After a very full life of almost 94 years our mom passed away on September 8. It was a life like many others, filled with good health, love, family and for the most part, happiness. It also had its share of sorrows, and heartache, and despair. It was, in the most fundamental ways, a life well lived.
Nothing else but death has the ability to make us pause and take stock of so many things: memories, beliefs, relationships, our past present and future. The death of a loved one reminds us of our own human frailty and limited time here on earth. It may hasten us to make that list, make that call, or make that promise. And as such, I have learned that no passing is ever in vain.
Now, there is usually a time in our lives when we think that there is nothing else that our parents can teach us. We become arrogant and believe that we know better. I have been guilty of this. There were many years that I refused to seek out my mother’s advice because I was convinced that her wisdom was outdated or too simple. She became the last person from whom I would ask financial guidance, or seek out any parenting advice, though she (with our father’s help) managed to raise five children on a fixed income with no debt. It’s just amazing to me how blind our own pride can make us to the things we need the most.
There is one lesson, thank God, that I am able to take from Mom even in her death. It is the most valuable lesson I can learn and comes at a time when I need it the most. Our mother has demonstrated, with great strength, her faith in God. And, although a good life, it was seasoned with opportunities for that strength to weaken and even break. She was married to a man who, while a loving husband and father, became separated from the church and had his own doubts about God. As a result, we were not baptized as children and never went to church. For the sake of her love for her husband and family, Mom practiced her faith inwardly for many years, and worked that faith in the background, ever faithful to her patron, the Virgin Mary.
When our brother became ill and suffered for two years before passing away, she never cursed her God for the heartbreak of losing a child. She continued to raise up prayers, even to her last days, for the repose of her son’s soul. And when her health began to fail and her wishes to die in the home in which she had lived in for 68 years faded away, she remained ever true to her baptismal promise to love and serve the Lord. In a fallen world where we learn to trust our physical senses supremely, where does such strength of faith come from? It comes from the source of all of our spiritual strength here on earth, the Holy Spirit, working through Jesus Christ and our fellow believers. For me, it started off weak, needing evidence and signs. But through years of prayer, studying scripture and now this marvelous demonstration of faith from my mother, it has become strong.
With each earthly suffering there is a challenge to our faith. Each test becomes an opportunity to seek out God through His Spirit to guide us gently into our Saviors arms. It is our choice to respond to these challenges as demonstrated by the great influences in our lives, to pay them the honor of maintaining their legacy of faith and thank them for setting the foundation upon which we can build our own faith. Thanks, Mom.