Good Things To Come

I will not leave you orphaned.
John 14:18

I acknowledge that recent losses have impacted my writing as of late. Over the holidays, a friend lost her dad and another her grandpa. I lost a friend as well. Recent conversations have been punctuated with memories of our loved ones passed. In every case, our animated tones betray our common conviction that “our people” are alive and well in places unknown to us. I find great comfort in this shared certainty. There was a time when I had difficulty expressing my sentiments to those who mourned. This began when my uncle lay on his deathbed. My dad softened the blow of this impending loss by sharing that Uncle Gee would be well in heaven. His polio-ravaged body would be straight and tall and he would be very happy. Daddy’s words served me well over the next few years when both of my grandfathers and my dad himself passed on.

A lifetime of losses and my insatiable interest in life after this life have convinced me that my dad was correct in his assertion regarding my uncle’s future. As a result, I sometimes stumble over my words in my attempts to offer encouragement to those in mourning. I mistakenly take their tears a sign that they aren’t as certain as I am regarding the things to come.

Whenever I receive news of someone’s passing, I congratulate him or her on this achievement. Afterward, I ask this person to watch over those left to mourn. In the process, I’ve come to realize that feeling the sting of loss is no commentary on a mourner’s faith in the things to come. Loss hurts regardless. Finally, I stopped fretting over my choice of words. Being there is far more important than anything I might say.

Loving God, bless those who mourn today and keep us all mindful of the things to come.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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Happily Hopeful

He was transfigured before their eyes.
His face became as dazzling as the sun
and his clothes radiant as light.

Matthew 17:2

Yesterday’s reflection regarding the loss of my friend George brought to mind another dear soul. When I shared my impression of George’s faith, images of my mother filled me up. No wonder George and I became immediate friends. He could have been my mom’s brother! Both offer the rest of a lesson in embracing the hereafter…

When the doctor discovered her diseased gallbladder and ordered surgery, I expected to hear that my mom’s recovery might be lengthy, that her minimal dementia might be increased by the anesthesia and that we needed to be prepared for a decline as her body was growing tired. I didn’t expect to hear about cancer, her four-month life expectancy and the possibility of pain which might darken her perpetual smile. Then, we told our mother the news…

Our mom 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…” I hoped, too.

Though this news was unexpected, the outcome was precisely what my mom had hoped for. The pain never came. Mom did everything she hoped to do until her last two days. On the day she left us, her eyes were closed, but her heart was open. She knew exactly what was in store and she embraced it.

Generous God, thank you for the happy passing which ushered my mom into eternity. Please bless us all with the same.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Never Fear…

“As for you, every hair of your head has been counted;
so do not be afraid of anything.”

Matthew 10:30

A friend from church passed away just before Christmas. George* is an octogenarian who’d been battling cancer for some time. Though he’d done remarkably well, treatment had taken its toll and his body was simply too tired to deal with any more. The last time I saw him, George told me he was feeling quite well and doing great. Still, when we parted, he gave me an unexpected hug which lasted longer than anticipated. I couldn’t help thinking at the time that he may not have been completely honest with me. Knowing George as I did, he likely didn’t want either of us to have to say good-bye. I admit that this gesture was generous to us both. I couldn’t have offered my farewell to him without a stream of tears.

Though my friend’s protective spirit saved me from my tears that day, I admit that they flowed freely when I received the news of his passing. Our conversations were always so lively and informative that I couldn’t imagine George any other way. This attitude remained throughout everything he’d endured. More importantly, his faith remained as well. George’s main concern seems to have been for those he would leave behind. As for George, he knew he was going home, the home we’ll all occupy one day.

Loving God, thank you for sharing George with me. Bless us all with a measure of his unshakable faith.

*I call my friend “George” because I erroneously referred to him with this misnomer when we first met.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

The Gift of You

Tell it to your children,
and your children to their children,
and their children to the next generation.

Joel 1:3

When my extended family gathered at our house over the holidays, we gathered at the table to play a new game. While we organized our play pieces and reviewed the rules, I ran upstairs to get a toy vacuum for my grandson. We’d settled down after our meal and it was good time for Danny to busy himself with cleaning up. On the way, I couldn’t resist pausing at our family picture wall. This collection includes photos from my childhood. Many of those pictured have passed away including my parents, sister and brother who have joined the heavenly host. Because I didn’t want to delay our game-playing, I left my reminiscing until I said my last good-byes that evening. After the family left, I returned to that wall to consider each one of my loved ones passed. Though I know that they’re all alive and well in another place, I miss their physical presence.

I stared longingly at the photos of so many who have “moved on.” Each one touched my life as no one else has or ever will. Each one, with his foibles and her imperfections, will never be replaced. Each one added something special to my life and to life on this earth which no one else will replicate or replace. I whispered a prayer of thanks for them all.

This New Year 2018, I will pray that we all become good souls who thrive in spite of our imperfections because we generously share ourselves and our gifts with one another.

Thank you, dear God, for the good souls who so creatively brighten our lives.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Joy That Lasts!

“I assure you, there is no man
born of woman greater than John.
Yet the least born into the kingdom of God
is greater than he.”

Luke 7:28

While working on our Christmas Cards, memories of Christmas Past filled me up. Year after year, our large family gathered to celebrate this favorite of all holy days. This year, I’m struck hard by the number of family members we’ve lost. My mom had seven siblings and all have joined her in the hereafter. My dad was one of twelve and only his youngest brother remains with us. I lost my brother Raoul, my sister Cecele and several of cousins decades earlier than my family ever expected.

Though these don’t seem to be “Christmas” thoughts, the mood of each of their wakes and funerals gives me reason to believe that my musing is just that. Though we lamented each loss, we also celebrated our favorite memories of each one. We added our projections regarding their current activities at home with God. Though we miss each one, the joy we found in these loved ones has never escaped us.

Apparently, the gift of those who go home didn’t escape Jesus either. When Jesus acknowledged the greatness of anyone who makes it home to God, he offered us more hope than we could ever have imagined. Jesus also gave us more reason to rejoice than we would otherwise have known possible.

Generous God, with great joy, I anticipate our celebration of the birth of Jesus. His coming revealed your unconditional love and your amazing plans for each one of us. Thank you!

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

God Walks Us Through It All

God will rescue you from the snare of the fowler
and from the destroying pestilence.

Psalm 91:3

Psalm 91 inspired a familiar hymn which I hear at most funerals. Isn’t it odd that, in the midst of our losses, we sing about God’s rescuing us from the snare of such sadness? Though this may seem odd, this is precisely what God has done every time I’ve found myself steeped in misery.

Two weeks ago, I attended a wake where a mother sat sadly before her daughter’s casket. Though this mother was elderly and her daughter had lived five decades, the setting was not as things should be. Parents shouldn’t bury their children at any age. Yet, how often they do. As I approached this woman, my thoughts turned to Mary, the mother of Jesus. It occurred to me that even Jesus’ family wasn’t spared this unthinkable sorrow. When I noticed the rosary in her hand, I realized that this mourning mother was deep in conversation with one who knew just how she felt. I know that God shared in her sorrow as well.

Our earthly lives do include a few givens… taxes and death, right? Unfortunately, though our time on this earth includes ample opportunities to enjoy God’s gifts, it also includes a measure of sorrow for each one of us. When we sing or pray about God rescuing us, this doesn’t guarantee that God will dispel our misery or scoop us up and away from our troubles. It does mean that God will walk us through our pain toward better things to come.

Loving God, thank you for walking with me.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved