By: E. Jane Rutter

The lightning and thunder woke me up at 3:20 a.m. Thursday morning. With a long to-do list streaking through my head, I begrudgingly got out of my warm, cozy bed and tackled the list of chores ahead. There was much to do, hosting family from around the country to mourn the loss of Patty, our sister/mother/aunt; pray for her salvation and celebrate being together.

I was confident that, through tears and laughter, we would uncover the tender feelings laying in our souls that platitudes do not reach. We would be blessed to find comfort, hope and love in one other.

His last weekend serving as our beloved pastor, Msgr. Greg, kindly agreed to officiate at Patty’s funeral Mass. His transfer to another parish is the second loss we were experiencing at this moment.

And so my thoughts rambled without touching on anything solid. I recited the rosary to center them, praying for the gift of stillness. “Lead me where You will, oh Lord,” I prayed, and returned to my immediate chores.

Four hours later, I ran into an acquaintance I haven’t seen in three years. We chatted back and forth, catching up on lost time. Her presence was God’s unexpected gift, helping me realize that, while there is loss in our life, the give and receive in it is far greater.

The next three days flew by, with, as anticipated, many tender feelings and lighthearted platitudes expressed. Now, in this quiet moment, I contemplate the meaning of giving and receiving. [We’re talking spiritual, not material!]

To give ourselves requires us to let go of ego, to reject what my brother Tom calls the “ego-drama of selfishness,” replacing it with love of other. Day to day it’s easy to go about checking off our list of chores and goals, feeling proud of our accomplishments. While being successful does not mean we don’t love, pure love is serving the other.

To receive takes humility. We tend to joke a good bit in our family, thinking ourselves witty. Occasionally, our witticisms turn sarcastic, hiding feelings we’re uncomfortable having exposed.

It’s much safer to cloak our vulnerabilities in laughter. Of course, my analysis may only apply to my personal sense of inadequacy or insecurity, knowing my personal sins and failures well! It is a joy to see us assure one another that we are worthy children of God.

St. Paul addresses giving and receiving, saying

“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:1-11).

In this quiet moment of reflection, I trust in Christ’s promise that Patty is with Him in heaven and watching over us. I thank Msgr. Greg for his example of servant leadership and pray for his fruitfulness. I ask God for the humility to become a servant of others; to let the grief of loss spur me to give and receive love more fully. As St. Paul assures us “Be not weary in well-doing, for in due season, we shall reap, if we faint not” (Gal 6:9).

And so I pray: Dear Lord, thank you for the gift of family, for strengthening our bond of love. Protect and guide us as we return home. Open our hearts to Your spirit within. Mold us to be servants.