As I write this, my inaugural column for Catholic Womanhood, I am winging my way across several states to attend the funeral of my paternal grandfather. Mirroring my journey are countless members of my extended family, the children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of a man whose greatest life goal and final testament was the passing of his faith to his family.
My intention for this opening column had been to tell you something of myself – my experiences, my background, or perhaps my qualifications for writing here in this wonderful space. But in the end, I realize that sharing this experience with you also tells you a great deal about the things I hold most dear: my Catholic faith and the gift of family.
My Grandpa Wayne had a very rough early path through life. The death of his mother when he was a young child, his abandonment by his father, his shuffling between extended family members and his eventual landing in an orphanage could have been all the elements needed to build a life of resentment and anger.
Yet amidst all that early pain, Grandpa also received a great gift – a Catholic education. It became a constant in his life when everything else was uncertain. It bonded him to his wife of 67 years, and he passed it along to each of his seven children and 40 grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Knowing my grandfather was to know what defined him: his Church, his parish, his family and his community.
In his twilight years, my grandfather bore the fruit of having instilled a true understanding of the words “pro life” in his children. These same men and women who prayed for and were active on behalf of women in crisis pregnancies nursed both of their parents through extended illness and dementia with care and compassion. Underscoring the dignity of life at every phase of God’s plan, they sent my grandmother to her eternal reward with kindheartedness and hands-on care and rallied around my grandpa when he was unable to care for himself.
Tomorrow, our family will celebrate the Eucharist together as we say goodbye to my Grandpa. In recalling the blessing and promises of Christ’s Resurrection, we will gather in hope and prayer to say our goodbyes, certain in the knowledge that my grandfather rests in God’s loving embrace.
He taught us well to believe, to pray and to love. He showed us firsthand what standing up for your faith and loving your family in good times and in bad was all about. When we have said our goodbyes and as we fly home to our own concentric circles of responsibility, those lessons will be refreshed and renewed. Wayne’s legacy will live on in each of us not because of the words we say, but more importantly through the acts of love we undertake.
As Wayne’s personal patroness, and mine own as well, St. Therese of Lisieux said so eloquently:
“You know well enough that Our Lord does not look so much at the greatness of our actions, nor even at their difficulty, but at the love at which we do them.”
Copyright 2011 Lisa M. Hendey