PRAYERS

In Every Season, Love

tree-5255288_1280

          The world is in seasons, it seems, in more ways than one. If it’s summer for some, winter is hovering close for others.

          In the midst of our own peace and happiness, on a golden Friday, my Muslim next door neighbour informed me that his young son-in-law, a father to two young children, had contracted Covid and had been placed under induced coma. I cannot imagine how hard it must have been for the families involved. The fear of losing a boy they had come to love as their own was compounded by not being able to reach out and offer physical help to their daughter and their two grandbabies living so far away, due to the nationwide lockdown still in effect here. The morning after the most bitter of nights for them, my husband caught a glimpse of our neighbour’s wife. A soul with the most golden of hearts, her face was now shadowed with grief.

Life changed from one moment to the next

          I heard that comment made on tv by a loved one to one of those missing in the Florida condo collapse and I realised how often I had thought the same thing these past days. Sudden changes. Surprises. Shocks. In Florida, in the deepest golden blue of summer, bitter winter came. No comfort of months or weeks to prepare for the change. No gentle leading to the hard of cold and pain.

          Visiting my garden the day after the news, I worked at the beds away from our fence to assure my neighbours that I wasn’t looking for conversation. They already knew our family’s prayers were joined to their anguished pleas to God. Even in our own summer, we must do all we can for hearts wintered in.

          Today, unexpectedly, my neighbour sent us dinner over our fence. It was a heartwarming dish expertly made by his wife, one we have enjoyed multiple times over the years. It is also a time-consuming and painstaking dish to prepare, effort nearly impossible under the shadows of fear and sorrow. We immediately knew then that joy had come to them. I flew to my phone and heard their hope for myself. They were still not out of the woods yet, but hope had come.

From one moment to the next

          Steeping back and looking over all that has happened recently, I learn again that the seasons of life come to all, rich or poor, what marks us to receive more or less from each season not easily understood. How long the seasons stay is beyond anything we can determine, for they lodge at will, the summons to come and leave answered in obedience only to the Almighty.

          Someone tried to teach me a long time ago that a strong, unwavering faith and knowledge of sacred scriptures is a surefire way of facing down times of strife and difficulty. True as that may be for some people, it wasn’t for me. The wall of faith and knowledge that took me through early troubles all but crumbled later when God tested us 14 years ago. In standing before my God, all I had was my naked anguish and raw grief. There were days when Scripture shone light through the impenetrable darkness of debilitating grief; but there were many more when even much loved verses did not make sense, when it seemed like they made their way past the door of my waiting heart, pausing not.

          Today, I asked God once more what takes us through the seasons of life, and what helps us to leave our springs and summers to meet others in their own seasons.

          The answer came, as pure and clear as a new sunrise.

It is love.

Children Are Prayers

1236841_655976891081480_1785580980_n[1]

          I was raised by parents who were never very comfortable with parenthood. Their joy in raising my siblings and I came in spots and spikes – and that too only when we said something funny or brought home a good report card. For the most part, it was all about fuming and grumbling. They let us know, in a variety of ways, that we were a burden their friends’ children never were.

3fd9559201a24b11a7fcce82fffadaad[1].jpg

          I grew up never expecting tender, loving care if ever I fell sick, because even a cough brought on my mother’s temper and a dirge about how my illness kept her from a good night’s sleep. So, I learnt to stuff my face into a pillow and cough my lungs out into it, hoping to God that’d be the last cough ever. Even from a young age, I took my meds unsupervised; my dad sat in the living room and yelled the dosage from behind his newspaper. My mother, reluctantly cast in the role of cooking porridge for the sick child, was too busy being irritated that I had the nerve to fall ill, to ensure I didn’t overdose. Or under-medicate.

          I can never recall my mother giving us our meds. Or helping to tie our laces. Or ironing our clothes. She was always in some storm over the burdens placed on her. But she cooked us good meals, and then, as we wolfed down our food hungrily, taught us to praise her cooking – to her and to our relatives and friends. For about thirteen years, she kept a clean and neat home – never as easy feat even with one child, what more with more, – but again, it was all about preening and keeping up appearances – Look at how well I keep the home – than it was about any benefit for us.

          For my mother, caring for the family was never about  selfless love. It was all about idolizing her.

Théophile-Emmanuel Duverger - When the Cat's Away the Mice Will Play.jpg

When the Cat’s Away the Mice Will Play by Théophile-Emmanuel Duverger

          Today, I, and so many others the world over, have the same responsibilities to mother our children. But there are differences. My siblings and I, being products of a different era, for the most part, kept still in church and other public places; my children have never understood the meaning of being still and silent. The moment they sit in the pew, the squirming and furtive fights begin. Out-of-the-side-of-the-mouth parenting is an art form I have perfected whenever we go out. Also, because of my children, I am the unabashed maestro at arranging my features into smiling gentleness whilst leaning towards the most recalcitrant of the lot, and saying through clenched teeth, Do you want to know what will happen if this behavior continues? When we get home, there’ll be a lecture on bad behavior and maybe some reduced tv time from already sparse viewing opportunities. And the erring one will climb into our lap to howl and sob a torrent at the injustice of it all, while we hold them close, struggling to choke down our laughter.

          And remain unmoved by the tears, holding firm to the punishment.

          But from us, never a lament that stretches into the week, about the undeserving shame brought onto parents.

          Not because we’re model parents. Not because we’ve never felt mortification at the sight of one of our children attempting to do the overturned beetle routine over a denied request. Not because we’re saints with a turn-on-the-tap flow of patience.

At It Again, by Jim Daly

At It Again by Jim Daly

          But because that’s what children do. At least most of them. The whines, the howls, the squabbles, the misbehaving. Sniffles, measles, teething – all from one person, all in one week. Getting thrown off the bike. Falling off a tree. Getting stuck in a tree, so, so high up and screaming for the 8-month pregnant mother to come right now and get her down.

          That’s all part of the repertoire of being a child.       

          Often, there are shadows and deep pain from having children, and caring for children. Miscarriages. Long hospital stays and endless tests for an unknown illness. Hope and desperation as you see the life that came from you slowly reach for an unseen hand not yours. The knifing pains and tears that never dry, years and years after burying your child.

          Yet, those shadows too have their place in the Heaven and Calvary of raising children.

          Pain is not supposed to visit only other people’s children, and to skip ours. Sorrow is bound inextricably to joy, and never is that more true than in raising and parenting children. For every joy, there will be a sorrow. For every sorrow, there will be a joy.

Frank_Holl_-_Peeling_Potatoes_-_Google_Art_Project[1].jpg

Peeling Potatoes by Frank Holl

          To love a child is to be there for them, through life-changing decisions, as well as through the everyday heroism of little things done without charge. To love them with every fibre of our being, through the redgolds of sun-joys and through the purple pain-wreathed years of deepest grief

          To love a child is to touch heaven. A worn out Irish mother to twelve once  expressed her worry to her priest that she wasn’t praying much due to the amount of time taken up for the home.

          The old priest replied, Your children is your prayer.