(NY Daily News) This week, when I offered condolences to Christine, the wife of Detective Joseph Lemm â€” killed in action in Afghanistan â€” at his funeral at St. Patrickâ€™s Cathedral, with their daughter, Brooke, and son, Ryan, beside her, she said â€œItâ€™s been very, very hard. But, weâ€™ll get through this.â€
Itâ€™s a theme Iâ€™ve noticed as I have followed my annual tradition in these quieter days after Christmas, reading the cards I received from old, and new, friends. I find itâ€™s a good way to stay in touch, keep up, and renew a sense of closeness to these loyal folks who mean a lot to me.
So many people have added a little note, observing, â€œ2015 was a rough year, but, looking back, with the help of God, family, and friends, we got through, and now weâ€™re ready for a better 2016.â€ Maybe it was death, sickness, a job loss, some challenge or tragedy that made the old year tough. Whatever, there is the unmistakable ray of hope for the new one.
Funny thing, I usually recall, but thatâ€™s the same thing everybody wrote last year!
Every day, every season, every year inevitably brings woe, burden, tensions, heartache, setbacks. â€œThese troubling times we live inâ€ is as much an accurate comment as it was 50, 100 or 200 years ago. As an historian, I know that every age has a sense that theirs is a most difficult time to live in. That sense of challenge and adversity is especially apt as we review the valleys of the old year.
We were battered by gun deaths and terrorist attacks. We saw our national spirit, and especially our commitment to help the poor and sick and displaced, tested. Natural disasters can make us feel vulnerable even in our own homes. The steady drumbeat of negative news can cause even the strongest among us to sometimes feel overwhelmed by it all.
Yet, equally, as we commence a new year, we recognize the dream, dare and hope that comes with starting afresh. Itâ€™s almost as if recognizing all the worries we had in 2015 prompts us to whisper a word of thanksgiving that we made it, and gives us a second wind for what 2016 will bring.
When I was 12, growing up in St. Louis, I overheard my dad talking to his mom in the kitchen. My mom was in the hospital with my newborn sister, Lisa. Dad had just lost his job, and I was surprised to hear a man usually so strong obviously scared and worried as he confessed to his mom that he didnâ€™t know how heâ€™d do it, with no job, a wife and four kids.
My grandma, whose own grandma had emigrated from an Ireland wracked by famine, poverty and oppression, calmly answered, â€œBobby, weâ€™ve been through worse, and here we are today. It will all work out.â€ I repeated those same words to Lisa decades later when her 8-year-old daughter was diagnosed with bone cancer.
This sense of resilience is a trait of the human person. Poets, philosophers, theologians and wise folks recognize it. We see it in ourselves as we look back on how we got through 2015, and have a rebirth of confidence as we enter 2016.
People of faith have an old sound bite: God never asks us to do something without giving us the grace to do it.
We have a God of second chances, a Lord who never tires of giving us a fresh start.
So goes another old prayer, â€œFor all that has been, I thank God! For all yet to come, I trust God!â€
Maybe those werenâ€™t your exact words written in the greetings Iâ€™ve been reading these happy days of the Christmas season, but those were sure your sentiments.
We made it through 2015. We had ups and downs, smiles and sadness, joys and sorrows â€” and through it all, a lot of help from God and others. And now, weâ€™re excited about 2016, because hope and resilience are part of our very makeup.
A blessed New Year!