Proudly Served Family and Country
The alarms and monitors beep and chime as I sit in ICU with my Dad.
How long, Oh Lord, will this continue?I am reminded of my own labor and delivery experiences. Dear husband nervously watching monitors and telling me when a contraction had begun, as though I hadn't noticed. Looking at me as though he wished he could take the burden from me- but knowing that he really couldn't bear it. It wasn't his to bear, at least not firsthand. But it was his to share. We were always interrupted by the nursing staff, popping in and out of the room to offer reassurance and explain the physiological implications of the charts and graphs to the engineer I married. Dear Husband paced around the room to keep his mind off of my impending discomfort and the hockey game he was missing. So many similarities; new life transitioning into the world, and a well worn life transitioning into the mysteries of the Last Things. Transition is always the most difficult part. Seems like it lasts forever. Filled with anguish and confusion, but with some reassurance that it will end gloriously. We were never meant for this world, but we cling to it like there is nothing more- at least nothing better. It is familiar and comfortable.
Who needs heaven, Miss Suzanne? I like it here, just the way things are.The image I shared with my confirmation class was that of a pre-born infant choosing not to be born. Imagine preferring to stay within the womb because it is warm, cozy and comfy. Well-fed with no worries. No way of anticipating the new experiences; the sights, sounds, and love waiting on the other side. Why bother, if I am content here? But we were not meant to stay here. My students giggle at the thought of returning to the womb as 15 year olds-- like teen aged Umberts with i-pods for umbilical cords. In the same light, I have no way to comprehend what eye has not seen, nor ear has heard.
What awaits you on the other side? Is it OK to let you go, Dad? Are you ready for the transition or do you need more time?My Dad was a proud man, gifted with a great intellect. He was in charge of every project he ever worked on. He was in charge at home. He was a strong man. Spent 4 years as a Marine and more than 20 in the Air Force. He was a family man. Always cooking gourmet meals for family celebrations and expecting everyone to attend. Dad was a traveler. Always on an adventure and trying new things. He was a teacher at heart. Whenever the 5 of us would cry "Are we there yet?," he would always give us an educational activity to occupy the time in the car. We learned quickly to stifle that chant. He was a quiet man and rarely minced words when a stare or a smirk would do. He was self-sufficient. Never had much use for God, at least not in his adult years. As I child, I never doubted there was anything he couldn't do. He was demanding. He never doubted there was anything we, as his children, couldn't do (like understanding binary systems in kindergarten or counting backwards from a hundred, in French-
“Sure Dad, whatever you say.”But time has a way of changing things, and 13 years ago EVERYTHING changed. Little by little he was stripped of all he held dear. Most of his children moved out of town to pursue their careers. His sharp intellect was wounded by illness. His body deteriorated rapidly. Year after year he struggled increasingly with the ordinary tasks of life. His pride didn't budge. Mom struggled against his resistance to tend to his every need. Then there was the devastation of Katrina followed by a cancer diagnosis. What more could happen? Should he follow the counsel of Job's friends and just curse God and die? No, there was another plan.
"Naked I came from my mother's womb, And naked I shall return. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD."Our God has given us everything and so often we walk away from Him as though our blessings and talents came from our own hands. But when they are stripped away and we are again like helpless, naked babes, we remember that He is our God and we are His people.
Were you being wooed in the desert all those years, Dad? What silent conversations were you having with your Heavenly Father?Christ exalted suffering in His most loving act of Redemption. None of our suffering has been wasted since. There is always a purpose. A purpose for tending to the needs of the suffering. A reason for the "Whys" and "How longs."
Squeeze my hand if you can understand, Dad.A reason why Dad cursed and muttered about having a priest stop by for a blessing or an anointing. A reason why so many years later he reached for Fr. Kyle after his last blessing (following our Divine Mercy Novena), and shook his hand with great respect. A reason why Father felt an Easter miracle in that handshake. A reason why we couldn't end Dad's suffering in the name of worldly, undivine mercy. To quote Elizabeth Scalia;,
"By cutting short the process, do we step off the Via Dolorosa and avoid it all, or do we merely thwart a plan for our own lives? Should we steal from our brother the opportunity for him to reach out a hand and have it immediately grasped, to have everything about his existence affirmed, over and over? Should we steal from ourselves the opportunity to love?"
Not a moment was stolen. It was all in God's time. When their conversation was over, Dad looked up toward a vision that was not of this world, squeezed Mom's hand, smiled a smirky grin, and gave up the struggle peacefully. We cried, but they were hopeful tears. Tears that said, "Jesus, I trust in you." Tears that said "Goodbye, We love you." Tears that said, "Are you there yet?" We'll keep praying and wait for the day we join you in that place where
"He will wipe away every tear from [our] eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; [because]the first things have passed away.”
Capt. Bob October 19, 1937- April 29, 2009
“We are an Easter people, and Allelulia is our song.” PJPII