  • He showed up one Lent with his beard shaved and I wasn’t sure who he was!
  • He was so kind.
  • He was a saint.

Father Bratus

http://www.dioceseofgreensburg.org/Pages/FatherBratusObit.aspx

Update #2:

I still haven’t figured out a blog title. I’m kind of fed up right now, so I’m tempted to make the switch to “Ginger and Arsenic” but I know I won’t have such a bitter attitude in the future. It’s just the teen years, right? Right? Well, I guess skepticism can last a lifetime…

Update #3:

That speech and debate tournament I spoke of the last couple posts? It went really well. 🙂 I felt sick for a lot of it from anxiety, I think, but it seems worth it. Here’s how the “levels” work:

> Preliminary rounds (we have 6 of them)

> Double Octa Finals (if we have a lot of debaters – if you break to this level, you’re automatically invited to Regionals, which is another tournament, but only for those who qualified to it)

> Octa Finals (8 rounds, 16 debaters)

> Quarter Finals (4 rounds, 8 debaters)

> Semi Finals (2 rounds, 4 debaters) I made it here. I probably would have made it to finals had I gone affirmative, but I’m honestly kind of glad that I didn’t. Now I know I need to work on my negative case. Also, those judges were insanely qualified and I’d hate to look stupid in front of them!

> Finals (1 round, 2 debaters)

I think I look like a monkey here, but that's all I have from the tournament for now.

I think I look like a monkey here, but that’s all I have from the tournament for now so I guess we just have to deal with my face. — Click for a clearer image.

Image taken by the illustrious author of Batman and Tacos. Seriously go take a look at her photography. I’m in awe.

I think someone said there were around 90 Lincoln Douglas debaters. So I placed 4th in LD, was the 14th best speaker (which means relatively nothing since there’s no objective standard of speaker point rankings), and I also broke to semi finals in my After Dinner Speech (all the speech categories broke to semis this tournament).

Overall, I’d say it was a smashing success. 🙂

And I get to do it all over again in less than a month for Regionals! 😀 *twitches*

You know what’s crazy? This is my kind of fun. An intelligent high. Wearing suits. Looking and acting professional (well, minus the acting outside of the rounds – I’m still a kid. Don’t rush me.). I spend my money to think. I get up at ungodly hours of the morning (like 5:50, 6:00?), and get to bed around midnight for three consecutive days…

I love this life.

I love you.

And I hope you know that you can do amazing things. It ain’t easy, but it ain’t impossible either.

Love,

Rana

The Hunger Games: The Mockingjay: Part 1: A Review

SPOILER WARNING. CONSIDER YOURSELF WARNED.

Last night, I had the privilege of seeing The Hunger Games: The Mockingjay: Part 1. I read the books a while back and don’t remember if it followed the book closely, but I feel that it had a huge impact.

The first two books/films were necessary in setting the scene for the third installment in the Hunger Games trilogy/series and definitely had impact, but this one just seemed like a major wake up call. As I watched, I kept seeing parallels between that world and ours.

I’ve written about it before – we read to see ourselves. And I definitely saw us.

  • I saw us in the pain and hunger – not so much for food as much as hope. Hope is something we lack so much in today’s day and age. We’re constantly being bombarded by noise and products – we’re constantly wrapped up in the superficial. Things that make us happy for a fleeting moment. But in the long run, we’re left empty. Our energy has been sucked dry by nothing and we allowed that to happen.
  • I saw us in the murder. In the scene where rebels were shot, all I could think of was ISIS. You either convert or you die. You either do as President Snow wants or you die. Seeing any connections?
    • Is it true faith if it’s forced? Is it true patriotism if it’s done out of fear?
  • I saw us in the massacres and death. The hospital in District 8. I thought of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta tending to the wounded, dying. And now, as I think about it, the Rwandan Genocide. Guys, we’re all equally human. But, I suppose, not equally humane.
  • I saw us in Peeta’s (or was it Peeta’s? 😉 ) urging for peace (peace or submission?). I think it was too late for peace. I think there does need to be a rebellion before we can attain a long-lasting impact with positive effects. People are dying, there’s injustice, morals grew corrupt and that’s what we need to combat.
  • I saw us in the relationship issues. Okay, I promise this isn’t going to be cheesy. I try to steer clear of that. Oh, and please get over the Team Gale and Team Peeta spat.
    • Gale + Katniss = mutual need for survival. Take away the mutual need. What have you got? Maybe two friends. Maybe not. The glue between them was a recipe of one part need and one part time (they had a lot of history – supporting each other, feeding their families, etc.). I don’t know that their ideals were always the same. But maybe more on that another time.
    • Peeta and Katniss, however, I believe embodied true love. Love in the most realistic sense. They’re not a Cinderella and Prince Charming. They’re both messed up and they both are willing to give up their life for the other. That’s love.
  • I saw us in the corruption. The people have less power than the government and that’s always a recipe for disaster. As the old quote by Lord Acton goes, “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” I don’t think I need to expound on this point.
  • I saw us in the selflessness and sheer humanity. When we’re suffering, when we’re all stripped of our titles, riches, popularity points – everything – we see what we really are. We’re either monsters hungry for death or we’re people fighting for the ones we love.
    • Katniss isn’t a very likable character, but she embodies certain ideals we all want. When it comes down to it, she’s courageous – scared, but going to push forward. She loves – not perfectly, but selflessly. Oh, and she can sing. I’m so jealous of Jennifer’s voice.
  • I saw us in Peeta. Though he was tortured, he still loved, he still risked it all. And, just as in the book (if I remember correctly), the longer he was in the enemy’s clutches, the worse he looked. It’s so true with us. Smoking could be an enemy. Negative thoughts could be an enemy. While not all of our demons have physical effects, they all have internal ones. They all hurt us ’till they get down to our souls and, if we’re not strong enough to destroy them, they’ll destroy us.

I hope that was comprehensive and left you with something to think about (as is always my hope).

A huge thanks to Suzanne Collins for her time and effort in writing The Hunger Games trilogy as well as to the whole film team in bringing it to life. You can read about death and imagine it, but until you see it, it’s hard for it to have as large of an impact. I cannot wait for the last installment in this film series. The books were amazing with a message to match and now the films are doing a great job in helping us visualize horror and truth.

Listen. I can’t get enough. I think I’m going to buy this when it comes out tomorrow on iTunes.

Don’t forget to like, comment, rate, and follow!

God bless!

Rana

A Tribute to the Real Heroes

(If this is only semi-incoherent, it’s because my thoughts are sort of jumbled and I have so much to say, but not the talent to say it. I wish I could pay adequate tribute to my hero, but hopefully the message comes through clear.)

Heroes don’t wear capes. They don’t hide behind pieces of metal. They don’t wield magical hammers. They don’t have all the answers. They’re not fearless. They’re often not sexy-beasts-of-muscle. They don’t fight villains.

They fight people making the wrong choices – choices that can affect the world in a negative way.

They are normal human beings until they decide they want more. They’re normal until they realize that the future is in every individual’s hands. They’re just like us. But they choose selflessness. They choose possible death because life is nothing without the freedoms they fight for.

October 7, 1917 – October 14, 2014.

My great-grandfather died the other night. I’d only met him a few times since he lived up north and I down in the south, but have been quite fond of him. I remember the telephone calls, the couple of weeks we spent up in New Hampshire cabins with him several years ago, lunch at

Young’s, his cat (Pudder), and the way he would end his calls with, “God bless each and all of you.”

Lt. Col. Charles E. McLean was a World War II and Korean veteran. But I knew him as Grampy Mac, the great-grandfather who fought for my country. Who fought for me before I was born. Who would say, “Semper Fidelis” which means “always faithful” in Latin. He would tell the hour by military time. He asked me on the phone once, “What time would it be at thirteen hundred hours?”

I think we all owe that man so much more than we could ever give. He was an active member of society up until his death. He was proud of his service to our country and when he spoke, he commanded the room. Mac Mclean was very opinionated (and he had a right to those opinions, mind you – he risked his life for ours), stood by his values, and contributed to a society that has nearly forgotten that WWII even happened.

At 97, he still hadn’t lost his sense of humor. At lunch last year, he would say, “I should be dead. But, hey, the Good Lord’s kept me here for some reason.” Or something along those lines. 😉

One of the things I admire about him is his absolute selflessness. Even though he suffered from Alzheimer’s (which was the cause of his death), he continuously gave himself to the community. He’d allow college students to board with him, met with members of society on Tuesdays for lunch (and would invite people he’d just met to attend with him), and didn’t mind sharing his history, knowledge, faith, or opinions.

Now, I’d like to share a story with you. It’s one of my favorites. And this actually happened!

In Mac’s words, “From the nearby village appeared an elder carrying a basket of apples. His tall stove like top hat defined his status. I bowed gratefully, accepted the fruit, and he returned to the village.

A young man then appeared saying, “Me Jap, Me Jap,” I started to walk downstream with him walking next to me about 20 yards away. We had covered about a quarter of a mile when a hail of bullets, with the Doppler effect of tumbling ammo surrounding us, came our way. I concluded they were not leaning on their weapons. Thank goodness their aim was very poor.” It was a North Korean Rifle Company of about 150 men.

As I began walking directly to them, the firing ceased, I picked out the commanding officer, walked up to him, came to attention saluted and shook his hand. I then reached into my uniform and withdrew ten packs of cigarettes, ten Hershey bars and began distributing them to the Commanding officer and the soldiers. Amid big smiles and a relaxed situation, I then again, saluted, shook hands, and continued on my way expecting at any moment to be fired upon, shot in the back and be killed. They didn’t shoot nor did they follow. I continued to walk and eventually met up with and joined some South Korean troops and safety.”

