This past week I’ve been grappling with the age-old question: why do bad things happen to good people? Last week, my Aunt Pat Devine went in to her doctor with a headache and days later had surgery to remove a brain tumor. It’s cancer, and it’s going to be a long road ahead.
The news took the wind out of me. She’s the youngest of the Foley sisters. She’s retired and should be enjoying the prime golden years of her life right now. Why her? As I sat with Pat and other family members just hours before she was due in for massive surgery, I marveled at her composure. If she was freaking out, she was hiding it well. After a blessing from her parish priest, we sat around and swapped family stories, laughing, reminiscing and enjoying each other’s company as if we were all sitting around the dinner table on Thanksgiving. The constant beeping and whirring noises of her IV and the hospital intercom served as reminder that this was not just another family gathering.
Long before this health crisis, I have looked up to my Aunt Pat as a model of grace under pressure and one of the purest representatives of the Catholic faith I have ever encountered. Much to her probable discomfort, I call her our living angel of the family, as she is constantly looking out for others, asking about the kids, sending sweet notes, and always just a genuine joy to be around. Pat is not a church-on-Sunday Catholic. She is faith in action.
Pat raised 3 boys, losing her oldest to Cystic Fibrosis at the unfair age of 19. Her faith was shaken but not extinguished with the loss of her son Jim, and it was probably that hardship that made her into the empathetic and genuine person she is today. She has the time-tested faith of someone who has experienced both great losses and abundant blessings.
In addition to being our living angel, she is also our resident family historian, uncovering tattered photos of my grandfather and grandmother at the Chicago’s World Fair or handwritten notes from my Great Aunt Margaret about vintage Christmas traditions. She’s recently connected with distant cousins in County Kerry, Ireland, that we’ve never met, and I have a feeling she might find herself with an unexpected guest with a brogue on her doorstep.
But first she needs to heal. As she recovers from surgery and prepares for an aggressive treatment schedule, I’m comforted that Pat has a wonderful support network, good doctors, and the love and prayers of many. I believe in the power of faith to heal, and Pat Devine has that in spades.