The other night I caved in to the nagging of my Lord, Jesus. He dragged me to a night of recollection, reflection and meditation especially tailored to volunteer ministers of the parish. It's not that I didn't want to go. It's just that I have negative feelings about going in front of Jesus on someone else's terms rather than my own. Yes, even if the someone else happens to be Jesus, Himself. OK, I went. I thought that I had crossed the highest and hardest hurdle just going over the outgoing threshhold of my comfortable abode. Boy, was I ever in for an attitude adjustment!
I got there a little bit late. After the opening prayer. I was surprised. The place was chock-a-block with faithful church people. I mean, the creme-de-la-creme of the church people in this parish, anyway. I immediately prayed to the Divine Nagger, "not with this crowd! I told You I didn't want to come." He took pity on me and showed me to a seat in the dark corner of the back row.
See, He does have some Mercy left in Him.
The preacher is a person known to be creative, voluble, facile and articulate in his delivery. This evening he was creative and cautiously articulate in his second language. I was happy for that. I figured that he would have a greater problem with his task than I with my situation. He started by telling a cute little story about commitment and when he finished asked us all: "On a scale of
10% to 110%, how much percent do you dedicate to your ministry?" Hey, wait a minute. Is this meditation or confession?
Now the Divine Nagger gets in on the act and says in a solid, non-wavering tone into my left heart, "Stop complaining and answer the question."
So I do. It's not easy because I am a tough grader and besides, I know He's watching. (No, I'm not going to tell you what grade I gave myself.)
I hear a little whisper, "Hmmm, looks like we've got some work to do, eh?"
I hate it when He gives me that Canadian accent! So I say, "Let's move on, shall we?"
Indeed, the preacher did proceed to say a few inane things until the Holy Spirit took the upper hand again and I hear something like, "When you go to Jesus, why do you go?" I can't believe my ears. This is really tough, lightning and thunder stuff here. Why do I go to Jesus? Moi? Well, of cour...
"Careful, now, I'm right here, you know."
Well, let me see...WOW, mostly when I want something, I guess. But that's your fault because you said that You and Your Father would give us anything we asked for.
"Very well, I see that you need a moment to think about this. Please come up with something better than "...but you said..." so I'll back away a bit, but I'll be back in about a minute."
Boy, He can be tough. Now I know how Peter felt when He cornered him on the shore in Galilee. I better make nice and find a diplomatic way to say some hard truth.
"So, you want to be diplomatic, eh? Now that's a new side to you. You haven't gone over to Be____ub, now have you?"
No, Lord, of course not. I won't try to be diplomatic. I'll just cough it out. I ask for more than I give, that's true. I also think that it is true that I use a lot of it to give to the Mission that You expect me to do. I also know that I go to You a lot to thank You for the graces You give me. I go to Your altar a lot to partake in the Eternal Food that is Your Body and Blood. I bet You're going to say that I should share your love of me with my 'neighbor', right? You're going to say that I should stop and think before talking. You're going to say that I should give more to the collection, be nicer to Your priests and think better thoughts about non-Catholics.
"Ah, Paul, Paul. Get off your high horse and tell Me you love Me more. Open your eyes and look to Me for the answers to the ministerial problems that you have. When you ask Me for something, let it be for something that I want to get done. You remind Me so much of Jonah."
I told you that He is tough.
He is also smooth and merciful. He still keeps me healthy. He gives me more than I want and fills all my needs. He is there to talk to me when I need company. I am glad that I have known Him all my life and never have been tempted to leave Him. With Grace like that, I don't need anyone crying at my funeral.
Sunday, May 23, 2010
Saturday, May 22, 2010
The day after I learned of the situation in which Grandma was now living, I went to have a short conversation with Daughter. I wanted to know some of the details of her mother's condition. As it turned out it is about typical for a long-time dialysis patient. Things break down, infection takes over and the end of life is near. There is nothing that can save a person in this set of circumstances. I had already decided to go have a short visit with Grandma, so when I found out where she was resting, I went to say good-bye.
When I arrived the patient was sleeping, but I figured that she with what was ahead of her, losing a few minutes of rest would not be a great loss. I shook her gently and spoke softly, "Avuelita". She turned her head a little bit and with one eye open and one half-closed, she looked at me and wondered who was there out of uniform. I asked if she could recognize me. She shook her head. I told her that she would know me if she could see my van. Still, no recognition. I looked at her and simply said, with a litle bit of feigned impatience, "Hey you!" Her eyes lit up and her face was split in half with the smile that she made. "Hey You. I miss you. I'm not going today. I'm too tired."
"Too tired?" said I. "How can that be? You're in bed." Again, she smiled. I looked at her and said, "I know. I know that you are getting ready to go home." She wasn't smiling, but there was asolutely no sadness in her mien as she softly said, "Si." Her eyes did not turn away from mine as I said, "God is offering you His hand. He wants you to go for a walk with Him. Do you think He will take you to the Garden of Eden?" She just smiled and I could see her trying to understand the mystery that was upon the both of us at the moment.
After a moment, I looked at her and said, "When you and God are holding hands, I want to ask you if you would tell Him that 'Hey You' is a good guy?" Her laugh was instantaneous and deep, and all she said was "Si?"
Now I was laughing. "Si?" "Avuelita (I always called her Grandma) do you doubt that 'Hey You' is a good guy? Please say that you will tell God that I am OK." With her face shining with humor and loving friendship she asked if I thought that God would let her hug Him. I said that I was sure that He would, even though there are a lot of people that He has to attend to. She was reassured then and said, "While he's hugging me I'll tell Him about you."
