We all have those times in life when things just don’t go as planned. Mom had those days – big and small – and was challenged to handle them as any of us would, with faith and courage. The gospel reading from this past Sunday was about faith. Jesus spoke to his disciples saying “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.”
To be honest, I’ve never truly understood the depth of this gospel – until now. The loss of my beloved mother has caused me to prayerfully reflect upon her heroic life and what I’ve realized is truly remarkable. My mother lived a life of faith that moved mountains, not only during her battle with stage 4 cancer, but during her entire 75 years.
I think Jesus’ words in the gospel when referencing the tiny mustard seed are telling us to have just a little faith in order to find peace in this world and for eternity. He wants us to know that even a little authentic faith is meaningful to Him. But sadly, many of us fall short, because of worldly distractions and temptations. My mother knew differently and showed it by the way she lived and practiced her faith which gave her strength for the difficult part of life’s journey. Below are a few journal entries which display her tremendous expectant faith during her 3 year battle with cancer.
Tuesday, August 13, 2013 – During Mass yesterday I held her hand during the Our Father. My eyes filled up as we recited the words thy will be done.., I kept thinking that I want to freeze this moment and never let her go. She looked over at me and asked “why are you crying.” “I’m not, I said, my eye’s are watering.” She knows deep down that this is torture for all of us. None of us want to see her suffer and all of us wish we could take her place. And yet, she has accepted this cross with courage and faith and is therefore setting an example for all of us to follow.
Wednesday, August 14, 2013 – After a long, upsetting day which included a brain scan and confirmation of cancer in her brain, Mom came with us to Mass for the Feast of the Assumption the next day. After Mass, mom and I went to Adoration. During our prayer, she said she wanted to go to confession. I kept praying for her and when she came back, I could see a difference in her – she seemed lighter and more peaceful. Looking back on this day, I am amazed at her grace and faith. She could have easily skipped Mass and taken her sadness and anger out on God. But she did the exact opposite – she turned to God with faith the size of a mustard seed and received two sacraments (Reconciliation and Eucharist) on the day she found out that her cancer had spread. Many folks would not have had the fortitude to do this, but through God’s grace and the lifelong practice of her faith, she was able to surrender her will and turn to God. She is an example for all of us.
Friday, August 16, 2013 – On the way home from Dana Farber I asked Mom if she wanted to stop at the Adoration Chapel and she did, she is amazing. It’s funny – you’d think that she would NOT want to thank God after the news we received today but both Mom and I did want to thank Him. Something is happening here and we can’t explain it. Despite the bad news that we have gotten every day, we are still lifting up our hearts in gratitude to God. We are grateful for so many things – the gift of family, of love and togetherness, of support and determination when times get tough, of intelligent healthcare professionals who exhibit compassion and love in all they do, of hard-working family members who pitch in to do what needs to be done and so much more! Mom and I feel the palpable embrace of our good God after spending time with Him at Adoration. Even though we may not realize it at the time – our moments with Him are truly life changing and He is giving us so much. Each day we receive exactly what we need. It may not be what we want, but it is enough. God tells us that He will do this, and we must trust. The more time we spend with Him, the easier it is to believe.
August 11, 2016 And then 3 years later after God had given our family the gift of quality TIME with our beloved Mom, she said this to me just 2 months ago “I do trust God – you know that – I love Him!” That was one month before He called her to heaven where she resides with Him forever and where she waits for her beloved family to join her for eternity.
Until then, her life is a reminder that we must pray with expectant faith and trust in God’s beautiful plan. Adoration was a time for Mom to be alone with God – to listen to Him – and she shared this Catholic gift with our whole family. In fact, at this very moment, my beautiful dad is beginning his holy hour at their chapel – the 10 pm slot that they picked for the first Friday of the month. He won’t be alone though – Our Lord is there of course and his Joanie is sitting with him from heaven. I know he will feel her presence.