News of All Kind

Very early one winter morning my mother phoned to give us shocking news. It was the content of her conversation that was unfathomable, not merely the wee hour of the call. My thirty-five year old brother-in-law was dead. The loss came on the heels of their family thriving in a community where they were established and well known. I knew how much he and my sister loved each other but I didn’t know how she would get through this tragedy. Immediately after I put the phone down my husband and I prayed for her, his soul, and their two daughters. The thought of how she would endure the burdens ahead and the consequent loneliness left me profoundly sad. Even though it was hours before we would normally wake on that work day, going back to sleep was not an option.

I didn’t realize until he was gone that I had no idea if James practiced his faith. I was ashamed that I had not taken the time to find out, but I continued to pray for him. He was respectable, a loving husband, patient father whose actions reflected that he was also a child of God.  Shortly after his death Sheila told me that she would sometimes smell his cologne in the house. I felt that James was still there in spirit, his love would transcend circumstance and surely he was as shocked as we were to find himself no longer in the flesh. As if to confirm that thought a few weeks later in conversation Sheila shared another experience. The week before Christmas she received a call from a man who asked to speak with James. Sheila explained that he had passed and after he offered his condolences he told her that James hadn’t picked up the package he purchased from his store on the date they agreed he would months ago.  She went to get the package the following day and when she opened it there was a fourteen caret yellow gold insert diamond ring inside along with a card that professed his love for her. Receiving both brought inexpressible sadness and joy to Sheila. Yes, the gift was beautiful and symbolic of his thoughtfulness but it was his written words that stroked her senses to the point that she could barely relay the incident to me on the phone. I felt her pain. James died in October of 1981 nevertheless two months later his Christmas gift arrived for his wife.

Time was slow to heal the anguish of losing James for Sheila, their children or our family but as the leader that she had always been, she wrestled with her loss and stayed strong for the sake of her two daughters. We increased the frequency of our visits and our middle brother, then a recent college graduate, moved in with her to bridge the gap of a male presence in the home. God certainly plans well the lives of far too many to grasp as He masterfully accommodates each one.

One effect James’ death had on me was that it brought to focus something missing from my life, a hanging fragment significant enough to disturb the composure of my life. For a while I couldn’t pinpoint it, and although exactly how it happened is vague I do recall that I made a decision to revisit the teachings of Catholicism. We attended Mass on Sunday and Holy Days of Obligation, observed Lent and the sacraments, but there was a considerable rupture in my relationship with God. Something that I couldn’t quite discern was missing that neither recitation of the rosary, daily prayers, the readings at Mass nor the Gospel on Sunday was addressing. After serious deliberation the answer was to rest in the outcome of Vatican II. Throughout my twelve years in parochial school we were taught not to read the bible unless it was under the guidance of a priest. I held fast to that instruction long after the mid-sixties amendment to that teaching was made.

Finally, it was time to release my admittedly weak justification: that an inability to interpret Aramaic, Hebrew, or Greek rendered the available translations unreliable. I came to terms with that as only an excuse and decided to pray over the matter. I was confident that I would know the truth when I read it. Later, I browsed a Catholic bookstore and asked God to lead me to a trustworthy English translation of the bible but as an aside reminded Him that I would be distracted and lose the meaning of the message with “Thee’s” and “Thou’s” peppered throughout it. I needed a plain English bible. He listened.

Because I felt like an infant on pablum I started with a copy of the New Testament. I thought it would be easier for me to digest but unexpectedly Matthew, Mark, Luke and John along with Paul, James, Peter, John, and Jude served a succulent feast that caused me to devour the pages like someone starved, which I was. I was starved for the word of God and as I fed became incalculably gratified by this banquet. At the conclusion there was no doubt that I was spiritually fulfilled however the New Testament only whet my appetite; I returned to the bookstore and purchased the full bible. Whenever responsibility yanked me away I longed to get back into the word. The Old Testament, Genesis to Malachi, and the Deuterocanonicals/Apocrypha books increased my hunger. So inveigled by Ruth, Ezra, Esther, Job, all of Psalms and Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, especially Daniel, Esdras one and two, one of my all time favorites Sirach, and Tobit I experienced unimaginable joy.

Amazingly to me, no matter how many times I read “The Good News Bible, Today’s English Version,” it offers new insight from passages that I thought the Holy Spirit had already explained. Familiar sentences or stories that I have repeatedly read unexpectedly burst from the page like fireworks showering knowledge all around me. Just when I think I understand a passage or story, I find there is more to consider and heavenly wisdom infuses my deliberation.  Losing James was terrible for my sister her family and all who knew him. We will always miss him. Rather than hoping that his soul is resting in peace, the bible has fortified my faith that he is and confidence in seeing him again. I bought two additional copies of the bible, one for my sister and one for my husband.

“And this is the will of the one who sent me, that I should not lose anything of what he gave me, but that I should raise it on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him on the last day.”                                      John 6:39-40


{Thank you for spending some time with me. May God always Bless you.}