My Mother, Myself: A Final Word

April 26, 2014

The Skagit County Tulip Festival in Mt. Vernon, Washington, draws crowds to view acres and acres of colorful bulbs each April. In the intervening days between my mother’s death and her memorial mass, my husband and daughter ventured forth to explore the tulip fields. The pair brought back two bouquets, knowing they were my favorite flower, so I brought them to Mom’s church the next day.N10-4317D_regular

The reason I love the tulip is that it is the only flower I know that continues to grow after it is cut. A very tight, short arrangement of blooms grows gangly over time, but cutting the flower cannot stop it from developing further. I used this image at my mother’s memorial mass to illustrate the fact that she was a survivor.

This quality of hers was tested most seriously upon the sudden death of her husband, my dad, at the age of 68 in 1996. They had been married 43 years, and Mom loved and depended on him as her rock of Gibraltar, protector, and provider. He experienced a brain hemorrhage while sitting at the dinner table one night and died the next day, on the Feast of the Epiphany. Mother’s world crashed, as one can only imagine. It wasn’t a matter of scary finances, for Mom had managed the family books for years and was well off. Rather, it was the loss of emotional support from a husband who had kept her at the center of his life and tried to protect her from the threats that caused her fear and anxiety. When he departed, her sense of security was shattered.

But she got through the initial crisis over the next year or two. She and Dad had previously done a lot of research to find a suitable retirement community when it was time to downsize from the family home. She was on a waiting list for Silver Glen, and when the right unit became available, she culled out their belongings, held an estate sale, and moved. There she made new friends and renewed fellowship with church and choir acquaintances. She even joined the board of Silver Glen, serving a year as president. She made a good contribution to the life of that community, and many of her friends shared their gratitude for her participation, calling her a “great lady.”

I share this because, while my mom had her issues that spilled over into the next generation, she wanted to continue to grow. There is evidence that this growth was focused primarily on internal, spiritual growth to which her children were not necessarily privy while she lived. And yet, going through her books, spiral notebooks, and even sneaking a peak at key dates in her journal, I am now aware that she was on a spiritual quest to anchor her soul in the stability and security only God could provide.

She has now run the race set before her, and survived. The run wasn’t always tidy, and she bumped a few walls and probably a few people along the path. But she crossed the finish line with a great cloud of witnesses surrounding her; among them, of course, was Dad (Hebrews 12:1-3).

You may think it odd that I would say she survived her death, but in fact, as Christians we not only survive in this life, we survive the passage through death into new life in Christ. This is great cause for rejoicing, the fulfillment of the Resurrection promise that in Christ, we too have been made alive. So Mom is now completely at peace, without worry, without tears, without fear, for God’s perfect love poured into her soul has freed her from all of that. She is an overcomer.

She asked that a prayer be read to conclude her service. I strongly suspect that she wrote it herself, because I am sure she would have made an attribution if it had been penned by anyone else. It is revealing of the quest of her soul, and it has brought me great comfort in my own sorrow at her passing.

FINALITY

Lord, we are moving closer. Sometimes there is no gulf between us at all; and as I kneel before Your immensity, I dare to hope that I am also a tiny part of it. How relentlessly You have pursued me in spite of my waiverings, in all settings and circumstances, forgiving my foolish attachments to false gods, overlooking my stubborn search for unchanging reality apart from You.

But now I see that throughout my life I have needed only to walk with You at my side, that sooner or later everything else—people, places, memories—have needed to drop away. Only slowly have I seen that this dropping away of each created thing has given me time and space to move closer to You. Soon there will be no need for either faith or hope; at the end let only love remain, only love.

Presently, I who have revered language will have no further need even for words. For at last, after so many lines and phrases, after countless questions and texts, I shall join You soon and forever, Lord, in Your own first language, silence.

 

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6 Responses to “My Mother, Myself: A Final Word”

  1. Pamela Powell Says:

    Mary, These recollected tributes to your mother are wonderful beyond words. Thank you. Pam

  2. emd5542 Says:

    Love tulips and love your posting, both most fitting as we continue in the glow of Resurrection Joy.

  3. houstonhodges Says:

    You are grappling so helpfully with incompleteness and completeness, partiality and wholeness, the “not yet” and “Yes, now!” of your mother’s life and death. I am really taken by this theme in your perceptive writings, and am applying it to my own life and that of those I love.

  4. cnlongacre Says:

    We are all in the process of becoming, and I am glad our Father gave you an opportunity to glimpse part of your Mom’s spiritual journey. Blessings.

  5. Will Jackson Says:

    What an absolutely beautiful prayer!

  6. Jodie Says:

    Mary, Thank you for sharing that prayer at the end. It is really profound in its simplicity, and beautiful in its honesty.

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