At that moment, the hospice nurse came in and the refrain that I had come to know so well began, "I'm thirsty"; "Do you have a cookie?" The only reason she didn't ask me was because she wasn't in my van. So she drank a little water, told the nurse that her eye was sore, that her mouth was still dry and that she was hungry. I said a little prayer to God, "Get ready, Lord, Grandma is on her way."
The nurse and I exchanged pleasantries before she retraced her footsteps back to her station.
When she had left I bent over and gave Grandma a nice soft kiss on the cheek. I had never done that, but I figured that if she was going to put in a good word for me Upstairs, I better do something nice. She smiled and said nothing. I put my hand on her head, said a short prayer of blessing for her and to God and wished her well.
In a last shot of humor she said to me, "Now I can tell you, 'Adios'." She remembered! "Hey You" would always correct her when she bade him "Adios". "Hey You" would always remind her that "Hasta la vista" was preferable since "Adios" seems so final. It was her last word. Mine was,
Friday, May 21, 2010
For the last three and one-half months I have been the topic of conversation, in and out of my own house. Friends and relatives would come to the house and wonder about the state of my health. There was always a sincere expression of gratitude to God for my rapid recovery. There were always the hugs and kisses that show strong caring. I would go to Church, at first in a wheel chair and then, slowly, with a walker and finally on wobbly legs of my own. People I know only by sight would embrace me and thank God for me because they were so happy to see that their prayers were being answered. I'm glad that this behavior has seen it's day and doesn't present itself very much any more.
When you are a person like me, constant graciousness and amiability showered upon you is rather disconcerting. I am not a person who breaks even in the human relationships field. I am quite sure that at least 65 to 70 percent of the people who encounter me decide rather quickly that they don't like me. I am not disturbed by this. In fact I rather enjoy being in a position to help people to understand that if 50 percent of those who encounter them like them, they should thank God on bended knee morning, noon and night. Let this serve as a rather circumlocutive introduction to the reflection that I want to put before you. I want to walk you through an encounter with God that has to do with the phenomenon of interpersonal relationships and how He uses them to teach us about Himself.
Today, (the date is not important, but the fact that this happened today is) I found out that a person who has been in my life for only about seven months is on her way to her eternal abode. She is an old lady (but younger than I) whom I transported in a medical transfer van for about three months. This was a three times per week event. I would pick her up at her home and drive her five miles to the dialysis treatment center and four hours later, pick her up again and drive her home. She is not a very communicative person, but somehow, and I don't know how nor why, she and I "clicked". I liked her and she liked me. I told her my name before the first outbound trip and before the inbound return. I did this for at least three days; yes, six trips. So, before the seventh trip, I did not tell her my name. She asked me, "What's your name?" I told her. Before the eighth trip, she asked me again, and again I told her. It was a game. I could not tell whether she was actually forgetting or actually playing a game. Finally, on the first morning of the the third week, just before the thirteenth trip, she asked me my name and I responded sweetly, "Grandma, everyone calls me 'Hey You', so that's my name." She let a hearty chuckle escape her frail frame and kept saying, "Hey You" during the entire trip. She was trying to get the accent right. She didn't want others who might hear her to think that she didn't know English. When I picked her up on the return, she remembered to call me "Hey You" with a broad smile. She never forgot. It was the only English that she knew, and she savored it.
Tell me that God didn't know what He was doing in that relationship.
Grandma is only half the story, and the second half at that. The hot core of the story is the relationship between me and her daughter. Her daughter and I encountered one another over six years ago. It didn't take long before we decided that the best we could do is to maintain a coolly professional relationship in front of people and refrain from being alone with one another the rest of the time. It worked rather well. We actually succeded in being civil to one another and occasionally had snippets of warm, christian conversation. So, six years into accepting the fact that we shared the same limited space on the planet, I came to find out that she was caring for her mother at home and driving her to dialysis treatments three times per week. I haven't told you yet, but, she also has a full time job and two nearly grown children at home. There is no husband on the scene. I find myself saying to God, "Now aren't you the sly one!" He knows that I can't be cold to a child who devotes so much intense time and effort to caring for a parent. So, not long after I became aware of the situation, she and I had a longer, warmer christian conversation. Sometimes God is just so obvious about His intrusion into our lives.
Then, shortly after our conversation, Daughter contacted the transportation company for which I was working and contracted the company to transport Grandma. And of course, you know who God assigned to the job, hhhmmmm?
Four months ago I was struck by a severe, if non-fatal illness. I had to quit driving. Grandma and I haven't seen one another since. Daughter and I do get to see one another now and again and she always tells me that her mother wants to know if "Hey You" is OK.
But wait,wait! Today, as I said earlier, God really got obvious. He let me find out that Grandma was taken to the hospital and that the family had decided not to prolong the home stretch agony. Now whom do you think I am feeling for? Those of you who read me know the answer. Daughter, of course. All day long I have been telling God, "You sure know how to shake a guy. You know that Daughter and I are not particularly close. Why are You wringing my heart out this way? I know that Grandma is going to take you by the hand shortly, and that's fine. Now, Lord, you have to teach me how to really love Daughter. I know You want me to. My heart and soul have been shivering all day. I'll do it because You are showing me the state of Your Heart in all of this. I like the feeling. I like knowing that You trust me to convert to Love from disgust and indifference. I like Your giving me the strength and courage to respond to Your lightning bolt of Grace. May I ask that while You are holding Grandma's hand You hold mine too for my sake and Daughter's sake? That way we will both know where the consolations are coming from.
Now, Lord, there's one thing that I wonder about in this whole marvelous mystery though. Now that we are nice and warm to one another, what are you going to do to keep Daughter from crying at my funeral?