To maintain a joyful family requires much from both the parents and the children. Each member of the family has to become, in a special way, the servant of the others. – John Paul II

Ellie has entered into Lent whole-heartedly.

Ellie is suffering.

Ellie is miserable.

Her siblings hear it (she is crying non-stop), see it (“Huh cheeks ahw so wed!”) and feel it.  They hurt with her.

Maybe it is the season and the grace that comes with it, but they are walking this hard road with her.  They are patient with a mom who is holding a worn out babe.  They run quick to bring her toys and treats and teething meds.  They empathize.

“Mom?  Was I like this?  Did I hurt, too?” Philip asked over the wails and howls of his sister.

“Philip, at Ellie’s age you had a mouth full of teeth.”

“I did?!” followed by laughter and repeating this new-found trivia to all present.  This time can’t be all sack-cloth and ashes, after all.

But perhaps the most beautiful part of these last few days has been the complete and total compassion her siblings have shown Ellie.  Each time I have had to step away from her (you know, to do things like bathe, or cook, or visit the restroom) I have returned to find Ellie in Max’s arms, him gently shushing her or calmly rocking.  She settles right down.  And more than once she has awoken and Tess makes it into the room and into the crib to assure her all is right in the world before I can get there myself.

This giving of themselves for the sake of another? – this is what it is about.  So while school and the finer things in life have been lacking during this new (and hopefully brief!) phase, this lesson of love and compassion makes up for it all.