Expire

Now, breathe out…

 

“His body is letting him down.”

We say this about a person who is getting old or becoming sick with an incurable disease.  Why?  Isn’t the end of life death?  Are we not all born to die?  We know that death is inevitable – so why do we treat it like it’s not?  Why do we act like our bodies are supposed to remain young and healthy forever – and then, when they begin to age or weaken through illness, why do we act as though we have been betrayed?  Betrayed by whom?

Nobody is promised endless youth and health.  Nobody is promised a life that won’t end with physical death.  Nobody.

It’s like we’re all delusional, in a way.  Some say that religious people suffer from wishful thinking – but, it seems to me that almost everyone in mainstream culture is suffering from that.  In my experience, religious people know that suffering happens.  Death is coming.  Catholics are certainly reminded of this quite often, invited every day to contemplate the suffering and death of Christ, uniting our sufferings with his, gazing upon the crucifix.  And every year, when the Lenten season begins, we (and other Christians) have ashes put on our foreheads and are told “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”  Suffering happens.  Death will come.  Not even God Incarnate lived a human life without it.  Continue reading

Sensing the Great Big World: 7 Month Fetus

7 month fetusWhen your mother began her third trimester of pregnancy, you looked a lot like this
picture.  During your seventh month in utero, you began to use all five of your senses!

Sight:

Ultrasound reveals that babies at this age like to open their eyes and look around.  What were the first things that you saw?  In the dark safety of the womb, the first thing that your eyes were able to distinguish was light.  “… God said: Let there be light, and there was light.  God saw that the light was good.  God then separated the light from the darkness.” [1] You could see sunlight and artificial light as it penetrated through the uterine wall, and your pupils dilated and constricted in order to better see in your watery world.

Sound:

With your cochlea, the hearing organ of your inner ear, fully developed, you’d been able to hear a variety of sounds for quite a while.  At this particular age, you could even distinguish between different voices!  “…at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy.” (Luke 1:44)

Smell:

At this age, important parts of your nose were fully operational, so that you had a fully functional sense of smell.  Scientific studies show that infants born prematurely, at just 26 weeks in the womb, can detect different odors.

Taste:

“Taste and see that the Lord is good…” (Psalms 34:9) Swallowing amniotic fluid, you tasted what your mother ate while she was in her third trimester of pregnancy, developing that affinity for the foods of home.  Do you like licorice and those black jellybeans?  Chances are that your mother ate something anise flavored while pregnant!  Food tastes travel fast from mom to baby – reaching your little taste buds in just 45 minutes!  Sweet tastes would make you swallow faster and bitter tastes would cause a less pleased reaction that even showed in the expression on your face!

Touch:

“With skin and flesh you clothed me, with bones and sinews knit me together.” (Job 10:11)  You had been sensitive and reactive to touch from a very early age, by just five weeks in utero.  As you grew, more and more of your body detected touch and pressure and you even felt pain.  By seven months in utero, your entire body was capable of feeling touch and the grasp of your hand was even stronger than it was right after you were born!

And you were on the move!  Through a series of walking like motions, you liked to do somersaults!  You received antibodies from your mother at this age, that would protect you from a wide variety of diseases.  Small as you were, had you been born at this time, it’s highly likely that you would have survived – a chance that increases with ever improving medical technology.  Your brain waves, at this stage of fetal development, were similar to those of a full-term newborn – and you could even cry.  Yet, shockingly, babies in utero are not, by governmental law, considered human beings at this point in life.  Abortion is still legal in the third trimester of pregnancy.

© 2016 Christina Chase

from original post on my parish’s website: CatholicSuncook.org


Sources:

The Endowment for Human Development:  https://www.ehd.org/dev_article_unit16.php

Web M.D. http://www.webmd.com/baby/guide/your-pregnancy-week-by-week-weeks-26-30

Just Facts: http://www.justfacts.com/abortion.asp#Science

Photo Image: http://www.archbalt.org/family-life/respect-life/spiritual-adoption/upload/Bulletin-announ-w-baby-images.pdf

[1] Genesis 1:3

Quickening: Human In Utero

four month human fetusWhen you looked like this picture, your mother was beginning her second trimester of
pregnancy.

