This video is worth 20 min of your time.
Comprehensive sex education (CSE) is an aggressive attack on children’s minds. We should join hands and STOP it.
This video is worth 20 min of your time.
Comprehensive sex education (CSE) is an aggressive attack on children’s minds. We should join hands and STOP it.
About “Sposala e muori per lei”
It is a playful reflection on the differences between men and women, the different languages they speak, the different ways they think (a man does just one thing at a time, women so many!). Whereas women tend to take control of the relationship (which is the point they have to work on), men tend to be selfish, to doze off on the couch and they don’t pay attention to what women say. The woman should be a mirror for his man, she should give him a beautiful idea of himself, encourage him and show him all the possible good so that he can find the strength to give up his life for her and for the children.
As men usually do not like to get any advice, especially from their wives, at the end of each chapter you will find a sort of gift to give to your man to make him understand the message of the chapter: being a real man, being authoritative, being a good father, being courageous.
A chapter of the book
I had intended to come to your wedding with a beautiful letter for you – Holy Cow, I am the maid of honor! I’m amongst the first characters in the closing credits, the time has come for me to take the scene and to come prepared. At your wedding, at least, since to my wedding, spiritually well-prepared as I was, I was (not) combed and made up, like always – apart from a white eye-shadow that my sister had forced me to buy – and late, as I had gone for a run two hours earlier, and taken by an unstoppable burst (fit) of laughter and cheerfulness that didn’t turn exactly out in me being at my best in the some ten pictures uncle Gianfranco remembered to shoot.
If nothing else, you had Guido wear his tie, a really considerable undertaking. “Why did you wear your cape?”, Lavinia asked his father, disconcerted by this fresh article of clothing. The rest of the family, on the other hand, arrived stylistically unprepared to the princely event of your nuptials; I didn’t find the time to write to you, nor had I provided a flawless outfit for me or for the kids, who, God knows why, are always stained with chocolate, with one shoe untied, pants which happen to be too long or too short, and a torn sock showing a peeping bruise on the knee. Anyway, tattered and ragged as we are, the six of us all came there, and on time even, as I had to sit next to you. It was a celebration full of divine grace and precious hints, even if my girls will especially remember it for your lace train worthy of a local Cinderella, our unbeaten fashion icon.
From that day onwards, I can hear them whispering to each another, “This is for when my prince comes and marries me,” while they give out plastic tiaras and earrings. To be honest, the boys especially remember that fatal day because that was the day of the Roma F.C. vs. Sampdoria soccer game, which cost the “maggica” the Premier League Championship that year. What can you do with them? They are male, the basic model. Despite it, they are not rednecks, at least not yet. Bernardo is a model student, he can’t get less than an A at school, a little soldier always ready to carry out orders. Tommaso, a little less precise (at home he’s also known as the drain man), the other year, i.e. in the fourth grade, had called me at night to ask me when the Teheran Conference was held – a historical episode totally unknown to me, as the latest historical fact I knew was the fall of the Western Roman Empire. And, a few evenings ago: “Mom, what is dialectic materialism? I’m calling Dad if you’re not sleeping now” – I tried to scare him while I frantically browsed the Philosophy section of the encyclopedia or the History handbook that I learned to keep close at hand, together with the fundamentals – like the West wing DVDs or mother Speranza’s novena – ever since I began perceiving my flawless ignorance (a Flaiano quote). If I catch him in front of the Pc, it’s easier for me to find him reading news on the Visigoths than playing Texas Hold’em. But, belonging to the male gender, he also has an almost universal taint. His brain turns dumb when he sees a rolling ball. I know men who can be defined as normal, even as special as the one I married, that undergo a mutation at the starting whistle of a game and they instantly turn without batting an eyelid, from the violent films of Sam Peckinpah to La Signora in Giallorosso – a talk show on a local Rome tv -, from a re-reading of Dostoevsky’s The Idiot to Big Mario’s radio, losing any restraint. I’m only telling you, so that you can get ready, as you took one of the same species for yourself, and not for a weekend getaway, but for all of your life, until death do you part. Exactly because of this, I really care about giving you my real wedding gift, much more precious than the other one, the one that arrived on time, at least. It is the secret for a holy wedding, which is the same as saying a happy one. The secret is for a woman, in front of the man she chose, to make a step backwards. And, as you know me well, you also may well know this is not in my nature at all, being one who took for herself the motto of my grandpa, the Colonel: “Wall or no wall, three steps forward”. I believe I represent one out of seven or eight cases on a world scale of people who hit a car while going for a run: I got a concussion, she was pretty dented. Unfortunately, I would like to fill the story with epic details, but no, she wasn’t an Aston Martin, just a Fiat Punto. Anyway, I’m not exactly a docile person, but I have turned to one I believe, I hope, because I think this is what being a spouse means: to embrace, first of all. And you know that I, just like anybody to say the truth, don’t like losing. I’ve been more than competitive at school, at university. Even more in sports: the only “break” I would grant myself, from when I was studying during the seventh grade until my pregnancies. Some fifteen miles running between a Homer and an Eschilo, just to clear my mind a little bit. And then, in the years when we lost touch, you don’t know that when I was preparing some marathon I could even go running at three in the morning, when I was supposed to be at the editorial office at five for the tv news. I left home in shorts in a city that is not mine (Rome), in the dark, and it even seemed normal to me, even when I met an all-naked mad man in front of the altar of the Unknown Soldier, who, seeing me, probably asked himself, in turn, who that crazy woman was. And even now, being a lady almost turning 40 (enough of the “boys” after their forties) and running when I can without preparing races, if someone passes me – even a pigeon – something still gets to me. But when it comes to life as a couple, you have to compete in the opposite way: wall or no wall, two steps backwards. And you must do it even when you don’t understand why, when you’re intimately convinced you have good reasons. In that very moment, perform an act of trust towards your husband. Get out of the logic of the world, “I want to get the better of him”, and enter the logic of God, who put at your side your husband, that saint who bears you after everything, and who, incidentally, is also a handsome guy. And if something he does is not fine with you, it is God Himself you have to confront, to begin with: get down on your knees, and most time you’ll solve anything. Luigi is the way God chose to love you, and he is your way to heaven. When he says something, then you must listen to him as if God was talking to you. With full discernment, clearly, in wisdom and cleverness, of course, because he is a creature, but with respect, because he often sees more clearly than you do. Our vocation, whatever it is, is always to make us happy. As Pavel Evdokimov says, the Russian Orthodox theologian, if the objective end of the wedding is generating children, the subjective end is to generate ourselves. Margherita is not fully herself without Luigi! Can you realize how great, invaluable a thing you have in your hands? In this enterprise you just started, with the grace of God, you will generate yourself. “But how do you do that?” you asked on the phone some thousand times. Do I have to let him have the better of me even when he’s wrong? I say yes. In the first place because it seems to you that he’s wrong, and if, as we were saying, he’s the one who leads you to your wholeness, to your completeness, it is exactly when he thinks different from you that you have to open up to him, and embrace him. It is exactly then that what he tells you has a precious meaning to you, it adds something, it makes you whole, has you grow, lets you make a shift. If you just embrace what corresponds to you, to what you think, you are not married to a man, but to yourself. While you must submit yourself to him. When you two must choose between what you like and what he likes, choose in his favor. And this is easy. When there’s a decision to take, and after you weighed the pros and cons the answer is still not clear, trust him, and let him have the last word. And this is a little difficult sometimes. When, of your positions, it seems to you that his is completely wrong, for the two of you, even for the kids, maybe, still keep trusting his clearness of mind. This may seem to be an unbearable effort. You will be afraid, because abandoning your beliefs is scary. But you’re not jumping into the void, you’re jumping into his arms.