My great-grandpa was pretty darn cool. ^_^ And to make him even more admirable, he won’t have a funeral. He’ll be having a celebration of life ceremony (?) instead. Doesn’t get more selfless than that.

Please, if you’d like to know more about him, click here and here. Our soldiers deserve so much more than we give them. I pray for their safety and peace of mind. May God bless them and their families.

R.I.P., Grampy Mac. ❤ Thank you for setting such a positive example in a world that disrespects most the ones who deserve the most respect. Thank you for your decision to protect the greatest country in the world. Thank you for fighting the enemies of justice, morality, and basic goodness.

Semper fi.

Rana

One Year Ago Today…

…I was in Georgia. I was lounging around in bed (pretending to be asleep, I believe), enjoying my vacation, when it was announced that my grandfather had died. I didn’t know him well. I’d only met him a few times and spoken with him on the phone. He lived in Lebanon, along with the rest of my dad’s family.

deathI just remember feeling stunned. Death is a real thing. It’s not the end, but it’s real. Our bodies die. And I’d like to say I’m not afraid to die and I think I’m mostly not, but it’s something people can’t explain or tell you about, really. It’s a venture into the unknown and that scares many people. I just want to live so that when people look at me, they see hope, you know?

I don’t need apologies or anything. This post isn’t to get you to feel sorry for me or anything like that.

This post is to remind you that you never know when the end is coming. The first time I remember being in Lebanon was when I was 12. We were laughing and dancing in our party clothes because it was my aunt’s wedding. The second time I remember going was when I was 15. We cried and wore black.

Life is full of ups and downs, just like the heart monitor in hospitals. If it’s just a flat, steady line, you’re dead. And there aren’t any opportunities in death. I encourage you to life life to the full.

Do the right thing, even if it’s the hardest thing to do.

Think before you speak and act.

If you make a mistake, learn from it. If you don’t, you’ll regret it.

Know that it’s okay to make mistakes.

Apologize when you do something wrong.

Don’t be prideful. It only hurts.

I could go on, but you know the rest.  😉

I love you all so much, k? Don’t forget that. ❤

God bless!

Rana

Chatterbox: Death

Hello, my lovelies! Sorry if that sounded creepy…

Anyway! The speech and debate tournament was fantastic! We had 109 competitors, 64 of which were new.  😀 We had three rounds of debate and 2 of speech. I’m a bit disappointed that I didn’t win all three. I believe that I should have won all of them, but hey! You never know exactly what’s going on in the judge’s head, right? I won two out of three rounds. Not bad. My speaker points were high! 😀

Impromptu, however, didn’t go so well. My topics were dreams and radiance. -_- But we won’t talk about that. 😛

In case you’re new, or missed it, last month started a monthly writing prompt sort of thing. For more information, check out the description on InkPen! 🙂 Onto the death scene! 😀

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

     She slipped between the rusty black gates, which just barely managed to hang onto their hinges, and into the cemetery. A gust of wind followed her in, blowing the chains and lock so that they clanged against the iron bars. Her fingers slipped under the collar of her maroon colored jacket and flipped it up to shield her pale face from the chill.

The crescent moon shone brightly behind a mist of clouds in the dark sky. No stars shone tonight.

The girl’s eyes scanned the uneven ground. Tombstones sat in the dirt, some chipped, some so worn that the words could not be made out. The memorial she sought was one such as this.

“Who are you looking for?” a voice growled. She did not turn around. “The cemetery is closed. I thought the fact that the gates were closed and chained would be an evident sign that no one should enter.”

“He told me to come tonight,” she explained quietly as if the grave keeper would understand. He nodded knowingly.

“Ah… This way.”

The man shook his head as he turned away, muttering something about an incredible number of young people.

The young woman followed the tall, lithe figure. It seemed to fade in and out with every step. She rubbed her eyes to make sure she wasn’t seeing things. Her heart thumped hard against the inside of her chest like it wanted out.

“You prepared to pay the fee?” the man asked. He stopped and turned to look at the girl. She wondered how old he was. He looked young, but his eyes seemed older than the earth itself. “It’s pricey.”

The girl nodded as she pulled her coat closer around her slender body. The man’s top-hat covered head turned back around followed by his body. He smirked as a small gasp escaped the young woman’s lips.

“Are you ready?” he asked, his voice muffled by a navy blue scarf.

“I am,” came the answer.

“Then pay up.”

A dagger appeared in the man’s pale, bony hand. The girl accepted the weapon and, with a deep breath, plunged it into her own heart. A shriek filled the air, but the wind whipped it away quickly. The woman’s body disappeared and, in her place, a young man stood. He sighed.

“Rest in peace, my darling,” he whispered, touching the gravestone that, just moments before, had his name written across the front. It now read the name of the young woman who had died to give him his life back.

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God bless!

Rana