Wednesday, June 6, 2012


Now that my mother's funeral has come and gone, I have had some time for some thought about the kind of woman she was.  Often we don't understand just how remarkable our parents are until they are gone.

Two days before she died, my mother was visited by a cousin, Tammy.  Tammy loved my mother very much along with her sister Cheryl.  Tammy would look after my mother whenever she was in the hospital.  Despite the struggles my mother was experiencing in these last hours of her life, she and Tammy had a good visit.  As Tammy was leaving, she asked my mother, "Mary Alice, are you ready to go?"  According to Tammy, my mother didn't skip a beat.  "Yes, I am," she answered.  "I don't want to to go, but I'm not scared."

These are words that say something significant about her character.  But more than that, those words serve as a memorial to the memory of my mother.

Hours before she would die, my mother was contemplating her departure.  If my mother was anything, she was a truthful person.  She would have never answered Tammy's question with anything but the truth.  Her answer reflects a great deal of courage and, especially, faith.

My mother's faith was strong but quiet.  She was not one to talk about it much, although over the last couple of years, she did bring up the subject with me from time to time.  When she moved into the nursing home that she called home until the last days of her life, one of the activities she participated in was a weekly Bible study.  Never before had I ever known her to do anything of this sort.

One evening about a year ago, she called me filled with an enthusiasm that couldn't be contained.  She told me all about something that they had discussed in that day's Bible study meeting.  She was filled with awe at what she had learned and was anxious to share it with me and anyone who might listen.  It was in this moment that I realized that she had a deep faith that yearned for nurturing.

In addition to the Bible study, she prayed a great deal.  She once related to me that when she couldn't sleep, she'd pull out her rosary even though it might be in the middle of the night, and pray.  She often mentioned that she talked to God all throughout the day.  She felt especially close to Mary, the Mother of God.  This was a lesson that she had learned from her mother, my grandmother.

So it should come as no surprise to hear what her answer to Tammy's bold question was.  My mother loved life and lived it to the fullest.  She did everything with great zest and nothing was ever done half way.  Her faith was the same way.  Yet, until the end of her life, because she chose to share some of it with me, I had never known.  Her phrase "I'm not scared" was rooted in her belief and knowledge that when she died she would enter into the presence of God and be admitted into His presence for all eternity.  Her affirmation that she had no fear of dying wasn't some bold statement to show her courage.  It was a beautiful and unique affirmation of her faith.

These words, spoken as she faced the last few hours of her life, will serve for me as a monument to her long and well-lived life.  It will be a reminder to me that I need to live in dignity and integrity, developing and maintaining my faith every day since I do not know when I will be called home.  

No, my mom did not want to leave us.  She loved us and the world in which she lived.  But she understood with the eyes of faith that even though we must part, we would one day be reunited in the presence of God for all eternity.  As a result, we also should not be scared.  There can be no greater monument to the memory of this remarkable woman whom I had the privilege of calling "mom" all these years.

Saturday, June 2, 2012


When you are in the midst of sadness brought about by the death of a loved one, God has unique ways of showing compassion and kindness through the acts of everyday life.

With the loss of my mother earlier this week, there has been a certain sadness within me that comes with the parting of the ways between parent and child.  In my case, it has not been a devastating sadness simply because her passing was not unexpected.  She was elderly and in very frail health for quite some time.  She had run her race and it was time to go home.

Tonight, we were reminded that life continues even though a loved one has passed, life continues on in the form of thee little girls who are the very definition of living.

Aliyah, a soon to be ten year old, is curiosity itself.  Filled with wonder for the world in which she lives, she communes as easily with bugs in a little plastic container as she does with human beings.  She wouldn't harm one of God's creatures for anything and takes the passing of a squirrel as a personal loss.  In addition, Aliyah consumes books and all reading material in the same fashion as a connoisseur of fine wine.  She doesn't just read the words on a page, she savors them, finds the little nuances of the story, and takes them into her heart.  She is a true artist of the English language at this tender age.

Kierah, nearly six years old, is sweetness of life.  She smiles and this grandpa's heart melts away.  She will enthrall you with stories of her favorite characters from the "Little Mermaid" or spellbind you with tales of the every day activities of one of her favorite dolls.  She is the epitome of what a child should be.  Her insight to life is plain and simple, love those around you as much as you can and all will be well.

Then there is the baby of the household, Noe.  Noe is independence wrapped up in twenty months of life.  Always on the go, this little engine is the very embodiment of independence.  Twenty months going on twenty years, nothing stops her.  This little dynamo will rearrange chairs if the seating chart doesn't suit her.  She chatters away as she goes about her business with non-stop energy that leaves most adults breathless.

Most of all, however, an evening such as this, reminds us that God's comfort comes in the form of family.  The unconditional love that abounds will see you through anything if you but allow it to do so.  When you are together, you know that no one, living or dead, is left out.  My late mom would have reveled in this evening.  She would have smiled from ear to ear and laugh countless times at the antics of these three precious reminders of God's gift of life to us.  She would have talked about it for days and how she thought everybody had a good time and how wonderful her great-granddaughters were.

In the midst of this amazingly clear, moonlit spring evening, I had the feeling that my mother was right there with us on the walk in the shadow of the rising moon.  She was on the floor with the girls exploring the world of childhood characters that reflect the innocence of a child's view of life.  And she would have delighted in the chatter of a family living life to its fullest and cherishing each and every moment, fully aware that this life is but a fragile journey to the next permanent and glorious existence that she now enjoys!

To Josh and Melissa, thank you for creating a family whose foundations are firmly planted in love and mutual respect for each other.  You are what parenthood is all about, the self-sacrificing, self-giving, selfless love that is indeed eternal.  Grandma would have loved to have been a part of this special gathering.  And I firmly believe that she was!