Even though I'm here to support my wife in maintaining her sobriety, I'm finding that those very same tools in place to help her, are forcing me to look at myself in ways I never have. I'm a Catholic, I was raised in a country where the majority of those living there are Catholic as well, so, from the time I was old enough to understand what was being said, I was taken to church. My mother was very devout, she often went to Mass twice a day, and while she never demanded it of us, either my brother or I would often go with her. As was the case when we would ride the train with our father, this was our time alone with her, and even as young as we were, we understood it meant as much to her as it did to us. I don't think either of us realized how much those times with her meant though until we lost her and suddenly it was just Mass again.

When I met Danijela, I again found a woman who's greatest strength could be found in her faith, and when the time came for us to have children, it went without being said that they too would be raised as we had been. Looking back on it now, I am almost certain that it was Danijela's faith that enabled her to face all of the hardships that we confronted during the war. Looking back on it now, I realize how much time she was left alone while I was at the hospital. Not only was she left to spend all those hours essentially imprisoned in our small apartment with our two young children, but she did so much of the time without electricity, and running water, and with only the most meager of supplies.

So, why now, do I feel it important to talk about this, especially as it seems it has nothing at all to do with what I've been asked to talk about?

Even though I had turned my back on my faith when Danijela and our children died, I think I always felt an emptiness without it. It wasn't until I met Bishop Stewart, until I acknowledged those feelings, that I began to admit the truth to myself. It took several more years and my near death in the Congo to fully find my way back. When I did return to the Church I realized how much comfort I found there, but, where once my faith was something to be shared with those I was close to, this time it was almost a secret. My return to the Church, my participation in Mass and communion were things I did alone and it took the birth of my son for me to finally speak openly about it.

When Abby gave birth to Joe, we weren't sure he would survive, and I knew I needed my faith more in those days then I had at any time since the day I lost my family. I remember not just praying to God for my son's life, but asking him to see Abby safely through all she was facing, and I realized how important it was to me that Joe be baptized, just in case. I didn't want to think the worst, but, he was so small, and there was only so much the doctor's could do. I just couldn't take the chance that something might happen, and despite her own feelings Abby finally agreed.

Which brings me back to where we started, or where I meant to start. I have always believed that we know when we do wrong, as a Catholic, we're taught to admit those to ourselves and to God so he can forgive us and we can forgive ourselves. It isn't always easy, but, it's the way things are, however, admitting wrong-doing to someone else, that's something completely different, and that is by far the hardest of the three. It's one thing to know your own weaknesses and flaws, but, quite another to admit them to others, and I suppose that's what causes us to fail in the long-run, especially if we have no one or nothing to turn to once it's known.

Muse: Luka Kovac
Fandom: ER
Words: 725
This is a difficult question for me to answer right now, not because I don't know the answer, but, more because I know in answering it I'll sound as if I'm faulting Abby for her recent transgressions. The truth is, I know that in some ways I've fallen much farther then Abby did, with the only difference being that I was single at the time and her slips came more recently and so she betrayed not just me, but, the vows we made to each other.

So, with that in mind, I guess I see the answer to the question much the way it was taught to me as a young child. A moral person abides by the laws of God, and those set by the legal system, they remain true to their word, and to their spouse. I know, it seems so simple but, I know it's not, and even knowing that, it doesn't change the fact that I know Abby holds me somewhat responsible for all that happened.

When I first got the call about my father, there was no question about my going home to Croatia to be with him. My first thought was that I would bring him back to Chicago with me so I could oversee his care, but, my father was old, and stubborn, and quite set in his ways, and no amount of coaxing, or bullying would make him leave his home, his friends, or the land he was born on. I wanted Abby and Joe to go with me when I first went over, but, we still didn't have a passport for Joe so, we had no choice but for Abby and him to remain behind.

I hadn't planned on being gone for as long as I was, and looking back on it now, I realize how hard it had to have been for Abby, but, it wasn't easy for me either. Knowing that though, doesn't relieve her of the blame of putting our young son's life in danger with her drinking. Of course, I only learned of this when I came back to Chicago, and even as she revealed the truth of her drinking there remained another secret that she'd keep to herself until much later. I'd only been back in Chicago a couple of days when the news of my father's death reached me. I had to go back to Croatia, and this time I wanted my family with me. As hard as the decision was, Abby decided instead to enter rehab, so Joe and I said our good-byes to her on the street in front of our apartment with the hope that within the next 30-60 days she'd be joining us there.

I hadn't realized just how much I'd missed Abby until I saw her at the airport in Dubrovnik, and in those moments I thought I could forgive her everything that had happened up to that moment. If only she hadn't decided to reveal that remaining secret, if only she hadn't revealed that she'd not just started drinking again, but, that she'd slept with her boss as well. How was I supposed to forgive that? I'm a Catholic, I vowed before God to stay with her for the rest of our lives, but, how could I when she had betrayed everything we had between us? Everything that I thought we had suddenly seemed to crumble around us, and by the time we returned home to Chicago, I knew I had to have some time to try and make sense of things.

