As I continue to try to maintain an open heart towards life and its curvy path of unexpected change, I am surprised by revelations I don't expect if I shift even a small pebble in long entrenched routines.
My husband and I began making an hour of prayer before the Blessed Sacrament over 25 years ago, every Wednesday from 7 to 8 P.M., when I was pregnant with our fifth daughter. The only times we didn't go was when we were out of town. When he was diagnosed with cancer, many friends started to join us each week, and after he died, one couple became my constant companions at Holy Hour.
This week, neither of them could join me, so I went alone and determined to try a couple of suggestions that our pastor had given a friend of mine. He had told her just to meditate on the Scriptural passage, "Be still and know that I am God," and as the time passes, eliminate each ending and ponder "Be still and know that I am," "Be still and know," "Be still," and "Be." So in the silence of the Blessed Sacrament chapel, I did that for the first half hour.
After that, I turned to the "prayer of reminiscence," which he had introduced at the parish women's prayer group a few months ago. He told us that we should allow ourselves to look back over our (happy) memories and ask the Father to point out to us the one on which we should meditate. We then ask Jesus to help us revisit the scene and imagine it in vivid detail, followed by petitioning the Holy Spirit to reveal to us what God's message is for us in the memory.
When I had prayed this way at the women's meeting, I immediately envisioned a day when I was about 10 which I consider my happiest childhood memory. I was visiting my grandmother's farm and my uncle, who is also my godfather, asked me to if I wanted to go out on the combine with him. Any time spent with this fun-loving uncle was a treat and I felt honored that he asked me to go with him. Riding the combine was like climbing onto a huge John-Deere-green dinosaur, and I felt like a giant sitting high in the cab with my uncle. After a while, he asked if I wanted to ride in the back where the grain came down the chute. For a tomboy like me, nothing could have been more exciting. (Note to parents and children: DON'T try this at home; we now know that this is very dangerous!) For what seemed like hours, I sang at the top of my lungs, with the hot blue sky arched above me, as the grain poured down around me until it was up to my neck, when my uncle came and pulled me free, dirty and delighted!
I realized that although my godfather wasn't right with me, he was still there, driving the combine and keeping an eye on me. And although I seem to be alone in the world since my husband has died, I know that God is still there, driving the combine and keeping his loving eye on me as well.
I didn't expect anything as dramatic as this when I began the prayer of reminiscence this week, but I settled on a vague memory of a time when it had begun to snow when I lived in Oklahoma. My siblings and I walked home from the bus stop in the damp, cold air, with snowflakes tickling our faces and the chill penetrating our coats. When we got home, we discovered that our mother had homemade hot cocoa in the big Dutch oven warming on the stove. That turned a dreary day into a chocolate dream.
As I reflected on this memory, I experienced my mother's love for us more clearly than any words could express. When my parents lived with us the last 15 years of their lives, I often felt my mother's criticism much more than her love and I can often still be bitter about the way they seemed to be over-directive and domineering when I was growing up. But this memory revealed the love that was at the core of her relationship with me, just as a home movie that showed my father playing with me when I was about three underscored the loving joy he took in me. And it is a gift to be grateful to them and to know that they did the very best they could to raise a difficult daughter to embrace the Faith and become a wife and mother with her own weaknesses as well as a great many strengths.