“Praying for you”
“Thinking of you”
All are comments people tend to hear when faced with grief, illness, surgery or whatever trials come their way. The words seem to flow so easily–as if when greeting a stranger with “how are you?”
Honestly, how much sincerity is behind those ‘oh so easy to fall from our tongue’ phrases?
In the past when friends or relatives were faced with tremendous trials, I would drop to my knees and earnestly pray for healing or relief to end their suffering. Now, I am more apt to offer a rosary, include them in my morning or evening offerings or send up an urgent prayer to the Divine physician, as well as include them on my prayer chains. While I was often powerless to do something physical, due to distance or other situations, I knew that my prayers went right to our Lord above and that He truly heard me.
When friends or relatives suffered with surgeries or sicknesses, I’d try to send a card, make a phone call, visit, send a gift or flowers or make a meal–it wasn’t a lot, but it was part of me, reaching out and showing that I cared.
My recent surgery has taught me so very much about myself, my value to those I thought cared, and the apparent lack of compassion there seems to be.
Where I thought there would be empathy, there was none. Where I least expected it, it was abundant-such as the unexpected bouquet of flowers from a friend in North Carolina, a couple of cards from some online friends, meaningful email encouragement from friends, a meal from a dear friend from my parish. And yesterday, the sweet old man who grasped my hand at Mass and promised me that I would soon feel better-he had the face and sweet aroma of Jesus.
But others were strangely silent–the ones I work for–nothing, not even a card or note on my paycheck. My pastors–not even a phone call. Most of my family–so absorbed in their own lives to focus on their mother or sister’s health. I thought of the years I sacrificed for them and suddenly felt it all for naught.
When I nearly reached my bottom and felt a despair I had not known for a long time, an email from a man I interviewed for the newspaper a few times shone like a star in my inbox and became my lifeline, sent by God.
He explained a much more painful situation and the utter and total abandonment he felt by others in his parish, his family, and circle of friends. His feelings of insignificance shocked him to the core as like me, he always tried to be there for his family, his parish, and his friends–but when he was down, he was not only ignored, but kicked and left seemingly unwanted. He compared his feelings to those of Jesus suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane, and on the cross, only without Divine Consolation. I could relate!
He then spoke of grace that would come from unexpected places in the faces of others, through the compassion and kindness of strangers–all who assisted him in carrying his Cross.
He spoke of a book, by Jeff Cavins, called “Amazing Grace for those who Suffer.” The book is a collection of personal stories of how Catholics have overcome terrible tragedies with strengthened faith. In one story, about a lawyer unjustly convicted of a crime who spent 3 years in prison, it quotes St. Paul saying that in our total weakness is found perfect strength. That really made me think. That strength is from God when we abandon ourselves to His will. He was so kind as to make that his prayer for us both. He promised to send the book to me when he is finished, and I can’t wait to read it.
He wanted me to know, that when we feel most alone, we are being silently embraced–and I know that it is Our dear Lord who is embracing me now as I struggle to put one foot in front of the other and learn to walk again.