A Life Well Lived
A couple of weeks ago my mom, who was 92 years old, passed away somewhat suddenly. She had been living at her home up until the last nine days, when we brought her to the hospital with severe stomach pains. At first the doctors found and cauterized an ulcer in her stomach and we all thought that she would recover and eventually return home. But a few days later we learned that they had detected cancer and the realization set in that she was now nearing the end of her life. About a week later she passed on to her new life with Christ in the presence of several family members.
However, this is not a story about death. Rather it is about celebrating life and family. A life that touched many people, mainly through the power of prayer. It is about the example of courage and grace that the matriarch of our family exhibited right up to the very last moments of her life. And it is about family members coming together, uniting in a time of crisis, and doing the little things that need to be done to see each other through.
Touching Others – while my mom was not in good health and rarely left her home over the past ten years of her life, this did not prevent her from reaching out to touch the lives of others, especially when members of her family were in need. I would best describe her as a prayer warrior. Whenever I came over to visit, she was always sitting in her chair, praying the rosary, or Chaplet of Divine Mercy or some other novena. She also had a stack of holy cards and prayer pamphlets, and she told me once how she would find a particular prayer to say for the intention of one of the grandchildren or other family member. She had a very strong and special devotion both to the Blessed Mother and to the Divine Mercy of Jesus. Mom’s life was one of constant prayer, which affected all of our lives, and the lives of many others, in ways which we will never know here on earth.
Courage and Grace – my mom was certainly not one to complain and when asked how she was doing would usually just say she did not feel well without letting on how awful she really may have been feeling. That is why when she agreed to be taken to the hospital we knew she was in serious pain. But even in the hospital, during the final days of her life, she never complained to the doctors or nurses. She was cooperative and pleasant. In fact, several of her caregivers told my brothers and me how they admired our mom’s courage, and how she was an inspiration to them. Many commented that it was evident that Mom was a woman of strong faith. They saw and sensed in her a real presence of strength and inner peace and calm. She also made it very clear to the doctors that she did not want any extraordinary means taken to prolong her life and that she was ready to meet her Divine Healer. Although she did admit to being somewhat afraid of the unknown suffering that she knew lay before her, she placed her trust in the mercy of our Lord and went through those final days with great dignity and grace. She was an inspiration to many, both our family members and others who entered into her circle during those last days.
Family Unity – it seems to me that the true characteristics of a family are revealed in times of crisis. As I reflect back on the time from when my mom first entered the hospital, through her death, her funeral and now beyond, I realize that our family did come together to do what needed to be done. It happened almost without a conscious effort. Between my brothers and me, and our wives, we all did what any family should do. We took turns driving my dad to the hospital so he could be with mom for as long as he wanted. We dealt with the doctors and nursing staff to be an advocate for her medical care. We made sure someone was with her as much as possible. We made sure that my dad, who is 90 years old, had meals to sustain him. Almost all of the grandchildren were able to visit her in the hospital. Several family members were at Mom’s bedside praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet as she passed into eternal life. We were there to comfort Dad, and each other, as we mourned her loss. We assisted my dad with the arrangements for the funeral and burial. And now that she is gone and Dad is in his home all alone, we continue to look out for his needs and help him deal with the loss of his wife of 63 years. Simply put, all these acts gave evidence to the unity in our extended family. That is what family is all about.
All through the days leading up to Mom’s passing, God was present to our family, pouring out grace upon grace, sustaining us, and accompanying Mom through her final journey. His hand was upon us and remains over us. His Mercy encompassed us.
Mom, thank you for your example of strength and courage. May you rest in His presence forever.