My husband, Phillip, mentioned a quote from a well-known saint to me a few weeks ago. The quote, or citing is this: "Once while Saint Francis of Assisi was hoeing his garden, he was asked, 'What would you do if you were suddenly to learn that you would die at sunset today?' He replied, 'I would finish hoeing my garden.'" This quote has been continuously coming to mind. I can't help but ponder on the meaning of it. What St. Francis is saying is that he is ready. He has been living each day striving for God. He is exactly where he is suppose to be, doing what he is intended by God to do. He answers God's call in his life. There is no urgency for him to get his soul ready at the last minute. So, this poses the commonly asked question - Are you ready? Am I, Francesca, ready to go right now if Jesus came for me? And do you know what? I can honestly say yes, I am. Does my soul look perfect? No. Am I a sinner? Absolutely. I am a misery, very much in need of my Savior, my Jesus. My lack of perfection, is why Christ came in the first place. I am not close to being purified, but I am at peace with the question and the answer. Furthermore, I must continue to work tirelessly for this answer and be open for all the graces I need to be able to say yes to it. Because tomorrow, if I ask myself the same question, I want to be able to have the same response.
I have continued to think about this quote and wondered why answering it for myself did not suffice in stopping the thoughts to continue to arise within me. I realized the Holy Spirit was not done with it yet. He wanted to show me more. He led me to think of the day Stella ran home. I was thinking of the shock of it all. I said, "Lord, we were just doing what we do every day. I was literally just reading books to her moments before." Then it hit me - the Holy Spirit that is. The St. Francis quote rushed to my mind and I realized we were simply "hoeing our garden" that day. Stella was exactly where she was supposed to be, doing what she was called to do because Phillip and I were where we were supposed to be, as well. As a parent I am the treasurer of these fragile, impressionable souls given to me to help form. I not only must ask if I, myself am ready to leave this earth at any moment, but if my children are ready also. And chances are, if I can honestly answer yes to that question, then I most likely can answer yes for my children too. This gave me so much peace for my Stella. See, I told you God has been preparing us for this. He is Love and Mercy himself. Stella was given the grace not only to know who Jesus is, but to love him. She did, she does. Phillip and I chose to make many sacrifices to give these new souls the best foundation we know how to give. And especially now that my vision is clearer, I am so completely, absolutely, positively grateful for each of these sacrifices for the formation of our children. To not sacrifice in all the ways we have, would have changed the situation's gravity for us. For we feel no guilt or regret whatsoever. God is so very good.
The priest at Stella's service gave an anointed homily. It was clearly from Father God. Phillip and I have had more people comment on it than we can even count. In a nutshell, Fr. John said this: Our world focuses so much on evil. We are intrigued with the "dark side." Our entertainment reflects this strongly. We rarely see, for example, movies about heaven or God, but there are numerous horror films. Now as parents, we desire good things for our children. We desire them to have a good education, go to college, become successful, and maybe meet someone worthy of them, etc. Those are good things to desire for our children. Those things are gifts. Fr. John spoke of a time when he first became a priest. He worked at a children's oncology ward.
There was a child who was eight and she was going to die. He sat with the mother and tried to comfort her. The mother was worried about telling her daughter. How does a parent do that? Fr. John offered to go with her to speak to her child. The mother said, "Yes, but you can't mention anything about God." Fr. John thought that would be difficult considering he is a PRIEST after all! Anyways...They went into the girl's room. The mother with tears in her eyes asked her daughter, "Do you know what happens to you when you die?" The little girl lit up and said, "O yes. I will go to sleep and when I wake up I will be in heaven with Jesus." The mother couldn't believe what her daughter was saying. She replied, "Where did you hear that?" The girl told her how all the children talk about it together all the time. Then the child looked up at her mother and asked, "But mommy, why didn't you ever tell me?"
Our children come with no guarantees. Eternal life is the only one I can offer them. I have come to realize now, because of my saint, my Stella, that I as a mother (with other children to raise) want to work tirelessly to give them this one guarantee. It has changed many ways I parent even more so now. I am very grateful for this lesson being learned and constantly look to see how I can do better. The answer always lies in God's mercy. As long as a soul is willing, His mercy covers all the rest and we are further on this journey towards heaven then we even realized. Mercy is everything. Preparing my children for goals such as higher education, successful careers, and other admirable achievements are good goals, but they are not great goals. We use phrases such as, "the sky's the limit" or "reach for the moon". Those goals are enveloped in phrases such as those. They are used to mean "the best" or the "highest degree". I say however, those aims are much too low for children of the God of the Most High. Only heaven will suffice as the limit. With that as the goal, there actually then is, no limit at all. Furthermore, I am POSITIVE that if that becomes my goal for myself and for my children we will also obtain many other marvelous blessings along the way. I am walking proof of that already. Stella, pray for me, please. I have such a long way to go.