Be There

“Do not work for food that perishes but for
the food that endures for eternal life…”

From John 6:27

On a recent Saturday morning, I whispered a prayer of gratitude for my sister’s generosity in hosting our family gathering that day. Rita is always willing to open her doors for an afternoon or a few days or longer when out-of-town family comes to visit. I added another prayer of thanks that this particular gathering would acknowledge this month’s family birthdays rather than less joyful events. I had recently visited a friend who has begun hospice care. His diagnosis, symptoms and treatment were far too familiar. As I climbed into the car, my thoughts turned to four years ago when Rita’s generosity was seemingly stretched to its limits…

Our younger sister had received a cancer diagnosis which required a serious regimen of chemotherapy. Rita lives south of where our sister lived, so she assumed the role of her chauffeur to and from treatments. Since I lived to the east of the “action”, I met them at the treatment center. Though I willingly offered moral support, Rita had taken on the brunt of the driving. While the weather had cooperated with her efforts earlier on, snow complicated many of these treks back and forth.

Through all of this, my sister Rita simply dug in her heals to help. “This needs to be done,” she said, “So I’m here.” Tired as she was, my sister assisted our sibling for as long as she was needed. How fitting it was that she was the one present when our sister breathed her last.

Dear God, thank you for Rita and for all who choose to “be there” for those who need them most.

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

The Gift of God

“If I just touch his clothing,” she thought,
“I will get well.”

Mark 5:28

I am most grateful that my parents introduced me to God. Their perspectives regarding God’s love and concern made this life manageable for them and they have done the same for me. This shared awareness of our Creator gives me great insight into many good people whom I’ve met along the way. Though we sometimes belong to different faith communities or to none at all, our shared membership in God’s family makes all of the difference in the world.

I’ve told you about her before. Still, thoughts about our relationships with God bring her to mind again. Sister Gerard was convinced of one this over everything else: God is good! Sister Gerard first spoke this phrase to me more than five decades ago. My great-aunt was a dynamic and lively little nun! After spending much of her career teaching at a boarding school for boys, Sister Gerard shared, “I’ve taught convicts and bishops, lawyers, janitors and butchers, and I love them all. God put them all into my life. God is good!” When Sister Gerard was assigned to a parish school in Chicago, we were able to see her more often. How I listened as she shared stories about her teaching career and life among the sisters. Eventually, bouts with cancer mandated her assignment to the sisters’ mother-house. This kept her close to the hospital where she received treatment. During this final assignment, Sister Gerard busied herself by visiting the elderly sisters -of whom she was one- to keep them company during their hospitalizations.

Through all of this, Sister Gerard maintained her conviction regarding God. During her treatment, she frequently observed, “God is good!” At ninety-two, Sister Gerard discovered that her final bout was a losing battle. She smiled at me from her sickbed as she admitted, “I was a little upset that Jesus didn’t cure me this time around. Then, I thought about where I’m going and I thanked Him! God is so good!” When my sweet aunt passed away, her funeral was truly a celebration of new life.

Good God, thank you for my parents, Sister Gerard and all of the amazing people who share your goodness with the rest of us. Strengthen all of our faith in your goodness and love.

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Love…

I will thank you always for what you have done,
and proclaim the goodness of your name.

Psalm 52:11

After our granddaughter’s overnight stay, I picked up the house a bit. There was little to do as I had done the same before Claire arrived. The only cleaning required was in the kitchen where we had baked cookies. Claire’s excitement and our delicious product made the effort completely worthwhile. In the process, I carried my green apron to the laundry room. I love my green apron…

My sister fashioned this favorite decades ago. At the time, Cecele had two young children whom she was raising alone. As Christmas approached, my sister realized she had no money for Christmas gifts other than a few things for her children. Christmas has always been our family’s favorite holiday. Even in the leanest of times, our parents managed to provide something special for each of their children. Cecele could not bear to arrive on Christmas day without gifts for her siblings and God-children. So it was that she hand-made something for each of us. She sewed a large stuffed snake for my son. Because I am the cookie baker of the family -at least at Christmastime, Cecele made two green terry cloth aprons for me. I have used them ever since.

Before putting it away, I held my apron close. I love my sister and this apron reminds me of her love for me.

Generous God, thank you for gracing us with hearts capable of love. Help us always to use them well!

©2015 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Birthday Blessings

Sing joyfully to the Lord, all you lands;
serve the Lord with gladness;
come before him with joyful song.

From Psalm 100

Today is my sister’s birthday. Her presence in my life gives me reason to celebrate her today.

Rita was fifteen going on sixteen when our dad passed away. As the eldest of the six of us, she understood too well what was happening. She also felt the pain of this loss deeply. Rita loved our dad very much. During his year-long illness, Rita became our mother’s right-hand person. Though she still needed nurturing herself, my sister tended to the rest of us, helped with meals and homework and shared her part-time wages when money was tight. As I consider my own teens which unfolded years later, I suspect my sister missed out on a lot because of our family circumstances.

When our brother battled with his declining health, Rita took the time to visit with him. When our mom fought her final illness, Rita stepped up to assist with her care. When our younger sister received a terminal diagnosis, Rita assisted in stellar fashion by driving her to doctors’ appointments and treatment and keeping her company. In the midst of all of this, Rita has been a supportive parent, sibling and friend to the rest of us. Rita rises to the occasion when fun is involved, too. As the keeper of family traditions, she sees to the propagation of our annual family picnic, our New Year’s Day reunion and other enjoyable gatherings.

So, sister of mine, I thank you for everything you have done to ease our family burdens and to maintain the good times. I wish you many more years to come, for your sake -and for ours!

Dear God, thank you for my sister Rita. Our family is what it is because you placed her among us. Thank you for all of the people like her who rise to the occasion in good times and bad. They know that we love best by just being there for those in need.

©2014 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved