It was a picturesque Cape Cod September day. The weather was unseasonably warm and the fall sun was glistening off the powder blue ocean on East Sandwich beach. We stopped at our favorite coffee shop on Route 6A for our daily provisions then drove quietly to the McCarthy Care Center to spend the day with mom. We looked forward to being in her holy presence – sitting, praying and listening to music together with the doors to her balcony flung wide open so the warmth of the sun could stream in and cast its healing light upon our souls. We thought this would be another lovely day together even though mom could no longer communicate – just being in her company and close to her beautiful heart was enough for us. In the quiet of her room that day, deep in her heart, she was aware of our presence.
Many of us find ourselves in life situations which compromise our tender hearts. These may include the loss of a loved one, a financial hardship or job loss, a broken relationship, a period of extended loneliness, a serious health diagnosis and physical pain or a myriad of other deeply hurtful life challenges. Regardless of the reason, these seasons are burdensome times which hinder our unique spirits and wound our delicate hearts. If left unattended, our hearts become bitter and small, unable to grow strong with the goodness and love which God provides. But when we surrender our hearts to God, laying down our sword and desire to fight with anger and resentment due to the difficult plight that life has dealt us, only then are we able to develop strong hearts capable of growth through God’s love and healing grace.
In a book titled Psalms and Consolations, a Jesuit’s Journey through Grief, recently sent to me by my beloved college professor at Loyola University, Reverend Timothy Brown, S.J., I discovered beautiful prayers and stories that lifted my wounded heart to rediscover the gift of God’s unconditional love and mercy for each human soul suffering from pain. In a chapter dedicated to his beloved mother, Fr. Brown shared the followed from the homily he gave at his mother’s funeral: “When I received the news that your heart had finally given out, I said my prayer to the Sacred Heart. Your heart had given out and you had given away everything in it. There was nothing left to give. Your physical heart gave out, but not your heart united with Christ. Your resilient heart is now beating eternally with the Heart of Jesus Christ. There were so many ways your heart was linked to the Sacred Heart – all your daily acts of kindness and all the good works you performed. All of us here today carry those memories of you in our hearts, forever linked through the Sacred Heart. Now, Mother, you can rest that heart of yours. Rest in the heart of God. Rest and enjoy all that you hold dear in your heart.”
Fr. Brown’s words inspired me on so many levels. I felt he was talking about my beautiful mother Joan when he shared “There were so many ways your heart was linked to the Sacred Heart – all your daily acts of kindness and all the good works you performed.” As I meditated upon these words, I realized that our mothers could never have been linked with the Sacred Heart of Jesus had they not surrendered their hearts to God, the One who is Love. Our mothers must have done this despite the disappointments and challenges in their lives – they must have done this as a matter of will – surrendering their hearts to God who gave them gifts to love and make this world a better place! What a beautiful thought to imagine these two mothers linked with the Lord forever in eternal glory – heart to heart with Him.
That beautiful September morning on Cape Cod turned cloudy and the energy in mom’s room began to shift. My family and I grew concerned as mom’s physical appearance became restless. As her breathing changed, the compassionate Hospice nurses let us know that the time was close for her to begin a new life in heaven. We surrounded her with love and prayer – Rosaries and Divine Mercy Chaplets – and prayed her home, one precious step at a time, up the glorious staircase to the gates of heaven. When the moment finally came and the nurse announced that my beloved mother’s heartbeat was no more, I thought I would never survive. But now…despite the excruciating pain – I see that the moment her heart stopped beating on earth, it continued in heaven, in union with the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Every beautiful, loving, selfless, caring, thoughtful effort she made on earth catapulted her into the arms of her beloved God. Their hearts beat as one now.
Surrender your hearts to God who is LOVE. Bring Him into the world as my mother and Fr. Brown’s mother did. This does not mean that you will not suffer or have difficulties, it does mean that there is so much more beauty and love with Him by your side. It also means that He will walk hand in hand with you through the darkness until the light is visible once again – no matter how long the journey. My mother knew this truth, she lived it, taught it and shared it with everyone in her midst. Sadly, she is gone from this life much too soon, but her heavenly heart is surrounding all who call upon her for help.
“Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me.” (John 14:1)