A Time To Be Free

God has made everyone appropriate to their time,
and has put the timeless into their hearts,
from beginning to end, the work which God has done.

Ecclesiastes 3:11

Though I enjoy the revelry with which we begin the month of July, this page of the calendar also reminds me of significant losses in my life. The first is my dad who left us on July 4 six decades ago. We gathered at his sister’s wake on July 4 some years later. As I prepared to write a July 4 reflection during another year, a dear friend battled cancer.

It was June that year when news of John’s impending recovery spread among his family and friends. He was a good man and a good priest and his life made all of the difference in the world to each of us. This news elicited a collective sigh of relief from all concerned.

With this good news to inspire me, I headed to my computer to write that reflection and a letter to John. Poor John was a captive fan to whom I sent my reflections and a letter each week. We would observe July 4th in a few days and the holiday set my tone. I wished John a generous measure freedom. My litany began with “…freedom from illness, freedom to breathe in as deeply as you want to –with no pain! I wish you freedom from chemotherapy and I wish you hair! I wish you the freedom to get back to the people and the work you love and the freedom to come and go as you please.”

It’s unlikely that John read that letter because he returned to the hospital a day after its writing. His struggle to breathe had become too much. When pneumonia set in, John lacked the stamina to fight it. It was twenty years ago today that John embraced the ultimate freedom which we’ll all enjoy one day.

Loving God, as I remember John and all of those I’ve lost, touch the hearts of all who mourn with your peace.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Advertisements

Just Standing By…

“It was not you who chose me, but I who
chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit…”

From John 15:16

A mutual friend was in the midst of a battle with cancer. Another dear friend called in anticipation of writing a note of encouragement to her. This friend wanted to confirm our ailing loved one’s address and to check on her condition. That particular day had been frustrating in terms of treatment plans and mixed messages from medical staff. I’d just returned home from a session with our friend and her doctors. This meeting left me with a headache. I didn’t know where all of this was going and I didn’t want my sick friend to suffer needlessly. The grueling traffic that lasted for the duration of my drive home didn’t help. So it was that my other friend had to endure twenty minutes of my ranting before we addressed the reason for his call.

With regret for wasting so much time with my complaints, I offered my apologies as we closed our conversation. Though he had his own troubles to deal with, this friend’s response was precisely what one would expect from a friend. He knew exactly what I was going through and dismissed my guilt with unqualified kindness. His effort enabled me to dig in and to support our ailing friend through the long days that followed. My friend’s effort also reminded me to do the same for those who looked to me for encouragement.

Loving God, thank you for the relationships in my life which mirror your love for me. Help me to return this love in kind at every opportunity.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Every Day A Good Day!

Cast your care upon the Lord
and he will support you.

Psalm 55:23

Early that morning, I’d engaged in my daily routine which begins with the few exercises which keep my aging frame more limber than it might otherwise be. Though I’m usually invigorated by this regimen, I found myself a bit melancholy. I hadn’t yet recouped the energy I’d expended as I prepared for Easter. Unfortunately, this didn’t deter the new and unwanted to-do list which was forming on my desk. Before I could voice a complaint to myself, a familiar photograph caught my eye.

I exercise in the same spot most days, but my thoughts usually prevent me from attending to the scenery. That morning, however, my sister Cecele demanded my attention. This particular picture was taken in the midst of the chemotherapy regimen which we hoped would destroy the cancer in her lungs. Only a bit of fuzz served as Cecele’s hair when she posed, but it’s difficult to notice. Every time I see that photograph, I’m drawn to my sister’s dancing eyes and her broad smile. That morning, those eyes twinkled and I’m certain that her smile grew even larger.

“Yes, Cecele, I get the point!” I told my sister. “I won’t complain and I will be grateful for this new day.” Cecele had been grateful for every day she was given after that final diagnosis took her by surprise. And, yes, after breakfast, I started working on that to-do list with my own grateful smile!

Patient God, thank you for the numerous reminders that this life is truly a gift!

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

A Glimpse Ahead

“…the hour is coming
and is now here when the dead will hear
the voice of…God.”

