April 26, 2014

A Tribute to My Brother, Henry Jefferson Heath 1948-2006

Jeff Heath - Age 21
Today marks the 8th anniversary of my oldest brother Jeff's death. He is sorely missed and prayed for daily, though I am sure he must be enjoying by now his time with my parents in Heaven. "Ah-Ha!" you may say. "You don't know that...you can't possibly know that!" "You speak foolishly!" "Ah-Ha! Gotcha!"

Well... no you don't "Gotcha". With every fiber of my being, with every kernel of  every Catholic teaching I've ever known, with every prayer sent Heavenward for his Soul at every Mass I hear, with the knowledge of how he sacrificed himself to care for our aged parents, with knowing how he and my youngest sister Patty conspired and sacrificed to get my Mother out of a nursing home and back to her home to live out the few years left to her, with seeing him and his family caring for our Dad for the 10 years he lived past Mom's death...the list goes on and on. So you ask how am I so sure? Because he lived, breathed and died the 4th Commandment with its inherent and guaranteed legacy: 

"Honour thy father and thy mother, that thou mayest be longlived upon the land which the Lord thy God will give thee." (Exodus 20:12)

So...I believe in the promise as set forth by God Himself of the reward that awaits for those who live this Commandment. Can I do anything else but believe that he is now enjoying his Eternal Reward? No...and I would be hard pressed to be swayed otherwise. 

Jeff did not have to do any of what he did and if truth be known, probably groaned in fatigue at the mere thought of driving Dad across the river to the St. Louis VA hospital once a month, no small feat in itself during rush hour across the I-70 / Poplar Street Bridge. He could have left it to one of his other 4 siblings. But he did not. It is certain his life would have been much easier, had he opted to - as many have - and shut the aged parents away "for their own good and safety" in a nursing home. But he did not. He could have shucked it all away and not looked back, choosing instead to enjoy his life, his way, with his family. But he did not. 

My Siblings at Dad's Funeral in April 2006.
Jeff is behind me.

My older brother, along with my youngest sister and Jeff were the prime movers in assuring to the needs of our parents in their old age. I had my own young family to care for and could offer little in help, other than my support and prayers. My older sister was unable to do much more than I, though we both gave as much support as we could otherwise. But to those three, and especially to Jeff, the most merit belongs and I am sure will weigh mightily in their favor at their Judgments.

Jeff was killed in a construction zone accident while working for the Illinois Department of Transportation, a job he thoroughly enjoyed and in which he was well liked and respected. This day, instead of driving his big, orange-colored State truck, he was holding the stop-go sign and directing traffic. A truck with a construction trailer failed to slow and when the driver braked hard, the trailer jackknifed and hit Jeff broadside, throwing him into the truck he usually drove. He died upon impact. And there his earthly life ended and his Eternal one began. 

I remarked to my older brother and sisters during the wake of how we should not be sad, tragic though his death was and remained. That he most assuredly had been granted a quick release from this earthly paradise in large part because of his Faithfulness and Fidelity to our parents and the 4th Commandment. It was his reward as promised by God: "...that thou mayest be longlived upon the land which the Lord thy God will give thee." And the land He has given to Jeff is Heaven.  I don't know that they were all as convinced as I...

There are not enough words that will do justice to what I would like to write of Jeff nor is there enough time to relate more of Jeff's story, though in truth he deserves both. I had made the video below in 2006 as a tribute to Jeff and to his family - wife Linda and kids Melissa and Michael. It is amateur to be sure, but I urge you to play and pause the video and read a bit of his life and know his family - know our family. He was privileged as well, to be buried next to the parents he honored so well...in a grave where no plot existed but in which one was found...which was the privilege of having a high school classmate and friend the County Coroner...and another the American Legion president, who handed his wife the Veteran's flag that draped his casket. His son Michael was privileged to drive in the motorcade the truck his Dad drove every day. Jeff and his family were privileged to have an orange IDOT truck at every intersection along the route to the cemetery, with an IDOT worker in front of each giving a final "Farewell" to their co-worker. And privileged to have State Transportation Officials from Springfield in attendance as well. Yes, his life was full of privileges, though many were never to be known until after his death. Such is the benevolence of Our Lord and another reason for my unshakable belief in Jeff's Eternal Happiness. 

He gave so much of his life to his parents and had so much more of life to live, after Dad's passing just one month earlier. However, a sacrifice made of Love is never wasted, nor does it go unrewarded, whether in this life or the next. Jeff is now reaping that which he sowed and I can only hope that I someday merit the privilege of doing likewise. 