Nice words, aren’t they? When you read them you could think I’m an angelic creature, but really I have just read and listened to good words. I’m not sure if I’ve been able to live them in real life. Not always all of them, for sure. But I let my husband take a look at what I’m writing you, and he didn’t show any strong or loud protests. Not even blowing a raspberry. That’s something. I would even say he likes the idea of submission elevated to the rank of a theory. “Are you done with the bath, my lovely dear?” he asked me yesterday evening. He is Roman, unfortunately, and he always finds a way to put an end to my lyric bursts.
You’ll see, I can swear on it, a man cannot resist a woman who respects him, recognizes his authority, who makes a sincere effort to listen to him, to let aside her own way of seeing things, who tramples on her ever-biting, teasing, failure-highlighting tongue (we’re very good at that, no doubt), who accepts to walk on paths that are extremely different from those she would naturally choose, just out of love.
Day by day, he will start asking you what you think, what to do, which way your family should go. And this respect you achieve through respect, this devotion through submission. This is why, having finally won my husband’s respect, I now feel ready to calmly explain to him how greatly beneficial it would be to build a walk –in closet in our bedroom (the first benefit would be that I wouldn’t have any more piles of black t-shirts down there, and I wouldn’t, believing I had lost them all, buy seven more next season).
And even when the fruits seem to be late (I won’t have my wardrobe closet), we Christians must know they are ripening. We are happy in hope, aren’t we?
We know what happens to us is not to be measured on the world’s meter. We know any suffering, even a little one – you don’t have the same idea, you wouldn’t have planned that thing, you wouldn’t have picked that vacation or that evening – produces sometimes mysterious, yet never lost, fruits, if accepted with love. “Let those things causing you suffering be held more dear to you than the Hermitage,” St. Francis used to say, he who would have spent any minute at the Hermitage of the Prisons, in the sweetest, continuous prayer, while he accepted to stay amongst people who did not understand him, friars included, sometimes.
And you know we don’t stand mortification for mortification’s sake, we are not austere ones, for sure: we like chatting about our interior Castle and of the latest nuance of the Chanel nail polish, the unobtainable dove gray, reading the Dialogue of the Divine Providence and gossiping – in acclaimed bad faith – of Carla Bruni’s short neck (divine justice exists). We like mortification just in sight of a wider good, and this good is embracing your husband, therefore generating a new self. May I confess, then, without you feeling offended, that when you tell me he makes you angry it always seems to me that it’s all about silly things? They’re just little stings to your pride, little attempts at your too weak self-esteem. When you know who you are and how much you are worth – a lot, trust those who know and love you – you are not afraid of some criticism. True, you’re not a skilled cook yet, nor a perfect landlady. What’s the problem if he tells you so? Tell him that he’s right, and you are going to learn. Seeing your sweetness and humbleness, your attempt at conversion, he will convert, too. Without speeches, but seeing himself through you. You’ll feel like you’re losing months and years, to exercise patience for an endless time with Luigi, to be in an away game whose score is never zero, but it’s not like that. No gesture of love will go lost, none of your steps backwards will miss to be transformed into a step forward for the two of you, no useless word unuttered will be regretted. It’s a difficult and perhaps inexhaustible path. You’ll feel like you’re the one who gives the most – we fit the victim’s role very well, just an instant and we dress up like housewives in the Fifties, round skirt, hair set and all- but are you really sure? He’ll probably feel he’s the one who walks the longer distance to meet you, too. I believe in these cases you do not measure who gives more, but who can give more. Even if now you feel like a martyr. Balances can change infinite times during a lifetime. And then, you believe you love him the way he wants, but maybe you are loving him the way you want. You write him little notes, while he would like you to do something concrete for him: inviting his mother to dinner, for instance. You want a bunch of flowers, and he tells you that he loves you by going to buy an octopus and cherry tomato pizza. Speak his language, that of concrete gestures, and he’ll learn to speak yours, that of the love declarations down on his knees with violins playing. You complain about the fact he doesn’t speak, but where have you been living till now? Don’t you know a man only issues a statement when has the need to give you useful and pertinent information? It took me a couple years, but I eventually renounced dragging my husband into a whole series of conversations, like those involving the sentimental life of human beings. But if I really want to talk to him, it is sufficient for me to emit a very sharp, and most probably wrong, opinion, on the 4-4-3 formation of Roma F.C. soccer team, or the war in Afghanistan, to have the certainty to obtain an answer.
It is a continuous effort of elasticity, and it may also seem to you that you gave a lot, while in fact you remained in your selfishness. For instance, I would always like a house full of people; my husband, also known as “add a place to your table”, lays a claim to the etymology of his name (he who lives in the forest), and he’d rather emigrate to the woods than share companage and double the cheerfulness. The balance is quite difficult to reach, and it requires tolerance on both sides. Measuring who moves towards the other is pretty hard, also because in the meanwhile we have added four more places to the table, and those are permanent: lunch and dinner, on a daily basis.
When in doubt, anyway, please obey. Subdue yourself in full trust. To make another example, in my view, everything is to be planned, so we can squeeze in as many appointments as we can, like pinball: the more goals we achieve, the more points we score. In my husband’s view, on the other hand, the best ideas happen in boredom, in the void, and I must admit that sometimes it works; it happens, just because we have three spare hours, that we randomly watch together “Luci della ribalta” or the undergrounds of san Clemente, or we have an endless football game including all of us three girls, who sometimes leave the field to pick flowers, or that we invent new games, even if the most popular remains the dear old “tell me you’re fat if you dare”. Let’s also say that from time to time planning has its own reasons, if you consider pediatricians dentists parties little friends catechisms matches competitions, but I am beginning to be a little more flexible, the supreme quality of any wife and mother. You will need, in fact, much more flexibility, when not only your husband, but also your children, will rotate around your capability of embrace. Their wellbeing, their serenity will at least partially rely, at least hopefully until they’re on their own (how many more years to come?), on your capability to absorb their bad moods, whims, tiredness, discontent. I don’t know why, but this is a privilege that remains all ours. Our children give their worst with us, and this is well-known. On the other hand, who do you vent to your anger to, if not to whom you know is going to love you after you’re done? With whom do you put down any mask, any restraint, and you display the whole catalogue of your deepest degradation, if not with whom will never abandon you (like your best friend from college, which would be me, by the way, and viceversa)? “Look, now I need to complain a little bit”: we both know it, now. When the phone calls open that way, you just have to listen, be noisily quiet, to sympathize with conviction, to admire exaggeratedly and absolutely not to give bright suggestions. Because on those moments one doesn’t want a solution, but just energetic and little wordy pat-pats on the shoulder.
Here, kids learn this roughly on their third minute of life: we will always embrace them, and so the overflowing diaper, the not-given candy or the homework that’s too hard – according their age- invariably translate into a reprisal to us, under the disguise of whims, long faces, cries, various insults (my latest is “fascist colonel,” I just got it a short while ago). Sometimes I try and say, “Kids, I’m going out to get some cigarettes”, but nobody believes me, probably because I don’t smoke. If I may risk forseeing the future, even Luigi will take advantage of your soft structure – even if you weigh 110 pounds, you’re soft inside – to utter his opposition to all the annoying sides of human existance, which, in some mysterious way for you but all-evident to him, will all be traced back to you. Don’t worry. It’s nothing, it will pass in the end. Try to embrace him even in those moments. He doesn’t want a solution, either; he wants you to encourage him, to tell him you appreciate what he does, and, if I may say so, for how I know your husband and a decent set of samples of the same species, to allow him to withdraw like a prehistoric man into his cave, which often takes the more technological form of a computer screen, but in substance it doesn’t change: the hunter’s rest. And don’t complain with him. Call me or some other friend, a female one, warn us in advance not to care too much about what you’ll say, and start groaning a bit. Never do it with him, because if you complain, a man (I don’t know why, whether he’s a psychiatrist, a philosopher, or a manologist of any sort) will try and find a practical solution. He’ll offer to prolong the nanny’s working hours or to take longer breaks, when you just wanted him to say it’s all working just fine as it is, that you are an admirable, unbeatable heroine. And don’t begin, I know you, to ask yourself if you were wrong, if he was really the right one for you…this is the devil’s doing – whose meaning comes from dia ballein, to divide. He wants to divide: us from ourselves, ourselves from God, and us from the person we swore loyalty to. It’s not you who went wrong, nor him. It is just that embracing is our charism, guiding and supporting is theirs. And I don’t even think there are cultural differences, I don’t know, see the manologist above. But I have a super dear friend of mine who lives in Germany, a genius, a superlative head. I hadn’t heard from her in a while, and every now and then I happened to imagine her life, completely different from ours, a couple with interchangeable roles, he pushing his stroller and she going to a meeting or planning the week. I called her on her birthday, and I found out she had decided to stay at home and be a mom, archiving her degree in electronic engineering. Moreover, we ended up sharing every single word on family dynamics, hers and those of a Bulgarian percentage of her Teutonic friends with whom she confronts, in greatly envied (by me) mornings drinking tea or in afternoons set in parks that I imagine to be tidier than my living room. And apart from the fact that where she is the streets are clean and the pink car parking spots (for moms) are respected, we didn’t notice any other noteworthy difference between us. Dear Margherita, what else can I say? I promise I will watch over you, over your happiness which you will have to start building now, even if I invite you to find more powerful guardian angels than I am. Unfortunately, I’m just a couple years ahead of you in life, and I keep getting the same things wrong, with the junk trade of someone in her twenties, constantly looming over me. In exchange then, you may also help me explain to my girls that the story of the prince arriving and saving you needs a bit of reworking…
Never in my life would I have imagined reconsidering the highly boring sermons released, completely free of charge, by the greengrocer of the holiday village, Mrs. Pots (her real name, not a nickname due to her cylindrical physical conformation). Not even the pearls of wisdom strung one after the other by the little women taking fresh air along the street with my grandmother, in the evening. To us little chicks, dealing with wearing make-up for the first time and purposefully slipping shoulder straps – you only need a little jerk with your shoulder – they launched disapproving looks, and sighs foreseeing the worst possible future for us. The image of the woman they evoked in their speeches, strong and silent, capable of holding up the whole family like a wheel hub does with its spokes seemed less plausible to me than Sigourney Weaver playing the role of Ripley in the 80’s movie Alien. I wasn’t capable of supporting myself, let alone supporting someone else.
Then, luckily, you grow up, or at least you try, and I’m sorry neither of my grandmothers had the chance to meet my four kids, all of them now grown up, very dirty but safe, and without too many stitches. Grandma Gina would have found something to say nevertheless, since I forgot how to crochet and I could improve my domestic economy skills: “My mom is very good at warming up frozen food”, Bernardo told a friend once, to convince him to stay over for dinner. But they would have appreciated their report cards, especially the French professor, and their pietas: “I’m going to be a saint when I grow up – Lidia told me once – maybe saint Therese Delilah.”
I often think of them, to the women of other generations, when I see women in search of identity and are therefore suffering because of it. They didn’t have to try too hard, they already had a role, they had already been given one. Something that may have protected them, made their personal research less difficult. They didn’t look unhappy to me, and if they were they kept it for themselves. If I had spoken to them about obedience, they would have understood me.
Now, instead, I have a few Christian friends with whom we can discuss our ideas on marriage. Because if we share these reflections with our “worldly” friends, either they insult us or they pity us, or they invite us to ask for a quick psychiatric consult. You can expect this. The strange thing is that even between the Christians, if you start talking about submission they think you are joking. “No. Sorry. What do you mean? You are being ironic, aren’t you?”
There were already few of us Christians – not that they didn’t warn us, with the story of the salt and the yeast – and what more, sometimes we don’t even make a great effort to get far from the Vulgata, not meaning saint Jerome’s, in this case, but the common mentality that emphasizes freedom, self-determination, one’s own will as the highest and only untouchable values. Talking about submission raises disapproval, disconcert, rebellion, irritation, even disgust. And not only for the original sin that has us hate the idea of obeying someone apart from ourselves, but even for this autarchic culture in which we are all immersed, even as Christians. And we would be those who had been told to serve others, to put ourselves in the last place. Saint Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians, explains how we serve one another in the couple: “Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. As the church is subject to Christ, so let wives also be subject in everything to their husbands.” Not even the priests dare say this anymore, afraid of being lapidated by us females. But I’ve personally seen in the life of those who wanted to try it, that this is the way to salvation. Not the heaven that hopefully awaits us, but salvation even in this life, that is peace, a matrimonial life full and fulfilling. A life that also non-believers should perhaps try and experience. Because, as Paul explains a few lines later, what happens next is this: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her… Even so husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no man ever hates his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh”.
