Whenever I am home on July 4th, I attend Mass at our home parish, St. Gerald in Ralston, Nebraska. Today I brought Lily and Rich with me…and a dear friend, Kelly O’Donnell joined us in wearing our Joe Messina memorial t-shirts because the Mass intention was in remembrance of Joe. So we prayed for our country and oddly enough (although God works in only the ways HE knows) the Gospel lesson today was Matthew 9:18-26. I felt like God was talking directly to me, with my Joseph Matthew Messina, right by Him. The passage talks about a man who races up to Jesus in a panic because his young daughter has died, and asks Jesus to come and see her. As Jesus is heading to the house, a woman who has been ill…hemorrhaging for 12 years….reaches out to merely touch Jesus’s tassel on his cloak. She doesn’t want to bother Him…but has faith enough to know that if she could simply touch His cloak, she would be healed. Jesus does heal the woman….and sends away the crowds and people distracting the family at the little girl’s house. He raises her up and tells them she was only sleeping. So there I sit in the pew, totally relating to the father who is suffering greatly over the loss of his child….and the woman with the chronic illness. The crushing weight of it was a lot to carry. I have always been told that Jesus helps us carry our crosses, even when they seem to be too much to bear. I just need to place it at the foot of the cross. Easier said than done, I assure you. After Mass, we stayed for the Patriotic Rosary. It is one of my favorites. Patriotic songs are sung between the decades and the souls of every single state is prayed for by name. Readings from great historical leaders are also read and it gives you a sense of great patriotism to hear words from our forefathers of our country talk about how important prayer should be to all of us.
Joe was a soldier and a firefigher….an infantryman and a first responder. He served his country and his community well. These were some of the reasons I chose July 4th to have one of his Mass intentions. However, the big reason was this is a special day for Joe and Michelle. Three years ago, on July 4th, Joe asked Michelle to marry him. He had the ring for awhile…but was waiting for the right time to ask her. He had gone to visit her parents and ask for their permission to marry her….and was a wee bit nervous when Kevin, Michelle’s dad, didn’t say “yes” straightaway. He kinda made Joe stick around and talk about a few things first. Made him work for it. I remember being on “proposal watch” when we were all together in New Hampshire with family, thinking Joe might pop the question with all his family present. He informed me that he didn’t have a ring yet….so to cool my jets. Then I remember him calling me and asking me how big my diamond was in my engagement ring…because he wanted Michelle’s to be bigger than mine. lol. He took a lot of time and spent a lot of money designing the perfect ring for her, because he just wanted to bowl her over when the time came. July 4th came around and they were with their two dogs at a dog park in KC….there was a lake there and their dogs were swimming as it was pretty warm. Joe handed his phone to a random stranger and asked him to take photos. He figured July 4th was a good day to ask her. They were going to a big party with friends that night, but he wanted the proposal to be something between just the two of them (and a few wet dogs and a random stranger taking photos). He was so thrilled Michelle said yes. I am forever thankful for Joe bringing Michelle into our lives. I am forever thankful that she said yes and joined the wacky tribe that is the Messina family. She is one of ours for life…no matter what the future holds. Today has to be so very hard for her. It is hard for us as his family, but it can’t compare to the loss she is feeling today. I know she is surrounded by their friends this weekend, many of whom were in their wedding party. They are supporting her as best they can, but it isn’t the same as having the love of your life next to you in the flesh. I am sharing the photos Joe sent me that evening, three years ago. The joy….the promise of a future….all so very palpable in these photos. My love goes out to both of them today. We love you so much Michelle! Joe loved you for the rest of his life….and I hope you can still feel that love because a love like you two have doesn’t just go away.