Through the years, and particularly as I have gotten older, many of you have shared with me the journey of caring for aging parents. As a society, we are living longer and have better medical care and seemingly more options for our elderly loved ones.
Many of you have also shared the challenges of both Alzheimer’s and dementia that provide further unique struggles in caring for and being present to aging family members. One of the most touching things that I have heard came from one our parishioners, Kim Barrio, whose mom, Eileen Mahoney, had lost a significant portion of her memory. Kim shared that when she would visit her mom towards the end of her life, that she didn’t know Kim’s name, but she knew that she loved Kim. That speaks to the love of a mother and the power of love that supersedes even our memory.
My mom, Pat Keehan, has lived in Assisted Living at Lake Barrington Woods for the past 11 years. She has dementia and her physical abilities are declining. She has fallen several times recently and has been receiving various levels of hospice care for the past six months. Her situation has worsened in the past two weeks necessitating 24 hour care.
Much of the challenge facing our family is identifying what is best for mom. Assessment of her situation is difficult, because what is best for her is not clear. Her mental and physical decline make it difficult for her to express herself. Her declining memory is making it harder to appreciate the truly amazing life that she has lived and given to us as a family and so many friends through the years. However, I truly believe that those things will never be forgotten or lost; it is just a little harder to access them these days. We remind her of so much goodness in her life as we look at pictures in photo albums and on our phones (it still amazes her that pictures are on phones), and that simple practice certainly puts all of us back in touch with a beautiful, kind, grateful woman who is still a blessing to all who meet her.
With my mom’s general condition on the decline and with some very difficult decisions for her ahead of us as a family, I have been deep in prayer and asking God for wisdom as I discern my own immediate future. As you may know, I was planning on taking a five month sabbatical beginning this week, but I simply don’t know how much time I may have left with my mom. Unfortunately, the very rising of the sun tomorrow is not guaranteed to any of us.
Given the uncertainty of my mom’s situation, I have decided to postpone my five month sabbatical. However, I am going on an eight day silent directed retreat in Milford, Ohio and will visit the Diocese of Pittsburgh for some interviews, both of those as originally planned for the beginning of my time away and beginning this Monday. Given any drastic changes for my mom, even these plans could change. I will share details in this space and on our website of any further changes. Please keep my mom, my family and me in your prayers.
This week’s Gospel concludes a lengthy section of Matthew in which we hear several parables. This week’s is the simplest and one of my favorites. Jesus tells us that he is calling us by, and the kingdom of God is like, a combination of what we DISCOVER in life and what we SEARCH for. The treasure is found in a field. The merchant searches for the pearl of great price. The finder of the treasure is primarily FORTUNATE. The searcher for the pearl is primarily INDUSTRIOUS. Sometimes in life we are blessed by what we simply find or discover. God’s grace is sometimes freely given to us, manifesting itself in very valuable things, people and lessons that we find. Sometimes in life we must educate ourselves so that we can make the right choices, and God’s grace comes about because God gives us the energy to look for more in life and to develop skills, talents and a brain that God has given to us. God’s grace is often the result of our partnership with God, how we work with God.
So one spiritual exercise that is generated for us from this parable is reflecting on 2 questions. The first, “What have you discovered in life so far?” The second, “What are you looking for?” If you find yourself in some significant discernment about your future, or feel the need to reflect more deeply on your response to God’s call in your life, try spending some time with this short parable found in Matthew 13:44-46.
As I spend the next couple of weeks away I want to thank Peg Hanrahan our Director of Teen and Family Faith, Marsha Adamczyk Assistant Director of Adult Faith, our Deacon Dennis Brown and our new Associate Pastor Rich Jakubik for writing this column. Thanks to all of you.