A Reflection of God

You wait for months and you labor for hours. You skip coffee and wine and fatty snacks for his benefit. Finally, you receive this baby, who, in a blink of an eye or rather a single final push, changes your world forever — this baby whose every move you chart, feel, assess, watch and hover over. You spend nights rocking him through goodness-knows-what-kind of colic or fussiness. You sleep lightly and check on him 100 times a night, just to make sure he’s breathing because after you give birth to him he is the breath of life itself to you.

You give up sleep, hobbies, time, and peace of mind for him. You pray, worry; plead with God for only the best for him. You sit up nights to figure out how to afford the best education for him and how to teach him all he needs to know to love God and do His will. You wonder, ponder, and strain your brain to figure out if vaccinating is the right thing or not. You question whether you feed him too much or not enough, indulge him too much or not enough, discipline him too much or not enough, spend time with him too much or not enough. You want to buy him all the cutest outfits you see and all the toys they make. You cannot, and it’s a good thing, because you would. There are not enough hours in a day to love this child.

He stretches towards his independence and you try to be patient. It is painful for him because he can’t stretch far enough for his tastes. It’s painful for you because he stretches too far for yours. He extends. He comes back, and you no sooner relax then he stretches forward again, each time pressing a little bit further away from you. Both of your elasticity grows.

When he gets his driver’s license, you keep one eye on the clock, figure out how much time it should take him to each destination, and worry and pray when his return is a minute too long. When he gets his first job you are so proud that your heart swells to almost bursting. He is growing into a responsible human being, and Mozart’s mother could not have felt more satisfaction at hearing her son’s first concerto. When he leaves for college you feel your heart will break with loneliness, even though your house is full of others who fill your heart, ironically, equally.

He hurries in and out, not meaning to rush past you to his dizzying scheduled events. He doesn’t know why you stop your work and sit at the stool when he comes in and don’t resume until he is up and out the door again. He doesn’t see your struggle to hold your tongue in offering advice or direction unless asked, knowing he is capable now and not wanting to annoy. He doesn’t know you worry he’ll move far away forever and you will be left with his 21 year-old, worn, nursery teddy bear as consolation, or an empty room decorated with awards and mementos that you walked step- by- step with him to help him achieve. He doesn’t realize that when he stops momentarily for a quick hug before rushing out the door, that you treasure that gesture and recall it again and again, or that you’ve bargained with God a thousand times, “If you have to, take anything from me, but please protect him and keep him safe.”

No, he doesn’t know these things, and won’t know, perhaps for another twenty years. It will dawn on him in the dusk of an evening perhaps after his own child leaves for a movie with his friend with a promise to be home ‘some time later’. He will, suddenly but not suddenly, understand. It will become clear like grey, parting clouds revealing an eternal blue sky in a high but gentle wind that comes seemingly out of nowhere but has been imminent all along.

In this swift revelation of the obvious he will call his mother and he will say, "I love you and thank you for everything you have done. I never realized." And he won’t have, at least not until then. Paradoxically, he will not ever be able to repay that love to the one who loved first and most, but can only honor it truly and fittingly by bestowing it devotedly upon another unsuspecting progeny. For a parent’s love is mostly paid forward, not backward, and the recipient is unaware for years of the tenderness, care and severe, deep devotion his parent has had for him. Upon discovering this simple fact, when the light has finally been shone on the steadfast love, he will see that the secret circle is complete—apparent and yet unknown for another generation.

In that one defining moment, which took much effort and many years to bring to fruition and awareness, he, the son, discovers personally and profoundly how sacrifice and love fit together so completely that they cannot be separated, like a rose with its thorns or a sunset with the darkness that envelops it. He learns in this remarkably singular yet sequential experience what he has likely been taught in books or told in words but could never understand until now. He learns Truth. He learns about real love, and in doing so he also learns about God.

