There was a time in my life when I was upset at the “goings on” in my parish, so I took a “break” from the drama and went to Sunday Mass at a neighboring church.
After a few weeks, a request was made in the neighboring parish bulletin for someone to drive residents of a local nursing home to Mass. I passed this nursing home on my way to the church, so I volunteered. Since I had a station wagon to accommodate our six children (our seventh child had yet to be born), I could easily accommodate the eight elderly people who needed a ride to Sunday Mass.
Over time my elderly passengers died or moved onto other places. After about a year and a half I was down to two men: Patrick and Mr. Forsythe. Both were delightful and I enjoyed their company. It happened that I started going back to my own parish for Sunday Mass. I would pick up Patrick and Mr. Forsythe at the nursing home and drive them, with our children, to my parish.
The men did not mind switching churches, so long as they got to worship at Sunday Mass. Our children also went with us, delighting in joking and talking to these two gents. We visited them in the nursing home, bringing them Christmas treats, and becoming involved in their lives.
Patrick died, leaving only Mr. Forsythe to come to Sunday Mass with our family. Normally on holidays Mr. Forsythe would go with his own family to church, but one Christmas he surprised me by coming to church with our family. I thought he would go with his own family, which included a daughter who was an Immaculate Heart of Mary nun.
Before the spring, Mr. Forsythe died also, and our family — Paul, myself and six children — went to his wake. When we entered the funeral parlor, people were quietly milling about, laughing and quietly conversing. Mr. Forsythe had led a long life, was in his 90s, was a well-loved patriarch and had had a great life.
It was understandable that the “mourners” were casually visiting each other with little focus on the casket with our buddy in it.
When our family stood before the casket, our 8-year-old Kathleen started to sniffle, then another and another of the children began to cry. Even my husband and I had tears running down our cheeks as we stood looking at an old man who crept into our station wagon, our weekly church celebration, and our hearts. Before we knew it we all had tears coming down our cheeks.
The room became very quiet. All eyes were on us. A nun approached and said, “You must be my dad’s family!” Sister explained how she was so surprised at Christmas when she told her dad she would pick him up for Mass, but Mr. Forsythe told her he couldn’t go to church with her, that he had to go with his family. She chuckled, and was so sweet.
She so generously shared her father with us. We, in turn, got to experience a patriarch’s love. Our children got to learn how to share with the elderly.
This experience was only one of many that proved how God’s love can circulate in the most unexpected ways.