Column: Though we must experience change, God remains steadfast

When I was a small girl, I became disturbed by change. If my mother moved the furniture
around in our family room, I was upset.

One of my earliest memories is crying, distraught, as I watched my parents remove my baby bed to replace it with a small twin.

Maturity brought me relief from being disturbed about furniture relocation. However, even later in childhood, I felt bereft by changes that dramatically affected my routine.

For example, my parents liked to travel, sometimes abroad. Even though I was cared for by my older siblings or my grandparents, I didn’t like it when my parents were away. I wanted my mother to tend to my daily needs. It felt strange to be in the care of others.

Nights away from home were another challenge for me. I could sometimes make it through a one-night sleepover, but more than one or two nights away from my own bed brought homesickness.

Once, at a day camp, I won the best behaved camper award. The prize was a free trip to an out-of-town, overnight camp. I refused to accept the prize. To this day, I remember how frustrated my mother was that I turned down the opportunity. No matter how she tried
to persuade me to go, I wouldn’t budge.

Even as an adult, I don’t like to be caught off guard by an event. Even events that are expected cause me anxiety if they create a significant disruption in my routine. I’ve been undergoing a lot of change lately. As a result, I’ve been in a mix of denial, anxiety, and acceptance. I can’t predict, from one minute to the next, how I will be feeling. Yet at the core of it all, I sense God’s grace.

My mother died last month. Even though she was 90 years old and quite ill, her death took me by surprise. Although in the last days of her life, I was hoping her suffering would end; I was still surprised when it did.

Even though I believe that death is not the final word, that my mother lives on, I am still surprised that I can’t pick up the phone and chat with her. I’m still surprised that when I drive to Florida next month for my nephew’s wedding, my mother won’t be there.

My parish was just assigned a new pastor. Even though I look forward to working with our new pastor in my job at the parish, I am still surprised when I enter the office and don’t immediately go to greet Father Hector, the parochial vicar with whom I worked almost daily.

Even though I anticipate good fruit to come from this change, I still am surprised to see a new face at the altar. Even though I know that our new pastor brings many unique talents to the parish, I am still surprised that the former priests, and their talents, have moved on.

These are just two major changes, losses and gains, occurring in my life in the last few weeks. The loss of my mother’s physical presence brings new life, eternal life, for her. The sadness I feel at knowing she’s no longer where she was — for me to call and visit — is mitigated by the sense that she is with me in a new and profound way. Yet faith in eternal life doesn’t make me miss her any less.

The best result of all this change is that, over time, I have grown to be more trusting of God. I have come to understand that these significant changes, these losses and gains, are part of the paschal mystery. I must die to what I am accustomed to and surrender to a new way of being in order for life to flourish.

Painful as that can be, I have come to understand that, through it all, God will not abandon me. Through the greatest trials in my life — deaths of loved ones, divorce, a son’s deployment to war, financial losses, job changes — God has remained steadfast.

As a young person, I was fraught with anxiety when faced with change. And while I can’t say I am fully at peace, I am thankful to have lived long enough to have learned to trust in our good and gracious God.