Annamarie Adkins is a Catholic wife and mother to four children, two of whom were malades that we met during our 2017 pilgrimage to Lourdes with Oscar. She shared this beautiful meditation about the importance of remembering that all our children — but especially the medically fragile ones — are on loan to us, and that we know not the day or the hour when that loan will come due.
Annamarie’s faith and perseverance have been a beautiful inspiration to me since the day we met in JFK airport prior to departure for France. I hope you find comfort and strength in her words here, too.
As parents, we hand over our children to Jesus when we bring them to the sacrament of baptism. It is then that we say to Jesus in our hearts, “Thank you for giving us our children. Now they belong to your family, Lord. We give them back to you.”
As we raise our children, we try to remember that they are not ours — that they are God’s children. We are their stewards for the time being. And we keep bringing them to his sacraments to fortify and add to the grace he gives them by regular confession and reception of the Eucharist. Then at Confirmation, they choose God for themselves, and renew their baptismal promises.
All of these steps are a little more intensified when your child nears the brink of death, and is brought back to life again. As her kidneys were shutting down almost five years ago, Mary Frances was given the anointing of the sick and received her confirmation by the hands of our dear priest friend in her hospital bed. I am convinced that the big bang of that sacramental grace, her suffering and her near-death experience, sped her up spiritually and has set her apart.
It was never more clear to me than during my hour of adoration before the Blessed Sacrament one Monday night in Advent. Mary Frances asked to come with me, because Sister (her teacher) suggested the kids go to adoration before Christmas. So, once we got settled in a pew, and it was just us in the chapel, I lit the Advent candles and turned out the lights. We sat next to each other in the sweet darkness and said the rosary back and forth together, while gazing at Jesus in the monstrance, alive and aglow with candlelight. And my heart burned with these thoughts…
Since I surrendered her to God’s mysterious will during her kidney failure, I have felt so strongly that she is on loan to us. She is visiting here with us until she goes back to God. Through that trial, and in the five years since, I have refused to fight God’s will for her, because that would mean fighting God. I have given up any plans for her, or any semblance of control of her life’s path. I can’t control God or his will. I cannot prevent him from taking her to him when it’s time. So I must surrender her body and soul to him now, and try to live in peace with it all.
I will not resist what he allows, or question what he knows best. The safest place for Mary Frances (and all of us) is to be in the center of God’s will (mantilla twitch to Corrie Ten Boom).
God’s will is not always easy, and is rarely painless. Oh no! He promises us that walking his way will be our own trudge up the hill of Calvary, lugging splintery cross beams of wood. Trusting God’s will is not thinking only good things will happen to us. It’s believing that Jesus will walk WITH us, help shoulder our load and carry it together. He’s already done this before, and he’ll do it again for each of us. We cannot get closer to Jesus than this — shoulder to shoulder, arm in arm, heads down in struggle, taking one step at a time, facing the same path, together.
I do not offer Mup back to God thinking he will spare her pain, suffering or death. Those things are inevitable for all of us at one point or another. No, I offer her like a little lamb that will be crushed in Jesus’ relentless embrace, melded into his Sacred Heart. That is how she can live her young life eschatologically — already a sign of unity with God, that we all hope for in heaven.
In this special way, Mary Frances has been consecrated — she is set aside for God. Second lives like hers unite a body and soul to Jesus. She is like a visitor to us who has seen the destination, even though her earthly journey is not complete.
Thank you, Jesus, for this layover. Thank you for making Mary Frances for something greater than this world. Thank you for making her for you. Thank you for your call to her, and your eventual claim.