I wish I could say that things between Abby and I were perfect now, but, they aren't. We are trying to work things out, and as part of that I've moved home again. We've decided to leave Chicago, in the hope that a new start will make it easier to let go of the past. We know it's not going to be easy, Abby will have to work hard to maintain her sobriety, but, for the sake of our son, for me, and for our marriage, she's determined to overcome this. I wish I could say I believe everything Abby is saying now, but, with all that has happened, regaining my trust is something that will take time. I'm not ready to give up on her though, especially knowing how far I'd fallen at my worst. Maybe that in itself will prove to be the secret to Abby's success in overcoming all of this...strength of family, or at least that's what I want to believe. That's why I'm here.

Muse: Luka Kovac
Fandom: ER
Words: 816
I was raised Catholic, as my parents had been, and their parents before them. When it came time for me to wed, it was no surprise to anyone that Danijela was also Catholic, most of those in Croatia are, and we both knew our children would follow in our footsteps. Who would know that one day could change what it had taken centuries to create, but it did, and on the day I buried my wife and our children I turned my back on my Church, my Faith, and my God. How could I continue to believe in someone who would steal so much from so many?

I told myself I didn't care, I told myself that I didn't miss the sense of belonging the Church gave me. Mostly though, I focused on the hate I felt toward God for taking my family away from me, because if I was doing that, I could almost ignore the emptiness that I was left with. Almost, that's the key word you see, because no matter how much I wished it away, no matter how far away I ran, or how much I tried to change my life, that emptiness was always just that small black and white photograph away.

You can only ignore things for so long before they start to eat you alive. Like a poison, they rot you from the inside, souring you to everything and everyone. I'd gotten like that, wandering through my life as if even I was only an observer to it. Never , letting anyone get too close for fear they would see something I didn't want them to see, never letting them know how I really felt. I couldn't stay in one place for too long, because if I did that it meant talking about myself, and if I did that it meant having to endure their looks of pity, or worse.

You know, it's funny, if you tell a lie long enough, you can almost start to believe it yourself, or at least I wanted to think so, and maybe it might have worked if only fate hadn't intervened. I say fate, some would say God himself decided to take action, and so he sent to me the man who would act as God's voice, the man who saw through my lies even as I continued to tell them. I'll never know what it was about Bishop Stewart that made him able to see in me what others seemed unable to see. How, in those few months he touched my life, he was able to heal wounds to my heart and soul that had been festering for almost nine years. Most importantly though, I'll never know how this man, this servant of God, was able to not only lift the mantle of guilt that I had carried since that day I'd lost my family, but why he would offer to take that burden upon himself.

I'm not going to lie and claim that Bishop Stewart hearing my confession that morning allowed me to achieve some miraculous religious experience. I'm not going to say that suddenly my world was all bright and beautiful again because of what happened in the wee hours of that morning. No, it wasn't anything like that, but, he did allow me to begin the journey back, a journey that had it's ups and downs, and still does, but, now, I'm no longer taking this journey alone, I no longer feel like I've been abandoned.

If I need any stronger proof than that, I need only to look back on those days I spent as prisoner to the MaiMai in the Congo. In the weeks before going to the Congo my life had been spiraling out of control, a relationship I'd been very committed to had fallen apart, I was drinking too much, sleeping around, living fast. Sure, I could lie and say I was going to the Congo for all the right reasons, but, in truth, I was back to running away, and maybe too, I was hoping death might find me, I know there were at least two times I taunted it before it very nearly found me. It didn't find me though, it took others, including one who was attempting to argue for my life to be spared, and again I found myself wondering why? After Patrique was shot though, I was sure my luck had run out, it was only a matter of time as one by one those kneeling near me were drug to a near-by tent to meet their deaths.

I'm not exactly sure when I realized that except for Chance and her mother, I was the last one there, and for the first time in eleven years I struggled back to my knees. It was in his hands now, and when it was over I would finally be reunited with Danijela and our children. I could hear the music, the choir of angels, and even if I couldn't see them , if I couldn't see him, I felt his presence. For the first time in eleven years I found my voice, the words to the prayers came as easily as if they had been offered minutes before instead of years. I truly believe it was his hand working through Sakima that allowed my life to be spared that day, for her to risk her life and the life of her daughter, to plead for mine to be spared, how do I ever repay that?

In the end I know the answer, though I may not have at the time. My life is so different now, with Abby, and Joe I have again what I lost all those years ago, and while we may be struggling, we aren't willing to give up fighting to keep our marriage alive. Abby isn't Catholic, she did agree to allow Joe to be baptized as one, and while I'm not as devoted as I once was, I am finding that more and more I find comfort in visits to the church, or in my prayers. The hate I carried for so long is gone, and with that I've found a peace that I had forgotten existed. I do believe that God is watching over me, that he's watching over all of us, and in that too I find comfort. It's hard to express how it feels to know I'm no longer alone, to wake-up and realize that the emptiness I've known for so long is no more. I love my wife and son, and for the first time in seventeen years I can honestly say I'm happy and looking forward to all that life has in store for us.

