Sunday, November 22, 2015

Handwritten Notes, Simple Prayers, and Redemptive Suffering

How Could That Be?! 

I stared in shock at the handwriting on the envelope.  Had someone held onto this all these years and just now mailed it to me?  The cursive writing looked so very much like my dad’s: large uppercase letters with smaller, tight lowercase ones, slightly disconnected from them. What was the significance of mid-November 2015 for this to arrive in our mailbox? 

False alarm.  The card was actually from one of my Christ Renews His Parish sisters who has moved to Colorado, but the jolt got me thinking. What would a letter from my dad say at this point, after he’s been gone from this life for 6 years, 3 months, and 12 days?  I think it would be simple, honest, loving, sincere, devoid of all attempts to prove his importance, brag about his accomplishments, or call attention to himself. 

What if my life is, in part, one major chunk of what my dad’s letter would be? The mere thought that’s the case brings tears to my eyes and a sense of being completely overwhelmed and underqualified, undeserving and incapable of living out such a legacy.

The Dad Connection & the Napkin Notes book

Thursday night I began reading Napkin Notes by Garth Callaghan.  I’d put off reading it until I felt like I was ready to tackle this book by and about a father who writes short notes to his daughter Emma and puts them in her school lunches so she’ll be reminded each day of his love and also have something to remember him by.

When I recently requested a review copy of this book from Garth Callaghan, who is actually a member of our parish, I had no idea how famous this homespun concept of connecting with your loved ones daily through brief handwritten notes had become. 

In light of my own father passing away when he was still pretty young, I wanted to pick the right time to read it.  I figured this week was as good as any to read Napkin Notes. Unfortunately, the timing couldn’t have been more fitting.   

Handwritten Notes & Simple Prayers

Friday afternoon, while on my lunch break at work, I learned that my Godfather/my dad’s best friend from college, who has been battling an aggressive type of cancer for many years, has decided, based on what his doctors have recently told him, that it’s time to add hospice to his team of caregivers.  

This doesn’t seem fair or believable that this is happening now, just a couple weeks after his mother-in-law passed away and while his wife has also been undergoing treatment for cancer.  

How can this be?  What do I say, write, or do for this family at this time?  The only thing that seems like it will make any difference is to pray for them right now.  Beating myself up over not being better about writing them and staying in touch regularly isn’t going to help. 

I’m feeling exhausted, sick, and worn out myself, so my prayers are stripped down to the bare minimum at present.  Sometimes, all I can manage is: God and a loved one’s name.  Please be with them, help them discern Your will, and take care of them are all implied.  

It reminds me how my dad used to pray the Rosary sometimes.  Instead of praying the usual prayers, he would name a different person for each bead of the Rosary and pray for that individual.  I now have the blue Rosary my dad used for such simple, bare minimum prayers. I trust those and mine are made powerful because they are united with the perfect sacrifice of Christ’s Passion and death on the Cross. 

Redemptive Suffering 

There are times when we have reached our threshold for pain and suffering, but even then, or especially then, we can still offer whatever we are going through to God to use for the salvation of souls in time and eternity. 
Writings from the saints on redemptive suffering remind us of how offering our hurt to Christ in conjunction with the anguish He endured as expiation for our sins, makes everything from the smallest discomfort to the deepest sorrow powerful, meaningful, and of eternal value.

This family and all of those who are entering the holiday season with a loved one in hospice could really use our prayers and support right now.  Will you please join me in lifting them up?

Note to readers: I will continue sharing my thoughts, reflections, and prayers on the topics: terminal illness, parent/child relationships, losing a parent, hospice care, leaving a legacy, and Napkin Notes in subsequent posts.  Please subscribe to receive new posts and/or check back soon to read more.  Thanks and God bless.
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