Kevin Kulik, left, pictured with his parents.
Prayers to My Heavenly Father, for My Dad on Earth
By Kevin Kulik
When I was maybe 7 or so I began to realize how my dad was so filled with stress. I loved my dad, but I did not love the stress. I was convinced that this would someday take his life or, worse yet, his soul. I remember laying in my bed and raising my heart to the Father in heaven and asking Him a favor for my father on earth. I promised that I would pray for him as long as it took, if only He would grant him peace, even if it were just before his death.
Over the years I can't say that our relationship was the best father-son relationship in the world, but then it certainly wasn't the worst either.
The last years of his life were tough on him. He battled multiple health issues. Perhaps because I sensed that his death could come soon, last December, I felt compelled to sit with my father and pour my spirit out to him. I shared with him my feelings about him — good and bad. It was like a three-hour examination of conscience. I was dripping with sweat as we both pealed away the layers of his life. I knew this was an "anointed" time because we did not have any of the usual superficial talk that was typical until then.
Afterwards, I felt inspired to write him a letter so that in his "more forgetful" state he might be able to refer to it and remind himself of our time together.
I share this letter now in hope that it may help others who are searching for healing with their loved ones and to help show the opportunities we have to reach out to our Lord for His mercy:
You know, I have been talking to you about your physical situation as well as your spiritual condition. I was speaking to Nancy the other day about you, and we are both very proud of the way you are handling your condition — how well you are handling the reality of what is happening to your health. You have a tumor the size of a melon on your back. You just had a lot of radiation and burned lots of your skin. Your sugar is out of control. You are incontinent. Sleep has been sporadic, and you are on very borrowed time. I don't know how well I would be handling this myself.
The word compassion comes from Latin. It means "to suffer with" (see all that Latin is paying off!) I want you to know that all of us are suffering with you even if at times you feel alone.
Each person begins to die the minute they are born. That, unfortunately, is the curse of Adam's sin. For some reason, we go through life ignoring this fact and pretend that "someday" will never come. Each of us has an invisible date etched on our foreheads foretelling the day we will stand before the judgment seat of God.
Each one of us must carry that hard wooden cross up Calvary at some point of our life. There are some that make many trips up that hill over the course of a lifetime. The state of your spirit — or "your spiritual attitude" at the moment of death — determines whether or not you end up like the good or bad thief. Their sufferings were very much the same but the results were incredibly different! At that final moment which truly reveals who we serve, one thought about God, the other himself.
I suppose there is a selfish motive for this letter. Watching you go through all this is reminding me of the date etched into my own forehead. I thought to myself when I was younger, "Surely when I am older I will have conquered most of my vices and be ready to meet my maker." I suppose this is a bit of a mid-life crisis for me. I still struggle with the very same sins I had when I was a boy. I suppose the difference is the sensitivity of my conscience.
Sometimes I think that each of us is born with a "crack" in our being, a flaw. This flaw or crack is found in the imagination and is the only entrance into a pure soul. We must stand guard over all of the thoughts we allow to wander through this crack because it can deliver us or destroy us. That is why the scriptures tell us to "hold captive every single thought," for it is in the final moment, that moment we have been courageously training for all our lives, that our one thought must be forgiveness, gentleness. In a word, love.
I think this is a part of our original sin, and God judges us based on how well we do despite our flaw. For example, a child might be born crippled, but does his father love him any less than the child who can walk? Who is more deserving of winning the race, the crippled child who crawls to the finish line with all his strength, or the strong child that puts minimal effort into it?
I think that is why Christ came with His message of mercy. Only He is capable of examining the human heart, because only He truly knows how damaged we really are!
The other day when I was at the bagel store there was an old broken man sitting in the corner by himself with his walker. As I got closer, I recognized him as one of my former patients. As I talked to him I couldn't help but feel the pain and loneliness he was experiencing. He kept saying, "I'm so useless, I'm no good for nothing!" Something inside of me had to tell him the "good news"!
I said, "Henry, you believe in God, don't you?"
"Yes," he said.
"Do you realize in many ways you are more useful now then at any other time in your life?"
"In what way," he asked.
"Do you realize that you can offer to God something He has been after your whole life?" I asked. "God has wanted nothing more than for you to be totally dependant on Him for everything. Sometimes it takes a lifetime before we get to this point if we are lucky. No prayer is more powerful than the prayer of a 'broken' man. God always answers the prayer of the poor, the broken hearted, the resigned man in a most powerful way. So you see, Henry, you are just coming into the most useful part of your life! You can make changes in the world by your prayers that may have taken a lifetime before! By offering your suffering, your broken body, your weary mind, you are truly living out your true purpose in life!"
"What do you mean," he said. "What purpose?"
"When you were baptized, you were made priest, prophet and king," I told him. "I bet you never knew that. When you pray in your broken state God not only uses your prayer but desires your prayer to heal a wounded world," I said. "This makes you co-redeemer. Did you know that a prayer said from the heart not only can heal lives, but families and even countries? That is what a priest does! He takes invisible power and grace and brings it into the visible world.
