A Promise Fulfilled

“Amen, amen, I say to you… the dead will hear the voice of God.”
From John 5:28

I believe I make peace with he passing of my loved ones for good reason. From very early on, my parents assured me that those who neared death were destined for absolute happiness and health in heaven. As I grew older and came to appreciate the suffering of those left behind, I held on to my parents’ promises and my own conviction that heaven is indeed worth the pain of this temporary separation. Over the years, I’ve found further consolation in my faith and in the wonderful accounts offered by those gifted with Near Death Experiences. These people who have tasted life after this life assure us all that my parents’ promises from long ago are well-founded.

A close encounter with this phenomenon came at the hands of my mom. She was diagnosed with terminal cancer and given a prognosis of four more months. After acknowledging that she had lived a good and long life, my mother’s only wish was to be independent for as long as possible. As it happened, she remained miraculously pain-free and medication-free, except for her insulin, until the end. It was during her final week among us that my mom mentioned the beautiful voices. She also remarked that her sisters were waiting for her. The morning of the day she passed, I asked my mom if she was afraid. Her face glowed when she answered, “Oh no, Mary. It’s beautiful over there!”

Loving God, thank you for these amazing glimpses of the wonder which lies ahead.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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Lasting Goodness

Give him the reward of his labors,
and let his works praise him at the city gates.

Proverbs 31:31

Several weeks ago, I attended a picnic in recognition of The Special Olympics and my dear cousin who supported them with all of his heart and much of his effort. I found the picnic area easily. I simply followed the sound of happy chatter and the enticing aromas which filled the air. They led me to my sister and my cousins who stood in amazement at the lively circus before them. The teacher in me was thrilled to see so many “special” kids in the middle of every activity. The cousin in me had to hold back tears as I envisioned Jon looking down at all of this with his habitually broad smile.

Jon is one of five cousins who lost their parents at ages 49 and 50. Jon and his younger sister, only in their twenties themselves, each took in one of the younger children who were just eleven and fifteen. While dealing with the loss of their parents, these cousins of mine supported one another and became closer than ever. They also maintained amazingly positive attitudes through it all. Jon’s commitment to The Special Olympics and his other charitable endeavors is clear evidence of that.

Jon organized this picnic years ago as an annual fundraisers for special athletes. This year, we gathered to rename the picnic in Jon’s honor. This honor was bittersweet because it came about as a result of Jon’s passing. At the same time, it gave all concerned great joy to see that the good work Jon started will continue for many years to come.

When I left the picnic that day, I whispered a prayer that we all might touch this world with Jon’s generosity.

Loving God, be with us as we do our best to improve this world as only we can.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Always With Us

Turn to me and be safe,
all you ends of the earth.

From Isaiah 45:22

Recent celebrations of our wedding anniversary and our little grandson’s birthday elicited much reminiscing on my part. I’ve enjoyed fond memories especially of my mom. My mom was happiest when we were gathered as family under one roof enjoying one another. How she would have loved to participate in the many events which have occurred since her passing!

After what we expected to be uneventful surgery, my sisters and I were shocked by the news of our mom’s cancer, her four-month life expectancy and the possibility of pain that could darken her smile. When we told our mother the news, she shared our surprise at the diagnosis, but not at the outcome. “We all have to die from something. I’ve had a good long life. I wanted to leave an educated family that contributes and I have. I hope I can do what I want for a while. I hope I can be comfortable. I hope I go without too much trouble. I hope…” We all hoped with her.

In the end, the outcome was precisely what my mom had hoped for. The pain never came and she did everything she hoped to until her last two days when she remained in bed. On the day she left us, my mom’s eyes were closed, but her heart was wide open to the things to come. As for our family gatherings since then, I’m certain my mom has been perched nearby and that she hasn’t miss a thing!

Loving God, thank you for making us capable of loving one another so much that our losses hurt and thank you for filling us with just enough faith and hope to cope.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Why Not Now?

They carried to him all those afflicted
with various diseases and racked with pain…
He cured them all.

From Matthew 4:24

My sister and I attended a family baby shower last weekend. Seeing our extended family elicited fond memories of our parents, grandparents and siblings who’ve passed. Though I’m certain of their current bliss, the sting of these losses remains with me. I can still recall the details of their last days among us.

When the people we love are sick, it’s difficult to see God’s hand in their suffering. When depression, addiction or a misguided heart brings them pain, we wonder why this occurs. When their days are numbered, the inevitable isn’t easy to accept. When we recall the healing powers of Jesus, we’re tempted to ask “Why not now?”

When I ponder this and similar questions, I consider Jesus’ experience as one of us. He struggled with trials and tribulations just as we do. If that wasn’t enough, he was nailed to a cross as well. Was Jesus capable of doing all of this because he knew what was coming afterward? I admit that I also know of the things to come. If I’m honest with myself, I must admit that this should be enough to see me through. Our loved ones in the hereafter tell us again and again that this is so. It’s time I listen!

Dear God, when the going gets rough, nudge us along with reminders of the things to come.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Courageous Love

Joseph did as the angel of the Lord commanded him.
From Matthew 1:24

Many years ago, my dad passed away in early July. As a result, I’m flooded with memories throughout this month which changed everything for my mom and her children. Some of that change involved Bill, the second love of my mom’s life. This good and brave man became my step-dad. I’m obliged to add the latter adjective because my mother entered this relationship with us six children in tow. I’m still amazed that the six of us didn’t frighten Bill away. Bill’s willingness to persist out of love for my mother -and for us- brings to mind another brave step-father…

When Mary agreed to be the mother of Jesus, she dragged her betrothed Joseph into impossible circumstances. Mary’s out-of-wedlock pregnancy could have caused her to be stoned to death. To protect her, Joseph intended to divorce Mary quietly until he came to fully understand her circumstances. So it was that he took Mary into his home as his wife. The couple had barely settled in when Joseph packed up his pregnant wife to travel to Bethlehem for the census. Later, after the Magi inadvertently alerted the jealous king to Jesus’ birth, Joseph fled with his family to Egypt where they would be safe. Joseph, Mary and Jesus eventually settled in Nazareth rather than returning home in order to avoid the wrath of that king’s son.

Perhaps my step-dad found inspiration in Joseph’s plight. Perhaps the six of us seemed a less daunting challenge than Jesus might have been. Whatever the case, both men inspire the rest of us to do what needs to be done to make homes in our hearts for those God gives us to love.

Dear God, give us Joseph’s and Bill’s courage so we, too, will love one another.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Another Farewell

A time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to uproot the plant.

Ecclesiastes 3:2

Thoughts of our Independence Day revelry linger as do memories of another loss I experienced in early July…

My friend battled cancer. But, after long bouts of chemotherapy, John’s future seemed secure. He was a good man and a good priest. His life made all of the difference in the world all who knew him. Eventually, word spread that John had beaten the cancer and a collective sigh of relief rose to the heavens.

With this good news to inspire me, I headed to my computer to write my next article and to get a letter off to John. My poor friend was a captive fan to whom I mailed my reflections each week. I always included a letter to let him know that we were thinking about him. Because we would observe July 4th a few days later, the holiday set my tone. I wished John a generous measure of freedom with which to get on with his life. 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.”

John didn’t read this letter because he returned to the hospital a day after its writing. Pneumonia had set in and John lacked the stamina to fight it. When John’s life among us ended, he embraced ultimate freedom.

While John enjoys life in the hereafter, I admit to a bit of melancholy. I still miss my friend.

Loving God, I think the most difficult part of this life is saying good-bye. Today, please touch the hearts of all who mourn with your peace.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved