"The Supreme Gift of Marriage" by Tommy Tighe (CatholicMom.com) Via Pixbay (2015), CC0 Public Domain

“Every night before I get my one hour of sleep, I have the same thought: ‘Well, that’s a wrap on another day of acting like I know what I’m doing.’ I wish I were exaggerating, but I’m not. Most of the time, I feel entirely unqualified to be a parent. I call these times being awake.” - Jim Gaffigan

Parents love sitting around with other parents and commiserating about the life we lead. The mess, the noise, the yelling, the seemingly unending requests for attention; it consumes our lives and complaining about it to others who understand your pain can start to feel like the only way to survive.

It isn’t all bad, of course. When most parents think of their life with kids they tend to see the joy before the frustration, the smiling faces before tantrums, the sweet sound of a child saying “I love you” before the painful sound of a child saying “You’re the worst parent ever!”

Our Church focuses on the joys of parenthood more than anything else, even to the point of teaching children are “the supreme gift of marriage.”

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While that teaching can seem to be a bit of a stretch on most days around our house, my children touched my life and increased my faith at a time when I needed them the most, and through that experience I discovered just what a gift they are.

I’ll never forget the day we received the heartbreaking news that our fourth son would not live after his birth. He was diagnosed with Bilateral Renal Agenesis, a fatal diagnosis resulting in underdeveloped lungs, leading babies to be unable to breath on their own shortly after birth.

My wife and I were devastated.

Like most expectant parents, we had already started planning everything for our beautiful son Luke, months before he was due to arrive. This included getting his three older brothers excited about all they had to look forward to with another sibling on the way.

Instead of being able to continue with the joyful planning, we found ourselves sitting on our bed, having a conversation with our three younger sons about how their brand new baby brother wouldn’t be coming home from the hospital.

My wife and I were angry, hopeless, and completely absorbed by grief, and yet we knew we had to focus on the important realities present in our situation when we explained everything to our children.

We focused on the possibility of miracles, the reality of Heaven, the fact that we will be connected to Luke forever, the he would be able to pray for us in the presence of Jesus and the Blessed Mother, and that we would have the opportunity to be reunited with him one day along with all the angels and saints.

While these are all realities we believe as Catholics, as adults we can easily allow ourselves to see them as merely intellectual.

When faced with our very stark reality, I had to ask myself if Heaven was just a nice idea that I believed in without really thinking about what it would mean if it actually existed, and more generally if I really believed all the things I said I believed about salvation and life after death.

I couldn’t sort this out on my own.

But through my journey with my children, and my many explanations of the situation we faced, I came to see their faith and it impacted me deeply.

They accepted and understood what was happening, and they found solace in the fact that their brother Luke would be in Heaven with Jesus, Mary, and all of the saints who have gone before us.

Through their acceptance and profound faith in this reality, I found the strength to carry on and my faith was strengthened beyond what I could have imagined.

Heaven is real. Baptism saves us. The power of prayer through the Communion of Saints in beyond our wildest dreams.

I didn’t fully come to understand any of that on my own, though.

They carried me through. They solidified my faith.

They truly are the supreme gift of my marriage.

Copyright 2016 Tommy Tighe