Six Beautiful Words…

Out of surgery and doing well! Deo Gratias!

Dad indeed did have a complete hip replacement today and they also set his wrist which was cleanly broken. So, generally speaking that is good news and what is standard procedure in these cases (Thanks to my good friend Dr. Beth Rooney, who is a physical therapist and who gave me the crash course in what happens when someone breaks a hip).

Prayer was rich today, as I took the morning to settle in and pray deeply. I continued prayer as I shoveled snow this morning (my walk and the sidewalk). I felt like a kid thinking about my childhood with my father. Snowy days of pushing cars out of the muck and winter camping in lean-twos (three sided houses—brrrr).

But mostly I thought of his great and generous spirit. My dad, now retired, was a school custodial worker for 30 years. He was a beloved person in his school (when he retired they threw him quite a party) and was always generous to both the children, teachers and staff–but more importantly the neighborhood. The firehouse down the street made him an honorary firefighter because of the strong friendships that he developed with the guys and because he’d take the snowblower and extra block so they awoke to a clean driveway for the rigs. “Those guys deserve it,” he’d say. “They run into burning buildings and it doesn’t matter who’s inside. The least we can do is let them rest and take care of their driveway.”

He’s given a lot to me and our family and today especially, I am overwhelmed by gratitude.

One of the holiest men I know, Fr. Tom Ryan, CSP, recently reported to me that this was the first Christmas that he spent without his mother and father, both of them passing on recently. He spent this Christmas with his siblings and their children and he noticed his parent’s influence everywhere. Then he said something simply wonderfully filled with grace:

“I was filled with such gratitude for them, so thankful that they took the time to start this family.”

A touching thought of thankfulness, given to those now gone before him, but trickling down to those of us who still have our parents, now in their old age or even those who are still young. Fr. Tom got to know his siblings better over the break and their children too and grace abounds. How often do any of us pause and just take a brief moment for gratitude for the genesis of our family trees?

Older people look back with a much gentler gratitude, I think. My wife’s family holds a family Christmas party each year, a command performance, to be sure. Her grandparents were fixtures and one of my favorite moments was when Marion’s grandmother looked into the eyes of her husband, then 96 years old and not able to see or hear well. She said a simple excited phrase: “Louie, look what we did! There’s about 80 people here!”

Today, let us take a moment to be grateful for life. Ours and our families and friends. I’m grateful too, for my colleagues here who have kept me sane today. Even for those of us who don’t always have great relationships with our families, can gratitude sneak in perhaps in smaller ways–for birth, for safety, for attempts at forgiveness?

Breathe in deeply and fill your lungs with the air that gives us life, the spirit that propels us into the action of grace, where we live not merely for ourselves but for others. That spirit belongs to my dad and I pray he’s given a bit of that to me. May that someone who has enabled grace to take root in you, be in your memory and prayers today. Amen.

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