The game of life



While I am not particularly good at the game, I like to play golf. I started too late, and, probably more importantly, I don’t practice enough. But, I still savor being out on a course, enjoying the companionship of other like-minded people and occasionally surprising myself with a decent score.

Besides, golf is one of the few sports where almost septuagenarians can actually compete with their teenage progeny. While rarely beating the latter, golf allows for age and strength differences that somewhat evens out the disparities. A few Saturdays previous, my daughter-in-law Amy and I were playing nine holes with five of her six sons ranging in age from 17 to 9. I was having one of my better rounds and approaching the last hole was below 40. Much to my dismay however, I encountered two trees and then lost a ball. My card read under 50, but barely.

My positive disposition also took a hit; and though not outwardly displaying it, I was miffed. I reminded myself as we walked off the last green, “It’s just a game.” Matthew, who hadn’t had a stellar day either, sensing my disappointment, said reassuringly, “That’s golf, Mamaw.” I nodded, acknowledging his wisdom.

To me, the game of golf is like life, stealing a line from an old song, “You are riding high in April, and shot down in May.” I love the game because it keeps everyone humble. One only need watch a pro tournament to realize that even the best of the best have those shots and those days they’d rather forget. But, if we are going to continue to compete, we have to shake off the woeful moments and hope for brighter tomorrows.

It’s the same with life. The Divine Mercy prayer states, “Do not despair or become despondent, but with great confidence submit yourself to His holy will which is love and mercy itself.” Life is unpredictable, full of highs and lows. We celebrate the highs, but how do we react when we meet the lows?

On Feb. 10, our family lost its first member of my generation. Maureen was just 70; a faithful Catholic, wife, actress, mother of four and grandmother of 13. Seven years earlier, this intelligent, vibrant woman was faced with a devastating diagnosis. She was slowly losing her memory, ironic even more for a woman who once performed a solo part in a play for 30 minutes.

I was visiting when she walked in the door from her appointment. Her face told the story. She was devastated. We could only hug and cry; there were no words to express her pain and fear. Life, at that moment, took an especially cruel turn for her and her family.

As her condition worsened, the extended family, as well as her immediate one, rallied to help. I was blessed to take two weeklong trips with her and my brother Bill, first to Scotland and then, two years later, to the Badlands. Because Maureen had always been vigilant about her physical health, we were able to hike and enjoy our days together. Her memory lapses didn’t hinder our plans.

However, last fall it became apparent that she was entering into the final phase of the illness. Still walking, still talking but struggling to communicate clearly, she was dealt her final blow before Thanksgiving.

Her doctors detected cancer, but were unable to treat it due to her condition. Given two months to live, with her usual Irish determination, she held death at bay for three. While she probably didn’t understand the gravity of her latest diagnosis, there were times, when she hugged us or cried, that we knew that she knew she was leaving this earthly life soon.

Losing her has been painful for all. Mainly because of the sorrow we see in our brother’s eyes and hear in his voice. But also, because she was my first childhood friend, someone I shared a history with. She was a wonderful gift.

We all carry on. My bother has shown such strength and courage. We have put our trust in God’s merciful love, hoping and praying that, someday, we will be together again. And, yes, Matthew, “That is life, also.”