Saturday, December 19, 2015

Third Saturday of Advent: Dumbstruck

“Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard.” – Lk 1:13

Mom’s Alzheimer’s will not go away.  It doesn’t matter how much dad prays. It doesn’t matter how many cupboards he slams.  It doesn’t matter how many private tears he sheds at 4:50 am in the morning when he has to get up for work and mom is crying for him to stay with her because she is afraid.  Often for dad, it’s more like, “Sorry, Tuyen, your prayers have not been heard. Please try again.”

Dad’s communication with ‘the big man’ falls under two variations: 1) You are cruel; screw you. And 2) Please, please cure my wife.  These are dad’s broken record go-to prayers for the past three years since the official diagnoses.  Who could blame him?  I would certainly play the same record if I were him.

One day, during a visit to my parents shortly following Thanksgiving, I notice something different about dad. After dinner, dad says let’s pray together. 

He never initiates prayer. 

What followed was an unusually long recital of traditional family prayers that pop-quizzed my childhood catechism brain, which concluded with heartfelt petitions from dad. He prayed in the most thoughtful and sincere way that I’ve ever heard for family and friends in need. It took me a second to absorb the real shock of a subtle moment—or lack thereof: he did not pray for mom to get better. And no, he did not forget, because you don’t easily forget the one thing that is your day, your night, and the reason for living at all. Instead, he had said, “Lord, thank you for the two wonderful caretakers that you have sent us.”

I was struck speechless (and dumb). It was the ‘next level’ of weird to witness this prayer from him. It was a ray of hope in dad’s life shining through the cracks of a worldview built upon 63 years of feeling like you were always the short straw walking in a dark and terrifying dessert carrying your cross—completely alone.

I wonder ’til this day, what has been happening in dad’s interior life recently? I could only hope to imagine. 

What about mine? What is happening with my heart, Lord? Are we being still enough this season so as to notice new miracles being born in and around us in unexpectedly glorious ways?

Martin Ngo SJ

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