Mask. A simple 4 letter word, yet today it’s one that can evoke such strong feelings about a simple piece of fabric. We see them everywhere in a myriad of colors and designs, and of course, there is rarely a day that goes by when we don’t hear about the controversy over whether one should wear one, or not. I recently read something where the person addressed a group of individuals as “Maskateers”! I’d never heard that term before, but as they say, if the shoe fits wear it! In fact, at one point I’m sure I could have qualified as the head of The Maskateer Club, boldly introducing myself with confidence, “Hi, my name is Pat and I’m a Maskateer!” Oh, but hold on a minute! I’m not the Maskateer you may be thinking I am. I’m a Maskateer alright, but one that has nothing to do with Covid and the pretty little cloths that cover my nose and mouth. Let me explain.
Long before there was such a thing as Covid I was already a Maskateer. For more than 10 years I applied my mask expertly every morning. Just as I finished applying my Bobbi Brown foundation over my face, and just after the last brush of mascara across my eyelashes, I would carefully slip my mask on. This was a full-on mask, my friends, not just one covering my nose and mouth! It didn’t have pretty colors or designs but was invisible to those around me, which was the best part of all. It was exactly what I needed at the time and I considered myself an expert in this area. When I looked up the definition of expert it says: “a person who has a comprehensive and authoritative knowledge of or skill in a particular area”. Yes, that described me, and it was also something I was proud to be skilled in! No one could see it, which meant they couldn’t see the real me. I could go into my office each day and no one would be the wiser. I bet if I had the chance to speak with you, that many of you would also be a member of The Maskateer Club, too. I’d find that each of you were also experts in this field, having perfected your skill in this area. In fact, many of you are still active members today.
The day that my girl went on to heaven I realized I could no longer be a member of this club. My epiphany occurred as I sat at my kitchen island at 4:00a.m. writing Melanie’s eulogy. When the realization hit me that I would no longer be a member of The Maskateer Club I was beyond scared. This was a part of me, even if just a façade. But deep down inside I had something else pushing me forward. Some people call it “your knower”, others call it “intuition or your gut”. I call it The Holy Spirit. God was leading me to write my girl’s eulogy and I was believing that He would give me the strength to stand up in front of everyone and share what He had placed on my heart. I’d like to share a small part of that with you today.
“As we celebrate Melanie’s life and I considered what I wanted to share with you, I realized in order to do so I would have to be willing to be vulnerable – which is akin to being naked before you all. Whew, Lord Jesus, now that is a scary thought on many levels!! The naked I’m referring to is of the heart – full and total transparency. You see, every day for the past 10+ yrs. I wouldn’t leave my house without putting on my mask. As time went on, I became an expert at it, applying it each morning, just like my makeup. Well, unfortunately, since we’re all here in this room I guess I can’t hide behind that mask any longer. The reason for wearing that mask is because Melanie had the disease of addiction. Addiction is ugly. It’s raw. It has a stigma attached to it that brings about judgment, shame and most of all misunderstanding – of you and your loved one!! I’ll admit for a long time I had quite a different outlook on what addiction was. But I want you to know that first and foremost, addiction is in fact a disease! A brain disease. It’s not something you can just “get over”, “stop using”, “be strong” or “suck it up buttercup”. It’s not that easy. I found out early on that if you know someone who has the disease of cancer you would bring a meal, see what you could do to help. Not so with the disease of addiction. Addiction doesn’t only affect the addict – it affects the entire family. About 4-5 yrs. ago as I was praying for Melanie, the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart and filled me with an overwhelming compassion for her. The anger and resentment that I felt was replaced with compassion for my daughter. It was also a turning point in how I viewed this terrible disease that is an epidemic in our society today. Thankfully, this was just a piece of Melanie’s life and although she struggled on and off for many years it wasn’t WHO she was at the very core and heart of her being. She was made by God, in His image and with His heart! And that heart is who Melanie really was! She was a loving, caring daughter, sister, cousin, and friend, and most of all, she loved Cameron with her whole heart.
Friends, I felt moved to share this very personal piece of my life with you today in the hope that you too may have the courage to remove your mask. I want you to know that although it’s scary, it is also very freeing!!! There is so much that comes with having a loved one who fights the disease of addiction – isolation, fear, anger, hurt, and anxiety, just to name a few. We have been bound by these things for so long and I believe that if they could, our loved ones would encourage us to walk a life of freedom, which will in turn lead to peace. The day I delivered this I stood in front of more than 125 people, with a great percentage of those being co-workers who were mostly the ones I wore my mask for. After the service, and in the weeks following I had several people share their own stories with me. They told me how sharing about removing my mask had encouraged them to do the same. Friends let me encourage you today to set yourself free and resign from The Maskateer’s Club. You won’t regret it and I’ll be here to hold your hand as you do.