My parents have been living with me and my family during this past year. My father had congestive heart failure and was put on hospice in May. He passed away on July 16, the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. My dad was a good man, please pray for his soul. My mom, in her dementia, now remains with us, without her husband of almost 60 years.
The dreary routine has set in after the funeral of my father. The funeral itself was beautiful. It was a family reunion. The exhaustion of it was overwhelming. Then came the Sunday after all the people had left and it was just me and mom. My kids have gone back to school, my husband is back to work. I do have help from amazing caregivers, but it’s the moments alone at night with mom that are the hardest.
Right now I live in some version of 50 first dates or Ground Hog Day. Mom’s memory is rapidly declining. She gets agitated in the evening and I spend the majority of the time trying to convince her to stay with me rather than going where ever it is she thinks she has to go. Last week it was a wedding, yesterday a college reunion, the glimmers of the outgoing social butterfly my mom once was come through in all the confabulation of her thoughts.
Then comes the remembering. She asks me if “my Mike” is gone. She calls him her “main man” and she realizes he is dead, and the sobbing is body shaking sobbing. I climb into bed with her. I hold her as she asks me why I didn’t tell her (which I did), why I didn’t take her to the funeral (which I did). I lay there with her and we cry. It’s all I can do, hold her and cry with her.
As I laid there in bed with her the other night, I felt the Lord whisper, “there’s more grace in this one act of holding your mother than in anything else you have ever done”.
I knew that all the writings I have written, all the classes I have taught, all the retreats I have put on, paled in comparison to the minutes I laid in bed and held my mother. I was not able to fix any of what was happening, I was just suffering with her. And though I have been known to complain about what I am living right now, at that moment I welcomed the suffering and asked God to let it continue because grace was flowing like a river.
My beloved child, delight of my Heart, your words are dearer and more pleasing to me than the angelic chorus. All the treasures of My Heart are open to you. Take from this Heart all that you need for yourself and for the whole world. For the sake of your love, I withhold the just chastisements, which mankind has deserved. A single act of pure love pleases me more than a thousand imperfect prayers. One of your sighs of love atones for many offenses with which the godless overwhelm Me. The smallest act of virtue has unlimited value in my eyes because of your great love for Me. In a soul that lives on My love alone, I reign as in heaven (Jesus to Faustina Diary 1489 Conversation of the Merciful God with a Perfect Soul).
As I climbed into my own bed that evening after mom went to sleep, I picked up the Diary of Saint Faustina and I read the above passage. I read how he withheld chastisement from us because of her love. And I understood it.
I came to realize that God’s view of suffering is vastly different from our own. The only suffering for God is our sin; it’s that we love something more than Him and God, who is love, knows that when we love something more than Him, we are actually turning from love and we become dark in our hearts. It’s why acts of pure love are so filled with grace because heaven truly resides within them. It’s why the world is in so much pain because we cling to our comforts, our health, our science, our money, other people, more than we cling to him. And in doing this we actually miss out on how to truly love other people.
I scan the headlines these days but try not to get sucked into them. The world tries to give you an idol and tell you it’s love but the truth is nothing the world offers can even come close to the love that the God of creation offers. He has been asking us to repent, to stop trusting the ways of the world more than we trust him. It’s why he told Faustina to paint, “Jesus I trust in you.”
I can see the storm we are in and the trajectory we are on. We actually deserve chastisement. We as a society have turned to sin and darkened hearts, but as I read the above passage from Saint Faustina’s diary, I realize how much just one soul who lives in the love and the will of God can do for the rest of mankind because of the God of love dwelling within them. I want to be one of those souls. I hope you do too.
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love (1 Corinthians 13:8-13).