January 10, 2014

It’s All Good / Patti Lamb

In times of trial, remember you are the body of Christ

Patti LambLast month, everything was so cheerful and festive. The majority of the population seemed to be in a good mood. The spirit of Christmas, and of giving, was alive and well.

But then comes January. And it feels like “the most wonderful time of the year” is long gone.

The catchy Christmas tunes on the radio have ceased, and all we hear are commercials about New Year’s weight loss resolutions and gym membership specials. Oh, and we receive our credit card bills, which do not make spirits bright.

Then, we take down the lights—literally. We remove the special decorations and festive lights that lit up a dark December, and the world is, well—more drab.

Sorry to be a killjoy, but I never cared much for January.

But I know a woman who doesn’t think of today as a cold January chiller. She’s thrown out the calendar and doesn’t keep track of time by month or by day. All that matters to her is now—the present.

She celebrates this moment simply because she’s alive. This woman is told by doctors that her battle with cancer will soon come to an end. She realizes that the present is a gift.

The illness she fights has stripped her of her hair, the use of her legs, her energy, and much more. Deprived of many qualities that made her beautiful by earthly standards, she remains positively radiant because her Christ light shines.

This woman’s legacy will be that of a devout caretaker. She cared lovingly for her parents, her husband, her children, her children’s children and her friends. And she cared for many more beyond those. Last month, at her 50th birthday party, she asked for no gifts, unless guests wished to bring toys for our parish’s “Angel Tree,” which helped underprivileged families in our community.

None of her family members or friends are ready to let go of her earthly presence. There is sadness, anger and confusion as to why she is being called home so early. After all, teams of prayer warriors have been storming heaven on her behalf.

In fact, I recently asked my aunt, a devout Catholic and someone way holier than I’ll ever be on my best day, to start praying for this woman since I felt like God was no longer taking my calls.

She reminded me of her mantra, “I believe, but I don’t understand.”

My aunt explained that God’s infinite love and understanding are far superior to our meager human intelligence and capability to love. She encouraged me to trust and believe. She cited examples of natural disasters and many innocent and holy lives being claimed when it simply didn’t make sense. She reminded me of a Bible reference from Hebrews: “To have faith is to be sure of the things we hope for, and certain of the things we cannot see” (Heb 11:1).

In a Christmas card I sent last month to the woman with cancer, I wrote, “God is at work in you.” I believe that. It might not be the way this woman wants God to use her, but she acquiesces to his will. I’ve seen people step outside of themselves to offer care, prayers and support. In times of trial, we see beyond ourselves and realize we are the body of Christ. We are all in it together.

On a bleak January day, a Christ light shines in Mooresville, Indiana. When this friend passes her torch to us, let’s keep her caretaking spirit alive with our words and actions.

(Patti Lamb, a member of St. Susanna Parish in Plainfield, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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