Lost and found

My brother’s son and his wife just had their first baby, a little boy. His name is Colin David, David being my brother, who died of cancer when his son was only 3 years old.

Two years ago these two young people were almost killed in a car accident when another driver crossed the center line on a two-lane road. The wife’s dad, who was driving, didn’t make it. My nephew and his wife endured months in the hospital and in rehab; they will live with the physical and emotional effects of that accident for the rest of their lives.

So this baby boy is indeed a blessing.

I called my nephew on Christmas Day, little more than a week after the baby’s birth. He told me he and his wife had gotten each other a few presents, “But, you know, with the baby, we really don’t need anything else.”

In this story lie echoes of the sacred stories we Christians will read aloud to one another this Holy Week: stories of suffering, death, and new life, of love that triumphs over death.

Sometimes these echoes in our lives are dramatic, but often not. The everyday test for us lies in recognizing this pattern of dying and rising to new life as it happens over and over in the years of family life. You have to die to your old life when you welcome children into your life, when your bright 10-year-old turns into a moody, “don’t touch me” 11-year-old, when your kids leave your home for their own lives.

I look back on the year my son was 4. He had been pretty much a delight till then, but at this age—I recall what some battle-weary friends wrote on their “Welcome, baby” card when he was born: “Enjoy them while they’re little, because soon they grow up to be monsters!” All day my son fought with me, refused to cooperate on the simplest of activities. Angry, he called me “poo-poo head.” At bedtime he’d say sweetly to my husband, “I love you, Dada,” turn to me and say, “I kind of like you.” I found relief, finally, in a book which, along with strategies, offered this message: Don’t worry, every parent of a 4-year-old secretly fears they are raising a juvenile delinquent. I emerged from my fog of discouragement a little wiser, having learned that I would survive having a child who didn’t always like me. And when my strong-willed pistol of a daughter came along a few years later, I had fewer illusions—a good thing, too.

A friend tells of his parents relocating to another town just in time for his senior year of high school. His mom reassured him that it would all work out, but he told her bluntly no, it wouldn’t. “I won’t forget the look on her face, how bad she felt that all this was happening,” he writes, “how much it hurt her to see me in pain. I ended up living with another family the next year so I could finish at my high school, which I know was a huge sacrifice for my mother, who basically missed my senior year.”

Living with the other family taught him to see his own more clearly. “I learned a lot about just how much my parents cared about me,” he writes, “even letting me follow my own desire to stay at my old school rather than live with them, which I know is what they really, really wanted.”

What was it Jesus said? “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:24). Amen to that.

by Catherine O’Connell-Cahill, from the pages of At Home with Our Faith, Claretian Publications’ print newsletter for parents on nurturing spirituality in the home. Winner of the 2010 General Excellence award from the Catholic Press Association. Here’s a sample issue.

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