"A prophet is someone that speaks for God, to bring about change, to build His Kingdom," I continued. "Theresa, the little flower, never went more than a few miles from where she was born. She only knew a few people, but because she offered to God the very same thing you can offer to God right now, she has been made the patroness of all missionaries. Her silent words still speak loudly down through the halls of time and changed millions of lives just like the prophets of old did! Don't be fooled by the wrinkled man you see in the mirror, Henry. The next time you look, I want you to see the crown that has been placed on your head since your baptism. It may appear rusty because of neglect, but it still represents power. By only acknowledging that power you can restore it to new! God said in Genesis that He gave you power over all His dominion. Do you know, Henry, that you even have power over Satan himself?"
"Wow, I never thought of it that way!" Henry replied.
"So, you see, if you really think of it, you are not unlike our Redeemer Himself — wounded, broken, resigned, and suffering. When you find it hard to breathe, remember that he suffocated on the cross. The age spots and varicose veins are not unlike the nail prints and scourging in His own body. You are not called to be like Christ, you are called to BE CHRIST. For when you become Christ, you also have His power, His kingdom. You share His royal crown! Now, Henry, pick up that walker, go home and save the world!"
Dad, when the prioress of the Dominican order asked me how I thought they could get more vocations, I looked at her and said, "Sister, you know in your mother house there are about 50 recliner chairs in the big TV room."
"Yes," she said. "That is where our old sisters go and watch jeopardy after dinner."
"Why are you wasting their power?" I asked her.
"What do you mean?" she said.
"Don't you realize that those little, old ladies could get you anything you needed for your order if they were to get down on their knees instead of wasting the few precious moments they have left?"
There is an old saying that youth is wasted on the young. I think that time is wasted on the old. There is so much wasted power in age! This is the time in your life to sharpen your spiritual sword and become the prayer warrior you now have time to be! Does this take hours on your knees? Maybe, if you feel called to it. Mostly, it is just sitting quietly in the shadow of His wings and knowing He is God.
The highest form of prayer, we are told, is mental prayer. This is when we can have a simple conversation with God. It almost seems ironic that a simple conversation with God is the highest form of prayer! They say you come in like a child, and you go out like a child. I don't think is a coincidence. Jesus said unless you become childlike you cannot enter heaven. Think about it. A child trusts. He is innocent, and he hopes in the impossible.
It says in scripture that man's life is like a vapor. We are just beginning the journey! These moments we call life are more valuable than gold or diamonds for even they will someday disappear. What you choose to do with these final moments of life will last forever! Make a good confession and forget the past. All the guilt associated with your sins will be wiped clean. Though they be as scarlet, He makes them as white as the snow.
I wonder if on that great day of judgment when all men's secret sins are revealed openly to everyone we know, if our confessed and absolved sins will be found there as well? The final step is to offer all your suffering for the remission of your sin. The world and even some in the Church would sometimes have you believe that there is no temporal punishment due to sin. This is a grave error. This error robs God of His glory. For how can God be infinitely merciful if He is not infinitely just?
Remember when I threw a rock through the window at Aunt Josephine's when I was a kid? You forgave me, but you made me pay Aunt Josephine for it. The only thing I had was the dollar she herself gave me for a gift when I first got there. This dollar fell way short of the actual cost of the window, but when I offered it, it was enough. Justice! What made up the difference? Love! Mercy!
We can't buy ourselves into heaven — or out of purgatory for that matter — but we can offer our little "dollar" to pay for the damage we caused while on earth. What will make up the difference? Love and mercy! The same love and mercy that sustains the very breath we even now take.
There are many thoughts that I have on this subject. It is my heart's desire that the world will come to know the Lord's message of mercy. We were born to a fallen race, but by grace and cooperation with grace we can make a choice of who and what we become. By His mercy, when the word became flesh, this diseased orb was vaccinated against death. He has made us citizens of a new country, one that will last forever. For they may take away your dignity or even your manhood, but never your priesthood!
So when the eye becomes dim and the body weak, remind your Merciful Lord that it was His blood that was shed for you. Turn your brow toward Him and show Him the mark that has been etched there since the day of your baptism and stand ready, for you are a priest forever!
With love and mercy,
My mom told me that he did not say anything about this letter except, " Kevin must love me very much."
That was the last communication I had with my dad. Shortly after, he fell gently in the bathroom. He went into a coma.
As he lay in bed for almost a week in that dream-like state, I dare to wonder what God said to my dad, considering the fact I had prayed for him for those 44 years since I was 7. After all, God spoke directly to many men of the bible in their dreams. I choose to think that this God of mercy did exactly that. I choose to believe that, before he died on March 12, my dad finally found peace.
Sometimes God reveals your prayers in a very powerful and obvious way. Other times He chooses to try us further by allowing us to wait until all secrets are revealed in eternity. Even if I have to wait to find out all the wonderful details of my prayers and His mercy, it is with joy that I know God never disappoints in the end!
Kevin Kulik is a chiropractor in Massapequa, N.Y.