Sherry Hayes-Peirce recaps her first Christmas as a widow, and how time in Las Vegas was an answer to prayer.
My Dude used to always say we enjoyed a triangle of travel every year. We traveled once a year to Hawaii and Lake Tahoe, but we made many trips to Las Vegas through the year. Watching football was definitely one of my husband’s favorite pastimes and placing a bet or two on the games was fun for him. We loved to go to dinner, concerts, shows and stay at resorts.
I remember thinking the day he died “I have to move before Christmas; I can’t be here without him.” So I spoke to family about spending the holidays in Las Vegas to create a new tradition. The day after Christmas my Mommy and second cousin rode with me to a timeshare resort where we had adjoining rooms and full kitchens. They brought food to cook meals there, and we laughed a lot on the drive.
As soon as I saw the the state line sign and casinos on the horizon, the tears began to flow. My mother held my hand as I drove and comforted me. I moderate the comments for our online Mass at my parish, and as soon as we arrived, I had to jump right in on getting that done. I then went to Mass at the Shrine of the Holy Redeemer, which is just one block over from the Strip. I prayed for God to give me strength as I reached another first.
When I returned from Mass and walked into the sportsbook we always went to, again the tears flowed. My mother was nowhere in sight, and so in the moment I thought, "I will place a bet in his honor" and the woman at the betting window indicated she was from Hawaii, which I took as a wave from Dude. She helped me place the bet and I was crying the whole time. He always had a rum and Coke, and so I ordered one and lifted it in toast to the 15 years of fun we had there. I had to go back to my room and just cry.
I thought, "Maybe this was a bad idea to come to this place." My plan to visit places that we went together wasn’t going to be soothing here like it was in Hawaii. I returned to church on Monday and prayed to God to help me—and what came to me was that my time there would be about spending time with the Lord.
For the first time in almost two years I decided to share a spiritual journey on my social media. Each day there was a post of me attending Mass and then traveling to another church to be in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament in Adoration. The trip to Las Vegas for fun and remembrance transitioned to a retreat experience.
It is said that God speaks to us in silence, and my time in Adoration really allowed my Lord to speak to my mind, heart, and soul. The most powerful message that came to me was the Scripture verse:
An unmarried woman or a virgin is anxious about the things of the Lord, so that she may be holy in both body and spirit. (1Corinthians 7:34)
This was the same verse that brought me comfort and consolation when I was single.
Another message was that my priorities needed a reset. I have worked in my parish offices since May of 2019, which are just across the street from the Adoration chapel. Every morning I would rush in to start my day and accomplish the many tasks I had on my to do list. The tasks took priority over spending time in Adoration.
Over the summer one of the parishes I work with remotely, St. Monica Mercer island had a new pastor come in and Fr. Nagel issued a #20MinutePrayerChallenge to his new congregation. So he began to share different prayer practices each Sunday. One of the practices was Adoration, and he said, “When you look at Lord in the Blessed Sacrament say, 'Lord. I am looking at you. Lord, look at me and speak to me.'” Whoa! That was amazing and simple as a reflective and meditative experience. My thoughts around being in Adoration were that you prayed the Rosary, read the Magnificat, or some other spiritual activity. To sit in silence and focus would be my new practice.
Then life happened and I put it on the back burner for tasks again. Then in the fall, our staff started having a weekly staff meeting again and our pastor brought the monstrance in for us to pray for twenty minutes of our meeting and I thought at least once a week I would spend time with the Lord. My retreat experience taught me that once a week is not enough and that it needs to be a priority. So, I now arrive to the parish just before 9 AM and head straight to Adoration before tackling any tasks of the day.
I also received a message from the Lord during this time that the spirit of my Dude is still with me and will always be with me in places that we loved to be, but in different ways. The last message was that He is my strength and provider of courage to get through the rest of my life.
As I drove back alone in my car and crossed the state line, I could hear Dude whisper “You did it Chick I’m proud of you.” No longer will I see Las Vegas as a sin-filled city, because my time there renewed my spirit and grew my faith. Now, I know what to do in 2022! Wherever you are in the world, seek opportunities to grow your faith and renew your spirit too in 2022.
Copyright 2022 Sherry Hayes-Peirce
Images: (top) Canva Pro; all others copyright 2021 Sherry Hayes-Peirce, all rights reserved.
About the Author
Sherry Hayes-Peirce is a Catholic social media strategist, blogger, conference speaker, podcast guest and contributing author of the Ave Prayer Book for Catholic Mothers. She serves as Digital Engagement Coordinator for American Martyrs Catholic Community in Manhattan Beach, CA, and St. Monica Parish in Mercer Island, WA. Sherry has a devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and is grateful to be a digital disciple of Christ.