Thursday, May 15, 2014


My daughter is going to be confirmed in the Catholic Church this weekend. (My son was confirmed three years ago.) It's traditional for teens approaching the sacrament of Confirmation to chose an adult sponsor, a Catholic but usually not a family member, to pray for them on their journey and stand with them as they receive the sacrament.

With both of my children, I made a few extremely helpful suggestions about who they might chose as Confirmation sponsor, and they rolled their eyes and told me they could handle it. And then, both times, I was surprised and pleased by whom they chose. Clearly my kids were paying close attention to the adults around them.

Yesterday I had occasion to speak with my daughter's sponsor, a man we've known for years. He told me how much he was enjoying being my daughter's sponsor, and how impressed he was by the people my children have become.

"You know, you're lucky," he said. "I'm not saying you guys weren't good parents, I know you were. But a lot more than that, you were lucky."

I know few people who will understand that as fully as this man. I don't remember meeting his very disabled daughter, who died just about the time I moved to Bristol, but I've heard the story of her life many times--how, while never able to sit independently, feed herself, or speak, she nonetheless loved everyone she met and was, to her family, a source of true and lasting joy.

Yet of course she was also a source of constant labor--never able to care for herself in the smallest of ways. She was a genuine gift, and a very difficult one.

I conceived my children easily, which I've never forgotten to be thankful for. They're smart and healthy and strong; they have tender hearts and empathetic souls. They're not perfect (they're teenagers) but they have the capacity to grow up into fantastic adults, and much as I'd like to take full credit for that, I know the truth.

I'm lucky.