Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

The Grace of Being a Gift. (Starting Point)

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

The Grace of Being a Gift. (Starting Point)

Article excerpt

Giving a gift is easier than being a gift, I thought as I stood at the window watching our middle son and daughter-in-law. It was raining outside and they were standing in our yard, wearing hooded parkas and conversing enthusiastically. I watched my son affectionately put his arm around his wife. Then they bent to dig up perennials from the rock garden they have created in memory of our youngest son who died several years ago. All afternoon they worked as they prepared to transport slips to the back yard of their own new home an hour's drive away. I felt a surge of inner warmth as I realized that the legacy of the transplanted foliage would become a living reminder for them of the passion, life-giving memories, lessons and sorrows we have shared.

When I was about 40 years of age, I officially became a disabled person due to a number of chronic illnesses. Making peace with these limitations has been real spiritual work. In the early days, it seemed I was frantic in the effort to put one foot in front of the other as the weeks turned to months and then years. To become a person who needs caretaking was not how I wanted to be seen in the eyes of my children. I did not want to be a burden to my family; I wanted to relieve theirs. I wanted to be a giver and to be able to reach out and meet their needs. I did not want a "gift" of this multi-layered magnitude that would teach my loved ones what it means to be a caretaker and all the messy processing that entails.

At first I just denied the disappointment it was to my family to not have a mother who could physically be active and a helper on that all-important level. Finally the day came when it had to be said by them and acknowledged by all of us. That was a painful and stressful day in my life, but also one of the most pivotal. For all of us, it was a day of facing the truth, accepting it, forgiving on a number of levels and in time moving forward with greater compassion. …

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