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  • “you’ve bargained with God a thousand times, “If you have to, take anything from me, but please protect him and keep him safe.” I did the same constantly, always praying that God would give me any other cross, but last year my 17 year old son collapsed after running the 400 meter race at his track meet and died. Can you give me your opinion as to why God did not listen and gave me that one I begged him not to?

  • Christi Derr

    Dear rfarese,

    I am so very sorry for the tragic loss of your son. As you have already realized, I am sure, even if God himself came and gave you a perfect explanation for taking your son home to Him, it would not take away the pain and suffering you are feeling. There is no way around the pain at this time. Perhaps you could just stay quietly next to Mary at calvary, when she watched her divine son die a horrible death to fulfill the will of the Father. Remember too that Jesus wept at Lazarus’s death when he saw the sorrow of Martha and Mary. God sees your pain and sorrow, and weeps with you. May He hold you safe in His Sacred Heart and may Our Blessed Mother cover you with her mantle of prayer.

  • Doris Rodriguez

    Oh, how true these words are! I cried through the entire article because it was in the back seat of my mother’s car, holding my own firstborn son, that I first whispered those precious words: “Mom, I never knew how much you loved me until this moment. Thank you for everything but, most of all, thank you for your constant love and sacrifice on my behalf.” I am going to share this article with ALL of my friends … but I want to especially share it with my nephew, BJ, who will soon hold his first child in his arms … and the paying forward will begin.

  • Dear rfarese,

    I can not even begin to understand what you are going through. My prayers to you and your family. The pain you are enduring as a mother must be heartwrenching. When we can’t see past the shadows, Holy Mother Church (militant and triumphant) prays for us and with us)
    One thing I would offer is the life of St. Rita. In God’s infinite wisdom, He may have allowed your son to enter into His heavenly home rather than stay here on earth and face something worse.


    St. Rita –

    THE DEATH of her husband, Ferdinando, made St. Rita a widow, but she was not left alone. God had blessed her, as we have already observed, with two handsome sons who were now grown up, and on these she centered her utmost care and attention. She daily implored God, with the most fervent prayers, to preserve their innocence and aid her to guide them in the path of His holy law in which she had instructed them. Giovanni and Paulo, the children of St. Rita, became what their Saintly mother molded them. They grew up God-loving and God-fearing children. They loved their good mother with all the fullness of their boyish hearts, and no boys could be more respectful or obedient to a mother than were Giovanni and Paulo.

    As they advanced in years, St. Rita, with the quick perception of a mother, noticed that a change was taking place in the characters of her sons and that sometimes, not unlike their departed father, they appeared to be sullen, morose and irritable. Especially did she observe a notable change in Giovanni, who was scarcely sixteen years of age. Young as they were, and even in spite of the religious training they had received from their mother, Giovanni and Paulo had become somewhat imbued with that false idea of honor and justice which made it incumbent on the nearest of kin to execute vengeance on the slayer of a relative. This criminal and unauthorized right of revenge was much in vogue in Italy at the time St. Rita lived, and was called: La Vendetta.

    Though St. Rita had observed that from time to time her sons made remarks relative to the murder of their father, it never entered her mind that they had any thought of avenging his death. One day, however, from a conversation she overheard between her two sons she learned, to her great surprise and sorrow, that they were inclined to revenge the assassination of their father.

    Like the good and saintly mother she was, St. Rita determined to destroy and stifle so heinous and criminal a desire. Summoning Giovanni and Paulo to her side, she told them what she had heard and begged them, with tears and supplications, to erase from their minds all desire of revenge, and to forget that their father had been assassinated. She also placed before their eyes the example of Christ, who asked pardon for those who had crucified Him and for whom He suffered to give them eternal life. By means of this beautiful example, she sincerely hoped she would be able to persuade her sons to pardon the murderers of their father. She furthermore reminded them that though they had lost their earthly father, they would gain a heavenly one if they would pardon from their hearts. And finally she represented to them the terrible sin the homicide commits, and plainly told them that they themselves would be murderers if they avenged the death of their father.

