It happened on a Friday during the third week of August, 1975. I had loaded up my car to go off to college. At the age of 18, I was excited about the challenge that was ahead of me. I went into the house and told my mom I was leaving and she walked me to the door. I kissed her goodbye and tears started streaming down her face. She didn’t say a word. She just stood there looking into my eyes. And the tears kept on flowing.
“Mom, I’m only going to be an hour away from home. I’ll be back the weekend after next,” I told her.
She still didn’t say anything.
It was at that moment I noticed something I had never noticed before – her beautiful, loving eyes. I saw the love she had for me in her eyes shining through her tears. She knew I would be back on some of the weekends and during school breaks, but I think she finally realized I was starting a new chapter in my life that didn’t include her. All of the sudden her little Harry had grown up.
I thought of my mom’s tears when I pulled out my laptop computer to write this article.
It’s 1:52 am (Saturday, November 14, 2009) and I’m sitting in the Adoration Chapel right now. I just came from St. Francis Hospital where my mom happens to be spending the night. She’s scheduled for open-heart-surgery this weekend.
There’s something I’ve been thinking about for a long time now and it has to do with our relationships with others. I have come to the conclusion that all human relationships are temporary. Every human relationship we are involved in, whether it be with our spouse, children, parents, friends, employer, employee… is temporary.
We are told by the Church that our (valid) marriages are permanent, but it is only through Divine intervention that a marriage between a man and a woman can survive the test of time. That Divine intervention only comes to those of us who are vigilant about always remaining in the state of grace.
There is no guarantee that any of our relationships with any individual will be permanent. That’s why it’s so critical that we constantly work at improving the relationships we have with the people we care about.
It is because of original sin that our relationships with others are so fragile. You don’t have to look very far after Adam and Eve sinned to see the truth in what I’m saying. (You can start with Cain and Abel.)
It’s only when we die and our souls pass into eternity that we will experience truly permanent relationships.
If you’re one of the fortunate few who make it into Heaven, you will enjoy a permanent and perfect relationship with our Lord, our Lady, and all of the other saints in Heaven. (The horror of Hell is that those who are condemned there will experience a permanent and painful eternal relationship with Lucifer, his agents, and the other unfortunate souls who will forever suffer from the same fate.)
For any human relationship to endure the test of time there must be a deliberate and continuous desire, along with a (sometimes heroic) effort, to keep the relationship fresh, alive, and growing.
You could say that your relationship with God is permanent and you would be correct in saying that, but He is your Creator and has a Divine nature so I’m not counting our relationship with Him when I say that all human relationships are temporary.
There are different levels and degrees of relationships. For example, your relationship with a brother or sister may, because of the nature of the relationship, be “more permanent” than your relationship with your employer.
But there is one relationship that all of us have that is “more permanent” than any other human relationship. Do you know what relationship I’m referring to?
It’s the relationship between a mother and her child. Why is that particular relationship more permanent than all other human relationships? It’s because a child resides in the mother’s womb for the first nine months of life and literally utilizes the mother’s flesh and blood to survive and grow. During that time, the child hears the mother’s voice and heartbeat, feels the mother’s pain, shares in the mother’s emotions, and is continually protected and nourished by the mother.
The bond that is developed in the first nine months of life is not easily broken. Yes there are some selfish (and even evil) mothers who intentionally break off that bond before (or after) their children are born, but that is the exception rather than the rule.
The bond between mother and child not only applies to humans, but also applies to all other creatures. We know we are opening ourselves up to the wrath of a mother when we go near a bear cub or disturb the nest of a bird.
I started thinking about how fragile and temporary our relationships are a little over five years ago when a decent, honest, and loyal (attorney) employee of mine resigned and went to work for the government. I had assumed that he would always work with me. He seemed to be happy most of the time, but the direction of his life (and his marriage) changed so he decided it was in his best interest to move on. I took it personally at first and then realized that our relationship had been temporary all along.
It’s 3:34 am in the morning and I feel like I’m starting to ramble, but I do have one more thing to say before I close.
There is this beautiful woman in the hospital right now that could use your prayers – for a successful surgery, a speedy recovery, and a return to full health and vitality. I know she means more to me than she does to you because of the nature of my relationship with her, so I’ll make a deal with you.
If you pray for her, I’ll pray for you. I’ll pray that you and I and all of our loved ones will someday enjoy, for all eternity, a truly permanent relationship with each other… in paradise.
Can I count on you to help me with my mother?
And while you’re at it will you also please say a prayer for my dad. He’s at home right now in bed with the flu and a fever and I think his heart is aching because he can’t be with the love of his life.