It may also be true that all happy families look similar – who could ever contradict Tolstoj – but even among those unhappy I cannot see a huge degree of fantasy: betrayals, arm wrestling, subtle proofs of strength, measurement of the forces on the field, “I did more,” “no, I did,” “let’s call a judge.” As usual, the only really new word on the subject comes from God. When we talk – in a low voice, to avoid lynching – about submission we must exit the language of the world, which reads everything in the perspective of dominion, of power. Our king is on a cross, but so he won against the only unbeatable enemy, i.e. death. Therefore we must also exit the logic of power, turning it totally upside down. First of all, because submission is not out of depreciation, you don’t choose it because you think you’re not worth it. Moreover, the fruit of the woman’s choice is the fact that the man will be ready to die for it. When St. Paul tells women to accept this submission, he doesn’t think they are inferior at all. Actually, we owe it to Christianity for the only real great re-evaluation of women. The greatest of all creatures is a woman, to begin with. And Jesus honored women so much that he also scandalized people. He first revealed Himself after the Resurrection to them; who knows, maybe the males were all gone to the stadium, since it was Sunday. “Basically, St. Peter was a sucker before the Holy Spirit”, my son summarized once, with a slightly colored vision, yet theologically sound.
The submission that Paul is talking about is a gift, and a free one as any other; it would be a duty, otherwise. It is a spontaneous gift of oneself, out of love. I renounce my selfishness for you. And if we really want to speak in terms of greatness or smallness, of strength or weakness, of power, it is better to remember that “he that is greatest among you, as he that doth serve”. This measures the greatness of a person.
“Let the most intelligent use his intelligence”, said my mom when we were little, hoping by this noble call to raise good sentiments in the three of us siblings, when we would beat each other up for very valid reasons such as the choice of a TV channel or the conquest of a bicycle. Just for the record, her call never worked. A woman doesn’t need to feel diminished by this invitation of St. Paul; on the contrary. The problem is that, during many centuries and along with many cultures, we have been “held down,” not in this perspective of a free and spontaneous gift, but under the logic of power and strength. So talking about obedience still touches somebody’s nerves. Feminism, in this sense, had the credit to bring forward instances of justice, when there was very little justice (and in many non-Christian cultures there’s still very little of it). The only thing is that it gave the wrong answers, and it produced a lot of unhappiness. There is a new slavery in women who believe to be liberated while they probably are aiming at the wrong target. But I also know many women – like those of the generation before us – who naturally obey to their husband, because that’s in the order of things, the woman is for the man. “Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you,” Genesis says. There’s a hidden spark here, a way to happiness. Already here, on this earth. So the woman obeys because she can listen, not because she undervalues herself. The humble is someone who knows who he is, which are his riches and his weaknesses. Even if one thing is to know it, another is somebody who tells you, so guys, I’m taking this opportunity to invite you not to speak about the distressing repetitiveness of my menus too much, nor do I find strictly necessary to call me doctor flatbelly in a high tune in front of everybody. Anyway, when a woman subdues herself not to be crushed but to embrace, she also points the way to the man, and the whole family. The woman precedes the man, who needs to be embraced. With such a woman, who is loyal, who doesn’t play the rival, who doesn’t want to take control of everything, to dominate, who doesn’t even behave like a sissy, a man can be fertile.
Loving in the first place, but also in the last place. We also perform the duty to keep loving, to maintain the fire lit in the house. A faithfulness which can also become essential when love – which is not only a feeling but a commandment in the first place, demands a strong, steady decision. It takes a strong decision, for instance, not to leave the marriage when you are betrayed. Warning: the reading of what follows is strictly forbidden to my husband, and the noble words that follow apply to any wedding but mine.
But even a woman who is betrayed has a possibility to defend her love, which is in a serious life-endangering condition: she can remain faithful and keep on loving. It is a terrible storm, but not a shipwreck. It is a vase that breaks, and that will not be new anymore, but even if the signs of where it’s been glued are visible, it will hold until the end. We as women also defend life this way, bringing its flag high even when everything seems lost. To forgive doesn’t mean to forget what happened. It is not refusing to look at the face of grief. It is not refusing to give it its importance because in the end the good and the bad are undistinguished. It is not indifference. It is deciding to stem disorder, and to let the good win. The women who manage it are the stronger, the most capable of love, their shoulders are wider, they are able to perform the miracle you need to overcome a betrayal. The same cannot be said for men, because a man and a woman love in a different way: the woman with a specific love, capable of understanding originality. Man is fragile, and not always capable of understanding the differences between women. Only these, in the most painful, entangled and despaired situations can proclaim hope and stay up on their feet to give courage again to everybody. But even without getting to the real, consumed, enacted, betrayal, to a menace of death to the relationship, there are many possible small betrayals. There is by necessity a stage when habit takes off a little shine.
Even Robert Redford’s – non the wrinkly director of Sundance, but the legendary man who made himself in the Great Gatsby – wife, probably, seeing him wandering about the house in underpants and unmatched socks, clinging to the remote control in front of a Lakers match, would be tempted to start exchanging messages with the young and good-looking greengrocer from West Hollywood.
Even in these cases love works if you make a decision, and you don’t follow your emotions, your needs, your instinctual part. How sad is the most, the very most of contemporary films and books: a lamentation on nothingness, a boring tautology, a demonstration that obeying your own selfishness you are unwell, you are disquiet and never satisfied. All grains of wheat refusing to fall in the soil. Celebrations of “I’m not like that,” or “I don’t feel that way.” Wojtyla told the couples he went camping with during summer: don’t say “I love you,” but, “I participate with you in the love of God.” A very different kind of music.
“Sposati e sii sottomessa” (Vallecchi 2011 – Sonzogno 2013)
***For the english version Zelinda Davolio. THANKS! Visit her website https://costanzamiriano.com/about/english-version/ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=og48h85r564
This is a poem written by a teenager with cancer.
She wants to see how many
people get her poem.
It is quite a poem, please pass it on.
This poem was written by a terminally ill young girl in a
New York Hospital.
It was sent by a medical doctor Make sure to read what is in the closing statement AFTER THE POEM.
Have you ever watched kids on a merry-go-round?
Or listened to the rain slapping on the ground?
Ever followed a butterfly’s erratic flight?
Or gazed at the sun into the fading night?
You better slow down.
Don’t dance so fast.
Time is short.
The music won’t last.
Do you run through each day on the fly?
When you ask, “How are you?”
Do you hear the reply?
When the day is done, do you lie in your bed,
with the next hundred chores running through your head?
You’d better slow down
Don’t dance so fast.
Time is short
The music won’t last.
Ever told your child,
We’ll do it tomorrow?
