What to do with Stale Bread

loaf of breadMy husband buys bread as though our six sons are still at home. Multi-grain. Rye. Hamburger buns. There’s only so much toast, so many sandwiches the two of us can eat in a week.  “The birds want their seeds back,” I told him, “so either make a weekly trip to the food pantry or stop buying more bread than we need.” But once again I see a partial loaf on the counter with a sign: for the birds.

I tell you this because my active, healthy husband was recently diagnosed with a serious heart condition. I believe he will be healed but these are trying times. We both have wonderful families and lots of friends who support us. They call or text or email. They bring us food. They offer to do anything we want, to give us anything we need. Their love is part of the daily bread I ask for when I pray the Our Father. But sometimes, my daily bread is stale.

“I know you two are Catholic,” a friend—a former Catholic—said when he visited.  “But I need to ask. Are you ready? If the worst happens, are you sure you’ll go to heaven?”

I knew exactly what he was saying. “Yes, we are born-again as you like to say through our infant baptisms and strengthened by our age-of-reason confirmations. But we don’t think that makes us shoo-ins for heaven. Everyday we make conscious efforts through  words and actions to be worthy of heaven. We know we fall short, but we believe Jesus knows our hearts and will have mercy on us. So yes, we plan on going to heaven.” It saddened me that after all these years of friendship he still didn’t see the value of Catholicism in our lives and I felt separated from him. “I know you asked because you love us” I added, “and that you want to be sure we’re in heaven with you.” He nodded and we changed the subject to hospital gowns and bedpans.

I’ve had multiple slices of daily bread since my husband’s first irregular EKG. If he has to be housebound while we wait for surgery, how nice that it’s happening during this outstanding Ohio spring and summer when a walk around the backyard, the smell of summer rain, or five minutes of cloud watching can energize me like a mini-vacation. How easy it is to drive to dozens of doctor appointments in our own car, without winter coats or gloves,  without snow or ice. How fortunate to have our choice of world-class hospitals with clean beds and competent doctors so nearby. To have a comfortable home with running water, electricity, and a pretty flower garden to recover in. To have a chance to spend all day together, watching movies, talking, praying, and visiting with our sons, family, and friends whom we cherish.

Human relationships are complicated. Communication happens on many levels. And sometimes what others say to us (and we to them) is for the birds.  But God always gives us our daily bread. So when one slice seems stale, look for the fresh loaf nearby. It’s always there.

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