Thoughts a year later on grief and life

The truth is, sometimes, in this fallen world, healing is tough. And sometimes, we never again become the people we once were. Anyone suffering through the depths of profound grief will know this. But, as with all shadows in this fallen world, we can learn from our losses and, with God’s grace, grow into someone better.

The last time I posted at Catholic Ecology was one year ago today. Since then, my mom’s Parkinson’s had advanced quickly and my care for her became a twenty-four-hour, everyday vocation, until her last breaths on the first day of Autumn.

I had kept my mom at home, with me, throughout the decade or so when that insidious disease first began to slow down an athletic, joyful, loving woman.

The toll of it all—her physical suffering and loss of independence, her dementia, her hallucinations, all exacerbated by a pandemic’s lockdown, and then her death—has been greater than I could have anticipated. Grief, and all the depression and exhaustion that comes with it, not to mention the post-traumatic numbness that comes after pouring oneself into the job of caring for a loved one, has taken its toll—even if colleagues and acquaintances may think otherwise.

A victim of all this has been my writing. But I suppose a year is enough time to once again use the gifts that God has given me. To begin anew the process of healing.

And healing is, come to think of it, something we usually must begin ever anew. Every day is a day that dawns on some wound or some loss, which makes every day a chance to allow the light to advance our journey to become someone greater than we may have ever imagined. Even if that means trying to get back to where we once were before, in the process, becoming someone we wouldn’t have grown into if not for the suffering we had to endure.

This thought inspired me to write about the necessity of Good Friday in a piece published this past Good Friday, which this year was providentially the day before my mom’s 94th birthday—Holy Saturday.

Grief and remorse make one something of a prophet in a world that takes life for granted.

Since then, I’ve been finding my life again in my gardens and in the lengthening daylight of spring. Now, with the days bringing me back to Autumn, with memories of last summer’s advance of my mom’s Parkinson’s, I’ve become certain that it’s time I write again. It's time to use the darkness of the past year, and the beginnings of healing that have occurred, to get back to the work of championing the care of God’s great work of creation.

As if I needed proof, recent news of floods in the United States and heat waves in Europe and the United Kingdom, to name just a few, are the latest planetary alarms sounding for all to hear.

Responding to these alarms will require action. More so, it will require the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the great outpouring of grace that God offers, especially in the sacraments of the Church.

Having lost my mom and living with this grief, I find myself now in positions where I am dismayed at how easily others take their loved ones for granted—how they may forego opportunities to spend precious moments with them or support them in ways that may be sacrificial but are necessary, nonetheless.

Grief and remorse make one something of a prophet in a world that takes life for granted. Helping others hear and then heed such warnings is a process somewhat akin to helping others learn to care for ecosystems, to say nothing of an entire planetary ecology. People may not want to hear what we have to say, but it’s better to say it anyway—to try, at least try, to help others become better stewards of life.

I gave a great deal of my life to keep my mom at home and advocate—no, fight—for the best care she could get. I did so with trust in Jesus Christ and being open to the fact that someday my chances to care for her—to spend time with her—would end. Even if imperfectly, I internalized such uncomfortable truths—that is, the reality of the sacrifice of the Cross. In doing so, I allowed myself to carry my cross, and help my mom carry hers. With God’s grace, I brought to my mom’s final years some degree of joy than she would have known if I had not.

We owe it to others to be the voice that encourages them to carry their crosses. We owe it to others to be the prophets of sacrifice—to sometimes do without, to live more at peace, to slow one’s pace, and in so doing slow one’s consumption. We owe it to others to help them make the best choices now before we lose too many of God's great gifts of life.

Yes, grief is a terrible reality. But remorse is worse. Individually, we may not be able to prevent every ecological ill from unleashing so much devastation and loss, but we can do a great deal in the micro realities where such worldwide problems are not only solved, but where they are prevented: in our families, in our homes, and in our relationships. Especially our relationship with God.

Heal those, and you will heal the world.

Come to think of it, that truth has always been what this blog is about. And so, even if my posts are infrequent at first, stay tuned for more news about and interviews with the people and their stories that are bringing to the world God’s great message of life, love, and healing, which our world needs more and more in every day that dawns.

If you like Catholic Ecology,
you’ll love…

A Printer's Choice

The sci-fi novel with a Catholic twist.

A Printer's Choice

Learn more

About the Blog

Catholic Ecology posts my regular column in the Rhode Island Catholic, as well as scientific and theological commentary about the latest eco-news, both within and outside of the Catholic Church. What is contained herein is but one person's attempt to teach and defend the Church's teachings - ecological and otherwise. As such, I offer all contents of this blog for approval of the bishops of the Church. It is my hope that nothing herein will lead anyone astray from truth.