The New Year is only a couple of weeks old so I think I’m not too late in doing a reflection on it. After all, we have another 50 weeks left in 2011!
I have a ritual that I do every New Year’s Eve. I set aside some quiet time and read over my past year’s journal. It’s a wonderful exercise to recall the events and peruse the thoughts I’ve written over the last twelve months. I look mainly for a common thread that runs throughout and also if I have forgotten some lessons that seemed so important a few months back.
For many of those years I understood how much fear I had about so many things. But my biggest fear was my parents’ deaths. I couldn’t imagine what my life would be like without them. They were an integral part of who I am as a person. I respected their values, and even when I was in my rebellious stage, I knew they were right about nearly everything. They were a unique pair, both immigrants from Italy. The language, the food, the passion were alive and well in my home and when they died, I feared the beautiful culture would go with them.
Daddy died in 1981, when I was a young mom. By the grace of God, I made it to the hospital just in time to say “Thank you for everything.” and “I love you”. It was so hard losing him but the hardest part was seeing my mom without her life-long partner. They had been married over fifty years. Their life was not a rose garden, to be sure. They struggled through the depression and also the prejudice that went along with being immigrants. But they were survivors, strong in body, mind and spirit. Their faith was simple, but sometimes I think that’s the best kind to have.
On December 31, 2001, I went through my ritual once again. I realized that every New Year’s Eve, I became increasingly anxious and fearful. While others were joyful and filled with excitement about what the New Year would bring, I felt my heart pound and I worried about what kind of bad things might occur. After all, we had just been through the terror strike on 9/11. Would there be a war, serious illness, a job loss, perhaps even a death of a loved one? But this New Year’s Eve was going to be different, I decided. My prayer that evening in church was that God would give me the grace I needed to overcome these fears I had held for so long. I felt an overwhelming peace come over me and I knew that no matter what happened, God would be with me and see me through. He had always been there for me so why did I need to be afraid? It was an epiphany of sorts for me. At midnight, I rejoiced and knew deep within my spirit that all would be well no matter what.
The following afternoon, my mother was discovered unconscious on the floor of her apartment. When I couldn’t reach her on the phone, I called my sister who then went to check on her. She was revived and lived another six weeks, dying on Valentine’s Day. My worst fear became reality, yet I had peace. I remembered giving everything over, most especially those terrible fears, to my Heavenly Father. He took my surrender seriously and covered me in that peace that surpasses all human understanding. I miss her every single day but know that she lives on in me, in my sisters, in my children and most importantly, in eternity.
This past Christmas Day, as I gathered with all my family, we received word that my mother-in-law passed away suddenly. We were all in shock and terribly saddened but somehow we managed to see the beauty in passing on such a holy day. Many remarked that she had received the best Christmas gift of all. We made it through a funeral held on my reflective day, New Year’s Eve. And truly, there was much on which to reflect. When we put up the tree this year all we could think of was the happiness we would feel having our chldren, their spouses, and other family members present with us. Little did we know what news would come to us. But His love, present in and through our little family, upheld us.
I don’t know whether it’s because I’m getting older, but I realize that fear is useless. It stymies growth, diminishes joy, and dims our vision. Nothing good comes from it. Our God is Love. 1 John 4:18 says “Perfect love casts out all fear.” None of us knows what 2011 holds. What we do know is that God is near and will never leave our side.
My prayer for you in 2011 is that you let go of your fears, trust in God's unconditional love for you, and receive His peace. May He open your eyes, your ears, and your heart to see Him in every situation. May He be with you in your joys and sustain you in every trial, in every illness, even in the shadow of death.