February 9, 2020
Dear St. Gabriel Family,
This weekend marks the 27th anniversary of my mother’s death, from cancer. I remember her many times, each day, but the yearly anniversaries always find the words “my mom died of cancer,” catching in my throat and resisting an easy exit into spoken words. She was very young then, and so were her husband and her daughter and her son. Being young, and fairly insulated from significant loss due to death, we asked the question then, and for a long time afterward…“why?” At the time, the question begged a causal answer, at least it did for me. What caused this? Why did this happen to MY mom? Can’t this have been no-ticed earlier and eradicated? Since then, the question “why?” has evolved in my life so as to ask “what?” “What” do I do with that experience? “How” do I make spiritual lemonade out of that big, horrible, painful cosmic lemon?
Some of mom’s last words, to me, can be roughly summed up or paraphrased like this…when something such as death like this, so dramatic and so painful, happens, so unexpectedly and off-brand, we have to look around and see what we are being called to change, what is this going to bring out of us that may have been hidden, what subsurface strength are we being called upon to animate and use for good? Because I handled kryptonite and overcame it, what is my budding superpower going to be when I fly out of the fortress of solitude? As good as we were or now are, or as good as life may have been, how do we look within ourselves and at God to see the incarnate within us and grow into something better? Loss can define us, or we can define loss.
Isaiah 58 fairly well sums up what I have taken as my wakeup call, from mom’s departure 27 years ago, “Thus says the LORD: Share your bread with the hungry, shelter the oppressed and the homeless; clothe the naked when you see them, and do not turn your back on your own. Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your wound shall quickly be healed; your vindication shall go before you, and the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer, you shall cry for help, and he will say: Here I am!” Use what you have been given, good or ill, and work hard to make some-one else’s life better by the way you live, by the way you meet them on the road, by the way you listen, by the way you heal, by the way you pray, by the way you give, by the way you let them care for you.
Through all of the good times, and all of the bad times, I say “Yes, my Lord, Digo Si Senor, Here I am!” May it be so for each of us, soon and very soon.
Fr. John A. Schwartzlose
Archived Pastor’s Pen