January 14, 2005

Faithful Lines / Shirley Vogler Meister

Fragility of life: focusing on what's important

Certainly, it must be a cliché to start this column with “This is the first day of the rest of your life.” So, paraphrasing that with “This is the first month of the rest of 2005” must be a cliché, too. Yet, that’s my focus: How do we begin the day, the week, the month from now on?

My husband, Paul, and I prefaced the new year with a short holiday message predominantly going to relatives and friends who knew nothing about the medical problems with which we dealt last year. They began the end of July when Paul was diagnosed with prostate cancer. After consultations with experts, he decided to undergo a prostatectomy. However, pre-op tests showed he needed open-heart surgery first. (A warning to readers: He was asymptomatic for both conditions, so keep close tabs on one’s health via regular medical checkups.)

Heart surgery was performed on Sept. 21 cancer surgery on Dec. 7. Both were successful, and Paul’s recovery is progressing well.

So, our holiday message began and ended with Deo gratias—“Thanks be to God.” We pray this daily, grateful that Paul has entered 2005 in better shape. As I often stress, God must have some special plan for him. Perhaps it is to be supportive of others facing similar circumstances. Perhaps it is to be more aware of God’s expectations. However, if there’s one strong lesson learned, it is this: Each day, each week, each month we have left in life, we should determine what we can do to make it better, not only for ourselves but for everyone with whom we come in contact. Life is too fragile to do otherwise.

At an early Mass on Sunday, Paul and I heard Father Tony Volz, the pastor of Christ the King Parish in Indianapolis, stress how important it is for each of us to reflect Jesus Christ to the best of our ­ability in everything we do. As Christians, that is our mandate. It is easier to accomplish if we consciously dedicate each day to that purpose, praying for God’s help and remembering “This is the first day of the rest of my life.”

Not one of us knows exactly when our days will cease. Consider sudden recent disasters—from the catastrophic (i.e., tsunami deaths) to the premeditated (i.e., kidnappings or murders) to the sudden (i.e, auto accidents, war casualties, or medical conditions causing quick or lingering deaths).

Consider them carefully, offer as much help as practically, physically and emotionally possible—and pray. How­ever, don’t dwell on them so much that extreme challenges or tragedies prevent us from mirroring Christ with faith, hope and love through our thoughts, words and deeds.

(Shirley Vogler Meister, a member of Christ the King Parish in Indianapolis, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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