From John 5:25

This past weekend, we gathered to celebrate our granddaughter’s First Reconciliation. Claire will receive her First Communion in May. This prequel allowed her to take stock of her little heart and to acknowledge that perhaps she isn’t as perfect as Grandma and Grandpa think she is. I admit to being amazed that our youngest granddaughter has reached this milestone. In the midst of this musing, I realized that I’ve become my mom. Now I’m Grandma who shows up with Grandpa in tow for these special occasions. The truth is that I believe my mom was with us as well. It was her passing more than a dozen years ago which convinced me…

My mom had undergone surgery which ended with the discovery of a rare cancer which was irreparably advanced. Her only treatment option was hospice care. While this news devastated us, our mother took it extremely well. “I’ve had a good long life,” she said. “I just hope I can do what I want for as long as I can.” My mom went on to fulfill the doctor’s prognosis to the day. She remained miraculously pain-free and medication-free, except for her insulin, for the duration. She was up and about until three days before she left us.

During those final days, my mom mentioned the beautiful voices. She added that her sisters were waiting for her. The morning of the day she passed, I asked if she was afraid. My mom’s face glowed as she answered, “Oh no, Mary. It’s beautiful over there!” Though I’d read much of what has been written by those who’ve been to heaven and back, it was my mother’s testimony which put it all into perspective. Yes, Mom had made it home. She was also with Claire and the rest of us as we celebrated the other day.

Loving God, thank you for the glimpses of heaven which ease us home to you.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Expectations Fulfilled…

In verdant pastures God gives me repose;
beside restful waters God leads me;
God refreshes my soul.

From Psalm 23:2-3

This is the anniversary of my sister’s departure for the hereafter.

When Cecele returned to her doctor due to a persistent cough, she didn’t expect him to suggest an exploratory procedure. Not long afterward, she didn’t expect to hear about cancer, her months-long prognosis and the chemo which might or might not help. When she finally absorbed all of this, Cecele observed, “I’m a fighter. I’m going to fight this.” And that she did!

My sister dug in her heals and embraced the regimen of care laid out for her. The rest of us accompanied her to appointments and did whatever else we could to lighten her burden. We talked a little and we listened a lot. When the chemo wreaked havoc with her hair, my sister’s daughter-in-law shaved her head for her. Though the Cancer Society provided a lovely wig, Cecele determined that bald is beautiful. On her, it really was. When the chemo failed to help, Cecele accepted hospice care. Again, she fought, This time, she fought to accomplish everything that needed to be done before she took her leave. And that she did, too. I don’t think I’ll ever meet an equally prepared dying person!

Though my sister’s final journey was unexpected, the outcome was precisely what she’d hoped for. When I bade my final farewell to her earthly remains, the peace on Cecele’s face was unmistakable. The few glimpses of the hereafter which had graced her last days sustained Cecele through her good-byes and her last breaths. I have no doubt that her experience of the things to come is everything she hoped for and so much more! It was her expectation regarding eternal life which saw her through what could have been a far more difficult journey.

Loving God, thank you for this life and the amazing life to come.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserve

Grateful? Oh, Yes!

Let all your works give you thanks, O Lord,
and let your faithful ones thank you.

Psalm 145:10

I usually wake with a “thank you” on my lips. Today, however, I woke with a mumble. In an effort to improve my mood, I took the time to peek out every window as I opened the blinds around the house. Thanks to my husband’s handiwork, colorful blossoms of every sort met my glance no matter where I looked. I whispered my thanks for Mike and his flowers. Still, that dull ache in my heart remained. We’ve been struggling a bit with a situation of importance to both of us. We and our kids and grandkids are fine. This is something outside of our family circle which needs to be remedied. The problem is that there isn’t much more we can do.

As I pondered this dilemma, I decided to distract myself with email. The first message was a lengthy update from a friend’s ailing husband. After a short greeting from my friend, her husband’s amazing litany of thanksgiving followed. This was unexpected and remarkable as the poor man has battled terrible illness for a very long time. Though hope in his case has been elusive at best, this grateful man wrote paragraph after paragraph to express his gratitude regarding his journey to date and the dear ones who’ve walked it with him. When he expressed his gratefulness for his faith in God, he touched my heart. By the time I reached the end of his remarks, I wondered why I’d allowed myself to forget all that I have to be grateful for.

After replying with gratitude to my friends, I looked upward and offered that “thank you” which I’d forgotten this morning. I also gave more thought to my own troubling situation. If my friend can see God at his side in the midst of months and months of suffering, I can certainly follow God’s lead as I work through the discomfort at hand.

Dear Sweet God, thank you for your good company!

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved