A Heart with No Walls


The minutia of this world can oppress and does so with scandalous ease. Bills, dust bunnies, the scale, the cost of gas, a bad test grade, and the discovery of a hornets’ nest, all can collectively make one just feel, not depressed but seriously annoyed and fatigued by daily life. It is easy to fall into the trap of forgetting that this breath, the house filled with loved ones, the food on the table and the flowers in the garden, all have greater value and fill the world more than, the negative weights no matter how hard the numbers actually are on the scale, on the bill or on the math quiz.

A year ago, I discovered I was pregnant with Paul. Then I discovered he had Trisomy 21.   A friend literally piled her kids in the car and drove over that morning and showed up at my door and asked how I was doing. She brought with her, three huge chocolate bars.  I threw up a wall.  I made a joke.  She wasn’t buying.  She put her arms out and said, “Hugs first.”  And slowly, she broke down the barriers I had put in place to prevent myself from feeling too much pain.   I had thought I was being strong.

This has been the year of learning not to throw up walls, to stop trying to do everything or anything so fiercely that I refuse to acknowledge what I feel or what others might. Of learning what Saint Paul means when he says, “When I am weak, I am strong.” It has not been easy.   Writing comes naturally to me, and when one writes, one is the author of one’s world. I get to pick the topic, the tone, the images.  Writing can become a monologue.   It can become a wall to create beautiful worlds and images, while ignoring the real world and real feelings.

Now that same friend, who understood that I should not throw walls up around my heart because it was breaking from fear, is facing her own crucible with her own daughter and a life threatening condition.   And there she is, writing in the most unselfish manner imaginable, about her daughter’s condition, about her need for prayer, and about how blessed she feels to have been given such a girl to hold for all this short time and for all the time she may yet have.   She has simply asked for all of us to pray.  Her heart has no walls right now, she wants everyone regardless of creed, politics or nationality, to pray.

We are called to have hearts that overflow, that cannot contain their depth of feeling.  The world would have us medicate or wall up those experiences, end them prematurely, to avoid the continual ache that comes from feelings we cannot manage and situations we cannot control.   But as Catholics, as people, we cannot despair and end feelings to end our pain. Shutting ourselves to end our pain does not end the pain, only the ability to acknowledge it.   It will come out in some fashion, distorting our ability to love others, to feel.

And so I pray for the lives of all children of families facing the severe cross of a fatal or threatening or permanent pervasive condition. These families, these children live their lives more transparently than the rest of us who forget that we too have a fatal, permanent life threatening condition.

And so now, when I return to the dust bunnies and the bills and the pounds and the homework, it is all bonus, it is all stuff which matters and which doesn’t, because in the end, we are all nestled. We are all held in God’s hands whether we know it or not, in a great heart that has no walls.

And if we do know it, what a safe place to be.

Copyright 2009 Sherry Antonetti


About Author

Sherry Antonetti is a mother of ten children, published author of The Book of Helen and a freelance writer of humor and family life columns. You can read additional pieces from her blog, http://sherryantonettiwrites.blogspot.com.


  1. This was so beautiful! It’s as if you wrote it for me today-it went right to my heart and knocked down a few of my own walls. Thank you!

  2. We allow ourselves to be distracted by our distractions-anything rather than really focus on what is in front of our eyes. Many prayers were offered for all the little ones who are suffering, and for their families, who become like Mary, at the foot of the cross, in agony. Somehow through prayer and great love, our most broken moments become sacramental moments.

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