Weeks ago, when the oldest two children were still home and we were all in the wonderful throes of summer, working and playing together through our days and enjoying relaxed dinners and long-lit evenings, even through the heat - we had indulged in watching a movie. The movie was a rare treat - a warmup to return to school, we had picked the charming Goodbye, Mr. Chips - but it was what happened during the movie that is more memorable. At some point in the middle of watching, we noticed an ephemeral glow through the living room windows. It was one of those moments of very unusual lighting, when in the sunset the sky is not only lit in glorious brilliance in the west, but the whole sky, in fact the whole world, is bathed in an other-worldly kind of color and light, so that things almost look unreal. At a glance, someone piped, "Oh! Look at the sky!" and in a minute we had paused the movie and all ran outdoors to see what amounted to a vision. Our whole landscape was transformed - somewhat like that surreal cast upon nature that happens during a full solar eclipse. Everything, everything, was golden, afire, basked and charged with a heavenly character. Of course it was fleeting - but we had a space of time to walk around the house, gazing and taking it all in, amazed at the affectingly breathtaking scene. It is not every day that the place is swathed in such beauty, so that all the old and rusty and messy edges of life are remade into a most sentimental, beloved picture. Soon enough the vision passed, and as the sun set more fully the light faded and we returned to regular life, but somewhat refreshed with the reminder of God's glory.
It brought to mind a memory from many years ago. I remember being struck by a bright and beautiful full moon in the night sky. It shone out so brightly and suddenly as it broke through the clouds, I was transfixed and somewhat overwhelmed, reflecting in that moment that there was a time in my youth that I would have missed it, being caught up in selfish things. "How many moons have I missed?" I wondered and prayed simultaneously that, may He help us, my family will always remember to look at the sky and be grateful for His creation. It is a simple, common experience, but in these days of artificial reality it may be that many fail to realize there are actually stars in the heavens.
This evening of supernatural fleeting beauty had brought to mind the grand lesson that life, too, is fleeting, and that rather than live like a candle burning on both ends we should live each day well, truly well, so as to die well. We just returned from an epic family road trip wherein we took our oldest child and daughter to college for the first time, and brought our oldest son back to boarding school for his second year - we have two now in "far far" school. The eight days on the road across 14 states contained too many blessings to count, with quick stopovers and reunions with family and friends, endless perfect weather, endless bountiful vistas of fields, mountains, sky, endless encounters with beautiful, striking people and many holy Masses in indescribably beautiful churches. We don't deserve such happiness but we are so thankful! And so, at home now, it is another "new" year and this week is full of adjustment in heart, mind, soul, habit. The fundamentals are the same, but the environs is changed, and we may never figure out how much food to make for meals ever again. Deo gratias we wouldn't have sent them off if we didn't believe these undertakings to be most fruitful, for them and for the family, but still! And so, homeschool has begun in earnest for the other four children, the father of the family is back to the full teaching work-week out of the home, and endless little farm tasks and chores greet us each day. Actually, we came home to hit the ground running - as the first morning home a chicken died and so had to be buried (poor Brownie! She was a favorite!) and that same day we had to dig a post hole and replace our fallen mailbox. But we did it all together, with prayers and even good cheer. May God keep us grateful for good work and continue to give us the strength to grow in virtue through the daily pains of life and loss, the daily pains of overcoming self to do worthy things.
It would be impossible not to mention a much more significant recent loss, one that nearly coincided with the evening of the heavenly sunset. We have followed long-distance the story of a family whose little son was suffering from cancer over the last year and a half, and recently Our Heavenly Father saw fit to call little Michael home. The abundant faith with which his parents and family poured their every last ounce of energy into caring for this dear boy, innocent and even self-sacrificing as he was, offering his pain for souls, was and will remain a remarkable inspiration for us in our own lives. Rife with mystery, poignantly beautiful, purifying and strengthening when we accept His grace - Our Maker draws us along a path of wonder and trial. In your charity, please offer a prayer for the repose of the soul of Michael Harrill, whose life and death proves an example of God's great love in a fallen world.
On this little homestead our family aspires to work the land and hand on the Catholic Tradition, walking in wonder and learning to live by the fruits of our labor, in honor of Our Lady of Fatima, who guides us to Him.