From a young age I knew how lucky I was. It wasn’t difficult when I looked around at my friend’s family units and saw a wellspring of human brokenness – Divorce, alcoholism, suicide, emotional abuse etc. When I say my parents are Saints, I do not use that word lightly. I cannot express the support, the love, the counsel and the spiritual direction I have received from them. My mother even saved my life, literally. Why God deigned it fit that I would receive these particular set of parents, I have no idea. All I know is the gratitude, the deep sense of gratitude. Then why pray tell would the fifth commandment – Honour thy mother and father – become such a stumbling block for me. Surely I had far less to wrestle with than someone who had been abused by the very hands that had reared them. Yet here I was 29 and perpetually confessing the same sin – Father forgive me.
I think the trouble began when my mother became ill. Prior to her becoming sick I had battled with my own health for many years. My energy levels were so low I could barely stay awake for more than 6 hours a day. I was rapidly putting on weight, I had chronic muscular pain, anxiety, depression and I was just flat out numb. Although I was receiving medication to treat an under-active thyroid something was still not right. My mother, being a nurse, launched a full-fledged investigation and finally we arrived at the problem – Sleep Aponea. I would literally stop breathing at night periodically for 30 seconds at a time. This resulted in a huge lack of oxygen. Even though I received an Oxygen mask to remedy the problem my mother was still not satisfied. She questioned why I had the Aponea in the first place. Long story short my mother and I are on the same anti-depressants. She felt they were the cause and with the help of the psychiatrist she weaned herself off to prove to me that I could do it too. From that ensued the most difficult years of my mom’s life. Without going into much detail she had severe repercussions after coming off medication she had been on for 25 years. Perhaps you would exclaim you fool! Why did you do it? Believe me she heard those exclamations many times! For me… that’s why. She wanted me to be free. Free from the machines and medication. Perhaps the method to achieve this was not perfect but the reason why was perfectly pure motherly love.
Again you would think I would be sympathetic during this trial but no, selfish little Mila reared her head more times than I could count. Suddenly our strong Matriarch seemed to have disappeared. We were like a boat without a stern. I missed my mom. I missed her strength. I missed her… for what she meant to me. My grief was covered in selfishness and every time she seemingly got better and then “took a few steps back” I would shout at her, making her feel dreadful about not being the mother she was supposed to be. I actually feel sick writing this. The “Honour” had been booted out by me in this entire process. You see when someone you have relied on for so long (especially through your illnesses) suddenly becomes ill herself, you feel like your world has collapsed. That any stability you had has mysteriously left you overnight. Yes I would hear (even from my secular psychologist) that I have to leave my mom’s health in the hands of God. I would hear God is her strength, her refuge in times of trouble. Yet nothing would penetrate. I just wanted her to get better so that I would stop feeling so stressed. I also felt I would somehow save her. How emphatically wrong was I? When I reflect on the time passed (she is improving Praise God) I see that I am definitely not the cause of her improvement. That honour belongs solely to her Creator and the Blessed Mother.
Family life is an intense teacher. In the world we live in I am truly an anomaly. Living at home at 29 would be a red flag that my independence as a human being has been somehow stilted and therefore I am half the human being I should be. I would beg to differ. Living with other people is incredibly challenging. You are constantly called to make a gift of yourself. Unless you analyse your own conscience and recognise your own sins and pride, you can literally cause death to those around you. Sanctification is not an option. It is mandatory. To restore harmony to your familial unit, ego and selfishness has to be booted out the door. Pope Francis once addressed engaged couples with the following words, “Living together is an art, a patient, beautiful, fascinating journey. It does not end once you have won each other’s love… Rather, it is precisely there where it begins! This journey of every day has a few rules that can be summed up in three phrases May I, Thank you, and I’m sorry.”
Honouring your parents has become a non-negotiable for me. Regardless of my parent’s financial status, their mental health, regardless of whether they are healthy and strong or completely fragile – as soon as I dropped this commandment I realised that strife enters through the open door. Through my sin I made my mom’s journey to healing more difficult than it should have been and I made my mom extremely insecure in herself. Thank goodness for my parent’s forgiveness and unconditional love. Thank goodness for confession and grace. Through MANY confessions and self-reflections I have realised how pride is definitely the root of all sin and that family life does not mask it but actually shines a light on the brokenness that lies beneath. Once the brokenness is identified, the healing can begin. Love indeed conquers all.