24 July 2007

Mid-summer's night reflection

This summer has been a busy one. Despite the fast pace, I need to pull myself away from all of the chaos and appreciate the people in my life.

During my childhood, my mother had cancer come and go for over a decade. She endured every imaginable surgery and treatment. The experience had a profound affect on my life, probably the most profound. Initially, when I learned my mother had cancer, I was in denial. I prayed with everything I had that she wouldn't have cancer. From my grade school perspective, I never believed God would allow it. When He did, I wasn't angry at Him, I just pulled myself up by the boot straps and tried to face the crisis as best I could at such a young age.

My mother's suffering taught me to appreciate those dear to me. Never to let things go unsaid, actions to go undone. It made me both strong and sentimental. I learned that regret is a horrible thing that can't be undone. The people that are in my life now might not be there tomorrow.

Fortunately, I don't have too many regrets about my relationships with people. I did and said the things I always wanted to do for or say to my mom. I regret she wasn't around to be at my wedding and see my children, but those are things that were beyond my control. I have no regrets that I didn't do something I wished I would've or could've. I might not have done things perfectly, but I did them as best I could at the time. Knowing I did my best, that I didn't allow my own selfishness or reluctance to get the better of me and that any oversights weren't intentional, is comforting.

I also grew to appreciate just how comforting Catholicism is.

Now, my family is getting older. This may be the last summer for some of my aunts and uncles. There are a handful of them that are in their 80s. Up to this point, they all had been incredibly healthy, vibrant, exactly as I remembered them in my childhood. But, one aunt is now nearly 90 and in failing health. Another just had a stroke, one just had cancer surgery. An uncle had bypass surgery and now needs to have a knee replaced.

Even my husband's family has its share of suffering. My husband's grandmother, who is almost 90, has Alzheimers. She no longer recognizes anyone. Very sad situation. Two summers ago, she was still living on her own. We would visit her nearly every weekend. None of my husband's cousins ever did, despite only being a mile or two away from her. I only wish they would've had the knowledge I did, because now it's too late. You can visit grandma, but now she just thinks you're a kind stranger. It's not the same.

In the next few weeks, I will be making a conscious effort to get off the busy treadmill and visit my aunts and uncles. I know how I felt about the kind souls who visited my mother. I want to keep that going in a world that is becoming more self-absorbed every day. Not that long ago, people looked in on the elderly and visited the sick. We have truly lost something when we are too busy to take an hour to check in on someone or pick up the phone.


Sanctus Belle said...

Hardship met early in life does indeed make you stronger. I had a sister who was killed in a senseless car accident in third grade. My mother was devastated. My entire childhood I lived in the aftermath of her death. This had a profound effect on me. One thing that it effected in me, I don't see life as permanent and never have. Death happens, its never occurred to me NOT to think thoughts like "perhaps I shall lose a child today" "this may be the day I die" "I could be widowed today" Its not morbid, its just business as usual in my soul.

Our society is so unnaturally separated from death - its just a thing that happens in hospital and nursing homes. We don't see it, don't ever really face it.

After death occurs in the immediate family, nothing else seems so bad. So losing a job, home, health - that seems to be not such a tragedy when you've been through so much worse.

There are so many fruits to suffering and hardship. Thanks for this post.

swissmiss said...

Thanks for the kind words to my preachy post. You said it much better, however. Suffering does teach you a great deal, but not in an obsessive way, more in an appreciative way. You see the blessings God has given you in a much better light. I don't worry that my aunts and uncles will pass away because I know it's coming. Death is a part of life and I try to gently show my children that. My son asks where my parents are and I try to explain as best I can without making it scary. At this point, he thinks they are in Heaven, which they may well be, but the discussion about Purgatory and Hell can come a bit later. I have a large family, someone was always dying. My parents took me to funerals at young age and I learned it is just a part of life and didn't ever fear it. My husband's family fears death, they don't take my nephews to funerals, it's a scary and removed thing. They still comment about how my father faced death with such grace, peace and dignity. I wish they would find the peace that the Church offers through its sacraments and doctrine and entrust themselves to Our Lady as she certainly blessed my father and me during his passing.