Your gender was determined in the instant that your life began, but it took a couple of months for your gender to “show”.  An ultrasound could have revealed your sex to your parents as early as 12 weeks.  Interestingly, gender dependent developmental differences begin to show at 14 weeks in utero – with girls moving their jaws more frequently than boys.  No kidding!

Diapers in the womb?  No, but… although your umbilical cord carried away most of the waste products from your developing body, you also had your first bowel movements at this age!  From about 12 to 18 weeks, the material expelled from your body was the same as what was expelled from your body as a newborn – meconium, a mixture of digestive enzymes, proteins, and dead cells.  Life is beautiful – and messy, too!

Still maturing in your external appearances, your tiny little face was gaining fat deposits at this stage, starting to give you those adorable, chubby baby cheeks.  And you were making facial expressions similar to your parents’ – at just eight inches tall!  With your bronchial tree and cerebellum formed, you began to gain more and more weight, producing tooth enamel, many hormones, and stem cells in your bone marrow.  Except for the top of your head and your back, your whole body was sensitive to even light touch.

You had been moving since you were only six weeks old – flipping, kicking, dancing – but, because of the thickness of the uterine wall, your mother hadn’t felt you.  By the end of the fourth month of your life, however, you were finally able to kick hard enough to cause your mother to feel something.  This first sensation of movement has often been called “quickening.”  It was a time at which some ancients believed that the being within the womb became human – obviously, they didn’t have the scientific technology and tools that we have today!  With increased knowledge comes the understanding that we are human beings from the beginning of our unique lives – that we are human beings from conception, no matter what.

Sensitive and responsive to stimulus from a very young age, at 16 weeks you reacted to stimuli, like needles and painful procedures, with the stress hormone that adults have.  Yes, little and hidden as you were at this age, you intensely felt and strongly reacted to pain.  “But here I am miserable and in pain; let your saving help protect me, God…”.  (Psalm 69:30)

© 2016 Christina Chase

from a post on my parish’s website: http://www.CatholicSuncook.org


Sources:

The Endowment for Human Development: https://www.ehd.org/science_main.php?level=i

Web M.D. http://www.webmd.com/baby/guide/

Image from: http://www.archbalt.org/family-life/respect-life/spiritual-adoption/upload/Bulletin-announ-w-baby-images.pdf

 

Human In Utero – No Matter What

Between the 8th and 12th week after your life began, you had your own unique set of fingerprints! Yet another way to identify you as YOU. Of course, God doesn’t need any physical markings to know who you are. As He says through his prophet Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.”

three-month-old human fetus

Your mother was only near the end of her first trimester of pregnancy when you looked like this picture. And you were less than five inches from the crown of your head to your heel. Small as you were, you bent your knees and elbows and wrists, moving your little muscles with increasing strength – yawning, stretching, squinting, turning your head, and moving your tongue. Your tiny face, hands, and feet were sensitive to touch. Any pressure on your feet would make your knees bend up, pulling your feet away from the stimulus. Your teensy, tiny hands were already capable of grasping.

Yet, despite your sensitivity and action, your mother couldn’t feel your movements. From her, through the umbilical cord, you received the oxygen that you needed while you breathed amniotic fluid in and out to exercise your lungs. As you sucked your thumb, the amniotic fluid that you swallowed was processed through your digestive system. Your incredibly itty-bitty fingers and toes were growing nails, and you touched your hand repeatedly to your face, where your little nose and lips were completely formed. Your facial appearance continued to change, as it continues to change through every stage of your entire lifecycle. At this tender and tiny age, in the fetus stage, you made complex facial expressions – and even smiled.

Given all of this, many might still have dismissed you as nothing but tissue, using the scientific term of fetus as a way of denying your humanity. But, you were you from the beginning. YOU – who are made to grow, developing and changing in both large and subtle ways, every day of your life for as long as you live.

And even if, through deformity or disease, your knees, elbows, or wrists could not bend, or your nose, lips, fingers, or toes could not neatly form, you were still you – and you are human. Physical appearance and abilities do not limit your humanity. From the moment God created you with a spiritual soul, animating your unique life form, you were a living human being. No matter what size or shape, no matter how limited or weak, the Creator of All delights in your existence. You are created in the image and likeness of the Divine, which has no physical criteria, and that is why you are sacred from the beginning – independent of length of time or breadth of space – and for all eternity.

