/ / Last Things – Love, Loss, and the Sacrament of Matrimony

Last Things – Love, Loss, and the Sacrament of Matrimony

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I was reading something this morning that had me thinking about the last time I held and rocked each of my babies. I can’t remember exactly when that was. 

I remember waking up and having a particular conversation one morning with Jon. I tearfully said, “I can’t remember the last time I nursed our youngest baby.” He reached over, grabbed my hand, and squeezed hard, telling me we both understood the bittersweet moment, knowing the last time was the last.

We didn’t know for sure; only God knew, but I felt it was pretty unlikely we wouldn’t have more babies after her, so it felt extra tender for me.

Time and life fly by.

I can’t remember precisely the last time I had to tie each of my kids’ shoes, hold their hand to cross the street, or all of the other specific moments that separated time for the kids and me. I do remember the last time I tied Jon’s shoes and walked him down the steps, Oh, sacrificial love.

I don’t remember the exact last time I drove them to school. I remember the last time Jon drove.

There are a lot of last times I cannot remember. One of my kiddos is known to say on the eve of her birthday, this is the last time I will be this age. This is the last time I will eat dinner at this age. She and Jon used to joke about it all through the years. She started her “last time” banter on birthday Eve. Those last times mattered to her.

We don’t always know when the last time will be our last for something.

But amidst the blur of passing time, some last moments stand out more than others.

I remember the moment like it was yesterday when I was a teen, and I spoke to my dear Uncle about a recent softball game my team won. Something about how he looked at me; I knew it would be the last time I saw him. Days later, we mourned his passing.

I vividly recall the last tender embrace with my mother before the world was engulfed in a pandemic, the final heart-to-heart with my father on my back deck and in the hospital before his final days. These moments are etched into my soul, their significance magnified by the passage of time.

I remember the last time Jon and I stood by my mom’s side during her hospice days, sharing in the tender moments of farewell. Before that, for many reasons, she was unaware Jon was living with brain cancer. In that hushed sanctuary, Jon bared his soul to her, offering words of love and appreciation for her impact on his life and telling her to not be afraid. Their exchange was a poignant testament to the depth of human connection and the beauty of shared vulnerability, a memory I hold dear in the tapestry of our shared journey and their journey toward heaven.

Then there’s Jon, my beloved. His voice and last words uttered in the quiet of the early morning hours of his last day—one year ago today—remain etched in my mind with pure clarity. “Heather Lebano, I love you,” he said, startling me from my sleep at 3:00 a.m. Though I didn’t know it for certain, I sensed the weight of finality in his voice; these would be his last words.

I knew life was fragile; I did not know for sure it would be our last conversation. I shared my heart with him, though there wasn’t much left to say as he looked into my eyes and listened intently. Tears fell upon both of our faces.

Indeed, those were his parting words to me. It was the last time I heard his voice. 

He would leave us less than 12 hours later.

Those moments in the wee hours of darkness gifted me the memory of Jon’s last words to me.

I don’t think I’ll ever forget. 

Early in the afternoon, surrounded by the kids and me, a sacred circle of love and prayer. We laid our hands on him in prayer as we surrendered him to heaven.

We prayed a Divine Mercy Chaplet: “For the sake of his sorrowful passion, have mercy on us…”

We read from Psalm 23: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for you are with me…”

We prayed a Rosary by meditating on the Sorrowful Mysteries. The last words from the meditation I remember hearing as Jon exhaled life were “and Mary’s pierced heart.”

My heart was pierced, too.

As Jon heard our family speak our last words in the prayers and other sentiments we hurried to say, the veil was torn in two, and we handed him my husband and their father over to Jesus and Our Lady of Sorrows. It seemed fitting the last words would commend his spirit when Mary’s heart was pierced because our hearts were pierced too. Our world went dark. 

We’ve been climbing, fighting and searching to find light every single difficult day since.

Though Jon’s earthly journey was cut short, the kids and I have endeavored to honor his legacy with each passing day. Through the tears and the ache of absence, we carry his love in our hearts, knowing that our earthly separation is but a temporary pause in the grand symphony of eternity.

As I reflect on the past 366 days—thanks to a leap year— and the myriad moments of grace and grief they’ve held, I’m reminded of the timeless truth that love endures, even in the face of loss. And so, with one foot grounded in the here and now and the other reaching to the heights—Verso L’Alto, I continue to walk this path of remembrance and renewal, guided by the light of love that shines eternal.

In the wake of such a poignant journey and our first anniversary without him, I’ve been compelled to revisit and share this reflection on The Sacrament of Holy Matrimony. It serves as a testament to the enduring essence of marriage and its profound impact on our lives, even amidst the complexities of loss and transition. As I reflect on the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony and its intrinsic connection to our journey, I’m reminded of the timeless truth that our ultimate calling is to walk each other home. It is holy ground.

In February, I was invited to write a reflection on a Sacrament for a friend’s ministry during Lent. My friend Lisa, founder of Little With Great Love, invited me to write about The Sacrament of Holy Matrimony. At the time, I wasn’t sure it felt right given my vocation, now a widow, not a wife. Yet, I felt God call me to give my fiat and trust I would be given spirit-filled words. In a few days, I quickly finished the post and submitted it. I hardly remembered what I wrote. A few weeks later, I learned it would be published on their website on my birthday and the Feast of St. Joseph, both the patron saint of holy deaths and fathers. What a signal grace for my yes.

I felt called to re-share this reflection, originally published on Little With Great Love on March 19, 2024. In honor of the words I was given to share about marriage it feels right to share the reflection titled Sacrament of Holy Matrimony and our call is to walk one another home.

The Sacrament of Holy Matrimony

“But if a man and a woman marry in order to be companions on the journey through earth to heaven, then their union will bring great joy to themselves and to others.”

ST JOHN CHRYSOSTOM

That’s why the Wedding Feast of Cana is my favorite Mystery of the Rosary to Mediate on. It also may be why the details of our Wedding Mass were far more meaningful to Jon and me than the reception and party details. The celebration matters, but the most significant part of the celebration is when we are joined together as one body in Christ as we receive and are nourished by the Sacrament of Eucharist. Two become one fed the Bread and Wine—Body and Blood.

In the mass, the bride and groom are joined together as one and are drawn up into the very life of God. Isn’t that the goal?

Just like when we come to mass each Sunday (or daily if you have that gift), we are transported into the very life of God through the Eucharist. During the Sacrament of Matrimony, the bride and groom then become a witness to those there celebrating too, in hopes of their own journey toward Heaven with their spouse, for those who sit with them, for those who are praying to meet their future spouse and those for generations to come who become part of the family married at the altar.

”Love and sacrifice are closely linked, like the sun and the light. We cannot love without suffering and we cannot suffer without love.

St gianna Molla

If you have a moment, I invite you to check out the new 428 Collection that we designed and created in memory of Jon and in honor of our devotion to our beloved St. Gianna Molla both holding space in our hearts on April 28. A few things are linked in the shop. There is more to come.

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