By Barb Arland-Fye
Our son Patrick had not seen his grandparents in two years when a window of opportunity opened up for all four of us Fyes to make the trip to the Twin Cities together. My husband Steve booked a two-bedroom suite at our favorite hotel and we were on our way to visit my parents over the Fourth of July weekend. Mom and Dad responded to the good but unexpected news with delight. I couldn’t help but feel a sense of joy.
Gifts of God’s grace made the weekend possible, including completion of most of my responsibilities for production of this week’s Catholic Messenger. Usually, I dread Monday holidays because our staff has to get the paper prepared, proofread and sent to the printer first thing Tuesday morning. We always manage, but the tighter deadline is definitely more stressful.
For the first time in years, I didn’t worry about the looming deadline, finally appreciating the fact that rest and relaxation are key ingredients in managing stress and enhancing creativity and relationships with others. On the six-hour drive to the Twin Cities, I found a quote that a friend posted on Facebook from the late Father Henri Nouwen, a brilliant professor, pastor, spiritual writer and companion to people with disabilities. He also dealt with depression, which makes the quote seem even more meaningful: “Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day.”
An excerpt from the Henri Nouwen Society includes that gem about joy and other hopeful insights. “Joy is essential to spiritual life. Whatever we may think of or say about God, when we are not joyful, our thoughts and words cannot bear fruit. Jesus reveals to us God’s love so that his joy may become ours and that our joy may be complete. Joy is the experience of knowing that you are unconditionally loved and that nothing — sickness, failure, emotional distress, oppression, war, or even death — can take that love away” (henrinouwen.org/ meditation/joy).
The first night of our brief stay, we enjoyed a get-together with my parents and my brother Tim and his wife, Carleen (my other brothers, Pat and Brian, live in Arizona and could not join us). On Sunday morning, before Mass, Patrick and I bonded on a hike through a section of a nature reserve, reveling in the tranquility of the woods. The only other sounds beside our voices were the rush of water beneath a small bridge and our shoes crunching on the trail’s finely packed gravel. We savored our heart-to-heart talk.
Before Mass started, I surveyed the congregation to try to spot my parents, but the first faces to appear were my Uncle Mel and Aunt Ceil. We had not seen each other in at least several years. I walked quickly over to their pew, and the joy we conveyed in our greeting remains with me. Mel and Ceil provided incredible support one summer while I was in college.
After Mass, we joined my parents for coffee at the mall before heading out to visit Steve’s youngest brother and his wife. Dinner followed with my parents, after which I insisted on a photograph that no one wanted to pose for, but agreed to anyway. A woman from Iowa happened to pass by as I tried to pose the family and offered to take the photograph. She took a wonderful photo, another little gift from God.
Patrick and I took one more walk in the nature reserve before leaving for home Monday morning. It seemed like prayer to me, or perhaps, an answer to prayer. Choosing joy every day can be challenging. This weekend away with my family made my joy complete.
(Contact Editor Barb Arland-Fye at firstname.lastname@example.org)