God Bless, Jeff...pray for me and my family, Dear Brother!

 Copyright 2014 David Heath - All Rights Reserved

UPDATED: Aleteia: Inside the Painful, Messy World of Annulments

UPDATED: See below for Professor Van Ornum's reply to my comment.

From Aleteia.org, an article that obviously hits extremely close to home and to which I felt compelled to respond. Click the link to read the entire article, excerpted below, and my posted comment following that:

Inside the Painful, Messy World of Annulments

A psychologist with 25 years of experience working in the annulment process explains why it can be so hard.

William Van Ornum

"During the 1990s I used to visit John Cardinal O’Connor to talk about different topics related to psychology and developmental disabilities. Cardinal O’Connor was extremely interested in these topics because he himself had a master’s degree in psychology. After one meeting, when I was thinking about another criticism of annulments – that they are given out too freely – I asked Cardinal O’Connor what he thought. He responded by saying that  the Church needed  to provide any and all resources to a divorced person that would help them to free themselves to go back to the sacraments. I took this to be a very liberal and affirming outlook. Cardinal O’Connor is greatly missed.

I remember one priest involved in annulments – if I can ever figure out how to do this I will nominate him to be a saint. His name was Fr. Bill Murphy and he was a Franciscan friar of the atonement. His ministry, supported by his religious order, was to work with the Separated, Divorced, and Remarried (SDRC) groups  which were fairly common in the Church at the time. He taught himself canon law and offered his services freely and fully to help people complete their annulment statements and see the psychologist.  He served as their advocate through the entire process. I suspect that he helped bring hundreds if not more people back into the Church as well as closer to God....

How will the Church balance the need to affirm Christ’s command concerning the indissolubility marriage while at the same time preventing what may truly (and tragically) be called “collateral damage” or “friendly fire.” The Hippocratic oath may be relevant here: Do No Harm. (This should be a requirement for any Church procedure, yes?) "

My posted comment to the above article:

"The Hippocratic oath may be relevant here: Do No Harm. "  This says it all, doesn't it? But it is a false and naive notion. There are always the silent sufferers in all this who have no voice in the matter,  but yet bear the brunt of its effects - the children. It is the children who bear the scars far into their lives and whose very lives will always be the most affected long after the parents have turned to dust. It is the children who are left out of the equation in annulments, let alone divorces. It is the children who loose their security, their parents and their rights to a stable home life, all from the whims and wishes of those around them. It is a travesty of justice and charity that those who are the most affected and the least considered are forgotten of - by the Church, let alone the parents. Do the Parents / Tribunals think just because Mom or Dad are free to find a new Prince/Princess Charming that everything resets to zero as far as the kids are concerned? How many times can children be asked to divide their Love  between one or more step-parents? How many times can it be assumed children can "move-on" with their lives, when those lives have been so shattered? Even once is far, far too many. 

I am in the 4th year of a divorce/annulment that ended a 22 year marriage, the fourth year of estrangement from over 1/3rd of our ten children, the fourth year of watching my children carry the mistakes of the parents into their own futures, the fourth year of honoring my vows to their Mother and the fourth year of my Love and Fidelity to her and her alone. So, no...their is little I can agree with in this article as to the goodness and efficacy of annulments. Though I know there are valid grounds for annulments, there are many cases that have used the DSM for the greater good of one person alone - the petitioner. It is that person and that person alone who benefits and no other, especially the children.  Children - like many respondents, including me - are simply along for the ride. And like No Fault Divorce, there is little either of them can do to stop the juggernaut. All that can be done is to try and minimize the pain and sorrow that is the inevitable result of actions not of our choosing. 

Professor Van Ornum's reply to my comment:

william van ornum 7 hours ago

You are correct in the points you make. Now that they are up here others will become aware of these problems. The issue of certain petitioners using the process to "start over with a new Prince Charming/Princess Charming" is a real one, one needing examination. Unlike civil divorces, there is no one who serves as an "advocate for the children" during the annulment process (as it is in divorces where "the needs of the children" may be considered); in my understanding, this is not addressed at all in canon law.

Perhaps if Canon Law had much more input from la persons there would be a wider examination of the entire situation; unfortunately, as I've mentioned, it doesn't seem, to me at least, to be a career offering a great deal of financial security or advancement--a person, especially a young person, would much rather opt for a legal career which (even in these times?) would offer more.

Thank you for writing with this example and I hope its specificity will be understood by all who work in this process.

Copyright 2014 David Heath - All Rights Reserved