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Our Fathers On Earth

I began my preparation for the priesthood in the diocesan seminary just after completing high school at the age of 19. From that moment, I have been a guest at my family house whenever I visit my family and native town. As a seminarian, and later as a priest, I was able to visit my parents only once every few weeks or once every few months. These visits became even more infrequent when I started my priestly ministry in the United States over 20 years ago. My parents were quite healthy and independent for all these years.

Time is passing quickly, however, for all people, including them. When my mom died six years ago, my father continued to live with his elderly brother. Then two years ago when my uncle passed away, my father was still independent, although he was no longer driving and began using a walker.  My brother and my sister took care of him daily, but he was quite independent, cooking for himself and even doing some light garden work. He is nearly 90 years old now. His life radically changed when he broke his hip and underwent serious surgery a few weeks ago. This situation turned the life of my siblings and their families upside down. When he returned home from the hospital, he needed daily care: food, medicine, hygiene, companionship – practically everything. Although professional caretakers have been visiting him twice a day, my sister and my brother and their families rotate their time by helping him every day. 

One month after my father’s surgery, I arrived home for a visit that was planned a year earlier. From the time of my mother’s death, when I visit, I have been staying either at my sister’s or my brother’s house and not in my parents’ home. Fortunately, my siblings’ and my parents’ houses are conveniently located two miles apart. However, during my last visit, I decided to stay in my father’s house. In this way I can be with him and assist him, especially at night. I was a little bit afraid because I have never taken care of anyone in such a way.  I began preparing tea in the early morning for my father, giving him medicine, and preparing a light snack.  A few times my father woke me up at night, but such efforts were not a problem for me. The biggest challenge for me and my family was to bathe him. It was difficult because the shower was relatively small, and my father was not able to walk. So, moving him, especially in the shower, seemed really to be a Herculean task. However, my brother and I did it, and actually, it was easier than I thought.

My six days’ experience with a sick person – my father – gave me a lot of confidence.  I now know that I am able to both physically and mentally take care of someone who is sick. At the same time, I thought about other people who care for elderly and sick people doing much, much more than I did. Sometimes they care for them for months and even years. I felt deep gratitude and amazement for them for their dedication and love, the love that is usually visible only to a few people: family members and neighbors, sometimes even fewer. 

This Sunday as we celebrate Father’s Day, we are called to express our thanks to our fathers on earth and assure them that we will also be with them in times of illness and trouble.   

May our Father in heaven bless you, dear fathers. 

Fr. Mark Jurzyk