I have seen many different television shows in the last year. I am currently watching "The New Pope" on HBO. It is brilliant, shocking, beautiful, profound, ugly. I absolutely love it. Jude Law portrays Pius XIII/Lenny Belardo. His character debuted in the 2016 series "The Young Pope" which is not nearly as good. In the current series, he is in a coma and has been for months. The Vatican has replaced him with Pope John Paul III/John Brannox played by John Malkovich in an absolutely brilliant performance as a drug-addicted, fragile, cowardly man who has never seen himself as worthy especially of his current position.
There is one episode that truly speaks to me: Episode Seven. The Vatican has been attacked, bombed by an unknown terrorist which killed the dog of Pope John III and he is in a deep depression and wont come out of his room. Pope Pius XIII (Jude Law) has woken from a coma. It is a medical miracle that only his doctor and nurse are aware of. He needs a few days to gather his thoughts without being recognized, so his doctor invites him to his home in Venice for a few days.
The Pope meets the doctor's wife and son. His wife is heartbroken over her 11 year old son who was born with a fatal diagnosis that has robbed him of muscle tone. He also suffers from a heart condition, extreme medical disabilities and cognitive deficits. He lays in bed all day, every day. He is terribly thin and completely unresponsive. The parents love him, of course, and care deeply for him. His mother urges the Pope to heal her son. He declines, says he is not capable of miracles. He is...just a Pope. But she begs him. He warns her - One thing changes, everything changes. When the Pope touches the child and tells him about Heaven, a tear falls from the child's eye. It's more movement than the parents have seen in years.
Meanwhile, John Malkovich goes to confess his sins, shocking revelations. The Cardinal says to him, "God saves us, always. God does not deny anyone the grace of salvation. It's the most beautiful thing there is. We love vanity and sin. We love deprivation and wickedness, so we believe God has abandoned us, that God doesn't like us. But God doesn't manage our lives. He does not correct our mistakes. He doesn't manage our weaknesses. God does not stop our hand when it plunges in sin. All he does is save us. In the end God saves us."
Another priest says, "We can weaken the strong, but we cannot strengthen the fragile." He is speaking of John Malkovich's character but what comes next seems to apply to this statement as well.
The scene returns to Venice where Jude Law's character is on his knees before the child and praying his heart out to God saying, "Make him a man Lord, make him a man." The child lifts his arm for a moment...and then drops it and dies. The Pope was right. He cannot perform this miracle. His father sits at his bedside. His mother lays next to him in bed and touches his cheek. Later, she asks the Pope, "What is Heaven like?" He tells her it is much like earth but in Heaven we glimpse God. The mother asks if her son will go to hell. The Pope says yes -- he is in hell now.
Before the Pope departs for Rome, he invites the couple to their ballroom to show them a miracle. He holds their hands, they all close their eyes, and they pray together. As the music plays you see an almost glowing vision of the child. It is his soul lifting through the air and rising toward Heaven.
This episode resonated so deeply, for obvious reasons. There was a moment as Bella was dying that her nurse Emma was praying over her, asking God to let her live. She was certain of a miracle. Bella had been unresponsive for hours. In this moment, Bella opened her eyes and looked straight at Emma. I was grateful that Emma had that moment.
What I wish I could have seen then, and I understand now, is that sometimes what you want and what you desperately need is not what will happen. We wished, we prayed and we believed she would get better. But in the end, we could not heal her. God saved her. I have no doubt she is in Heaven and I will see her again someday. I still miss her terribly but the pain of her loss has changed over the years. There is room for happiness once more along with grief.
This last year has been one of a kind. The global pandemic has distanced us all from everyone - except our nuclear families. We have spent time together under one roof. In reality, the time we have spent together as a family is more time than we had ever hoped for. At times it has been difficult and we have gotten on each other's nerves. But, even then, I was grateful for every moment with them. Life is so fragile and fleeting. So many friends and loved ones have lost their own family members to COVID-19 or desperation. One day, hopefully soon, life will return to normal. AJ will return to school and we will return to work in our office and on business trips. I will always look back on this year as many difficult things but more than anything I will remember the year we were able to spend together. The faces of the ones I love the most right here with me every day. I am grateful for this time together.