And in your haste,
Not see his sorrow?
Ever lost touch, let a good friendship die
Cause you never had time
To call and say,’Hi’
You’d better slow down.
Don’t dance so fast.
Time is short.
The music won’t last..
When you run so fast to get somewhere,
You miss half the fun of getting there.
When you worry and hurry through your day,
It is like an unopened gift….
Life is not a race.
Do take it slower
Hear the music
Before the song is over.
PLEASE pass this mail on to everyone you know –
even to those you don’t know!
It is the request of a special girl, who will soon leave this world due to cancer.
This young girl has 6 months left to live, and as her dying wish, she wanted to send a letter telling everyone to
live their life to the fullest, since she never will.
She’ll never make it to prom, graduate from high school,
Unfortunately, my schedule precludes me from meeting and talking with you at the Catholic Leadership Conference today in Denver. First, I would like to send my warm greetings to the Denver Archbishop Samuel Aquila. In discussions with my Catholic Advisory Group, it is clear Archbishop Aqulia’s leadership in the Denver Archdiocese has been exemplary, as was the leadership of his predecessor, Archbishop Charles Chaput.
Second, should I be elected President, I look forward to working with these two respected leaders of the Catholic Church in America, their brother bishops, and Congress, on issues of critical importance to the Catholic Church and Catholics. Catholics in the United States of America are a rich part of our nation’s history. The United States was, and is, strengthened through Catholic men, women, priests and religious Sisters, ministering to people, marching in the Civil Rights movement, educating millions of children in Catholic schools, creating respected health care institutions, and in their founding and helping the ongoing growth of the pro-life cause. I have a message for Catholics: I will be there for you. I will stand with you. I will fight for you.
As First Lady, US Senator, Secretary of State, and two-time presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton has been hostile to the core issues and policies of greatest concern to Catholics: life, religious liberty, Supreme Court nominations, affordable and quality healthcare, educational choice and home schooling.
For instance, Hillary Clinton supports forcing The Little Sisters of the Poor who have taken care of the elderly poor since 1839, pay for contraceptives in their health care plan (even though they have never wanted them, never used them and never will), and having the government fine them heavily if they continue to refuse to abide by this onerous mandate. That is a hostility to religious liberty you will never see in a Trump Administration.
Hillary Clinton’s hostility to the issues of greatest importance to Catholics is made worse by her running mate Senator Tim Kaine. Once pro-life and against partial birth abortion, Kaine now has a 100% voting record from the National Abortion Rights Action League. Kaine once was for traditional marriage, even saying “it is a uniquely valuable institution that must be preserved”, but as of 2013, Kaine no longer supported traditional marriage.
And on religious liberty? Shockingly, even Kaine supports forcing the Little Sisters of the Poor to pay for contraceptives in their health care plan, and to have the government fine them heavily if they refuse. On issues and policies of greatest concern to Catholics, the differences between myself and Hillary Clinton are stark.
I will stand with Catholics and fight for you. Hillary Clinton has been openly hostile to these core Catholic issues for a long time, and is only going to be worse with Tim Kaine now following her lead. On life, I am, and will remain, pro-life. I will defend your religious liberties and the right to fully and freely practice your religion, as individuals, business owners and academic institutions. I will make absolutely certain religious orders like The Little Sisters of Poor are not bullied by the federal government because of their religious beliefs. I will protect and work to expand educational choice, the rights of homeschooling families, and end Common Core. I will repeal and replace Obamacare so you can have better and more affordable health care. I will keep our country and communities safe while respecting the dignity of each human being. I will help Catholic families and workers, and all families and workers, by bringing jobs back to our country where they belong.
And I will appoint Justices to the Supreme Court who will strictly interpret the Constitution and not legislate from the bench, like Justice Clarence Thomas and the late and beloved great Catholic thinker and jurist, Justice Antonin Scalia. We are at a crossroads in our country. Much like 1980. But the stakes are higher now – the highest they have ever been. We have two candidates representing entirely different agendas for our country that will take it in two completely different directions for generations to come. And our direction offers a much brighter future for our beloved country. Thank you for giving me the time to share my thoughts with you on some of the critical issues facing us today. Please keep me and my family in your prayers. God bless you and may God bless the United States of America.
Sincerely Yours, Donald J. Trump
Why can’t I stay out as late as my friends do?
Why Can’t Have A Boy Friend?
Why can’t I have the latest gadgets?
Why do you keep treating me as a child?
Recently the New York Times ran an opinion piece by popular philosopher Alain de Botton, Why You Will Marry the Wrong Person. It was widely shared and sat at the top of The Times’ “most viewed” list for nearly two weeks. De Botton argued that the solution to marital unhappiness and divorce is to expect less happiness from marriage. In other words, swapping romanticism for pessimism can save marriages.
In a follow-up debate this week six pundits opine on Knowing When a Marriage Is Over – a pessimistic premise to be sure, and all of them accept that there will be circumstances (other than abuse) where it will be reasonable to say, “It’s over.” It comes down to “what you want”. Significantly, children are barely mentioned.
But as psychiatrist Dr Richard Fitzgibbons notes below, the welfare of children is a key reason for trying to save marriages. And this is possible because the underlying causes of conflict between spouses can be brought to light and healed – again, if “you want”. Not all optimism is merely romantic, just as pessimism is not necessarily realistic.
* * * * *
Today marriage and family life are being severely traumatized by the divorce epidemic, the explosion of selfishness which is the major enemy of marital love, and failure to understand and address serious emotional conflicts. Around one million children a year in the United States are victimised by divorce. (See my chapter, “Children of Divorce: Conflicts and Healing” in M. McCarthy (ed) Torn Asunder: Children, the Myth of Good Divorce, and the Recovery of Origins – due out in August).
The toll from marital conflicts can be severe and debilitating. Selfishness, excessive anger and behaviours that are controlling, emotionally distant and mistrustful cause grave harm to spouses and children. The loyal spouses who are victimized are often incorrectly blamed as being the primary cause of the marital conflict. These conflicts and their resolution through growth in virtues are rarely addressed in the mental health literature on marriage.
Origins of serious emotional conflicts
In my experience the spouse that initiates divorce often has the most serious psychological difficulties. These are often unconscious wounds they have brought into the marriage. They arise primarily from hurts in the father relationship and secondarily from hurts in the mother relationship, or from giving into selfishness.
These unresolved are on the periphery of the deep goodness in each spouse, the goodness that led to strong love, commitment and marital vows. When they are resolved, trust grows and love is regularly rediscovered.