You are God’s beloved human creature, no matter what.

© 2016 Christina Chase

originally posted on my parish’s website: CatholicSuncook.org


Jeremiah 1:5

Sources:

The Endowment for Human Development 

Web M.D. (uses LMP for age)

The Archdiocese of Baltimore (image source)

God Is Good

My father had open heart surgery this past Monday because of blocked coronary arteries.  He had a septuple bypass – I didn’t even know one could have that many!  We were all very surprised that he needed this and also very grateful that he had never had a heart attack.  He works so hard and with his circulatory system the way it was… I believe that God was definitely watching over him.  The surgeons were very confident that he would get through the surgery well and that it would be successful because he is in good shape, not overweight, doesn’t drink and doesn’t smoke.  Still… It was major surgery and we know that things can happen…

Thankfully, he did get through the surgery well and, so far, he is recovering successfully.  Someone told me that there are so many people praying for a good result for him that God wouldn’t dare to disappoint them.  But, I don’t think it really works that way.  First of all, God is pretty daring.  Second of all, God’s will is God’s will.  We know that God hears all prayers and answers all of the prayers of the faithful.  What that answer is, however, is hidden in the mind of God until it is revealed.  And it isn’t always the answer that had been sought.

God’s answer to our prayers may be “Yes, that is what I will and you shall receive it for it is for your good.”  Or, God’s answer to our prayers may be “No, that is not what is best for you, but I will lovingly give you what is for your good.”  And sometimes that thing that is for our good doesn’t seem very good at first.  Maybe it never does in this life.  But, ultimately, when we see the big picture, when we look through the loving eyes of God with the Beatific Vision, we will understand and see the good.  For God works in mysterious ways, ways that are far above our own ways.

I have faith that God will protect and keep my father safe always.  But, I do not want to pretend to know the mind of God.   No human does.   I am grateful for every day and for every hour of every day and I know that God is good.  I know that, in order to be a true believer, in order to be someone who truly loves God and, so, someone who is who she is created to be, then I must trust God.   When one reads the stories of the Saints and knows that there can be blessings in sufferings,  it is a very scary thing to trust God!  Yet, this is what I am called to do.  For the past week, this is what I have been trying to do.   Only God knows how well or how poorly I have been doing it.   Thankfully, God is merciful!

My family doesn’t deserve any better blessings than any other family on earth.   God loves everybody,  God desires the best, the true good, and the truest joy, for everybody.   My father will receive nothing more and nothing less.   This is what I believe.   It is only up to us to await God’s will, to be ready to receive the answer that God will reveal.   I don’t see how I could ever be truly prepared for tragedy,  for the sudden or early death of one of my loved ones.   But, this kind of thing happens to people all of the time – and they are no less loved by God,  no less blessed.   I think the truest blessing lies in understanding that God is good.   Through the easier and more pleasant times as well as through the rougher and more sorrowful times, God is good.

All the time.

God is good.

God knows my plea, God knows the deepest desire of my heart.   I put my loved ones into his hands, begging for mercy, begging that I will not be put to the test.   And then I thank God for what ever God wills.   For, whatever God wills,  God is good.

This is my faith. I don’t always live it well, not at all.  One thing that  I have learned  so far from this experience is to remember that God loves me  and created me for a very special and specific purpose.   I cannot let myself get sidetracked from that purpose.  My father gives so much of himself to take care of me and I want to make him proud.  And I want to make God, my heavenly Father,  proud.   I am a writer.   Please, God,  help me, in my relationship with my dad, so that, living and loving with him, I may be the best writer that I can be.  And thank you for his health so far –  please continue to watch over him and to bless him with recovery, good health, and strength.

Amen.

© 2015 Christina Chase

Pauses

Tomorrow, my father is undergoing cardiac catheterization.  He’s almost 69 and this procedure is fairly routine, but… This is one of those moments that gives us pause as human beings.  It can cause us to grow in appreciation, tenderness, forgiveness, and the realization of the fragility of life.  I, as a daughter, love my father and, naturally, am saddened to see him age and feel deep sorrow and dread when I think about his mortality.  And, for me, personally, unique as I am and my life is, this pause is especially… scary.

