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.