A Cry and a Gift

A Cry and a Gift June 24, 2024

gift wrapped packages in bright colors
image via Pixabay

I am very sorry.

I had so much I wanted to write this month. Being sick made everything so much more difficult. I was trying and trying to write out a stern rebuke of Biden’s executive order regarding asylum-seekers, and now that’s out of the news cycle and I should be writing another article praising his showing mercy to undocumented spouses and Dreamers. I want to write about Rupnik and the horrific way the Vatican responded to complaints about using his art. I should have said something about the Eucharistic Congress. I’m going to try to get to all this. But I was sick with colitis and from the treatments for colitis for two weeks, and then I was down for the count with heat exhaustion. And the car is still waiting for Jimmy to unclog the fuel injection and make sure that’s the real problem. My veteran readers know that the car is my safe place to stim and talk to myself in quiet, and going for drives is part of my mental health. I’m afraid that my body has responded to all of this stress by coming down with a spot of depression.

I am often this way after a lot of stressors run together. know it’ll pass. I’m just helpless for a moment.

Last night I desperately tried to write something. Writing is my living and how I support my family. The little check for clicks and the tips that come in when readers see my work get us through. We’ve been on the ropes for a very long time and writing is the only way out. But when you desperately try to work through your depression and write, you just get more depressed.

Yesterday it rained, only a little, not nearly as much as predicted, a bitter disappointment. The temperature did go down a bit and a comforting wind blew. I went outside to mope in the garden after dark. And I found myself crying for no reason.

No, not for no reason. For all the reasons put together.  I’ve been through a lot.

I desperately wanted someone to comfort me, but I also never wanted to see another human being again.

A long, long time ago, before Adrienne was born, before I was even married, I had a friend who lived on the other side of the country. She had terrible depression that medication couldn’t touch. It was much worse than my occasional slumps. All that antidepressants did was make it hard for her to make the art that she loved that gave her a sense of purpose. She lived all alone with a tabby cat she’d adopted off the street, and that cat was her best friend and  companion. The cat would greet her at the door when she came home from work. She would sit with her while she made her art. She would come in and drink water from the tub while my friend took a bath. My friend referred to the cat as her familiar and her wife. And then the cat died.

My friend started talking about dying as well. She couldn’t see that there was any reason to go on.

I didn’t know what to do.

The umbrella correct answer would be “tell someone.” Everyone says “tell someone” when a friend is acting that way, but there was no one I could tell. I wasn’t going to call the police to traumatize her and make everything worse. She didn’t have a pastor or a local friend I could tattle to. I was helpless. But then another friend from another place across the country suggested that several of us send care packages– not the generic kind with candy and bubble bath, but the thoughtful kind with things she’d mentioned had meaning to her. One of us remembered that her only happy childhood memory was playing with colorful toys at a friend’s house in the 80s, so she sent her Rainbow Brite stickers and a Candyland set. Another didn’t have much money, but she remembered that our friend liked thoughtfully gift wrapped things, so she bought her several cheap items that were lavishly wrapped. I didn’t know what to get, but when I was at the grocery store that week I saw a stuffed cat in the toy aisle. The cat was a tabby. It had a tag around its neck with a code entitling the buyer to name a star after a friend or loved one in the International Star Registry. I thought that might be an appropriate tribute. I put the cat in a box filled with silk roses, and mailed it.

Somewhere in the universe, there is a star named after a tabby cat who was born on the street. And somewhere in America is my friend, who didn’t die.

Sitting on the back porch, crying, I began to wonder what would go in a care package to me, to mitigate this depression. Surely it would all come packed in a pile of silk flowers in every color of the rainbow. There would be a message from the Department of Education, telling me my debt was discharged. A deed to the house I live in and a gift certificate for a general contractor to remodel it. A brand new hybrid Japanese car. Korean skincare. Organic heirloom garden seeds. Art supplies. Little bean bags with colorful cloth covers to squeeze when I need to stim. Ketogenic fat bombs that look and taste like a box of chocolates. A big green bag with a dollar sign on it, stuffed with cash. A cure for poly-cystic ovary syndrome. Costume jewelry. Toys for the guinea pig. Jesus.

Jesus would come stepping out of the care package and remind me that neither neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, nor even a Catholic cult in a terrible part of Appalachia, could keep me from His love. He would assure me that I’ve been going through a spot of Long Dark Night of the Soul for the past several years, but it doesn’t mean anything. He knows everything I’ve been through and considers me a Catholic in spite of it all. Many who are last shall be first, and many prim Catholic celebrities who look as if butter wouldn’t melt in their mouth shall be revealed to be as twisted as Mike Scanlan. It isn’t a mortal sin to be too traumatized to receive the sacraments; it’s a mortal sin to make somebody feel that way. His mother doesn’t hate me. The Communion of Saints are not disgusted with me. Nothing is as I feared and everything’s going to be okay.

That’s the gift I want most of all.

I suppose that means I am still a Christian, in spite of how I’ve felt.

I savored the thought of that care package for awhile.

I came in to go to bed. Adrienne and I played games on our phones and joked about this and that for an hour. And I didn’t feel quite so depressed.

I think it will be all right.


Mary Pezzulo is the author of Meditations on the Way of the Cross, The Sorrows and Joys of Mary, and Stumbling into Grace: How We Meet God in Tiny Works of Mercy.

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