This year the image that crosses my mind most often is the Way of the Cross, the walk to Calvary. It is a walk to where Jesus didn't want to go (in the Garden of Gethsemane he specifically asked NOT to do it), a walk filled with pain of its own and a walk that would end in death. My Dad is on that walk; whether he finishes it before Easter remains to be seen but the reality is that the main thing I've given up for Lent has been the father I knew. His body has been slowly failing for years, this last step down has been a doozey and barring a miracle he is now bedridden. His mind is also going. He is 85 and has congestive heart failure. He is on hospice care. I know he has gotten more good years than many people get. I know that lots of people have a lot more pain than he does. I know lots of people are forced into nursing homes or other care arrangements they don't want because of lack of funds or lack of family support. I know we are lucky that we aren't facing that. Still, it hurts. Since the day he came home from the hospital my Dad has wanted to go to Mass. I went over Saturday willing to give it a try but he was weaker than I expected and it just wasn't safe. I couldn't give him what he wanted most and that hurt. His parish and pastor are wonderful and are taking good care of him but it isn't what he wants.
All of the sudden I feel old. When I was at my Dad's two weeks ago I passed the church and saw a funeral. The lady who brought Dad Communion told him whose funeral it was--my eighth grade English teacher. At Mass Saturday night his pastor announced that the priest who had been pastor when I was in high school passed away. This morning in my parish I learned that the deacon who baptized my older daughter died this week. I saw a couple in the Communion line who have been parishioners "forever" and noticed how old they looked. I realize I am in my fifties. I'm not the same age as the other moms at school. Most of my friends are close to being empty nesters if they haven't gotten there yet. One couple in our crowd are grandparents.
We all know Calvary was horrible. We all also believe that wasn't the end of the story. After I realized I was't going to be able to get my Dad to Mass, he went back to bed (we'd had him up in the wheelchair to see how that would work, but when it started to rain we aborted the operation, which was a good thing because he was up about 30 minutes and then dozed off again). Since he was sleeping I decided to go to Mass and pray for him. I was late and walked in during the middle of the Gospel. As I opened the door I heard Father reading "I am the Resurrection and the life..." and of course the tears flowed. I believe he is going someplace better but I'm sure going to miss him.