My father died in the late fall of 2005. There are many reminders of his presence in my life, but my favorite one is immortalized in a photograph. It is a picture of my father on the day of my birth. He is wearing scrubs and a surgical mask, but his eyes give away an enormous hidden grin. A slim, wooden crucifix rests in his shirt pocket, the white plastic corpus glowing in the light of the flash.
That crucifix remained on my wall as I grew, and for fourteen years it has hung on the wall of the bedroom I share with my husband. It is both a constant reminder of Christ’s love and of my father’s love for me and for the Church.
Except it’s not hanging there anymore.
About a month ago, my toddler son took a liking to it. He would point at it, say “Geezzzzz!” and I would acquiesce. His chubby fists carried the crucifix around the house as he played, gently setting it to to the side when something else caught his attention. I would retrieve it and return it to its rightful place.
But one day I forgot, and then it disappeared.
Multiple searches turned up nothing. I fretted and fussed. But necessity turned my attention to another matter and I let it go, assuming it would show up somewhere down the line.
We left for vacation a week later. 14 days of sun, sand and no responsibilities pushed the missing crucifix from my mind. I am ashamed to say that upon our return, I didn’t even notice its absence.
But I did notice my five-year-old’s purse, lying haphazardly on her sister’s bedroom floor amongst piles of post trip clothing and toys. I picked it up. It was much heavier than normal. Inside was a sandwich bag full of quarters, a clay momento of our old pet bunny, and my father’s crucifix.
Broken in two places.
It didn’t take much effort to figure out what had happened. My five-year-old has the endearing and infuriating habit of carrying all manner of things in one of her many purses. She had seen it on the end table and packed it into her purse as part of a game she was playing.
I was hot. Difficult behavior on the car ride home had stoked some righteous indignation. My discovery only fueled the fire. She came into the room. I shoved the broken pieces under her nose.
“How. Did. This. Happen?!?!?!?”
There were immediate tears. Apologies. Desperate hugs and pleas for forgiveness. I looked at this child, whose strong-willed, sassy temperament makes her difficult to love, and wanted to show her how angry I was. I wanted to yell. I wanted to throw her from my arms. I wanted to shut her in her room until she had built a time machine to set her error straight (because rational thought, yes?)
My daughter lay heaving in my lap. The crucifix lay shattered in my hand. I lay trapped somewhere between abject fury and a renewed contemplation of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.
He did not want to die. But he chose to do it anyway, out of his own free will and obedience to the will of the Father. My daughter was crying in my lap the same way I have cried in the arms of our savior, a savior who chose love through death on a cross.
I dried her tears and told her we could fix it. I forgave her and hugged her; reminded her of proper behavior.
And then I chose to love.
How do you choose to love as Christ did? Share your thoughts in the comments.
Copyright 2016 Ginny Kochis