Magazine article U.S. Catholic

Life Unexpected: When Plans Go Awry, Consider the Possibilities

Magazine article U.S. Catholic

Life Unexpected: When Plans Go Awry, Consider the Possibilities

Article excerpt

When Katie was 22, her 51-year-old mother was diagnosed with breast cancer that had metastasized to her liver. She was given just four weeks to live.

"She was sent home to hospice, and we spent the next weeks caring for her, sharing conversations, and watching her grow weak and ill," Katie says. "My mom was a woman of great faith and was not afraid." Katie says her mom believed her body was merely a shell and that her presence would continue on. Indeed, in only a few weeks, Katie's mother died. "I spent the next few years trying to navigate life without her," Katie says.

The unexpected death caused Katie to reexamine her life. She quit her job in marketing and went to graduate school to become an early childhood educator. "Knowing how short life can be, I wanted to make an impact if I could and spend my days doing something I enjoyed," she says.

We spend much of our lives making plans for what's next. The hyper-organized among us operate from a daily to-do list with the day's prescriptions for the minutes as they pass. Even the most laidback folks have their own loose direction for where they're going. From big career strategies to the daily calendars we keep on our phones, planning the future offers a sense of control. When a major life event changes our course, most people react first with shock.

"I would tell my mom 'it isn't fair' and ask why her?" Katie says. "My mom would respond that there was no such thing as fair, and my question should be, 'Why not us?'"

Once the disbelief wears off an unexpected life event--even a tragic one like Katie's--can bring us to a place that we didn't know existed. Unexpected life events, when we choose to accept them and enter in, can define us more fully and completely than our original plans ever could have. Because unexpected events require us to ask questions we would have not otherwise considered, they are an opportunity to discover who we are and what we are called to. Katie does not know if she would have become a teacher had she not lost her mom. Now, as a stay-at-home mother to three small children, she feels one of the reasons she cherishes her role is because her mom's death taught her that nothing is a given.

Isabela and Jorge got married in their late 20s and had decided not to have children. Both had excellent high-paying jobs. "I had prayed a lot before even marrying Jorge. I had never thought I wanted to get married," Isabela says. "But eventually, I researched marriage and talked to many people, and decided that while I wanted to get married, I did not want children. I'm someone who needs to go 'all in' on whatever I do. I knew if I would become a mother, I'd want to do that well too. I felt having kids would mean I wouldn't be able to go as far as I wanted in my career or travel the places I wanted."

Isabela discovered she was pregnant just a few months into her marriage. "I cried for three days; I considered abortion. I was depressed," she says. Reaching for direction, she opened the Bible, and it fell open to the verse from Psalm 127: "Children are a gift from God; they are a reward from him."

"I am not one to normally believe God speaks to you through an open Bible, but this was clearly God," Isabela says. …

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