Confusion about the nature of marriage
An understanding of the nature of marriage is also essential to safeguarding marital love. At the present time, there are two markedly different views on the marriage. Sociologist Dr Brad Wilcox refers to them as the traditional Judeo-Christian view of marriage and the more prevalent psychological view. (Wilcox, B. (2009). The Evolution of Divorce)
In the latter, the primary obligation is not to one’s spouse and family but to one’s self and one’s own happiness and sense of fulfillment. Hence, marital success is defined not by successfully fulfilling one’s responsibilities to a spouse and children. It is characterized by a strong sense of subjective happiness in marriage, usually to be found in material comfort and through an intense, emotional relationship with one’s spouse and others.
Virtues, anger and forgiveness
The role of virtues has been viewed in Western Civilization as being essential in the development of a healthy personality. The mental health field has grown recently to appreciate this approach and a new field, positive psychology, has developed – notably by Dr Martin Seligman and colleagues. (Seligman, M. & Peterson, C. 2004.Character Strengths and Virtues) Positive psychology promotes the development of virtues to address and resolve cognitive, emotional, behavioural and personality conflicts, including those in marriage.
My own particular contribution to this new field is in the use of forgiveness in treating the excessive anger that is present in most psychiatric disorders and in marital conflicts. This subject is treated in detail in a book I co-authored with Dr Robert Enright, Helping Clients Forgive: An Empirical Guide for Resolving Anger and Restoring Hope, published by the American Psychological Association in 2000. (A second edition was published in 2014 with the title, Forgiveness Therapy: An Empirical Guide for Resolving Anger and Restoring Hope.)
The first challenge in the healing process is to acquire self-knowledge about one’s weaknesses, most often unconscious and hidden, so that they can be addressed. My own clinical experience is supported by research that demonstrates that 70 percent of adult psychological conflicts are the result of unresolved issues from childhood.
Most spouses do not deliberately set out to hurt the person they have vowed to honor and love all the days of their lives. Instead, they inflict painful wounds and even divorce because of their “baggage”/family of origin conflicts, giving in to selfishness or loss of faith.
The good news is that selfishness, excessive anger; mistrustful, controlling and emotionally distant behaviors, loneliness and insecurity, and the poor communication patterns that harm many marriages can be correctly identified and in many marriages resolved, especially if there is a faith component in the healing process.
Starting with singles
But we also have to prevent marital conflict and divorce by educating young adults about how the most common relationship stresses can be uncovered and resolved. Singles can then be more hopeful about having a successful marriage, and the retreat from marriage – itself partly attributable to the experience of divorce in families – can be reversed.
In particular young adults need to become more aware of selfishness, because it is of epidemic proportions in today’s culture and is a major reason for the retreat from marriage. This is a task awaiting parents, pastors and others involved in the education and formation of young people.
Dr Richard Fitzgibbons is the director of Comprehensive Counselling Services in Conshohocken, Pennsylvania. He has practiced psychiatry for 40 years with a specialty in the treatment of excessive anger. Further information at: Institute for Marital Healing.
It was a quiet room in a hospice, the only sounds the muffled pumping of oxygen, and the softer and slower breathing of my mother-in-law, Esther, as she lay a few hours before her death. Her husband, Herb, stood by the bedside, stroking the gray curls on her forehead, a slight gesture. It seemed to wave away 50 years of sorrow and disappointment and strife, leaving only the love he felt for her in the beginning, like a seedling under the ruins of a city.
He could have abandoned her years before — not for another woman, but for what the world calls peace. Dad is not a Catholic, so he had no Church precept to warn him against divorce. He didn’t need any. “You never know what you’ll get in life,” he put it to me once. “You have to do the right thing, because if you don’t, you’ll probably make things worse.” So he never left, and at the last moment of Esther’s life he was there, fulfilling a patient vigil, his eyes red with weariness and loss.
“Moses allowed our forefathers to present their wives with a bill of divorce,” said the Pharisees to Jesus. “For what cause do you think a man may put away his woman?”
Consider them the pundits of that time, eager to learn whether on this matter of public policy the preacher from Galilee would position himself on the left or the right. Would he agree that you could divorce your wife for burning the soup, or would he hold out for a far narrower range of grounds — adultery, for instance?
But Jesus rejected the terms of the question. “Moses permitted you to divorce,” he said, “because of the hardness of your hearts; but it was not so from the beginning. Therefore you have heard it said that a man should leave his mother and father and cleave to his wife, and they two shall become one flesh. So I say to you that any man who puts away his woman — I am not talking about fornication here — and marries another, commits adultery.” He concludes with a stern admonition: “What God has joined together, let no mere man put asunder.”
We may be too familiar with these words. They should strike us with the same shock that once silenced the Pharisees, or enraged them, when the Lord reached back behind all the history of the Israelites, behind the Temple and the kings and the judges and the tribes, behind even creation itself, as He said, “Before Abraham was, I AM.” Here alone, in this discussion of marriage, does Jesus answer a question about good and evil and human life by appealing to the time before the Fall. “It was not so,” he says, “from the beginning.” It was no part of God’s plan for innocent mankind. It can be no part of God’s plan for man regenerate in Christ.
Jesus has presented to us two potent truths, each unbearably alive and full of import for fallen man, yet leaving it to us to connect them. The first has been celebrated joyfully by Pope John Paul II: Man and woman are made for one another. Our bodies, our very souls are stamped with a nuptial meaning, and in the embrace of man and woman, an embrace that in God’s providence can bring into being a living soul, we recall our innocence in the Garden, and we share in and anticipate the wedding feast of the Lord. The second? We were not made for sin and death, for alienation from one another and from God, our life. That too was not so from the beginning.
Make the connection. Culture of divorce, culture of death.
If any man had cause for procuring a divorce, short of adultery and mayhem, my father-in-law had it. Esther was a difficult woman to live with. Over a trifle, as when we should leave for the diner, she could go into a towering rage, then storm off to her bedroom, her face set like flint, certain that she was right, that she was ill-used by everyone, and woe to my wife if she tried to reason with her. “Gram’s on the warpath,” she’d say. She could jest about it then, nervously, but when she was a girl she didn’t dare bring any of her friends to the house, for fear that her mother would cause a scene. Hers was a lonely childhood.
What caused this habitual anger, I can’t say. Perhaps a deep insecurity, a hunger to be loved; her own mother was by all accounts a tyrant in the household. When Esther returned home with Herb from their elopement, her father said to him, “If you can live with her, more power to you.” And she was her father’s favorite.
For a few years they lived together happily, in unlikely conditions: quarters for married midshipmen at a naval base in the Bahamas. They always spoke about that time with wistful humor. The poverty was something they shared and couldn’t help, so they took it in stride, and made jokes about how much they grew to hate bananas. Esther was also one of those women who genuinely enjoys the company of men, and whom men will treat with a big-brother jocularity and kindness. Those years were good for them.
