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Last Word - July 2010

Nothing but God's Love

In 2002, I helped move my aunt, then in her 80s, from a two bedroom condominium in Auburn to Portland into residential facility for senior citizens. She was moving into just a three rooms and there wouldn’t be space for everything she had gathered over the decades. We had to get rid of a lot of furniture and disposed of old papers and mementoes. She decided to stop driving and sell her car. I helped her hire a moving company to transport her things to Portland. The move went well and she was happy in her new apartment.

Five years later, now in her 90s, she fell and broke a hip. She had been declining, she was both legally blind and very hard of hearing. But she was pleasant and cooperative and had a wonderful attitude and sense of humor. She just needed more care; time to think about assisted living. There was a smaller, assisted living apartment available in the same facility where she was living. She wouldn’t be cooking anymore so all the pots and pans and storage containers, as well as dishes and silverware could go. There was too much furniture and too many lamps, so we sold a few items and gave away a few more. There wouldn’t be as much wall space for pictures or shelf space for “knickknacks”. Once again we sorted through her papers and disposed of what was no longer needed. Some men from the complex she was living at helped move the bigger pieces of furniture and, with a friend, we moved clothing and smaller pieces of furniture.

Last spring, she fell again and broke the other hip. Now 94, her short-term memory was slipping away and she had become more frail and less able to care for herself. The dementia was compounded by confusion caused in part by the limited vision and hearing. It was time to move to a nursing home. She didn’t need any of the furniture now nor very much of her old clothing. There wouldn’t be space for even the handful of mementoes we had saved in the previous move. She wouldn’t need the television. As I left the assisted living facility for the last time, I realized that everything she still had easily fit in my car, in a single trip. She was down to so little.

(Parenthetically, I recalled that when I moved to my first assignment as a priest everything I owned fit into my car. Last time I moved there were two pick-up trucks of stuff and several carloads.)

I thought of the line from the Book of Job: “Naked I came into the world. Naked I shall depart. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” And then, from my Jesuit education, I remembered the line from the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius: "Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding and my entire will; all I have and possess you have given me, I now give it back to you, O Lord. All is yours, dispose of it according to your will; give me only your love and your grace; that is enough for me...."

- Rev. Msgr. Michael J. Henchal