The early morning mist greeted us like an old friend as we wearily departed the warmth of the deserted airport. Steaming hot coffee in hand, I led the way to the rental car which I was sure would never fit our eight overpacked suitcases. The ingenuity of the girls paid off and we were soon on our way to Galway and our long-awaited Christmas vacation with my entire family. Darkness enveloped the roads, despite the late hour of the morning and it was tough to acquaint myself to a stick shift car while driving on the left side of the road. I somehow managed to get the hang of it after a few stalled intersections which sent the kids into fits of laughter. Once on the road, the younger two fell fast asleep in the back with suitcases piled almost on top of them while Grace maintained her post as master co-pilot sitting on the left side of the car. Her favorite phrase of the drive was “you are veering to the left mom…move over!”
As we entered the long gravel drive of the place we would be staying for the week, our entire bodies relaxed in exhaustion from the overnight flight which did not serve anyone well, least of all a person with a terrible back. When we rounded the corner of the clearing, our hearts skipped a beat as we gazed at the rising sun over a small lake on the castle grounds. In that fleeting moment, all back pain, weariness and grief disappeared, replaced by a sense of tranquility, peace and joy.
This Christmas, we find ourselves nestled into an ancient castle near Galway, Ireland. It is a strange place for us to be yet in many ways it feels right. Our entire Powers family traveled over from the states to celebrate my beloved dad’s upcoming 80th birthday. We had hoped to make this memorable trip with my beautiful mom but God called her home two years ago. So we ventured forth without the one who loved us the most in this world and made us better than we could have ever hoped to be. We brought her memory and gifts with us and watch them lived out in her eight incredible grandchildren. Fleeting moments.
“After Christmas, we can continue living Advent all year by being people of hope” shared the Augustinian priest at the 11 am Mass in Galway today. This message resonated with me in a personal way with respect to this trip abroad. While I was excited to spend Christmas with my entire family, I was quite worried about how the travel would affect my injured back. In many ways, I was not living the Advent message of hope. Since arriving, our hostess and my family have been incredibly accommodating in terms of my health. I’ve felt loved and cared for in a way that is truly remarkable. Fleeting moments.
Family traditions hold a special place in my heart. My daughter Grace had an idea to outfit all the grandchildren in matching PJs on Christmas Eve. Initially I was a bit concerned and voiced my skepticism about how we would transport all the stuff to Ireland. Grace persisted, assuring me it would be worth the extra suitcase. When we handed the PJs out tonight, I truly enjoyed the laughter and delight of all my nieces and nephews pulling on their new treasures. As I stepped back to watch them in front of the fresh Christmas tree that the men had purchased at a pub (yup…a pub) today, I had a flash back to Christmas’ gone by and recalled my beautiful mom handing out special goodies to all. When I closed my eyes I could see mom smiling at all of us with her stunning brown eyes and lovely grin. Fleeting moments.
I am confident that the next week will bring many more fleeting moments that I won’t want to miss. I’ll seek to capture them in my mind and tuck them away for another day when I need a happy thought from a memorable time in my life. The trick for me will be to remain a woman of Advent and stay focussed on hope. Despite the back pain that I experience each day, I will try to cherish this rare opportunity to spend time with my whole family in a place which exudes the beauty and love of God.
“Hope does not disappoint..”(Rom 5:5) Perhaps this Christmas in Ireland, I am being invited to look at things in a new way. It is possible that my back pain is an opportunity to slow down so that I don’t miss those beautiful fleeting moments in my life.