When it comes to worrying, my mother wrote the book — and my aunt, her youngest sister, deserves an honorary doctorate in the subject.
The other day, my aunt and I were talking on the phone about her son coming to visit her.
“I’m worried about him driving alone,” my aunt said.
“Oh, he’ll be fine,” I replied.
But that didn’t stop her from positing a list of potential disasters that could unfold on the interstate.
The son in question is in his 60s with two grown children of his own, but in my aunt’s eyes, he’s still a little fellow running around the house in pajamas with footies.
My aunt also frets over her daughter, her grandchildren and great grandchildren — and yours truly.
For example, when I was visiting her in Florida, she asked me to fetch a blanket from her bedroom closet.
As I left the room to do so, she called out, “Be careful! Don’t pinch your fingers in the door.”
In that moment, I was 3 years old again, hugging my favorite stuffed dog to my chest.
Truth be told, I inherited the worry gene myself, and have caught myself warning my niece, the capable mom of three children, “Don’t get lost” when I drop her off at the airport.
For years, I had a worry tucked away in the back of my mind about the devastating loneliness I’d endure, should my husband die before me — which, it turns out, he did.
From that tragedy, I learned that sometimes our worst nightmares do come true, but God will get us through them.
I don’t have offspring, but commiserate with friends whose kids are struggling with math or dragging their feet about going to Mass.
And like my friends, I sometimes identify with Martha, the quintessential worry-wart in the Gospels, who rushes around readying the house for her guest, who is none other than Jesus.
When she complains her sister isn’t helping, Jesus chides her gently, “Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things.”
He adds that her sister, Mary, who’s been sitting quietly with him, has “chosen the better part.”
It might be tempting to conclude Jesus favored the composed Mary over the troubled Martha, but we’re told he loved them both — a comforting thought for worriers.
How easy it is to fret about our loved ones facing medical tests and surgeries, struggling with marital problems and battling addictions.
I find solace in the words of Caryll Houselander, a 20th-century English Catholic mystic and author of many books on Christianity.
Living through the bombings in London during World War II, she wrote, “I was terrified, but I was also perfectly conscious of being held in God’s hands … and there was nothing more to worry about.”
When a friend asked Houselander in a letter how to stop worrying, she replied, “The more you say, ‘I must not worry,’ the more you will: I think it is better simply to offer the worrying to God.”
This means we can ask God to turn our fretting into a prayer to help others.
Just as Jesus offered his suffering for the redemption of the world, we can give God our mental anguish to save others.
On the cross, Jesus said, “Lord, into thy hands I commend my spirit.”
Like him, we can pray, “God, into thy hands I place my friend, my child, my spouse, my neighbor.”
These are big, loving hands, which shaped the skies, the seas and the stars. Hands that reached out to heal the lepers and the blind.
We can trust these capable hands will guide our loved ones who get into trouble on the interstate, get frazzled when guests arrive — or get their fingers caught in the closet door.
Lorraine has written eight books, most recently “Death Dons a Mask.” Her email is email@example.com