Mary my Mother
Two Hundred Complaints
It was early morning, and before I began my day, I was already in pain. I collected Marija my translator in Mostar, and one look told her that I’d been awake during the night and was suffering the aftermath of a high-speed rear-ending the previous year. I was feeling burdened and cranky about the work overload, scheduled for the day; the meeting with the obstinate builder who loved to take shortcuts with the construction work, and therefore, every detail had to be painstakingly scrutinised. His loud voice overshadowed Marija’s in his swanky office, and I struggled to hear her translation as to why he was looking for another €25,000 for the 1 million current projects. Bosnia-Herzegovina had brought out toughness in me that I thought I was incapable of. I was furiously defending Rebuild for Bosnia donors’ money, as I sat at the table more stubborn than the builder telling him that the amount wasn’t specified in the contract and that he had to take responsibility for his mistake. He continued to argue and pushed me as far as he could go. I refused to give in, telling him that the cost of his mistake was one house less for the homeless and that he could consider his mistake a contribution to helping his fellow displaced Catholic people.
It was an exhausting start to the day, and the heated exchange drained my resources even further. I took a walk about the block, drew a deep breath and focused my thoughts on our next appointment in the city hall. It was almost mid-day, and after the morning in the city, I was ready to leave and have lunch somewhere more relaxing.
“Why don’t we call to see Mara?” Marija asked. She knew if anything were to cheer me up that day it would be a visit to our dear old friend, Mara, whose eyes lit up when she saw her unannounced visitors at her door. We stopped at the local store, picked up some ham, cheese, eggs and cakes. Mara had been dispossessed of her two-story home set in the idyllic alpine mountains on the outskirts of Konijc that was cleansed of 10,000 of its 11,500 Catholic population during the 1992-1995 conflict. She was now living in the new home that Rebuild for Bosnia had built for her and was happy in her new peaceful surrounds.
The door opened, and she saw Marija and I standing there. A radiant light filled her soft brown eyes as she raised her eyes to heaven praising God for our visit. She sat down beside me pushing her weary body as close as she could to me and slipped her arm through mine. “I wasn’t expecting you,” she said. “I told you I’d be back on my next visit”, I replied.
A month earlier I’d visited her and tried to see her as often as possible since she’d been diagnosed with bowel cancer and had had a colostomy. That day I experienced a bad odour coming from her colostomy bag. After a little gentle probing, she explained that the hard plastic rim on the bag that sits next to her skin irritated her so much that she couldn’t use the bag and that she was substituting with pieces of cloth. I was shocked to know her predicament and promised that I would be back with a supply of bags.
On my return, I called my friend Delores, and she donated 200 of the finest and best colostomy bags that are on the market.
“I’ve got something for you, Mara,” I said, reaching for a large bag at my side. Opening a box, I took one bag out and placed it into the palm of her hand. ‘What do you think of that?” I asked. She ran her hand over the velvety exterior finish and replied “Luxurious”. Resting both hands in her lap, she raised her head and turned her gaze to the Lord. Her lips moved in prayer thanking God for the magnificent gift. I looked at Marija, and I could see tears in her eyes. It was a deeply humbling moment. “I’m sorry Lord for all my grumblings today. Here is a beautiful soul who thanks you for colostomy bags while most other people would be angry with you because of their sickness and would be unable to see the gift.”
I apologised to God for my lack of gratitude and recognised the many times I’d failed to see the gift because an expectation of more had blinded me. An excess of material commodities in life, and a surplus to requirements lifestyle had blurred my vision and muted the words thank you, Jesus, for all that you have provided for me in this life. I felt ashamed when I contemplated how miserable I’d been in my thanksgiving to Jesus. I’d hurt him so many times by my lack of heartfelt gratitude. “Do you have a right to more?” I asked myself. I realised that I’d entertained the spirit of disappointment far too many times and that changes to my thinking were needed. I made a promise to the Lord that no matter what I prayed for from there on, and regardless of what I received, I would never be disappointed.
I thank God for that precious moment with Mara when my eyes were opened to my stinginess towards the Lord. My life was filled with an abundance of good things, and I lacked nothing.
Working with poor, displaced and disabled people of Bosnia-Herzegovina greatly enriched my spiritual life and brought me closer to allowing God my Father provide for my needs. In moments of pain, sorrow, anxiety, humiliation and the many negative emotions I experience at times, I make a point of praising Jesus also. When I wake at night, and I feel anxious, I pray the rosary and praise and thank the Lord. It is a peaceful way to live, a way that exudes joy and contentment and I enjoy that beautiful peace in my heart that Our Lady constantly refers to.
May the Lord bless you as you read this article and allow you to see the greatness of God through his goodness to you. May your heart sing a song of thanksgiving all day long.
Patricia Keane is the author of the critically acclaimed book Journey Of Ten Thousand Smiles and is an inspirational speaker and witness to her inner healing in Medjugorje. She hosts a weekly programme, Health and Faith Matters on Radio Maria and blogs at www.journeyoftenthousandsmiles.org. She submits a monthly article for the Medjugorje Messenger and a bimonthly to Shalom Tidings.
She received two International Awards for her humanitarian work with the ethnically displaced families of Bosnia-Herzegovina through her tireless work the charity Rebuild for Bosnia.