Friday, August 22, 2008

Part 3: Caring Heart

The second joyful event for our meditation is called the Visitation: Since the Angel Gabriel tells Mary that her relative, Elizabeth, is to have her first baby in her old age, Mary quickly travels to help the elderly woman. It is a clear picture of Mary’s humility and confirmation of her nature as God’s servant. Surely, the angels’ message about Elizabeth was not only a way to confirm that his words were true, but a coaxing to provide an extra pair of hands in what must have been an exhausting time.

I imagine the rigors of traveling, on short notice, for a week or so when the Woman is first pregnant. Early pregnancy does take a toll on the body, even if a woman is healthy. I am sure the Blessed Mother maintains optimum health, as she undoubtedly follows the dietary laws prescribed in the Pentateuch.

Elizabeth – and her son at six months in utero – recognizes the newly conceived Savior. I always marvel here, about the interaction between the two unborn babies. Surely, life is precious from its first moments after conception until natural death.

Mary sings a song of joy about God’s favor shown to those we would least expect. God’s ways are surely not our ways. He always honors His promises, in His own perfect time.

The two women revel in their friendship and kinship for the next three months. The care that Mary undoubtedly gives to Elizabeth is freely given in love and joy.

You can find this story in the first chapter of St. Luke’s Gospel.

Throughout his life, Arif never knew a stranger. Always ready with a smile, he showered care and conversation on whomever he met. Everyone who knew him felt that he was their best friend. He was so full of life and love – so full of dreams and schemes and always ready to lend a helping hand, or an ear, to anyone in need. His prayer life was deep and rich with concern for those he knew were in need.

Over the past few months, Arif struggled with thoughts that others might think he had a superior attitude. He did not want them to think he felt he was smarter, stronger, or holier than anyone else. It caused him some deep agony. It was important to him that he be viewed as an equal by each person he encountered.

In the fall when he was 3 years old, my sister, Tina, called me in tears: She was pregnant with her first child. Her AFP test came back positive. The doctor told her she was going to have a child with spina bifida. She would have to go to Ft. Knox for further testing. Her concern that the testing might put the child in danger of miscarriage. Her doctor assured her that it was the least of her worries as she had a monster in there. He must have missed the class on bedside manner.

I assured her of our prayers. The test does not tell how much damage there may be. Spina bifida may present at a variety of levels. Tina, herself, has vertebrae missing at her tail bone. I also explained that the AFP test has a high rate of false positives. I stayed on the phone until she was more calm. With further assurance that we would pray for her and her baby, I hung up the phone.

As soon as I hung up, I called Arif from the other room. We spent a few minutes in prayer. Then I asked Arif for his reaction. He looked at me with shining eyes, explaining that when he had his eyes closed during the prayer, he saw a beautiful little girl with golden hair. He described her singing and dancing. She was happy and healthy.

A few days later, Tina called back saying that she was informed that the lab put the decimal in the wrong place. Her test was negative. We felt that God moved that decimal point for her.

The next May, Tina gave birth to a beautiful baby girl with golden hair. Heather loved music. She had a beautiful singing voice and loved to dance.

My mother (who was also named Elizabeth) lived with Congestive Heart Disease for five years. Although she had only eight percent of her heart function, she lived an active life: keeping up with her six grown offspring, running the family business, and working in her garden.

From time to time, however, she hit a crisis point. Several times each year, we traveled from Louisiana to Florida to help take care of my mother when she was so sick. Arif always found a way to bring a smile to her face. He told jokes, did magic tricks, made origami creations, or got his sister and brothers together to do skits or puppet shows.

Mom died when Arif was 8 years old. Arif and I both knew the moment she died.

When she was in ICU during her last few weeks, We faced issues about the appropriate use of life support.

I prayed we would not need to make any hard decisions about life support for Arif. These issues were also raised before my grandfather died during my freshman year at college.

How I wished Mom could be here to help and comfort us, now. I knew that she would be Johnny-on-the-spot to hop in her car and run right out to Missouri to take care of kiddos or whatever needs we might have while Arif was in the hospital. Who knows, she might even pitch in and milk goats.

Yet, I drew some comfort as I realized that she knew of the predicament and offered her prayers for us from her heavenly home.

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