Once upon a time, about 16 years ago, when I first contemplated writing a regular column, I worried that I’d run out of things about which to write. A seasoned columnist told me that once a person starts writing, she looks at everything in life as a potential topic and as long as I kept living, I’d keep looking for and finding fodder for articles.
Ordinarily, my life is full and busy and active. I am out and about in the world and there’s plenty to observe. A couple of weeks ago, though, my world became very still and my environment grew much, much smaller. After a stay in the hospital, I came home to total bedrest for the rest of my pregnancy. God willing, my “world” for the next eight weeks will be my bedroom.
Today, I recline in front of the computer my husband has rigged at my bedside and ponder the possibilities for writing. I am not in the slightest bit interested in sharing obstetrical details. I can’t write about politics because it’s against editorial policy to endorse a candidate and I cannot keep my opinions to myself (thank goodness for my blog). How to reflect upon my world in print? My “world” right now is my family in a more profound way than ever before.
I’ve heard it said that a vacation (particularly camping) will bring out all the frailties and failings in a family. If a family is solid, it will thrive on vacation, but if it is frail, vacation will be difficult. I’ve also heard it said recently that bedrest is a mini-vacation for mom. (I promise to throw the remote control at anyone who dares to utter such nonsense in my presence.) Bedrest is not vacation, but it does seem to have the same effect of shining a glaring light on the frailties. It also has me reflecting upon the basic foundations of a strong family, a family that actually thrives in a crisis.
Prayer. Each in his own way, every member of our family has taken up his or her own prayer vigil. There is the child who came into my room my first night home and bemoaned the idea that our novena seemed unanswered. “Sometimes God says ‘yes,’” I told him. “And sometimes He says ‘no.’ Sometimes He just wants you to keep praying.”
Silently, he took a novena card from the bedside basket and went to his room. Three little girls fall asleep every night with an iPod playing in its dock. They are listening to the Divine Mercy Chaplet. Then, there is my bright pink binder, growing ever fatter with prayers and traditions. I didn’t remember a toothbrush or a change of clothes when I left for the hospital, but I did remember to grab my binder. And I was so comforted by those prayers during some very long nights. Prayer — and faith in prayer — is the only way we can survive the days we are sure will defeat us.
Repentance and forgiveness. When a family is in crisis of any sort, it is so easy to sin against one another. Try as we might to avoid it, we tend to hurt those we love the most. It’s crucial to know how to apologize and how to forgive. It is imperative not to nurse grudges and to seek reconciliation promptly.
Compassion. In a crisis, it is only natural to become more introspective than usual. Every member of the family focuses on how the crisis is affecting him or her. Such navel-gazing is not healthy for the individual or the family. The cure is compassion. In a healthy family, each person focuses upon another and asks, sincerely, “What can I do for you?” It is this sense of service that offers every person in the family a chance to grow in charity.
A strong work ethic. The bare truth is that every crisis generates more work of some sort. In families where good, hard work is embraced, everyone is able to rise to the occasion and work a little harder. The work does them good and work is a prayer.
Good, old-fashioned fun and games. Oh! How we need to laugh! While we are certainly not playing soccer in my bedroom, we have gone to extraordinary lengths to ensure that the children will keep playing and dancing this season. They need that time and that activity. At home, though mom is still, everyone else is welcome to perform endless dance recitals and to play countless games. I sit and watch and delight in their antics.
Tender moments, talk and touch. Physically limiting crises bring unique challenges to relationships. A child who is used to being carried and nursed and held needs to learn that she is still loved though those things are temporarily unavailable to her from me. She seeks refuge in the arms of her father and her siblings. As we all adjust, I re-enter her world and she learns to fall asleep holding my face in her hands. In marriage, much cherished habits of touch and tenderness yield to long, long nights of quiet conversation. This harvest is thornier than any we’ve ever known, but the fruit is sweet indeed.
It is far too early in this odd pregnancy journey for me to begin to know what we will learn. All I know right now is this family is one founded on the Gospel of Life and God’s most abundant message of love. I am assured that His grace is sufficient and I know that His mercy is boundless. We can do this. Personally, I’d rather go camping. But we can do this.