Over the course of weeks, I’d been praying to be more responsive, more present, more loving to my daughter, to this one daughter with whom I seem to easily slip into having a cooler heart. She is romantic, sentimental, sweet and dreamy. Sometimes I want her to be more focused and disciplined, particularly when it is homework time.
The one course my daughter takes seriously is religion. Last week, she had a question for her family. What was our favorite encounter with Jesus? One child said the feeding of the 5000, and wryly commented on how we do that every week. Another spoke about Jesus throwing the money changers out of the temple. He was struggling with an Ethics class and peers. I wasn’t much in the mood to answer her questions as I felt preoccupied with the need to fix dinner, to get the family moving along on the evening routine but I answered, “Ask and ye shall receive.” Her own answer caught me up short, “The Resurrection,” but admittedly, I did not ponder what her answer revealed about her heart at the time. I buried it in the business of being practical. “The homework is done.” I could check it off.
That Sunday, I woke up with a hard pinch in my neck. Dutifully, we began the routine of getting ready for mass. Having loaded the car with most of our children, we recognized our middle daughter had not yet come down stairs. A quick run upstairs revealed she was still asleep. So my husband took those ready for Sunday and I busied her about getting ready so we could make the next mass time. My neck hurt terribly and it hurt my mood. We’d been doing so well. I didn’t snap but I wasn’t warm either.
We drove to the church. I wasn’t mentally ready for mass or talk. My daughter started to chatter and I shushed her because of it. She sat silently, staring out the window, seemingly uninjured by my coolness. Parking was difficult and I had to back in the car. She saw me wince as I looked back as I parked. “Are you okay?” she asked gently. Stressed, I brusquely explained about the pinched nerve. Walking into the church, my daughter put her hand up on my neck and began to massage it. Now I admittedly am a bit standoffish about being touched. I wanted to pull away. But the pain was so severe, the touch melted my resolve.
Then I noticed that the hand stayed there. It rubbed my neck and stayed there all the way through to the Gospel. It returned when we sat for the homily. Her hand stayed until the consecration. When she finally put her hand down, the pain remained but the frost on my heart has long since thawed. My daughter’s love was revealed in her hand and all I could feel was “Lord I am not worthy.”
When mass finished, she wanted to go to the bake sale but couldn’t decide which treat she wanted the family to enjoy, a chocolate Bundt or a blueberry pound cake. She looked to me and asked, “Is your neck better Mom?”
It wasn’t but I nodded and swallowed hard as the pinch went up and down.
“Which one should we pick?” she asks, her eyes are bright.
I recalled my mother’s response to my daughter’s assignment, the healing of the blind man after the Pharisees asked, “Who sinned?” and Jesus’ response. The man was allowed to suffer so that the Glory of God might be revealed through Christ. The pain in the neck allowed me to see what a pain in the neck I’d been. The suffering had brought me closer to my daughter and begun the healing a far greater hurt, a fearful and cool heart.
I looked at the cakes and we bought both.
Copyright 2009 Sherry Antonetti