The Worry of Death

My friend from college Nancy Keelin Tannucilli, posted a brief note on facebook tonight saying how much she misses her dad, who died 21 years ago when we were just freshmen at Fordham. You might find it hard to believe that I remember that event so clearly (I didn’t even have to do the math to remember when it was) but, Nancy was the first person I knew that was my own age who had a parent die.

For most of my adult life I lived with the anxiety of thinking that my mother was going to die…and die sooner rather than later. Always with a myriad of health problems, my mother has shuttled in and out of hospitals since I was about 9 years old.

“How’s your mother?” was an oft-heard question to me as a child.

“Well…she went into the hospital…”

“AGAIN!?” was the exasperated response from my questioner who found it hard to believe that mom had been hospitalized for probably the fifth time that year.

So when Nancy’s father died, our freshman year, I kinda thought I would be the next college student who would be experiencing the loss of a parent.

But through the grace of God, mom made it to graduation. I didn’t take a few out of state jobs that I had opportunity to venture into, so that I would be near home, just in case something went wrong with mom. Although continually making her frequent hospital visits, mom muddled through. It takes a toll on her, but she continues her battle with rheumatoid arthritis (which is a dreadful disease that is a killer and we are only recently finding out more about this disease today), severe asthma, anxiety, colon problems and more that I won’t bore you with.

Suffice it to say that she’s gone through a lot. And for a good portion of my college and young adult life, we suffered along with her emotionally.

On the day of my wedding, when she should have been dancing with me, mom was getting prepped for major colon surgery. I thought surely thought that was going to be the end. But she rallied, given only a 29% chance to live, she somehow, someway, recovered. She and my father struggled with her recovery, as some of you may have read about on Busted Halo® but with some help from Fr Jim Lloyd, CSP, who calmed my mother’s anxiety and got her to believe that she indeed was going to live much longer, mom was still with us.

Last year, mom turned 80. My college roommate, Joe Patane called me up on her birthday.

“Hey isn’t it your mom’s 80th birthday today?”

“Yep, I’m headed there right now.”

“That’s awesome! You know, Mike, for as long as I’ve known you, you’ve lived with the anxiety that your mom is going to die. And I’ve known you now for 20 years!”

“Yeah, you’re probably right about that..”

“Mike, I think you can let that one go now…”

I laughed and then of course, I cried. Because he was right. Nancy and all those whose parents died much too young have had it much worse than I have. My mom, though sick, is still here at 81. And my dad, also 81, has had a rich life, filled with much joy, some pain, some sorrow, but much love.

And now that they are in their 80s, I have to be OK with the fact that every day for them is gift. And there are more days behind them than ahead of them to be sure.

And therein is the point for all of us really. Each day is gift and for some of us, we may not be here tomorrow. We need to bless each day with the joy of life in Christ, which gives us hope for our death, that we might live with him forever.

For Mom, each day is grace and has been for nearly 30 years.

And for each of you who have lost their parents, each day is also grace in which you remember a life that blessed you with the very gift of life itself. Let us remember the joys of our parents, for upon our birth, we were such joy for them (perhaps not in our teen-age years but hey…that’s another story). Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord and let perpetual light shine upon them. May their souls and all the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

And Nancy, your dad is very, very proud of the woman and mother that you have become.

CatholicMom: Worried About Being a Parent in a New Technological Age

Lisa Hendey, better known as Catholic Mom puts a call to action regarding the video we posted last week. If I had a dime for every parent who said something like this to me….

I caught this video over at Mike Hayes’ blog – with a teen headed to college next year and a tremendous interest in New Media, it caught my attention. I’ve seen my kids “multitask”, seen how they interact with their friends online and in person, seen them turn off the TV but live out loud to iTunes, and seen the way they obtain their information. What are we, the grown ups who love them — and a Church who wants to reach them — doing to realize and communicate with them in their changing world? Fascinating – please take five minutes and watch this video. I’d love to hear your take.

Once again…here is the video:

Head on over to Catholic Mom with your ideas.

59 Years of Commitment – Warts and All

Today is my parent’s 59th Wedding Anniversary.

That’s fifty…nine…years.

Nearly 60.

They are now barely in their 80s. Were married in 1950…and nobody knows better than they do that marriage is not always about happiness.

Marriage is about commitment. I think that’s something that many people don’t always realize, especially those of you who are not married. Indeed marriage is about commitment. Happiness only comes as a consequence of that commitment, for there will be days in a marriage that are not happy. You are going to get grumpy and tired and angry. You will face tragedies and disagreements and sorrow. You will get mad at one another more often than you care to remember.

Loving one another in marriage faces all of that and yet you love each other anyway.

There’s the old expression “I love you, warts and all” and there’s a truism to this that people who are married truly understand. Married people see one another when they are not at their best. They know not only what is great about one another but also what the other’s weak parts are as well. My own wife for instance knows that I am not particularly easy to get along with in those early morning hours. We both greet the day with the same three words…She says “Good Morning, God!” and I say…

“Good God! … Morning!”

But yet, Marion my wife is patient with my moods and I’ve become a better listener for her. When times get rough I’m sure there are places that we both think about running away to rather than face what the other needs from their partner.

But we don’t. We learned very early on that for marriage to work it needs to be about commitment. No matter what happens. So when my mom got sick during that honeymoon phase of our marriage we had to bond closer to support not only each other but my family—not an easy thing for a new wife. When Marion’s father, grandmother, and uncle died we dealt with a lot of heartache…but we did so together. Through job losses, disagreements and the fact that we can’t make a baby…we have somehow stayed committed to our marriage.

I know I wouldn’t have been able to be half the husband that I am if not for my mom and dad, who have known a similar kind of life….59 years worth of knowing each other’s joys and sorrows. My mother’s lived the last 35 years or so of their marriage with a lot of sickness and a lot of pain. I’m sure there were days that my dad didn’t find marriage to be a barrel of laughs–but I also know that his commitment to my mom is still rock solid and that he never swayed in his love and commitment to her.

This is the kind of outpouring of love that God has for us all. That love outpoured on my parents by God has turned into a love that they’ve been able to offer each other through everything that life has thrown their way.

So today, we celebrate the marriage of Michael Hayes Sr and a young woman originally named Evelyn King, who has been his Mrs. Hayes for 59 long and committed years. You have been a blessing to each other, to your children, your extended family and friends. May your life continue to bless one another in marriage and may the sacrament that is your life continue to bring us to see Christ’s love in you.