This Sunday, the gospel lesson is Matthew 5:1-12 which is commonly called the “Beatitudes.” In them, Jesus (as he usually does) turns the idea of being blessed upside down. It would seem that those who are considered poor and needy are the truly blessed. Maybe it really boils down to what we define as “blessed,” though.
What does it mean to be blessed? I just returned from nearly two weeks in my hometown visiting my parents and the rest of my family. I wanted to go before this, actually at the end of November when my mother was moved into a long term care facility because my father wasn’t able to care for her in their home any more. Mom has Alzheimer’s Disease, and Dad is totally with it, but he is 90 years old and simply not able to provide the medical attention and care that Mom needed. It was something that had to happen, but it was very difficult for our family.
However, as often is the case for me, I begin reflecting on these events and what the blessings are in them. The nursing facility where Mom is now living seems to be very good. I knew quite a few people who are there. These are folks who were my role models as I was growing up: girl scout leaders, parents of my friends, leaders in our church, active participants in the life of our tiny town in the Midwest. Yet, here they are in a nursing facility, most of them sharing half a room, some of them having few or no visitors.
As my sister and I began cleaning out the closets at Mom and Dad’s house, under Dad’s supervision, I was amazed at how much “stuff” they had. Dad knew that he would no longer need all the “good” dishes, serving bowls, crystal, Christmas decorations, and other things that were stored in the closets and cupboards. Mom treasured all those things, even if she didn’t need them or want them. Why? Because much of what was there had belonged to her mother, grandmother, or Dad’s mother and grandmother. Some of it came from us kids and the grandchildren as gifts.
But now, as Mom lives in half a room with only the essentials in clothing, some pictures, a few “trinkets” that she really doesn’t care about, the whole reminder of what is truly important in life was brought home to me once again. Mom doesn’t need “stuff,” nor does she want it. What she needs, even though she can’t think of it or realize it, is us. It’s her family and friends that she needs: those who love her and who are willing to stand by her side even to the end, even in her unawareness and inability to advocate for herself. Sometimes she breaks through the mumbling and the seeming lack of recognition to a moment of clarity, but in an instant, it is gone.
The blessing is that she has someone who cares and who is with her. She and my dad have been married for sixty-seven and a half years, and my dad sees her twice a day. When I watch him look at her, I see the heartbreak in his eyes, but it doesn’t stop him from going. That’s blessing. Love transcends things, disease, heartbreak, and even death on a cross. Maybe that’s part of what Jesus was talking about in the “beatitudes.” Maybe we are truly blessed when we can forget about “stuff” and connect with the love we are offered both from family and friends as well as from the One who loved us enough to give his life for us. May you be blessed this day and every day as you love others.