Back again with the Lion King. We are still listening to it, just in case you were curious. All the time, in case you were really curious. It has given me a lot of time to reflect on my other phrase from the soundtrack “They live in you.”
If you recall now 2 posts ago, I was writing about how two phrases had been sticking out for me as we listened to this soundtrack: “Remember who you are” and “They live in you.” I spent the last post talking about my thoughts and reflections on the first phrase – https://kktaliaferro.wordpress.com/2015/04/08/lessons-from-the-lion-king-part-1/.
Now we move onto the second phrase that has been keeping me sane as we drive around town. The idea of those who have come before us still living on can be hard to grasp. I admit, this is hard to wrap our minds around. I know that though I believed it, I didn’t really understand it. And there is a definite difference between belief and understanding.
A little over a year ago, my grandmother passed away. I had lost other people in my life prior to this, but I this time it was different. My grandma and I had a special relationship. Everything that I learned from her came not from a verbal lesson but an active demonstration. My grandma knew how to listen to people. Everyone who knew her loved her because, I believe, she really listened to them and genuinely cared about what they were telling her.
She taught me how to be a caretaker. I watched her care for her mother, my Nana, first in her own home and then in a nursing home as Nana withdrew farther and farther from the world due to Alzheimer’s. She showed me what it means to stand by some one, no matter what happens, even when they no longer remember who you are. It was such a painful time, but Grandma’s dedication and faithfulness drew the whole family together.
The most important lesson that my grandma taught me, and I believe taught all of us in the family, was how to die. Grandma was diagnosed with a version of ALS, I can’t remember the exact name anymore and it really doesn’t matter. Basically over the course of a year lost the ability to talk and swallow. She wasn’t one to let things stop her. As her speech slowed, she tried to embrace the technology available on the iPad. She made more smoothies than someone devoted to shakeology as her ability to chew and swallow deteriorated. I don’t mean to say that she was grasping for life, struggling to hold on. Not at all. Rather, she was assessing her present situation and conducting herself as best she could, living each day to the fullest extent.
One of her hardest days, I believe, was the day she realized she was no longer capable of receiving Holy Communion. She had such a devotion to the Eucharist and went to Mass often. I was not able to be home during this time, we were living in California already. My mom told me about an experience of attending Mass with Grandma and how what happened during Communion. My grandma walked up, slowly, with her hands folded across her chest. She bowed her head to receive her blessing. Then the priest held up the consecrated host for her to spiritually commune with. Thomas Aquinas described spiritual communion as “an ardent desire to receive Jesus in the most holy sacrament and lovingly embrace him” – See more at: http://www.dolr.org/article/those-unable-receive-eucharist-can-have-spiritual-communion#sthash.H9zrkstV.dpuf. This was Grandma. She was so in love with Jesus, this desire that Aquinas speaks of is what my mom saw reflected in her eyes.
My grandma died with grace. Her children surrounded her as she died, keeping vigil over her as she passed from this life into the next. As she was dying, a friend of the family, a nun, visited with my aunts and uncles regularly. She knew Grandma and knew her devotion to the rosary. She often led everyone in praying the rosary, for some of them it was their first time in a very long time praying this prayer. The ritual of prayer and praying aloud together strengthened everyone for the time to come and when Grandma did pass away, they were able to find solace, comfort and strength in that prayer.
By now you are probably wondering how this all ties in to the Lion King. “They live in you” can be said by a Catholic “the communion of saints.” When my grandma passed on into heaven, she did not cease to exist. She is alive in me every time I cook my spaghetti sauce that she helped teach me to make. She is alive in me every time I crochet. She is alive in me every time I go to Mass. She is alive in me every time I cook a meal for a friend in need. She is alive in our family when we gather together for celebrations, when we attend a cousin’s sporting activities, when we serve, and especially when we pray together.