By Tim Lilley
Journey of Faith
My timing for this column could be better. COVID-19 is making the concept of spending time with loved ones who don’t live under the same roof challenging at best. However, Pope Francis used the July 26 Memorial of Sts. Joachim and Ann – Jesus’ grandparents – to ask young people to reach out to their grandparents and or the elderly.
According to a Catholic News Service report, the Holy Father said, "Do not leave them by themselves. ... Use the inventiveness of love, make phone calls, video calls, send messages, listen to them and, where possible, in compliance with healthcare regulations, go to visit them, too. Send them a hug."
It seems appropriate to extend the pope’s encouragement to all of us, not just young people – and to include our parents, too. This is a great time to renew our commitments to our parents and grandparents – and we should remember that there is never a bad time to do that.
Dad died when I was 14, his body ravaged by 37 years underground in the western Pennsylvania coal mines. More than 20 years later, mom – who never remarried – suffered the first of what would prove to be a series of strokes. She spent pretty much the last decade of her life in personal care homes.
I visited her every day that I could. I am her son; her only child. She is my mother; without her, I don’t exist. The concept of choosing not to visit wasn’t an option in my mind.
It doesn’t seem possible that dad has been gone more than 50 years – or that mom has been gone more than 17. I miss them every day. Many of you undoubtedly miss your parents.
If you’re reading this, however, and one or both parents are still here – and at least some of your grandparents are still here – take the Holy Father’s advice. It’s more important now than ever because of these very strange, challenging times.
Like me, I suspect you have seen posts across social media or heard from friends and other family members about the impact of the “lockdown” and what it has meant to be isolated. Be assured that there are somebody’s parents or grandparents out there who have felt that isolation for way longer than the past 5-6 months. Nobody calls; nobody emails; nobody texts; nobody visits.
It makes me truly sad to contemplate that kind of loneliness.
Let’s take the Holy Father’s words to heart. "Do not leave them by themselves. ... Use the inventiveness of love, make phone calls, video calls, send messages, listen to them and, where possible, in compliance with healthcare regulations, go to visit them, too.
“Send them a hug."