Whether it comes in the persons of Odysseus and Penelope, Romeo and Juliet, or Jamal and Latika, from the ancient Greeks to modern times, every society has glamorized love stories. But the greatest love story I ever saw didn’t take place in the movies, and it didn’t take place in books. The greatest love story I ever saw took place in my church.
This love story occurred between a husband and wife in their sixties, who were longtime parishioners of their church. Several years ago, the husband was struck with Alzheimer’s Disease. Even as an outsider, to witness the Alzheimer’s process unfold is difficult. It is impossible not to feel a sense of pathos, not only for the one who suffers from Alzheimer’s, but for those who love him or her. The victim gradually loses more and more of his intellectual abilities until he becomes as a child. The hardest part is that its sufferers forget all those around them—their friends, their own children, and their husbands or wives. One can only imagine the emotional devastation of a man or woman who is forgotten by his spouse. In a sense, it is memory that determines who we are, and without it, we are lost to ourselves and to those dear to us. But those who love the victims of Alzheimer’s endure.
The wife would arrive early to church with her husband, and she always sat up front with him, perhaps in the hope that he would be touched in some way by the liturgy. She did this every Sunday for a few years, and as Alzheimer’s gradually made him more like a child, she needed more effort to guide her husband. He would always sit peacefully in the pew, and at communion time, she would put her arm around her husband and slowly guide him toward Holy Communion. As she did so, it couldn’t help but go through my mind the thought of all the memories they once shared, but that these memories were now hers alone. As he received the Blessed Sacrament, on his face was gentle humility, innocence, and serenity—qualities that too few of us have as we receive. There is no doubt that Jesus found a joyful resting place in this man’s heart, as Jesus yearns to be with the innocent.
Though his mind abandoned him, His Savior never did.
And his wife never did.
Love is good when it’s easy. Love is great when it’s hard.
Though this was the greatest love story I ever witnessed, it strikes me that every great story is a love story. In fiction, the glamorized stories often take place in exotic locales or on beautiful beaches. But in reality, love is often found in awkward places. The greatest love story of them all started in the wood of a manger, and ended on the wood of a cross. Although you may not realize it, you home schooling fathers are part of a love story. You are constantly writing chapters in a book that may never make it to the silver screen, but is worth its weight in gold. It might be teaching Grammar 9 to your daughter, taking your sons to an aquarium for science class, or leaving work early to take your little daughter to the children’s library. These are chapters in the book.
We all go through hard times in the home schooling process. Our children may not want to do their studies, or they may have a hard time grasping the academic concepts. The first thought on the minds of the little ones in our care is not thanking us. When it seems that your efforts as a father are becoming a thankless job, and you’re not getting the recognition you deserve, remember what Jesus endured. As Jesus watched from the cross, few were there to comfort Him. Those who were cured of blindness were not there to see his Passion. The mutes who were cured were not there to sing his praises. The lame who were cured did not walk up Calvary with Him. Since most of the greatest acts of love are not followed by words of thanks, we cannot perform actions with the hope of thanks—we perform our actions with the hope of love. When Mother Theresa passed away, a note was found among her belongings. The note read: “The good you do today will often be forgotten; do good anyway.”
Fathers, God appreciates your work, even if no one else does.
I think in a way we fathers are like the wife in the story. While the man’s wife could look back on all the memories she had made over the years, we fathers can look forward to all the memories that we will make as the years go by. We are making memories, and we are showing our children how much we love them. Make no mistake: home schooling is a love story. It is a love story between children and their parents, between a husband and wife, and between a family and God. Our children may need to be led by the hand to their destination, but it is our hand that guides them.
Thanks for taking the time to read my columns again this year. I have received some wonderful comments, and I thank all who took the time to write to me. May God grant your family a Merry Christmas.