Dr. Frank forwarded this column, published in Canada’s Western Catholic Reporter, June 20. There is no Internet version available:
Embrace the life God offers
By Mark Pickup
Sitting closer to the end of my life than its beginning, I find myself wishing I’d had more children. Deep into the sorrow and pain of progressive multiple sclerosis, it is only Christ and my family that give me any joy and consolation. Christ and my family are all that gives context to my life and suffering now. I wish I’d been more open to the prospect of new life when I was a young husband….
Run, run, run
As a young man with a career ahead of me, I did not have time for a large family. There were places to go and people to see. I can’t remember the places or the people anymore – but they were so very important – I was convinced of it at the time. I needed more money and more status. I can’t remember why, or what I needed to buy, and the professional accolades have long since faded away. But my career was calling me to bigger and better things.
The idea of modest homes filled with children was passe: Anybody who was anybody used birth control and limited their families to two kids. They warehoused them in daycare because both parents “had to work” to pay their large mortgages on new big houses in well-tailored cul-de-sacs, in just the right neighborhoods. There were, after all, appearances of success to maintain.
That was my dream too, before disease came to strip away those absurdly extraneous things that seemed so important way back when.
If I could go back and do it again, I think I would have more children-lots of them. Indeed! I would fill the rooms of my little house with the joie de vivre of children’s perpetual laughter, and then I’d revel in the offence it caused the population control fanatics! I’d attach a tire-swing to the maple trees in the backyard and have a fire-pit to roast marshmallows on warm summer nights. We would have hours of fun doing nothing in particular.
I wouldn’t sandwich “quality time” between board meetings and ‘doing lunch’ with clients at trendy bistros. Life itself can be quality time and I would let it happen even if I couldn’t afford the latest self-help book telling me how to do it.
One sustaining love
But what ifs and wishful thinking aside, God’s love shines brightly on my family. For more than thirty years I have been the beneficiary of devoted spousal love: One love for one lifetime. My two adult children live near and visit often. My grandchildren are a constant source of joy.
As the sun was setting last weekend I was surrounded by my family as we had a barbeque in the backyard. My grandchildren were taking turns being pushed in the tree-swing by their dad. “High inna sky!” squealed my wee grand-daughter, her little pigtails blowing in the wind as her daddy pushed her too high for my liking. Wood crackled in the fire-pit. My grandson Carson and I roasted marshmallows.
“How did your trees grow so big, Grandpa?”
“They were here before Grandma and I built our house. They’re right where God put them so we didn’t cut them down. They’ve had a long time to grow.”
“They’re supposed to be here?”
“That’s right, Carson, just like you’re supposed to be here. You’re right where God put you.”
“I’m glad God put me here.”
“Me too, Carson. Me too.”
I sat in my wheelchair with Carson on my lap. We both gazed at the fire as our marshmallows burst into flames (an excellent dietary source of carbon and ash). It didn’t matter; it was Carson’s turn on the swing.
God put us all here. We are asked to always be open to the prospect of new life, and nurture all humanity that is here. From conception to natural death, and every state and stage along the life spectrum, we are one human family.
Christ spoke of interdependent humanity that reflects his Lordship and love.
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that you joy may be complete. My commandment is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” (John 15.9-12)
Can you think of anybody who is outside the love of Christ? That is our example. The entire 15th Chapter of John is an exhortation to love and obedience to God. We are called to love and cherish every human life. Period. And our love begins with wholehearted committed love for God (see Matthew 22.37-40).
Swings and trees, warm fires and conversations encourage relationships. Love for Christ encourages love for people.