Nine years ago, my mother died. Just two days before that, we had celebrated her 64th birthday. Her death was imminent—the Oncologist told us that her body could not endure further Cancer treatments —as she had been on Hospice for a couple of weeks. Even when you know your loved one is dying, it’s agonizing suffering to prepare for it on this side of Heaven. Prayer, our family, friends, Hospice, and my parent’s Church community were instrumental in trying to brace me.
Mom often reminded me, “Do the best that you can.” She was the affirming presence in my life telling this perfectionist (recovering now) it’s OK to make mistakes and not to beat myself up over them when I did. And there I was, trying to do the best I could amidst one of the greatest trials in my life without her.
The word that the Lord gave me to hold onto during that time of suffering was, “Do what love requires.”
I had never been present when someone took their last breath, and I was trying not to fear that. With several of us family members taking turns staying next to her bedside 24-hrs, I didn’t know if I would be there or not. But, “Do what love requires.” Facing the grief of life without her was worse.
On the night of her last earthly birthday, we had an impromptu prayer meeting around Mom’s bedside. No longer able to speak, we felt that was her birthday wish. Having raised us in a Catholic Charismatic Community, and later sending three out of four of us kids to a spirit-filled University, prayer meetings were very familiar to us. With my husband, brother, and Dad, we read to her from her Bible – her highlighted, favorite passages. We sang the old praise & worship songs that she loved from back in the day. It was a precious time, and as I reflect on it now, I think that we may have begun ushering her soul to the throne room of God. I’m so humbled and honored by that.
There is something transformative about worship. I pray that more people—especially in a world full of anxiety— will come to understand and experience it. Worship is one of the only pure gifts that we can give back to God, from our heart to His. Anyone can be grateful and express praise when our hearts are full of it, but when we are down in the valley of tears, it is then when worship is drawn out from our will. Rising above our temporary feelings, we will to thank and praise God and place ourselves in a humble posture.
The worship of the one God sets man free from turning in on himself, from the slavery of sin and the idolatry of the worldCCC #2097
Worshipping God removed the focus off of myself, my fear, and grief, and I placed it all where it needed to be; afterward, I realized that those feelings had diminished. What grew was peace, love, strength, and acceptance. Fear is not of God, but rather it is a powerful tool of the Devil. It’s rampant in our culture, and the media stokes it. If we’re not afraid, we’re too busy, distracted, or trying to “self-help” ourselves out of the pain or problems we’re facing. Sin, the world, the Enemy make becoming self-centered effortless, allowing our feelings and fears to take primacy.
While self-reflection is essential, if we become too focused inward, we can become overly critical and quick to judge others. What they’re doing, not doing, or should be doing. We’re so eager to change others, but how about ourselves? As Matthew 7:5 directs us, cast out the plank in our own eye before seeing the speck in our brother’s eye. By prayer, humility, and perseverance, we change ourselves, which WILL then impact others.
Do your best. Leave the rest to God. My mother taught us this simple, essential wisdom by her daily example, and even in her stumbling. She was a woman of faith, and her steadfastness to our family and prayer—reading the scriptures, fasting, going to Mass, praying the Rosary—were the example that we needed. It was the foundation that she and my Dad laid that carried our family through the joys and times of great suffering.
Mom showed me how to be faithful to whatever God called me to in each time in my life. For her, that included Cancer twice. To be me and allow others to be who they are; yet, call each other on to holiness and to give your best. Mom didn’t have a college degree, wasn’t a high-powered corporate type, or an influencer with a platform, yet she made a significant impact by who she was, where she was, and how she lived.
That is the power of one. One life that touches others, shapes, and molds them daily, by word and action. To do what love requires of you, right where God has placed you. It may not always be fun or feel good–it may even be drudgery at times, but you have the power to choose joy or not. Mom’s joy was a magnet. It was what attracted people to her and made them feel at ease, and drew them into a relationship with her, and to experience God in her.
Mom loved people, and many people loved her. By just being herself, she allowed others to feel loved and accepted for who they were. That’s the greatest gift you can give another, as feeling accepted and loved is what we all desire most deeply. We don’t have to understand each other, but we are called to love our neighbor as ourselves.
Christ didn’t preach tolerance; He commanded that we love one another throughout the Bible. Love is far greater than tolerance. Mom showed us that love could remain, even amidst disagreements with others or their life choices. She didn’t berate or belittle someone else for who they were or what they believed, yet she held fast to her beliefs. More importantly, she lived them. If someone needed help, she was always willing, as it wasn’t “to each his own,” but that we are the Body of Christ. As such, if you needed correction, she would give that, too. Out of love.
I am grateful for the strong and nurturing example of womanhood that she was. My mother did what love required in her family, in her community, and through her illness. She brought extraordinary joy into ordinary life. That is how she changed others and how she changed me.