Uncle Johnny’s lesson….

I didn’t know Uncle Johnny very well.  He had a stroke before I was born, and lost his capacity to speak.  He lived in the garage apartment on his sister’s property, and she lovingly cared for him.

To my sisters and me he was a curiosity, and we used to sit on the garage steps and watch him roll tobacco into white papers, making his own cigarettes, and sometimes his eyes would smile kindly at us.  That, and the fact that he dragged his right leg when he walked are really all I remember about him….except for his funeral.

I was about ten when he died, and his funeral was the first one I had ever attended.  I can still remember that it was a bright sunny day with clear blue skies.  I was struck by the contrast of nature’s beauty and the sorrow of my aunt .  I gathered with my family, and the few others in attendance and stood around the grave, covered with a green tarp, while the priest said prayers and sprinkled holy water.

My mind wandered off, trying to grasp that Uncle Johnny was gone forever from the earth.  I thought of how the rest of us would go on with our lives, but he wouldn’t be there anymore.  It seemed so impossible to my young mind.  How could someone I had always known really be gone?

It was my first encounter with the reality of death, and I have never forgotten it.  People die; life goes on.  Then, most people forget about you, and sooner or later, everyone does.

The year after Uncle Johnny died, Aunt Anna died of leukemia at age twenty-seven.  She left behind a husband and two babies.  They buried her in her wedding dress, and everyone cried.  But life went on.  Her husband remarried a few years later; her children couldn’t even remember her.

I often return to these thoughts when someone “important” dies.  Celebrity, accomplishments, power, wealth, all remain behind.  Death is the great equalizer.

God tells us as much:   What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.  James 4:14

When Steve Jobs and Christopher Hitchens recently died within months of each other, I found myself pondering their lives….and their deaths.  Jobs was an agnostic, and Hitchens, a militant atheist.  Does anything else really matter now?
 
The media has long since moved on to more timely matters.  The accolades of friends and admirers have descended to a whisper.  Jobs and Hitchens, like Uncle Johnny, have left our world.
 
Where are they now?  That is all that really matters for any of us.
 
This life we have been given….it is such a gift, such a grace, such an opportunity from Our Heavenly Father through Our Lord Jesus Christ!  We have only this infinitesimal moment in time to love and thank Him on earth, to help others to know and love Him, to fall on our knees in prayer and worship, to forgive as we have been forgiven, to dry the tears of our neighbor, to give them food for their body or their soul, to offer a hand or a hug.  Simply to love….God first, and then everyone without exception.
 
All of life can be reduced to that moment at life’s end, when God will gaze deeply into our souls and He Who is Truth will see us as we really are….and there will be no place to hide.
 
And who we have been in the world and what we have accomplished or the power and wealth we have accumulated will only serve to make us even more accountable for having used these gifts for loving God and neighbor.
 
Eternal Father, grant me the grace of cherishing every moment of my life as a gift to return to You, filled with whatever will most please Your Divine Heart.  Let me not waste the precious gift of time this life on earth is.  Draw me into Your Loving Gaze that I may always be united to You, always lost in You, even when my poor mind must be occupied with other duties.  Call to me when the gleam of this world’s distractions captures my eye. Shelter me within Your Very Being until that day when nothing can ever separate me from You again.  Grant that I may love you forever…
 
Uncle Johnny wasn’t rich or powerful, and hardly anyone knew him.  But I wonder what God thought about smiling eyes and Uncle Johnny’s lesson.
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8 thoughts on “Uncle Johnny’s lesson….

  1. Isn’t it amazing the things our human minds cannot possibly comprehend, yet we are given to thinking about them anyway? I hope your Uncle Johnny and your Aunt Anna are with the Lord.

    Lately, every time I do something even marginally wrong, I imagine what God will say to me about the thought or deed in question when I stand before Him for my judgment. On earth, I tend to be very hard on myself. My fear is that when I get to Heaven, I will find I was too soft on myself after all. When the time comes for me to know, I’ll know, so I should just quit guessing!
    Love and prayers
    Joyce

    • Joyce, I know what you mean. Even when I am hard on myself, I realize that in the eyes of a God of Perfect Holiness, there are countless things which I overlook, or deem not “that bad.” Yet, He remembers that we are dust…. Like you said, it is best to just stop trying to guess, as we’ll never figure out how things will go for us on judgment day.

      I can somewhat comprehend how when we see the sadness in His Eyes, or the suffering it cost Him to redeem some foolish thing we did, we would surely run to Purgatory to be purified, rather than continue to look into that Most Beautiful, Holy Face of Our Jesus, and not be truly pure ourselves.

