It's supposed to be a day where we stop and take a moment to appreciate the men in our lives who have done so much for us and been a blessing to our families. Yet for people who have lost fathers, had abusive fathers, absent fathers, or always wished to be a father, this day can be a time filled with loneliness, sadness or grief. It can be hard to find gratitude when life's circumstances feel challenging.
In fact, in just a few weeks (on July 3rd) it will be the second anniversary of the most challenging time in my life, when my father passed away. As odd as it sounds, the only way that I COULD get through that difficult time was by focusing on the small blessings in those moments and by being grateful. I was blessed when I talked with my parents on the phone and knew something was different and that I should schedule a flight to visit them. I was blessed when my husband got a nudge that told him I should not put off the trip to the following week. I was blessed that my parents picked me up from the airport, and when my father fell in the parking lot and was bleeding, some strangers helped us get him to the car. I was blessed when my brother was able to join us for dinner the next night and we marveled that the four of us had not been alone, eating dinner together in that kitchen, in over 20 years. I was blessed to be there with my mother when he passed out and stopped breathing. I was blessed to be the one to take charge (so she did not have to) and perform CPR. I was blessed to sit in the hospital room and grieve and cry but also witness the outpouring of love and support. I was blessed with the caregivers who were sent from heaven and for my friends who drove hours to sit outside hospice "just if I wanted a break at some point." I was blessed that my brother showed up 1 minute before my dad took his final breaths, with fireworks going off in the background, as he headed to be with our Lord. Through this sadness and tremendous grief, those little moments, where I knew God was working through others or by giving me a nudge to guide me, gave me comfort and peace.
As we read in the second reading this week from Romans, "knowing that affliction produces endurance, and endurance, proven character, and proven character, hope, and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us." The pain and affliction that I felt during my father's passing was overwhelming at times. Like a wave rolling over me. However, when I breathed through the pain and remembered the many blessings that surrounded us, I felt gratitude, hope and joy through the tears. There was overwhelming proof that we were being carried through this difficult time by the Holy Spirit. Since then, my eyes have been opened to the many "coincidences", "God nudges", "God Moments" or "God Winks" that are surrounding us every day, encouraging us to believe, hope, support each other and get closer to God. I've actually helped a friend find her cat who had been lost for three days because I felt the "nudge" to call her and then shared an article with her that gave her hope; the cat was found 20 min after we spoke. I was on a call with a vendor and felt the nudge to talk about a colleague, who is a Rwandan refugee and looking for another job with a Visa. He put her in touch with the right people, which gave her hope to keep trying. This led to her dream job and her ability to stay in this country. I randomly chatted up a man at a coffee shop who had lost his wife and felt the nudge to talk with him about their life together. The list goes on. We all have this happening daily. The moments do not have to be big moments of tragedy for us to find them. The weird coincidences and "random run-ins" are opportunities for us to help, love, and support each other.
When we fall on hard times, or we have friends/loved ones that fall on hard times, we should remember that "the challenges we face in life are always lessons that serve our soul's growth." Part of the growth of the soul stems from gratitude then growths with hope. And hope? Well, hope does not disappoint.
Reflection by Gretchen O'Donnell