Saturday, April 23, 2011

the two of us.


I remember feeling uncomfortable when you told me you were going on that mission trip to Mexico. The Catholic in me couldn’t stop thinking about all the ways in my life that I’d been made to feel like my faith wasn’t real or valid by so-called Christians, many of whom went on mission trips, storming into deprived villages and telling the inhabitants that they’d give them clean water if those inhabitants promised to love Jesus.  A huge part of me wanted to beg you not to go, because something just didn’t feel right about it. The poor planning, the lack of proper pre-trip training, the stories I’d heard about what had happened on trips years before: marriages ending, personalities changing, etc. Four years you and I built together, despite our theological differences. Four years of the deepest love and trust I’d ever known here on Earth.

I was uncomfortable, but I supported you. I raised money for you. I prayed for you. I helped you pack. I gave you my pocket rosary to take with you and taught you the Hail Mary prayer in the car on the way to the airport. Because you asked me to. Because you were interested. Because you loved me.

{You rolled the blue crystal beads between your fingers, the only physical connection to me you would have for the next ten days.}

Ten days later, when you returned, my worst fear came true. You called to say you’d landed state-side, but you didn’t say you’d missed me.  You didn’t say you couldn’t wait to see me.  You didn’t say “I love you” before we hung up. When you finally made it back to Pittsburgh, you didn’t even call me.

You text messaged me.  You text messaged me.

I was so confused. Four years together, you and I.  A commitment.  Love.  Suddenly, vanished. You said you couldn’t see me because you said you had to “pray and process with your brothers and sisters.”  I cried.  You were stoic.  Distant.  Not the loving, tender man I taken to the airport ten days prior.  I finally begged you to let me come over and see you.  And when I arrived at your apartment, you gave me a patronizing hug. Your first words to me were, “Better now?” And I continued to cry.

We sat on the edge of your bed and you said that you didn’t want to have to say this to me, but you had to: You were going to be a missionary. God had spoken to you in those few days in Mexico. And you couldn’t have me back here clinging to you when I should be clinging to God.

You said we never should have been together.

I ran into the living room, sobbing, searching for my keys, desperate to get out of the nightmare I’d just walked into.

And then you insulted my Catholic faith, going on and on about idol worship and Mary worship.
And you said you’d compromised the past four years of your life with me.
And you said you’d been so patient with me to come to Jesus in the way you had, but that you didn’t know how much more patient you could be.
And you said you’d lost the rosary I’d given to you.

You, on one end of the living room, those horrible words dripping off your tongue as thick as liquid daggers.  Me, on the other end, sobbing, confused, betrayed.  In that moment, you claimed God had spoken to you. But to me, He was nowhere to be found.  Least of all in your words.

I ran from your apartment, destroyed.  I don’t even remember how I got home. I only remember my neighbor carrying me into my apartment and me collapsing on the floor.

I died that day.


Every day for six weeks, except on Saturdays when there were weddings, I came to You after work and after Mass. I knelt before You, my knees on the cold, white marble, the Communion rail only a formality of separation between us.  {Because You and I both know there really is no separation.} A mere ten feet away, surrounded by the warm glow of candles carrying prayers to Heaven, was The Blessed Sacrament, Your eternal gift of Yourself to me. My knees ached on that marble, but their pain was nothing compared to the earthquake that had taken place in my heart.

I came to You because I needed You, and I knew that You wanted me so desperately to come to You. To fall on my knees, to weep at Your feet, to cry out to You so that You could wrap Your arms around me and around my heart and mend it all to complete healing.  I needed to believe that You would not cause this kind of pain. That his actions, in Your name, were not at all in Your name. “This isn’t You,” I said. Those were the words I prayed to You over and over every single day for six weeks. Only they weren’t quiet words.  Instead, they came as heaving sobs, crumbling me from my knees down to a curled up ball in front of the Blessed Sacrament. Day after day, this was my time with You.

{I’ll never forget the woman kneeling in the first pew that Wednesday afternoon who so kindly knelt down next to me, put her arms around me while I shook from my sobbing, and said, “You’re in the right place, honey. You’re in the right place.” You had placed an angel there for me.}

You let my weeping echo off the walls of our Cathedral--my second home--to remind me of the greatness, the enormity of Your love.  You never left me.  You comforted me as I knelt before You on the cold, white marble, reminding me that all things that come from You come as love. You were there. I felt You. And I knew that Your loving kindness was not responsible for the unkindness he had shown to me when he returned. 

You brought me back to life.


And I will never want to leave You.

{NOTE: It took a tremendous amount of courage to write this post, but they always say that if you're sweaty and sick to your stomach before you hit publish, that's all the more reason to hit publish. This part of my life occurred over a year and a half ago, but the pain of that memory still sits in my heart. And I still miss him.}

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


When I was staring at the ceiling this morning at 5:03 a.m., I wanted to scream. But I was too tired. And the sleepies in my eyes were heavy, just like my eyelids. So, instead, I screamed last night, as I leaned against my desk. I cried and sobbed and cursed and clenched my fists.  Do you know that I questioned my worth last night? Because of your words? Because of your impersonal words typed up on a piece of letterhead paper, heavy with ink that was more dagger than liquid?

I questioned. my. worth.

Your initial silence was hard enough to bear. Waiting for some acknowledgment that I existed.  And yet, it never came.  I have given myself to you for 14 years. In more ways than one. I have been dedicated and steadfast and honorable. And yet, you treated me like nothing. Like the emptiness of emptiness.

Well I am not empty. I am full of so many good things. Things you will never get to see or feel or hear or learn from. That's right. Learn from. I could have taught you so much. In fact, that day we met, I did teach you something--something you didn't expect to learn. I solved a problem for you. Before we even had a commitment to each other. I solved a problem for you, because I care. Because I am honorable and good and am thinking of someone other than myself.

But you are not.

Your words. On that letterhead. The ink. Heavy like daggers.

Do you know that I burned your words? I skimmed them, they punctured me, and then I burned them. I took the match, struck it against the box, put the fire to your words and watched them burn into nothingness. Because that's what they're worth. Nothing.

But I am worth something.

{If I could escape through that window above, I would.}

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

i be on the tv.

If you've been following my blog for the past year or so, you know that I have an alter ego: Secret Agent L. That's right, I'm a secret agent.  I go around the city of Pittsburgh and leave little acts of kindness and day-brightening for unsuspecting individuals to find.  And I have over 1,700 Affiliated Agents in 8 countries who do the same thing.  It's terribly fun.

When the national media picked up on my project, I was soon bombarded with invitations to do speaking engagements and various collaborations in an effort to spread the message of the importance of kindness and community.  It has been tremendously rewarding.

This morning I was invited to be in KDKA's Pittsburgh Today Live to talk about the Secret Agent L Project in collaboration with the Allegheny County Library Association’s One Book One Community Program. It was a lot of fun, and I feel so honored to have been invited to be a part of today’s show.  The One Book One Community Program has been a wonderful project I've been a part of for the past several months, as it promotes reading and community--two things I love!  And this year's topic for the program? Kindness!  I was asked to be the honorary kindness ambassador, and let me tell you: it has been incredible. I hope you'll check out their website and participate in this unique event!  And I hope that you'll make intentional acts of kindness and community-building a part of your daily life!

with love from Pittsburgh,