Father Eugene Hemrick

On March 23, my brother died after a long illness. When he was young, he was vigorous, a champion speedskater and baseball player. He and his wife raised five beautiful children, providing them with a loving home.

Many of us who experience the death of a beloved ask tough questions. Why do some people have to endure inhumane drawn-out illnesses? Why do we, who love them, have to suffer so deeply? Why does God permit this?

Kindness means being disposed toward another, toward life and toward God. Ill disposition is seeing the dark side of life only.

During this period of pain, this negative picture of life plagued me, causing me to reflect more deeply on his ordeal. But thanks to reflection, I came to see profound meaning in what he and I had experienced during his illness.

When I visited him, I often met his caregivers. Here were people devoted daily to patients who couldn’t talk or walk, and who often slept most of the day. Instead of reflecting on the darkness of the illnesses the caretakers had to deal with, I took a second look at the caregivers.

These compassionate workers are wonderful to the helpless. They bond with those they care for. They listen to a patient and often offer the human touch of a hand that says, “I am here for you.”

And yet, not all is idyllic when caring for those who have become helpless. But if you look, you will always find at least one caregiver in these situations whose warm heart is something to behold. You’ll see a person deeply concerned for those under his or her care.

To more fully understand caring and its powers, it is helpful to look beyond our world. In war-torn countries that leave people with little or no hope, what helps them survive?

The answer is that they care for one another. Those who care may be a mother and father rearing children, or adult children helping elders keep things together. It can be neighbors helping one another. They turn an inhumane situation into a humane one.

Sometimes we ask why God would permit lengthy illnesses or seemingly endless suffering. One reason might be that it brings the best out of those who are well. It helps us to better realize the gift and power of caring that we have received from God.