"Almighty God, giver of all that is good, we thank You for the precious gift of human life [ . . . ] for the life of the elderly, witnessing to the ageless values of patience and wisdom."
Every Sunday at Mass throughout our Archdiocese these words are prayed, giving thanks to God for the gift of life in the elderly, and recognizing the inherent dignity and sanctity of all people, especially those most vulnerable in our society.
As I sit at my computer today typing up study notes and preparing flash cards to help me study for final exams, my thoughts drift from the words on the pages of my textbooks to my family back home.
My Oma's struggle with advanced dimentia has been getting more and more difficult. I haven't been there to witness to decline since I've been away at school and haven't been able to visit since September, but my family tells me that things are not going well. When I last saw her in September my Oma couldn't remember my name, but she still knew who I was. I told her that I had to go away to go back to school and she told me that going to study would be a waste of my time, she'd rather I stay with her. Unfortunately, that wasn't really an option.
Now, when I go home in a few weeks chances are that she won't know who I am. She can no longer walk and has difficulty communicating. She needs to be hand fed her meals and even then struggles to swallow. My grandfather can no longer care for her at home. I really admire the dedication of my grandfather, my parents, my sister, and my other relatives back home who are taking the time to spend hours with her each day ensuring that she is fed and well cared for. I feel caught in-between. I am physically very distant from the reality of the situation back home, yet at the same time I wish I could be there to help support my grandparents in this difficult time.
I don't think the reality of what we're facing here has really sunk in though. The picture above is of me with my Oma at Christmas two years ago. I was in second year university and home for the holidays. As I visited with my Oma I discussed the literature I was studying in my French courses and she commented on the authors she knew so well from her own university studies and made recommendations of books I might enjoy. She told me she loved me and was proud of me. She taught me how to play Canasta and sang with pride the German Christmas songs she knew so well as we sat around the tree. This Christmas will be different.
And yet, as my Oma approaches the end of her life, I wonder what is stirring in her soul. Though to us she may seem to be disoriented and incoherent, in the greater reality of who she is as a human person, in the depths her soul, what is taking place? I pray for her. I pray that as she approaches the end of this life she would encounter the love and mercy of Jesus Christ that will lead her to the next. I also pray for my Opa, her devout and faithful husband, who is spending his days by her side. His fidelity and obvious love for her is such a powerful example of true love to me. His self-sacrificial devotion to his wife inspires me to examine how I treat those I love in my own life. I pray that God would grant him the necessary strength and courage to continue to witness to the dignity and sanctity of the life of his beloved wife.
Please pray for my grandparents during this difficult time, that Christ would prepare the way for my Oma and that my Opa would find strength in God to face whatever may lie ahead.
Archdiocesan Prayer for Reverence for Life
Almighty God, giver of all that is good, we thank You for the precious gift of human life:
- for life in the womb, coming from your creative power,
- for the life of children, making us glad with their freshness and promise,
- for the life of young people, hoping for a better world,
- for the life of people who are disabled, teaching us that every life has value,
- for the life of the elderly, witnessing to the ageless values of patience and wisdom.
Like Blessed Mary, may we always say "YES" to Your gift. May we defend it and promote it from conception to its natural end. And bring us at last, O father, to the fullness of eternal life in Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.