August 26, 2016

Emmaus Walk / Debra Tomaselli

Greatest goal of parenting? To get children to heaven

Debra Tomaselli“I want a divorce.”

Hearing my mom say that to my dad is one of my worst childhood memories. I lay in bed, surrounded by darkness, hoping I’d heard wrong.

Late night arguments had become the norm. Often, hungry for dinner, my brother and I would hover in the backyard, hearing their muffled quarrels from inside the house until long past dusk.

My parents, native New Yorkers, had recently moved to New Mexico after Dad accepted a promotion to relocate and become an engineer on the prestigious Apollo program.

Initially, it was enchanting. Mom delved into Southwestern history, planning family outings to ancient Mexican cathedrals, Carlsbad Caverns and White Sands.

But things changed.

Dad, who enjoyed a stellar promotion, worked long hours. He joined a carpool that frequented the local tavern after work, something he’d never done before. He enjoyed the popularity of his position.

While Dad was having fun, my brothers and I made new friends at Holy Cross School.

Mom, however, felt disconnected. Back then, long-distance calls were rare. There was no Facetime, texting or Facebook. Additionally, the tight-knit community resisted the influx of New Yorkers. Although Mom hosted dinners for Dad’s co-workers’ families, it didn’t replace the warmth of our beloved grandparents.

It had to be hard.

But divorce? I lay in the dark, trembling. My stomach churned. I cried, wishing I hadn’t heard those cold words.

The next morning, getting ready for school, I held my breath, waiting for the big announcement. But it never came.

Instead, Dad dropped the carpool, and shortened his workday. Mom volunteered at school, and made new friends. We attended every church event our parish held.

My parents chose to live their vows.

Love is patient—even when things aren’t going your way. Love is kind—even when you are irritated. Love is not self-seeking—no matter how justified you feel.

Peace reigned, not just for them, but for us kids.

That Christmas, Dad gave Mom a mink stole. She pranced in delight. Dad took her hand and they embraced, dipped and kissed like newlyweds on the dance floor. I felt so happy.

Mom and Dad enjoyed a beautiful life together. Although there were more out-of-state moves, more sacrifices and more adjustments, they came easier, wrapped in faith and tempered with an air of selflessness.

Recently, while listening to a Laudate podcast, I thought of them. It referenced the Gospel of Matthew: “Let the little children come to me. Do not hinder them” (Mt 19:14).

It’s the parents’ responsibility to bring their children to Jesus, the commentator said, and failure to live an authentic Christian life would hinder them. Actions speak louder than words. The greatest goal, he added, is for your child to reach heaven and hear them say, “Thank you for helping me get here.”

I recalled the crossroad my parents faced long ago, and the resulting impact of their actions.

Throughout my life, my faith has carried me. It shines through the good times and the bad, the joys and the sorrows, in sickness and in health. It provides a bit of heaven right here on Earth.

Thanks, Mom and Dad, for helping me get here.

(Debra Tomaselli writes from Altamonte Springs, Florida. She can be reached at

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