By Barb Arland-Fye
After I posted a photo on Facebook of my mom and dad enjoying a ride aboard the Channel Cat Water Taxi on the Mississippi River, my friend Mary Lou commented that they haven’t aged a bit. I responded, “They’re fun to be with!” Mary Lou’s post stirred poignant thoughts about my relationship with my parents and others I care about deeply. Even as my dad jokes about raising the bar for his life expectancy (he’s 82), I can’t imagine life without Mom or Dad or other significant people in my life. Relationships — with our God, with one another and with creation — are the foundation of Pope Francis’ new encyclical on care of creation. Quoting from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Holy Father notes that “Creatures exist only in dependence on each other, to complete each other, in service of each other.”
How often do I contemplate my relationships in that way? What are the ramifications? My parents nurtured me to adulthood and still impart wisdom and emotional support whenever I ask — and even when I don’t! Someday they may depend on me and my brothers to navigate life’s daily challenges and I need to be willing to respond with the same love, dedication and patience. Whatever fears I have of my parents someday not being my anchor I need to put to rest in prayer.
My older son Colin depends on my husband and me, his younger brother and care-givers to help him negotiate disruptions in routine and to model appropriate social skills. But I had never thought about how our family depends on Colin, whose autism gives him a much different perspective on daily life.
During one recent upsetting event, Colin called his brother Patrick on his cell phone to reach out for help. Colin knew that my husband Steve and I were out of town. As I pulled away from my own distress after hearing about the situation, I recognized the maturity of Colin’s response in reaching out to his brother for help and Patrick’s growing maturity in responding. With each passing year, Colin teaches us about unconditional love and the ways in which we best demonstrate it. Something as simple as removing the exasperation from our tone of voice when Colin asks for the umpteenth time where we are going for dinner on Sunday night and what time we’re picking him up.
Another relationship that comes to mind involves a very close friend who has just been diagnosed with cancer. Inexplicably, I thought Marcia, a woman of deep faith, great health and zest for life couldn’t fall ill so swiftly. I have come to depend on her as a sounding board, proof reader, muse and confidante. We met under the saddest of circumstances, when I interviewed her for a story about the accidental death of her husband. We grew to become friends from different faith backgrounds who have enriched each other’s life and deepened our relationship with our God and with each other. She lives out of state now, but I hope that if and when she needs me, I will be of service to her.
Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato Si, focuses on care of creation and the fact that we human beings have neglected our responsibilities because of fractured relationships with our God, one another and planet Earth. For the sake of creation we need to nurture our relationships, beginning with the people closest to us, with a sense of love, commitment and patience.