Muse: Luka Kovac
Fandom: ER
Words: 1164
For almost ten years I turned my back on the Church. I denied my faith, but, if I am ashamed of one thing more than all others, it is the hate I held in my heart toward God for taking Danijela and my babies from me.

I was raised a Catholic in a country where religion plays a very large part in our lives. I remember as a child going to Church with my Mother and being mesmerized by the music, and I sometimes think if I hadn't become a doctor, she would have wished either my brother or I had become a Priest. It didn't happen for either of us, but, our faith still played a large part in our lives. It was as natural a part of who I was as breathing or eating, and if someone had told me I would ever think differently, I would have called them crazy.

When I met Danijela, it was a surprise to no one to find that she too was Catholic, and as we discussed our future, there was no doubt that our children would be baptized and raised as Catholics as well. I don't know that either of us thought about how much our faith meant to us, or even influenced our lives until the war began, and then we found ourselves calling on it for strength far too often.

On the day our apartment building was hit, I prayed more then I had prayed at any time in my life. God had already taken my baby boy from me, I'd seen him the moment I'd entered the ruins but, he could still save my little girl, he could still save my beautiful Danijela. For hours I did CPR on Jasna, knowing that if I stopped I'd lose her as I'd already lost little Marko, too late I realized that my wife was bleeding out, and when exhaustion finally forced me to stop, she was gone too. Why had God deserted us? What terrible things could my family have done to cause him to desert them when they needed him so desperately?

I buried my family on a cold November morning. There was no one there but the Priest and myself, and on that day I swore I would never again set foot in a church. If he cared so little for us then I wanted nothing more to do with him either. Feelings of hate began replacing my faith, and if I prayed for anything in those final days before I realized the futility of it, it was only that he would find some way to claim my life so I could once more be with my family.

It never happened though, and for over nine years I wandered lost, and alone. In those years I turned my back on everything that reminded me of those I had lost, everything that made me feel anything but my anger. I survived that way for nine years and I'd almost convinced myself that I had succeeded until that day I met Bishop Stewart, and somehow he found a way to see inside me.

Some would say God sent Bishop Stewart to me, the Bishop himself felt it was his calling to take the pain I had carried inside me for so long with him as he moved on. I'll never know how he knew all he did about me, how he saw what I thought I concealed so well, but, in time he opened the door I had closed so long ago. On the day he offered to hear my confession, I admit to being afraid, I'd told no one all I had gone through that day. I'd kept that nightmare for my own, and now, he was asking me to turn it over to him and the man I had held responsible, and I did.

How do I describe the feelings I felt when it was over? Relief, sadness, loss, they were all there, all but the one I had held so tightly for those nine years, the blame was gone. Finally I saw things through his eyes, the hopelessness of it all, there was no way I would ever have been able to choose one over the other so all he could do was take them both. It's my destiny to live so that their memories stay alive, and that too was a piece of the puzzle I'd failed to remember. More importantly, I was meant to live for those who were still to come, for Joe, for the life I would one day have with he and Abby, God knew that even as I was grieving for my first family.

I'm reclaiming my faith now, slowly, small pieces at a time, and while it may not work for Abby, it's a part of who I am, who my family was, that I want to share with my son. We baptized Joe when he was still in the NICU, one day I'll explain all that to him. I'll share other parts of the Church with him as well, and as my Mother did with me, we'll go to Mass, and maybe, just maybe, he'll enjoy the music as I did, and within it, he'll find his faith, and know about the special angels that I'm sure are watching over him.

Muse: Luka Kovac
Fandom: ER
Words: 902
I remember the feeling eating at me as Joe and I stood there in the street watching Abby drive away from us on that night she had decided to enter Rehab. I didn't know then just how bad things had gotten for her while I had been away nursing my dying father. I didn't know then that she had not only cheated on me, but that she had put our son's life in danger, these were things I would learn much later. All I knew that night was that in her mind, because I had chosen to go to my Father's side when I learned of his illness, because I had stayed longer then I'd intended, she had decided that the only way she could get by was by drinking.

I wish I could say I understood how it was my fault that she choose to drink while I was gone, how she could possibly use my being at my dying father's bedside as an excuse to sleep with her boss, but I can't. I don't know that I ever will understand how she made that leap in her mind. It wasn't like I had a choice over where I wanted to be. How she could possibly believe I could choose to miss six months of time with she and Joe. My father was dying, I'm a doctor, I couldn't ignore that, I couldn't just walk away from him and go back to my family and wait for the phone call I knew would come sooner rather then later.

It had been years since I'd seen my father, when I'd left Croatia after the war, it had created a rift between my brother Niko and I that I know my father was sure would never be healed. I had to go back not just for him, but to try and fix those things before it was too late. I'd have given anything if Abby and Joe could have been there with me, as it was that wasn't possible, but, it didn't justify what she did, not to me or our family.

I can't undo any of what has happened all we can do now is struggle to repair the damage and hopefully we'll come out with a stronger marriage for our efforts. I love my wife, and as difficult as it is for me to accept what she did I can forgive her, trusting her again may take a little longer.

Muse: Luka Kovac
Fandom: ER
Words: 415