Then they settled down in New Jersey, where they would live most of their lives. Dad is a sharp man and a hard worker, holding down two and three jobs all his life before he retired. But for a while money was tight, and though Esther grew up with eleven other children in a rented house with an earthen floor, or maybe because she grew up in such straits, she never learned any measure in her spending. She was one of the most generous people I’ve known, lavishing my children with Christmas presents, but she spent on herself, too. She wanted nice things they could not afford. So she upbraided her husband about his pay, and went to work herself.
My wife was born then, and maybe all would have been well had Esther been able to trust her husband’s industry and thrift, and had she not been afflicted by a painful condition that compelled her to have a hysterectomy. It was a severe loss. In her frustration she took a job at a monstrous candy mill, working at rotating shifts, two weeks in the day, two weeks in the evening, two weeks in the dead of night. The body never accustoms itself to that; it is always sleep-deprived. So she took to having a nightcap before bed. Then she fell in with some cynical companions at work who also liked to drink. Soon she was an alcoholic.
Many readers will be able to fill in the details. She was impossible to predict; sometimes ingratiating, sometimes as unappeasable as rock. She would throw cups and dishes about the kitchen. Her fists were not idle. She’d shut herself in her room for days of terrible silence. She insisted on separate bank accounts, throwing it in Dad’s teeth that it was her money, that she made more than he did (for a year or so this was true), and that she could spend it as she pleased. My wife cannot remember when they shared the same bed.
But to her credit, Esther recognized that Dad was a terrific father, and in her own way she was true to him. Nobody else dared criticize him — but she would humiliate him publicly. He didn’t care, or didn’t let on. They could unite only in their love for their daughter, whom they showered with gifts, partly to compensate for their inability to give her what she wanted more than anything, namely love for one another. Finally, when she was 15 and presumably capable of surviving the blow, her mother approached her with bad news.
“I can’t take it anymore! Your father and I are getting a divorce.”
But divorce was still rare in those days, and my wife hadn’t entertained the possibility. It was as if someone had told her that her little world, so fraught with suffering, so fragile, yet so beloved, would be smashed to bits. She broke down in bitter tears. Her mother backed away, and God would bless her for it. The word “divorce” was never uttered again.
Divorce destroys a world; it smothers an echo of Eden. What was the Fall, if not man’s first attempt to divorce? “Where are you, Adam?” calls God in the cool of the evening. “You haven’t come out to meet me as you used to do.” Adam is steeped in shame. He doesn’t want to be seen. Consider the unselfconsciousness of little children who parade naked in front of their parents, because they sense no separation; they feel themselves to be at one with mother and father. Only later, with a growing sense of separate identity, and a growing loneliness, does the child wish to hide. Adam is hiding not because he is naked, but because he is alienated from God, and it is that separation that causes him to look upon his nakedness, an emblem of his own being, with shame.
But the severance could not end there. When Adam and Eve admit their guilt — a graceless and skulking admission — they chisel the fissure more deeply, divorcing themselves from one another and from creation. “It was this woman you gave to be my help,” says Adam. “She gave me the fruit, and I ate it.” Eve passes the blame in turn. “It was this serpent you created! He tricked me, and I ate the fruit.”
What can we expect should follow? The very earth shuns us. The ground shall bear thorns and thistles, and in the sweat of his brow must man eat his bread; the woman will bear children in pain, and will have to submit to the domination, not the loving headship, of her husband. Their children grow up in separate pursuits — Abel a shepherd, Cain a farmer — and in envy for a blessing he lacks and does not sincerely desire, Cain slays Abel, not in rage, but in cold malice. When God accosts him, as he once accosted Adam, we see in Cain’s reply that the fissure has widened into a chasm. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” he sneers.
There you have the motto for a culture of divorce. Cain’s words assume that the brother, the parent, the spouse, the neighbor is not worth keeping. What to do with one who obstructs my will, or casts a pall over my daydreams? If I can get away with it, and if I am angry enough, I put him away. No matter. Around any house or barn there’s plenty of noisome matter to be buried, shoveled over, cast into a pit, or burnt. We rid ourselves of the sights and smells.
Cain begins in Genesis a saga of family strife, occasioned by lust or greed or envy. Lamech is a multiple murderer, and proud of it. Men begin to take several wives. Lot listens to his grumbling men and separates from Abram, taking that fateful left turn toward Sodom. After Sarah finally conceives a child, she cannot bear the sight of the woman she had encouraged to become Abraham’s concubine, so she forces her husband to send Hagar and Ishmael away into the desert. Though God would bring forth good from her guile, Rebecca causes deadly enmity between her sons when she tricks Isaac into giving his blessing to Jacob and not Esau. Jacob’s uncle Laban tricks him into marrying Leah, whom he does not love, and then extorts seven additional years of work from him in exchange for Rachel, whom he does love. The intense rivalry between the two sister-wives causes a rift in the family between the sons of Leah and the sons of Rachel, whom old Jacob favors. One of those sons, Joseph, is hurled down a well by his brothers, then sold into slavery.
If heaven is filled with life and light, a wedding feast to celebrate the marriage of the Lamb to his bride the Church, then hell, as C. S. Lewis imagined it, may be the Great Divorce, a realm of alienation, whose “citizens” detest even the thought of a city, and who wish, in an endlessly fissiparous parody of the Heavenly Jerusalem, to move further and further away into the outskirts, to put as much distance between themselves and God (and their neighbors in damnation) as possible. Dante saw it too: One of the traitors in his Inferno, fixed in ice up to his head along with all the others of his ilk, defines his neighbor simply as that one “with his head in my way to block my sight” — a head that will annoy him for all eternity, and that he would gladly lop off if he could, with no more compunction than if he should swat a fly.
But Herb and Esther never departed for that gray city that promises much and delivers nothing. They stayed with one another; they endured. They kept their vows. “Son of Man,” said the Lord God to Ezekiel as he stood before a valley of dry bones bleaching in the desert sun, “tell these bones to rise.” And from those vast dead sands they did arise.
Not immediately. They sent their daughter to college, and after years of wandering in the academic wasteland, joining a tent revival, falling away, brought closer to the Lord by a rabbi, a musician or two out at heels, a good old girl from Tennessee, a motorcycling professor of Milton, and a lover of Crashaw, she ended up in North Carolina, where we met; and I had left my own footprints over many a desert mile. Each of us became the instrument by which the Lord brought the other one home. We fell in love; we worshiped together at Mass. At our wedding, our priest delivered a sermon on the Song of Songs, and on the righteous souls in Revelation, the communion of saints whose robes have been washed white in the blood of the Lamb.
I have a picture of Herb walking down the aisle with my wife. He looks embarrassed, as if he couldn’t tell how he had come to be there. He had been raised in an evangelical church. His father, a sternly righteous man, took the faith seriously, but imparted little of the joy of it to his children. Herb’s churchgoing did not survive the Navy. Esther, meanwhile, had been raised with hardly any religion at all. She may have attended a Dutch Reformed church for a few years as a child, but her parents paid so little attention to it that they failed to have her baptized. By the time we were married she had given up drink for good, and the AA meetings she attended may have turned her toward the Bible; or maybe she had turned on her own. In any case, though she was ashamed to be found in a church on Sunday, she read a little of the Bible every night, in secret.
