The humidity and heat of the past week brought back fond memories of lazy summer days on the beaches of Cape Cod. In a recent garage clean out, I caught a glimpse of my favorite beach chair which has gone unused for far too long. The sight of this happy item returned my mind to fun filled moments on sandy beaches with family members from near and far. I stood gazing at my chair and pondered these precious memories from days gone by. How lucky I am to have experienced this joy…
She would help set up the many beach chairs and then take the smallest, least appealing one. When I called her out on this (many times) she simply replied, “I like the one I chose.” We all knew it was a fib but there was no arguing with mom. When family came to visit she made sure that the tired moms got the shiny, new beach chairs in order to relax and enjoy their vacations in comfort. This small act of love was typical of mom. On the surface, some might suggest that this little sacrifice was insignificant, but I knew differently. Mom willingly offered many small sacrifices for the good of her husband, children, siblings, grandchildren and many nieces and nephews. These efforts were mini acts of love done from her heart. They were’t huge things that got posted all over social media (thank goodness) but their impact was massive! In her presence, one felt unconditionally, unequivocally loved – a rare gift today but one that is needed now more than ever.
When a person is loved, she can handle just about anything the world throws at her. It is love which gets me through the painful spine injections which seem to occur more frequently these days. But there are far greater things in the world which need my prayers and attention. Events of the past few weeks have saddened me in a way that I did not realize was possible. When I watch the news and see the divisions in our country – the lack of respect for people of all races, especially African Americans – I can’t help but wonder if those on the side of ignorance and disharmony are folks who have never experienced authentic love. In his beautiful definition of love – to will the good of the other as other – Bishop Robert Barron draws inspiration from his spiritual hero, St. Thomas Aquinas who said, “Divine love should be the standard for all human actions.”
In her willingness to offer others the best beach chairs, mom was modeling Divine love. When I think back to our circle of chairs in the sand with all the girls in our family gathered around, glasses of wine in hand, I smile gratefully. It was a time of laughter, joy and togetherness and mom was the person who made it possible. The one who chose the least comfortable beach chair was the person who was the happiest. Looking back, I guess that makes sense to me. Aquinas’ conclusion on his Divine love treatise reads, “charity truly leads to happiness.”
One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want. Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered. – Proverbs 11:24-25
Our family is excited to gather together for the July 4th holiday at my sister in law’s lake home in Poland, Maine. My fancy beach chair (compliments of my daughter Grace who always has my back comfort in mind) will be making the trip north with me. Once I arrive, I plan to set up my chair by the sandy shore of the lake. Perhaps the open chair will coax a family member to sit awhile in comfort and enjoy the simple beauty of the stunning, natural landscape. My deepest hope is that the beach chair will be seen as a symbol of love – an invitation to sit and stay awhile – alone or in the company of others. Years ago, my mom managed to spread Divine love to many using only a bunch of beach chairs on the sands of Cape Cod. It’s time to pass on that love to the next generation.