I've always had an affinity for the late pope, John Paul II. I'm not sure why, although he was the only pope I'd ever known in my lifetime and I'm sure that had something to do with it. But, as I got older, there was something about his gentle face, his soft spoken words... Something about him that really resonated "love".
Even as he aged, he had a smile for people and, although he was ravaged by Parkinson's at the end of his life, he wanted to be with the people who traveled from hundreds of thousands of miles to see him. I remember when he died, as I watched the news, saying a prayer for this kind soul who had watched over the Catholic Church for almost 3 decades.
When I was put in the hospital, with Bobby and Maya weeks from viability, I felt an enormous urge to pray to the late pope. So, I did. Daily. Sometimes several times a day. There was no rhyme or reason; I just prayed. I prayed for him to watch over my children who had died. I asked him to watch over Bobby and Maya. I asked him to intercede on our behalf. I asked him to watch over our doctors and nurses. When I was afraid, I asked him, as my dear friend and brother, to comfort me. When I was nervous, I asked him to hold my hand.
And I found peace in knowing he was my friend, praying on my behalf and on the behalf of my children.
When they were born 3 months early, I prayed that he would be with them when we couldnt be. That he would intercede for them in heaven for their health. That their lives would be full and long and healthy. That they would come home with us.
They are sleeping... resting gently... As I watch over them now, I am constantly amazed by them. Amazed that they are healthy and growing, running around, telling us things, eating... You know, the things that normal toddlers do. Things easily taken for granted...
When we took the kids to the Shrine the first time, we were amazed by the large statue of John Paul II that stands outside the Church.
It gave me chills when the kids looked at it and reached out their arms. At the time, they werent reaching out to anyone, except us from time to time. They smiled at him and reached for him. And I had the distinct feeling that they "knew" him. Like, really, knew him.
This has continued. As we go, they always smile, laugh, reach out, and talk to the statue. Each time, I'm touched by the knowledge that they were safe and guarded by a "holy father" during those 7 pregnant weeks and the almost 9 NICU weeks that followed.
John Paul II will be beatified this May. I wish that I could be there to see it... But I know that, no matter where we are on May 1st, he will be in our hearts. He's already Blessed to us.