We sat in the car after the second opinion, which was worse than the first. Never before seen tears spilled over Dad’s eyes and on to the papers with the doctor’s diagnosis – Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis, no known cause, no cure. A disease that slowly destroys the lungs causing death by suffocation, like a feather pillow pressing into your face. The only hope was a lung transplant and that hope was fading. Then an image of Jesus on the cross came to my mind with an invitation to reflect on his death, a death that in the end was suffocation . . . and hope began to replace my fear.
On Good Friday, memories of the seven-year journey that started that day with my Dad always renew and strengthen my virtue of hope. Witnessing his suffering and struggles of not being able to breathe while he patiently endured endless medical appointments, lab tests and hospital forms heightened my understanding and ability to join Mary at the foot of the cross. Persevering in prayer, bearing all things with faith and hope.
Hope is the virtue that enables us to continue moving toward God and the journey to eternal happiness, but it is something that needs to be exercised during everyday struggles. Jesus suffered for us leaving an example, so that we should follow in his steps. Hope, then, frees us to come face to face with death and love to the very end believing there is more.
Our family always felt that our pilgrimage trip, fasting and rosary prayers for Dad were heard. We believe Mary’s intercession helped provide at a dire moment a perfect lung, a smooth surgical recovery, with no organ rejection, something rare for one Dad’s age and condition. While there was much suffering, this gift also gave time for five new grandchildren, family reunions, joy filled days with close friends and the celebration of his 72nd year before the anti-rejection medication opened the door for cancer to overcome him.
The call on that final day to come quickly caught me unprepared. I turned down our street and saw the neighbor standing watch for me at the end of the driveway. “Hurry honey, he’s leaving us,” stung me as I ran into the house. “Dad, don’t go yet, don’t go!” as I clawed my way up the top of the stairs. Tears blurred my vision as I leaned over him and tried to read a healing prayer to keep him here. I felt fear and panic, the pain of separation. Irrational sorrow took hold of me as I heaved sobs. And then, the image of Jesus on the cross entered my mind bringing a sense of peace and hope and I sat down next to Mary at the foot of the cross. I became keenly aware of the time, as if an angel handed me a note that read, “It is Friday just after three o’clock in the afternoon, the hour of our Lord’s death,” exactly seven years from when he was given his new lung . . . and a smile of hope replaced my fear.
Before the journey along side Dad, my temptation on Good Friday was to look away from the pain of the day to the glory waiting on Sunday but that robbed me of growing in the virtue of hope. My experience with Dad to bear all things in love and faith was difficult but it helped me grow stronger in the virtue of hope. Good Friday is the invitation to be with Jesus on the cross, endure the injustice, pain of sin and suffering as his precious blood flows down the cross. Don’t miss growing in hope today. Take time to sit at the foot of the cross with Mary, the Mother of Jesus, with John the beloved, Mary Magdalene and the others, and bear all things in faith to grow in the virtue of hope.
Crystal Crocker is a wife, mother of four and has a zeal for evangelization. She has lead numerous bible studies, women’s groups and works in the Office of Evangelization & Catechesis for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.