      Thank you for the kind words for Uncle Johnny and Aunt Anna. : )

      Love and prayers,
      Patricia
      PS Those of us who are friends here, should pray to help each other out of Purgatory ASAP! You think?

  2. This is so true Patricia..Death is the great equalizer and life goes on. I remember that same feeling you describe when my Uncle Louis died of a sudden heart attack in his 40’s. He’d been such a huge part of my life and then suddenly… he was gone. Again when I lost my dad…
    All that matters is, did we prepare for eternity while we had the chance?

    What a beautiful prayer. I love how you say “let me be lost in You even when my poor mind must be occupied with other duties.”

    That will be my prayer this week.

    Love, hugs and
    +

    • That’s so true, Caroline…about preparing for eternity. I cringe when I think of how much time I waste! I get distracted by everything and go around in circles. One priest kindly told me that different temperments have different issues to deal with…sort of that God judges each according to their ability! But I still have so far to go…

      Scripture says that Love covers a multitude of sins, so I’m trying to focus on that!

      The one thing we know for sure is that our Judge will be our Precious Savior Who is Mercy Itself! We can be sure that His Love for us will find a way to be Just, and yet show us the greatest kindness and magnanimity.

      I’m glad you liked the prayer. I used to call stopping briefly just to rest in God, “moments Divine.” : ) I need more of them!!!

      May God grant eternal rest to your dear dad, and your Uncle Louis…my dad’s name too.

      Love and a big HUG,
      Patricia

  3. I often think of what will happen after I die.
    Will anyone remember me?
    Will they remember me as belonging to Christ?
    When they think of me, will He come to mind too?
    Our family lost a few members this past year and sadly, not one was known as a lover of God. In fact they were hard in their hearts, rejecting a son and brother who wanted to reconcile with them after being shunned for decades. I worry about their judgement.
    I have nothing to leave behind when I go, not in material possessions or reputation etc.
    My prayer is that someone – family, friend or stranger, (especially my sons) will recall that in my imperfect way, I loved the Lord and hopefully be drawn closer to Him by that memory.
    Trish xox

    • Trish, what a priceless legacy you desire to leave…that others will remember you for loving Jesus. Somehow, I think they will : )
      I love to listen to a radio program called Catholic Answers. At the end, the host always ends with these words, “Be a Saint! What else is there?” He says it so emphatically. But it’s so true! Someone else said that the only sorrow in life was not to become a Saint.

      That is so sad…about your family members and their unforgiveness. Keep praying for them, because God isn’t restrained by time, and your prayers now can still help.

      I have not been able to comment on your blog lately. In fact, I can’t even read the comments. When I click on them, the page just goes away and the screen is blank. Happens at Anne’s blog sometimes too. I kept trying to comment on your post where you mentioned you didn’t know if you would keep up Walking With Him because you didn’t feel you had much to share, etc. I was frantic to tell you that you have ever so much to share!!!! Like your comment above. I loved reading it. I loved your question format. You are a precious lady, Trish, with so much to share. Don’t you dare keep it locked up inside : )

      The comments you leave on my blog always seem to come with heartbeats.
      I love you dear friend. Pray for me. I’ll be on retreat till Sunday evening…starting tomorrow.

      Love you,
      Patricia

  4. Why I have been so blessed with a wonderful blog friend like you is a mystery!!
    You are a true sister in Christ to me, Patricia. I love you too!!
    Thank you for encouraging me to keep my little blog going..I feel so inadequate but I’ll keep plodding along.
    I am so sorry you haven’t been able to comment!! Yikes!
    I have no idea what the problem could be, but I know what you’re talking about, as my lovely friend Nell had the same thing happening with her blog for the past 2 weeks or so.
    Very frustrating! It seems to be ok now though..so I hope mine sorts itself out soon too.
    Thanks for telling me – I had no idea!!
    I know it’s wrong of me but…I feel quite envious of you going away for your silent retreat!
    It sounds so blissful to me 🙂
    I will pray for you my dear friend..and I’m so very grateful for your prayers too.
    Have a blessed and friutful retreat.. please tell Jesus I love Him!
    {{big hugs to you}} xoxo
    Trish

    • Trish, now I can’t get your comment to me to post! I’m trying one more time, by responding within your comment. We’ll see!

      I will be sure to checkout the posting situation on your blog as soon as I return, and I’ll let you know if it works for me again.

      I too am so grateful to have you as my dear sister in Christ. I’m very frustrated that I can’t meet my blog friends in person, but it’s also lovely too…just knowing all of you are out there.

      I will tell Jesus that you love Him….but I think He already knows : ) Yet, I do feel He loves to be told such things….

      Thank you for your prayers, dear Trish. Please say a special one for no migraines this weekend!

      Love you,
      Patricia
      PS I hear “holy envy” is okay : )

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