I am so completely dependent upon other people for my survival.  As many of you know, I can’t even put food in my own mouth, I can barely move anything in my body… except my mouth (as in talking a lot, as others will confirm.)  My parents have taken care of me for all of my 41+ years of life.  I am utterly grateful for them, for their self-sacrifice and loving generosity.  I truly don’t deserve it.  But, full of great love as they are, they don’t do it because I deserve it – they do it because they love.

My father has always been a hands-on father.  My mother worked at home in the hairdressing shop that we had in our basement, so, as soon as the father came home from work, he took over the responsibility of caring for us.  He always gave my sister and me our bath, changed our diapers if needed, and got us ready for bed.  And he always played with us during this time, too!  And if we were sick, though we (and he) turned to our mother for advice and direction, it was our dad that we like to have at the bedside to soothe us.  As I grew more dependent, because of my progressive motor neuron disease, my father would get up for me in the middle of the night to readjust my position or to get me whatever I needed.  My sister grew into independence – but I did not.  So his care for me continued – continues.

Again, the procedure he is undergoing is routine and, truly, a blessing.  I am thankful that they are going to be able to do this  in order to keep him healthy.   Sure, something could happen, a mistake or bad reaction, just as something can happen to him or my mother whenever they get in the car to drive somewhere.   As I get older, I find myself more and more aware of this as I am becoming more and more sensitive to the fragility of life.  Not my own, interestingly, for I have always been aware of the fragility of my own health and have been facing my own mortality since I was 13 years old.   And I have asked God to let me live for a long, long time.   As my mother has said, it isn’t natural for parents to have to bury their child.  It is more natural for a child to bury a parent.   But, I will say, that I don’t have any desire to outlive my parents.   None at all.

Of course, I can’t control this, and I place it in God’s hands willingly and gladly, for I trust God’s will.   Sometimes the thought of what God’s will might be scares me – terrifies me.   But, in the end, as long as what ever happens in the course of these next years or decades is truly God’s Positive Will, then I will do my very best to see the blessings within it.    At least, that is my true intention.  To do everything that I can to be the person that He created me to be.   After all,  I belong to God, I always have and always will.  So, too, my parents belong to God, as do all of my loved ones.   No one loves my dad more than God does.   Not even me.   And, so, I pray that God will keep him safe from harm,  from negligence, accident, or malice,  and give him good health and well-being in mind, body, heart, and soul.    And that we not be put to the test!

May God grant us all the length and strength of years to do His Holy Will.   And, in these little pauses of our lives, may we be ever grateful for the gift of life –  and the awesome gift of love.   I thank You, God, for my dad and for the blessings of good medicine!

© 2015 Christina Chase

The First Day of Your Life: Zygote

This is a picture of you.

human development zygote

Just after the first day, 1 cell (zygote) becomes 2 cells

This is what you looked like after the first day of your life.

In all the billions of galaxies in the universe, there is only one you – and you started as just one cell, about one tenth of a millimeter in size, which divided into two, and then more, and more….

It may be strange for us to think of ourselves with such a tiny beginning. But this is the miraculous truth of human life. Created in the image and likeness of God, we are yet humble creatures. Each of us begins with the divine spark of life, formed in the womb, following the design of our Creator. You and I are, indeed, fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14).

The answer to the question of when you became a human being is simple. You became you at conception, when your mother’s egg and father’s sperm united. Scientists, at this first stage in your life, would call you a zygote. And no serious scientist would deny that you were alive on that very first day.

When you looked like this picture, your genetic makeup was already complete. Your eye color, hair color, gender, general build, facial features, and genetic predispositions in health were set – as were your inherited traits, or natural gifts.

Nothing was added after your conception to fully make you a human being. You only needed nourishment and protection to help you to continue to grow and develop – just as you still do, now.

Your parents didn’t know that you existed on that day. But, God did. God knew His plan for you from the start. The unique role that you are able to play in your family and in society was always known by your Creator.  Every one of us has a particular mission – your mission can only be fulfilled by you.

You are intricately formed and wonderfully alive – as you have been from the beginning!  What was true on your very first day of life is still true today:
it is good that you are here.

© 2015 Christina Chase


Sources: see –

Web M.D.

Endowment for Human Development

JustFacts.com

Archdiocese of Baltimore