I don’t know if, except for marriages and funerals and an occasional Easter long ago, Herb and Esther had ever been in a church together. I do know that our marriage, and our increasing steadfastness in the Faith, made them happy. They suddenly had something new to unite them. If they could not love one another, or at least not admit to it, they could together love my wife and me, and then the little girl and the little boy we brought them — the only grandchildren they would ever have. Esther was a hard woman, but she had also the corresponding virtue of loyalty. If you hurt someone she loved, she might never forgive you, but if you loved the one she loved, her heart would swell in gratitude. Now she and Herb had unexpected reasons to be grateful to one another. They could tattoo their house with pictures of the toddlers, who adored them in their turn, as was just.
“God is not the God of the dead,” said Jesus to the Sadducees, whose hearts were too cramped to believe in any resurrection, “but of the living.” To accept divorce as a way of death — no way of life — is to deny the very being of God as revealed by Jesus. It is to say that love can, or should sometimes be permitted to, die utterly. But had God so acted toward us, all this universe would have winked out of existence at the first sin of Adam. With every sin we commit, we pretend to sever ourselves from the fount of our being, as if we were lords of life and death; yet should God respond to us in kind, we would find the divorce complete, and would fall into the nothingness of everlasting loss. But He does not do so, and at the last moment, like the thief on the cross who joined the others in their jeering, but who then thought better of it — and maybe it took the torment of crucifixion to wake him — we may turn to Christ and hear him say, “This day you shall be with me in Paradise.” Christ did not put away that dying criminal. So much the better for us, who are all criminals, dying.
Esther too was dying, though nobody but my wife noticed it. “Something’s wrong with Gram. She remembers things that never happened.” Old age, I supposed. Esther did not look like she was about to depart. She still fought mercilessly with her husband. She still squandered her money, though it had been many years since illness had forced her to retire from the factory. She still raged against how badly everyone treated her. She still slammed the door to her room, to hide, to be miserable; and, at night, to open her Bible, though she never talked about it.
But she was suffering a series of small strokes, as we learned much later. These strokes compromised her memory and her ability to get things done around the house. Herb never complained. He’d always been handy, and now he began, unobtrusively, to take on chores she could no longer perform, sweeping and vacuuming, loading the washer, tending the garden, along with all his old chores and his hard work, post-retirement, at his auto junkyard. The strange thing was that as Esther’s memory faded, so did her rumination upon all the wrongs she thought people had done to her. Weakness wore away the edges of her anger.
All this took more than ten years. It was punctuated by times of madness, when she would storm out in the dead of night and pound on a neighbor’s door, because a “strange man” was in her house — her husband; or when on a snowy Christmas night she forgot that she was visiting us 250 miles away, and insisted that she was going to walk home. I had to sleep in front of the door to bar her way. But in general she was softening, mellowing. When, after his open-heart surgery, Herb could no longer take care of her and she had to move to the county home, she was pleasant to the nurses and the beauticians, and would brighten up whenever anybody came to see her. Herb visited her three or four times every week, which was as often as her condition could bear, wheeling her down to the solarium where they would talk with other patients and visitors for the whole afternoon.
Esther could be most kind when she wanted to be, and could accept kindness too, but for much of her married life she would not accept it from her husband. Now, as she grew more helpless, she was glad to accept it from him, and he gave it without stint. She called him, in a moment of tenderness and lucidity, her “savior.” She was not far wrong. His most important act of kindness he performed just before his operation and her entering the nursing home. He’d become friends with a local Presbyterian minister, a genuine believer in Christ. Now he knew that Esther was too ashamed to admit that she hadn’t been baptized. He also knew that if he were to suggest a baptism, she would reject it in anger and hurt, and that would be the end of that. So he told everything to Pastor Forbes, and invited him to visit now and then, so that Esther would get to know him. Then the subject might come up unbidden, or certain suggestions might be made. So he did; and, not long before the time would pass when she could reasonably make any decisions she would remember, without any prompting she asked to be baptized. A few days later, Pastor Forbes baptized my mother-in-law, a frail old woman but at last a daughter of God, in her own kitchen, christening her in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
We in a culture of death hunger after life, but on our own terms, and at the expense of others, even at the expense of their lives. But some of us will only begin really to live when we have lost all capacity to pretend that we are our own. That is one of the meanings of Jesus’ mysterious saying, that unless we become like little children, we shall not enter the kingdom of God. Esther now entered that childhood, and Herb was there, to feed her, to wheel her about when she could no longer walk, to talk to her even toward the end, when a massive stroke had left her still wishing to speak, but unable to form more than one or two intelligible words.
And he was beside her those last few days, making sure, if by some miracle she regained the ability to swallow, that the hospital staff would not abandon her to starvation. He would not allow them to hasten her death with morphine, prescribed less often to alleviate pain than to soothe the onlookers and free the doctors and nurses from the ennui of a natural death. We watched by turns at the bed of the dying woman, not because we believed there was something magical about squeezing out each breath from the clamp of death, but because it was the right thing to do. She was going to die, but we didn’t want her to die alone. The dying life was a mystery. It was not our place to abandon it, to cast it away as inconvenient, as trash, as we are urged to do to so much else in our barren lives.
How can we know what fleeting notes of grace came to her in those last hours? If God wills, who can obstruct Him? After nearly 53 years of struggle and disappointment, yet 53 years of faithfulness and duty, Herb stood by, never divorced. The Lord God, against whom she had sinned the more mightily, never turned from calling her back to Him, and as a child of over 70 years she finally answered that call.
What keeps people from believing that a good God loves them and desires never to be parted from them, unless they themselves should flee that love? Look in the mirror, and see the cause of despair in others. Do not repeat the words of the great divorcer at the bottom of hell, who says in his loneliness and misery, “I am my own, I am my own.” Say rather, “I am a wayward child, and the one I am called to stand beside is a wayward child.” Do not dare mull over your “quality of life” and your “fulfillment” — wrapped in a shroud of deadly self-regard, while the Lord of life, who dies to bring you to life, gasps for His last breath on the cross above. If anyone had grounds for divorce, He had; no one ever loved as deeply as He, and no one was ever betrayed as He. You, reader, have betrayed Him shamelessly, as have I. Yet He remains faithful, and waits for us, to bring us life:
And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.
And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.
And He that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new.
Anthony Esolen is a professor of English at Providence College and a contributing editor for Touchstone magazine. He has translated and edited Dante’s Divine Comedy, in three volumes, for Modern Library (Random House). This article originally appeared on January 15, 2008.