I have been a widow since August 7, 1987. For more than thirty years I have missed my husband and while I thought I would marry again the honest truth is that Fred is the only man who ever wanted to marry me, a fact I once found puzzling. Quite honestly? It used to make me sad. Not anymore. Today I am grateful that I found him and that we were married, albeit for a short time. Many people never find that person. Many people find them and then blow it. I was blessed. I am grateful for that blessing.
Which is wonderful and oh so very mature of me to state but it does not change the fact that people like me are often alone during holidays. Let's face it, gang...this is a season designed for families. Turn on TV and every commercial, every sappy Hallmark 'Movie', every sitcom pushes the idea that the Christmas Season is for Families to Reunite and Celebrate. Today's culture even makes an effort to redefine the word 'family' in an attempt to make those who do not fit the mold feel better about their status. Good for the culture. It still leaves me flat.
As time goes by my self-pity over being an old childless Catholic Widow Woman lessens. This is not because the wish about the past has changed; rather it is because my acceptance of God's Will in my life has taken on a deeper meaning. I no longer see my life in terms of sadness. Today I see the incredible sparkles of Gold and Silver my life has become and I marvel at the way in which Christ continues to reveal His Love for me in little things.
I will be standing in line at a grocery store and hear my name called out in a childish voice. Turning, I will have a 7 or 8 year old boy or girl throw their arms around me, hug me and shout, "HI, MISS LESLIE, MERRY CHRISTMAS!".
Turning into my driveway at night I will catch a glimpse of my neighbor walking the big, huge shaggy dog. Our eyes will meet and he will wave with a smile, and I swear his dog will smile at me too.
The phone will ring and someone I mentor will be calling with a problem and the first thing they ask me is, "Is this a good time?". This is more than good manners. This is demonstrating the mutual respect I try to model and showing me that they have that respect for me even though they are in pain and need my immediate attention.
My smoke alarms go off. I cannot do anything other than disconnect them. I am too short and my arthritis is too bad in my fingers to get those stupid little wires back in the stupid little holes. I come to work and share my dilemma with my boss, a PhD and author of critically acclaimed books on Evangelical Christianity and the beauty of discovering Catholicism. He offers to go connect them.
Life is not perfect. It always will be a tug at my heart that I am alone in the pew or that I am the third wheel at a dinner party but what God has revealed to me is that being a part of the Body of Christ, His Church, truly does give me a family that cannot fit into the 90 minutes of a Hallmark Movie. I am connected - to the priest who reveals his homosexuality AND his adherence to Church Teachings on Sexuality and to the woman raped by ISIS and now raising the child that resulted from that evil act as a Chaldean Catholic. I am connected to the American soldier on patrol in Afghanistan who wears the St Michael the Archangel Medal sent him by a doting grandmother. I am the sister, the daughter, the aunt, and even (yes) the MOTHER of the child sitting in line at the food giveaway by St. Vincent de Paul who shows up every week for Catechism at the Parish. Every Baptized person is a member of my family. It does not matter if they agree with me politically or if they are nice to me. In fact, that part of the description just makes it more real. Not wanting me at their table doesn't matter. Truth is not dependent upon my belief, upon your belief or upon our adherence to it. TRUTH IS ....just as He is I AM.
Do I wish I had the picture of me with 8 grandchildren other people have on their Christmas Cards? Of course I do...but you know what?
I have more than that - I have a life that calls me to communion with Christ, a life that challenges me to try harder, be better, do not give up. I have something more than stuff and people....
I have a Family in Christ Jesus and the Holy Catholic Church.