by Stephen Mack
Over the past several months, I have finally resigned myself to undertake a most unenviable project – cleaning out my mother’s condo in preparation to list it for sale. It is a daunting task, to put it mildly. When my grandfather passed away long ago, I remember my mother making the same decisions: what to keep, what to throw away, what memories to sort through, and what memories to pack away. I admired her strength and courage during those moments, but felt, simultaneously, that my time to do this was far off in the future.
And, now, I find myself here. At that “far off” moment that seemed like it would – no, should – never arrive.
So, often, I am standing in the middle of my mother’s condo, surrounded by the memories of her 73 years, fighting that automatic urge to keep everything, and facing the at once joyful, painful, stressful, and peaceful tasks of deciding what to keep, and what to let go.
Rummaging through boxes of old photos, worn books, and 1970s-era green serving dishes, I came across, recently, a small, red box. Across the front in surprisingly, discernable golden font, given the years, appeared the title “Bread of Life: Promises from the Bible for Daily Strength”. Raised in the Christian faith, I vividly remember this little box from my childhood. The memories of how we came to own this little package have faded, but my mind opened wide the door of recollecting it contents. Within are little-colored strips of hard cardboard-like paper (the picture attached to this article shows an example that I snapped with my phone…) each graced, on both sides, with a different Bible verse.
A flood of memories ensued. Myriad snapshots of various moments, thoughts, feelings, smells, songs, ideas, experiences captured me in that moment.
Regaining my focus, I glanced down at the strip I had taken out of the box. It reads as you see in the picture “Be faith ye stand” (yes, you read that right…it appears to be a misprint, as the verse should read “By faith ye stand”, but that adds to the charm).
It struck me in that moment that being healthy also involves a healthy spirit. I thought I always knew this, but, truthfully, I could do a lot more to remember to care for my spirit, my faith, and my relationship with my faith.
And, so, for me, and for my children, I choose to nurture my spirit, and theirs. By faith, we grow. By faith, we gain strength. By faith, we learn and appreciate even more our own humanity. So, as I continue to grow my faith, I also work to guide and steward my children in ways that will encourage their spirituality. Here are some things we do as a family:
- We pray together, every night. This is more than just routine, this is a time for all five of us to come together and reflect on two prayers that guide our daily journeys. My son leads the Lord’s Prayer, and my youngest daughter leads the Hail Mary. We are practicing Catholics, but these prayers go beyond their use in church. They connect us to the peace, the love, and the comfort of God. It calms our night and is a beautiful moment of sharing and peace.
- We talk about our faith. The end of 2015 and through much of 2016 has been an experience of tremendous loss for our family. In November 2015, my mother passed away. In May 2016, my brother passed away, and then in August 2016 my stepfather passed away. These three people were very, very close relatives and their absence is felt throughout our entire family. My children have had a lot of questions. Why is grandma gone? Where did our uncle go? Sharing our faith allows us to answer these questions because it is part of our belief system. It helps answer, at least somewhat, the tough questions that come our way as parents.
- We live our faith. We try. As humans, we are imperfect. But we sure try. Maybe that is the idealist in me, but I firmly believe that most of is seek good. Through our faith, we help believe, we support people, we appreciate our diversity, and we respect each other as humans. This I try ti instill in my children as best as I can.
Is this perfect? No, not at all. But, it reminds me regularly to work on my faith, on my spirit. Be healthy both physically, and spiritually.