Sometimes our thoughts can catch us totally by surprise and reveal things inside of us that we have no idea are there, often very negative aspects of ourselves. C.S. Lewis once likened them to rats in the basement. He explained that if you go downstairs to your basement loud enough, you’ll scare away the rats and then be oblivious that they’re even there. But if you surprise them then you’ll discover them.
Last week I was listening to a talk about angels and demons by Peter Kreeft and somewhere in the forty minutes he said that when we die we’re not complete until our bodies are reunited with our souls. It instantly reinforced a thought I’d had at Mass just a few weeks before when I heard the words ‘resurrection of the body’ and the thought jumped out at me, “Lord, You may have Bernadette’s soul, but we still have her body.” For us, obviously, what’s the good of one without the other. Still, I caught myself once again fighting with God, like I just discovered I had one up on Him or something utterly silly like that. “You don’t have ALL of her!” Yet that instant bubble of victory is just as quickly popped with the reality that neither do we! God obviously can have Bernadette’s soul without her body and still be with her, whereas we can’t be with just her body without her soul. Hence the phrase ‘sorry for your loss’. We lose – for now.
Another memorable experience was when I was in Zoe’s room and I picked up a teddy bear that reminded me of Bernadette because it was hers and I remember her playing with it. I hugged it, wishing it was Bernadette herself and not just her toy. Of course the gesture left me feeling utterly empty because it wasn’t Bernadette I was hugging, it was just a stuffy that I poured my deeply held unfulfilled desire for her into and of course, it is utterly nothing compared to Bernadette herself. And that’s when the question struck me: How many times do I go after other things, longing to fill an emptiness within me, when really what I desire is God and those activities, achievements, or possessions still leave me utterly empty? All those other things, whether they be writing, losing weight, emotional eating, a deep desire to share this terrible pain in the hopes that it will go away, etc. are utterly nothing compared to the true longing and desire to connect with God. What’s rather amazing is that since that moment and that question, I’ve had no desire to eat to fulfill an emotional need because it feels as utterly empty as hugging a teddy bear instead of Bernadette. Now the task is to become aware of the desires I’m trying to fulfill that in reality are just as utterly empty compared to God Himself.
Last Friday, the girls, Marc, and I attended Richard Koczwarski’s funeral. He was a relatively new parishioner whom Marc struck up an acquaintance with. Richard and Jan just returned from Vietnam and Richard went to the doctor because he was having trouble breathing. Turns out he had the same thing as Bernadette, huge tumour in 50% of his liver and cancer in his lungs. Whereas Bernadette had three months, Richard had about three weeks!
The funeral was difficult for a number of reasons. First off, it was so sudden. To us it felt almost as fast as if Richard died in a car accident or from a heart attack. The last time we saw him, he looked the picture of health! It was a stark reminder that life is too short to waste. Not that we haven’t been reminded of that time and time again, but we do tend to slowly ease back into that false sense that our days are endless. Second, just the fact that Richard had the same cancer as Bernadette stirred painful memories and ignited lingering fears. Third, going into the church and being greeted by Kevin Bolen and his son Craig with a smile of recognition, the men who came and took Bernadette’s body from our home and took care of Bernadette’s funeral for us, was a shock and instantly threw my mind and heart back to Bernadette’s funeral and how painful it all was. Fourth, to really know and understand first hand the heartache that Jan and her family were experiencing as I listened to the same readings as them, heard the same homily and prayers, and was reminded of the same hope that we too must carry in our hearts that one day we will be reunited with Bernadette as they will with Richard.
Sunday during Mass, I saw Jan just ahead of me but to my right and the thought struck me that empathy is when you allow yourself to feel your own pain so you can connect with another’s and how it takes courage, for the very reason that it means purposefully returning to your own pain to help someone else without making it about yourself and your pain – if that makes any sense. It was very interesting to have that thought when the reading from St. Paul was telling us to ‘humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, each looking out not for his own interests, but also for those of others.”
None of those surprise thoughts were ‘rats in my basement’ by any means, except maybe realizing how much I’m still fighting with God, but they did surprise me and give me much to think about, become aware of, and definitely work on. In Peter Kreeft’s talk on angels and demons he says that angels can influence our minds but not our bodies. Maybe these were thoughts from my guardian angel. If so, thank you!!! Thank you!!! Thank you!!!