In the summer of 2010 my daughters and I came home for 7 week visit to the USA. My own family had been living in Israel for a couple of years by then, and we missed America. So we travelled back to my childhood home in New Jersey where my parents were still living.
We had a wonderful summer hanging around with my mother and father, sharing the simple pleasures of life: conversations over meals, coffee on the deck, shopping for food, and making small outings together. In September we returned so the girls could start a new academic year at their international school.
After a little while, as I was busy with my usual daily routines in Israel, I began to notice powerful sensations welling up in my heart that I came to realize were the deepest sentiments of love that I had ever felt for my parents during all of my life.
In all my fifty years I had never experienced such overwhelming emotions of love for my mother and father as I felt for them at that time. I became aware that this exceptional passionate love was not of my own making, but arose in my heart from an “extra”ordinary outpouring of grace by the Holy Spirit. As I came to realize this as a profound supernatural grace at work within my heart, I was deeply moved to thank and praise the Lord for this ordinary gift He was bestowing on me.
The light and love that the Holy Spirit was pouring into me drove me into deep prayer and I cried out to the Lord that He not take my mother and father from me as I loved them so much and needed them too. I was rather confounded in my intellect about these supplications – that the Lord must not take my parents away from me – as to my reasonable mind they seemed a rather odd response to such deep, positive, fiery emotions of love. I didn’t really know why I was praying such things.
During one of my telephone calls to my parents I opened my heart and told my parents of these strange new feelings – that a marvelous, mysterious wave of love had washed over my heart – and that I felt I now loved them more than I had ever loved them before, and I wanted them to know it. Not long after this telephone conversation, my father called me and stunned me with the remarkable and unexpected news that my mother had been just diagnosed with a late stage, incurable ovarian cancer.
I reflected that the Lord went before me and that through His signal grace of flooding my heart with torrents of His merciful love for my parents, He had prepared me for this challenging trial. Filled to overflowing with the Lord’s own divine love, I immediately booked a flight home to be at the hospital bedside of my mother who would undergo a massive surgery and then need chemotherapy for the rest of her life.
I remained with them for more than five weeks in America to attend to the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of both of my elderly parents.
My husband, daughters and I moved home to America in June 2011. We would now be near to my parents to support them. My father’s mental and emotional state began to deteriorate rapidly upon learning of my mother’s cancer. His depression worsened, his anxiety increased astronomically, and his behavior became erratic and highly agitated, with frequent uncontrolled outbursts of anger and violence. His memory was failing him. He was confused and was unable to process what was going on around him. The situation of my mother and father became quite chaotic and dangerous as my father’s dementia increased. The problems and difficulties were further exacerbated by the fact that my middle aged sister was living with them in a state of chronic alcoholism. The troubles and needs of my parents and sister had become monumental.
I loved them all so much and desired with all my heart to help each one of them, and being the oldest daughter and closest to them, I felt responsible and considered it my loving duty to handle everything. I plunged head long into the role of caregiver to the three of them with all my heart, mind, soul and strength. I worked, strived, managed, scrambled, and wore myself to the bone trying to do it all. The Lord had placed in me a huge reservoir of His divine love, and during that trip back home in 2010 I had drawn deeply from that well.
But as the demands increased and challenges mounted during the subsequent years of 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 I found myself sinking under their weight and falling into despair. I couldn’t handle it anymore. I was burnt out, stressed to the uttermost, at my wits end, desperately wanting the persons I loved to be free of their torments, as I suffered in my heart to see them suffering so, trapped in their own unique incurable conditions: mom with terminal cancer, dad with Alzheimer’s and my 52 year old sister with late stage liver disease, with no hope for a liver transplant, as she was still drinking and would surely die soon without one.
My mind and heart were warring with each other, as temptation after temptation assailed me, at one moment my heart was yearning to find still another possible way to save them and make them well, and the next moment my thoughts were replete with despair (or was it the Evil One’s suggestion?) thinking that it would be better if they died – if the Lord would take them to Himself and end their misery, and free me from this agony of caring and responsibility. I could not find rest or peace in the Serenity Prayer, although I knew it was true.
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference
One afternoon before Easter 2014 I went to the chapel in a state of utter desperation. I cried out to the Lord with all my strength of agony and pitiful misery that I had come to the end of myself. There was nothing left in me. I was empty as a dry well. I was exhausted from the trials. I had no more to give and I was falling into bitterness and anger. I pleaded for Him to save me from myself, to lift me up from the quick sand that I was sinking in, from the slippery slope of the abyss that loomed before me. I was afraid. I felt my humanness, my misery, my wretchedness, my utter helplessness, and I cried to the Lord of Mercy to have mercy on me. Went I was totally spent in prayer, I sat in complete silence before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament like a baby being held exhausted and limp in her mother’s arms after a furious crying spell and I fell asleep.
When I awoke from this sweet sleep about an hour later I recalled my agonizing prayer. I serenely asked the Lord for wisdom to help me go on. Just then I heard an interior Voice say to me, “Ephesians 6.” A little distance from me on the pew was a paperback Bible. At first I was hesitant to reach for it to open it to the book and chapter spoken to me. I was afraid that my faith would be stumbled. The thought came to me that if I should open the book and read Ephesians 6 and it not have any meaning for me, that I would then know that I was deluded – that I was imagining the Lord had spoken to me, and what utter vanity and pride this would be. I overcame this fear and reached for the book, and opening it to the New Testament Epistle of Ephesians, chapter 6, I looked down at the first verse and was immensely astonished. The words were Living and True – the words were Jesus Christ the Lord Who was speaking
“Honor your father and mother.” This is the first commandment with a promise,
“that it may go well with you and that you may have a long life on earth” ( Ephesians 6: 1).
My heart was racing with joy and amazement as I continued reading Ephesians 6.
Finally, draw your strength from the Lord and from His mighty power…
Put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil.
For our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens.
Therefore, put on the armor of God, that you may be able to resist on the evil day and, having done everything, to hold your ground.
So stand fast with your loins girded in truth, clothed with righteousness as a breastplate,
and your feet shod in readiness for the gospel of peace.
In all circumstances, hold faith as a shield, to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one.
And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God…
…With all prayer and supplication, pray at every opportunity in the Spirit… (Ephesians 6)
I knew that Jesus had just answered me and given me His Divine Wisdom. I knew this beyond any shadow of doubt, because I could not deceive or lie to myself, as I knew for certain that I DID NOT KNOW what was written in Ephesians 6. I could not have said this to myself. With this substantial Word from the Lord, I received not only wisdom from Jesus, but His grace, power and strength to do what His Word commanded! The good Lord raised me up in an instant and empowered me to carry on doing His perfect Will:
Over the months to come my dear sister continued to decline and she passed to the Lord on October 2, 2014, dying in the state of grace, having been blessed with every spiritual gift before she crossed into eternity. I was able to arrange the spiritual support she needed, caring Christian hospice and a Catholic funeral Mass and burial. She is in Peace now with Jesus. My father is now being cared for in an Alzheimer’s facility which I was able to arrange for him. I am looking after my mother who continues to live with stage four cancer but my heart is full of joyful confidence in the Lord Who:
“The LORD helps the fallen and lifts those bent beneath their loads.” (Psalm 145:14)
”Surely God is my help; the Lord is the one who sustains me.”(Psalm 54:4)
“Uphold me that I may be safe, That I may have regard for Your statutes continually.”(Psalm 119:117)