I arrived home yesterday evening, after nearly two weeks in Pittsburgh with my parents.  I had been travelling nearly all day long, and made it home just in time to get to my parish’s last Sunday Mass at 7:30 PM.  I was practically dragging as I entered the church.  Not just from the travelling, but from the entire 12 days before: my dad’s poor prognosis, the hospital, the hospice center, the rehab center, the worrying, the uncertainty…

I shoved on my veil, blessed myself with holy water, and began walking up the aisle toward the sanctuary.  It was very dim.  As I got closer to the sanctuary, I made out the rows of Easter lilies on either side of the Tabernacle, the plants with pink flowers in front of the altar, the tall, majestic Easter Candle.  I breathed in the smell of the church–flowers and candles–which was even stronger than usual.  And even more so than usual, I felt as if I had walked into a completely different world.

I genuflected and paused with my knee on the floor, thinking to myself, “That’s funny–the church is decorated for Easter.”  And a split second later, I realized, “Why, it is Easter!”  And for the first time in many days, I felt such a joy burst within my heart.

Until that moment, I had honestly felt like Easter Sunday had passed me by.  Oh, I had attended Easter Mass–in a hospital meeting room, with no pews, no Tabernacle, no Easter Candle, no flowers of any kind.  I had heard the priest speak about Christ’s Resurrection and the resurrection we would all receive through Christ–but my mind was two floors above, where my parents were, suffering.

Until that moment, I had felt like I was still in the desert, in the long forty days of Lent.  So desolate.  So in pain.  So far from Easter joy.

I think I wept throughout the entire Mass–mostly from joy.  My joy increased when the priest reminded us that we were still in the Octave of Easter, that liturgically, Easter Sunday lasted for a full eight days.  I hadn’t missed it after all.  I was so relieved.  I was so happy.  It was like finding a beautiful, peaceful, life-giving oasis in the desert.  Heavens, I just can’t tell you how overjoyed I was!

After Mass as I drove home, even the preceding days looked different in my mind.  I caught little rays of light.  Like walking into the little hospital chapel and seeing a red lamp burning over a Tabernacle.  Like getting to push my dad’s wheelchair around the hospice center courtyard on a glorious sunny, warm, windy afternoon–and seeing Dad’s joyful smile as he looked at the trees and plants and breathed in the fresh air; it was his first leisurely outing after over a month of being pretty much bed-ridden.  Like simply getting to be with my parents, my sister, my brother-in-law, and other relatives and friends.  Like having the privilege of being of service to my parents.

Suddenly those days didn’t seem so desolate.  Looking back, I realized that God had been there.  Love, lots of love, had been there.  And even joy.  I just needed to have my eyes opened and my heart stirred a little.  To see things in a different light.  I was reminded of one of my favorite Easter hymns, which begins:

That Easter Day with joy was bright
The sun shone out with fairer light

I needed that light so, so much!  And I still do.  May it shine in my heart all year, and may I never lose sight of it.  And may I help it to shine out to my family and everybody I meet.

And now for a Dad Update:

I think my last update was that we were going to a hospice center.  And we did that.  I think it gave dad a chance to rest in peace and quiet.  It was a beautiful place–his room looked like a nice hotel room.  There was a pretty courtyard outside.  But he really wanted to try some physical and occupational therapy to try to regain some strength.

So, for the past 5 days or so, he was in a rehab center.  It was a good place–the staff were some of the best, most attentive, and most caring of any other place we’d been.  But it was very different from the hospice center.  Dad had to share a room, and there was not much peace and quiet–which Dad really wants and needs.  The therapy sessions were pretty exhausting, and the physical therapist said that any significant improvement would take many weeks.  I think that discouraged Dad.  He may or may not have many weeks, and so he decided that a hospice center would be best after all.

Today he moved into a new hospice center, and it seems to be a very lovely and comfortable place.

Overall, he’s just hanging in there as always.  I don’t think his health has significantly improved or declined.  But his spirits have been bolstered quite a bit by just being able to get out of bed into a wheelchair, have some changes of scenery, and visit with family and friends.  His faith is still strong as always, and he constantly expresses appreciation for everybody’s prayers.  It pleases him greatly when I tell him he’s got people all over the world praying for him.  :)

So please kindly keep up the good work!  Many thanks!

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