Last spring after I had my Ignatian pilgrimage in Spain, I headed south to Portugal to the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima. Today is the 100th anniversary of Mary’s appearance to the three shepherd children. I still do not understand exactly what happened in Fatima to me…or the message for the world that the children received. I do know that I was faithful to complete what I was asked by the priest there despite my desire to resist. None of it was easy.
Tonight after spending time at the hospital, I came home and dropped on my couch for several hours. I binged on junk food even though I had bought some healthy food before coming home. I really needed comfort food and rest. My great desire was to numb so I turned on the television and watched a few of the shows that I had missed earlier this week. I maxed out at some point. Now I am thinking about ice cream but I do not think that is a wise idea before bed.
This week has been incredibly hard. I have had to let go of many things. I had a to-do list for May and I realize that very few items will be checked off. I can handle that. I am becoming quite skilled at letting go of what I think I need. Dad’s admission to the hospital on Monday was frustrating. Three times in six months he has gone by ambulance to Emergency and I sense we are no further ahead in knowing what is wrong. This time though he appears to be having seizures, even on anti-seizure meds. Today during lunch I noticed a different behaviour–more of a head tic than a twitch. I called in the nurse who observed it during a brief conversation. She gave him some more meds. A few minutes later I popped out to see her: I know you just gave him that pill but it is getting worse. She came right away. Almost immediately she said she would call the charge nurse but a minute later a young doctor walked in and watched my father uncontrollably lift his hands to his face and involuntarily jerk his head. He could answer all the doctor’s questions while he was doing this. The nurse gave him the anti-seizure meds intravenously. Whatever this malady is, it happens after his meals.
Add to this, the fact that Dad is lucid enough to know that we are spending long hours at the hospital. He looks at me oddly when I arrive. I cannot really tell what he is struggling with each time he sees me. I may have gotten a glimpse of it this afternoon though. He turned to me at one point and asked if I had my funeral planned yet. I am working on it, Dad, I assured him. Truth is, I am still discerning a number of pieces of the puzzle but some are in place. That was one of the items on the to-do list for May, as well as having a family meeting. I suspect that will be moved to June. After that, he told me not to leave him any money, but to give it to my siblings. I am sure my illness weighs heavy on his heart. When I did my overnight at the hospital recently, he opened his eyes, looked over at me in the chair wrapped in my quilt, and inquired if I was comfortable. When I assured him I was, he nodded, closed his eyes, and went back to sleep. My sister is taking the lion’s share of the overnights and so he keeps asking where she is when she is not there. Even in his own struggle, he cares about us.
I got together with some former colleagues this week and though we laughed a lot, there were also some tears. We all need somebody to lean on as the song lyrics say, and that night we did just that as we sang loudly those words with two friends leading us with their ukuleles. I am also holding in prayer a number of concerning situations that break my heart. This world seems so cruel some days. Following Christ and even encountering the Divine does not ensure us an easy life. Quite the contrary! Two of the three visionaries at Fatima did not live into their adult lives, dying as young children. The third did survive into her nineties. The message of Fatima is not a happy one. Much darkness and harshness accompanied Our Lady’s words. I never know what to do with these visions as I believe in something completely different. Mary has been a gentle presence these past couple of years and I cannot imagine an after-life where decent people are tormented.
When life sucks, it is easy to give in to despair. Tonight’s retreat into a silence of sorts–of shutting out the stress and resting–has been helpful. I am in hard consolation as Ignatius would say. God’s presence is very real to me during these trying times. I feel the prayers of many who are lifting up prayers on behalf of my family for our needs and those who are united with me in prayer for our friends who are suffering right now. I am keeping my eyes on God right now, knowing that the earth is trembling beneath me right now. I am asking Mary to wrap her mantle around my family and those who are in need. Please pray for those who may be struggling to take to their last breath tonight and for the loved ones who are keeping vigil for them. Say a quiet prayer for the many who are grieving the loss or impending death of someone. Pray for those who are exhausted with the burden of illness. Your prayers do make a difference. God will answer them in different ways, often not as we wish, but they may sustain someone who is ready to give up on God.
Life sucks sometime. Tragedy bowls us over. Illness threatens our sanity. Natural disasters destroy property. Unfair events shake us to the core. We start to cling to everything and I pray that one of those things is the Rock until we can find our bearings again. None of us get a free pass in life. Sorrow will visit each of us. Trust that God has whatever it is you need. Believe that God is right there with you in this tough moment. Know that someone is praying for you right now and that holds power in ways we cannot explain or understand.
What has shaken your world and caused you to cry out to God for help?
Has the response from the Holy One brought comfort in ways you did not expect?
God, I am crying out to you, asking for mercy as I place myself in your hands. The earth beneath me is crumbling yet I am held up my those who lift me in their prayers. I see pain all around me and I lean upon you, resting in your grace and love. I trust that all will be well and know that you will give each one what is needed for the difficulties ahead. Suck the yuck out, O Holy One. Thank you. Amen.