    In this manner did St. Rita try to keep and guide her sons in the path of the fear of God. After some time, as we may read in the Decree of her Canonization, when she saw her sons persist in their desire for vengeance, she fled to the crucifix and related the whole affair to Christ, fervently beseeching Him either to change the desires of her sons, or no longer spare their lives. God heard the prayer of St. Rita. Both her sons died within a year, well-prepared to go before the judgment seat of Almighty God.

  • Mary Kochan

    Dear rfarese, I do know how you feel for I lost my 22-year-old daughter in a car accident on Thanksgiving morning 2005. At the time Jessica died, her younger sister Amanda, a Marine, was in Iraq. I was, of course, worried about the one in the war zone on the other side of the world but I lost the one who lived under my roof. I had imagined the possible knock on the door of two uniformed officers with bad news, instead it was a trio of local police officers.

    Losing a child turns your world upside down in a way that is unimaginable to those who have not experienced it. I told one friend that if I had placed a pot of water to boil on the stove and turned the fire on under it only to watch it turn to ice in front of my eyes, things could not have seemed more wrong — just wrong, impossibly, horribly wrong because this is not supposed to happen.

    Somebody gave me the book, A Grief Unveiled, written by Gregory Floyd, a Catholic father, after the accidental death of one of his sons, John Paul, 6. He chronicles the first year of grief in great detail. At one point many months after, he asks his wife the “why” question and is stunned that she says, “Because God loves John Paul and loves us.” Finally that is the answer as to why your son has departed this life ahead of you, because God loves him and loves you. God loves you. Ultimately that is the answer to everything. Right now we trust because we cannot understand. Someday we will understand.

    One thing I can tell you is that no matter where you are in this journey — it will get better.

  • rakeys

    I believe that God did answer your prayer

    “If you have to, take anything from me, but please protect him and keep him safe.” I did the same constantly, always praying that God would give me any other cross”

    He did take something from you
    By taking your son to heaven, He has protected him and is keeping him safe.
    God has definitely given you another cross to bear.

    In our humaness, we see life here on earth ast the ultimate. But it is life in heaven with the Lord that is our greatest joy. Your son is expweriencing greater joy. We on the other hand, must continue to carry our crosses, enjoy the peace we have through his grace,and continue to pray.

  • Catholic Mom of 9

    I am so sorry for the tragic loss of your precious son. I have no idea what God’s idea was behind not answering the prayer the way in which we all would have wanted. I do know, however, that God loves you and your dear, dear son more than any of us can imagine, and that He knows your son’s eternal salvation and happiness is primary, even above all the horrendous suffering you are experiencing now on earth. I pray God will soothe the sharp pain from the earthly loss of your son. Please be at peace knowing you WILL be reunited in the end, when all questions will be answered and you will then see how God’s mercy did grant your prayer for your son’s ultimate well-being. He chose YOU to be the parent of this unique and beautiful soul. He had confidence in YOU that the lessons He wanted him to learn would best be taught by YOU. You are forever the parent of this child, and those bonds are not ones that even death can break. Jesus has conquered death and even amidst your pain you can be certain that your son and you will keep your bond, reuniting through Christ, when you also pass.

    I can’t imagine a more difficult cross than the one you were asked to bear. Stay strong. I will offer my Mass for you, your precious son and your intentions tomorrow, and ask God to grant you a special consolation of peace and reassurance. I lost my 20 year old brother in 2005 to an auto accident. While I was not his parent, I can understand many of your unanswered questions and the seeming unfairness of it all. We expect our children to outlive their parents. It is unnatural when a young person dies. It is unexpected. It is unfair.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is that I don’t know why your son was allowed to die. But I am here with you as you suffer in pain. In faith, together, I hope we can help you, in some small way, endure.
    Theresa A. Thomas