Walking Our Faith: ‘A journey completed’
Walking Our Faith
“The goal has been achieved by Adele. A journey completed. Now peace.”
This was the message I received shortly after 3 o’clock on Ash Wednesday from my friend Larry in response to a text message I sent informing family and friends that Mom had passed away.
I believe it beautifully sums up the end of Mom’s magnificent life.
I didn’t realize Mom’s last moments were her last until they were over. But I will remember three things about them: I told her it was OK to let go, that Jesus was waiting for her, that he loved her so very much, and that I loved her, too. As I saw her relax, I read the 23rd Psalm to her one final time. Then I held her hands and told her she could now run up that hill behind our home in Evergreen — as she had said she wanted to do when she looked out the kitchen window there — knowing that, for the past 10 years of her life, that was an impossible idea.
My mother lived a magnificent life. She was a complex, loving, brave woman whose shoes I will never fill. It was my honor to walk with her over the final course of her journey and then to let go so that she could join her savior in heaven, where she will enjoy a body free from pain.
My mother was born in 1927 in Cleveland, the youngest of seven children. Her mother was a Hungarian immigrant, who worked as a cleaning woman in a school after her husband died when my mother was 4 years old.
My mother often shared about how her mother was a terrific baker and made the most delicate pastries when times were good, bacon fat sandwiches when they were lean and gave them to the hobos who came to the back door hoping for food in the depths of the depression.
My mother had to leave school at age 12 to become a maid. She eventually became an office worker and then finished her high school diploma, went to college and worked at a children’s orphanage in Alaska in the 1940s before it became an official state.
She met my father and moved to Florida, where over the course of the next 30 years, she received another bachelor’s degree, two master’s degrees and a doctorate, all in education. She specialized in teaching children with learning disabilities to read.
When she retired at age 65, she accepted a job teaching overseas, first in Kyiv, Ukraine, then in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, and finally in Baku, Azerbaijan. I am certain she taught thousands of children and adults to read over the course of her life. She was driven by a passion for teaching those who were underserved.
Mom and I lived together for 20 years after my father passed away in Kyiv. She moved to Florida in 2015 to be close to friends and her church community. She returned to live with me in Breckenridge over the past six months, after she fell and broke her hip and was no longer able to live alone.
When she was in the hospital last month and the doctors told her it was time for her to enter hospice, she told me her only remaining wish was that everyone she encountered would see Jesus in her. I believe she accomplished that goal.
She was raised in a Pentecostal church, was a conservative Presbyterian as an adult and was dismayed when I became a Catholic at age 26. But in her last weeks, she told every priest, pastor, chaplain and friend who came to her bedside that it really didn’t matter where you went to church. It only mattered that you loved God. More often than not, she took their hands in hers and prayed for those who had come to pray for her.
Mom taught me how unconditional love was lived, what it meant to love God and be loved by God, even in the midst of suffering, even in the midst of unanswered prayers. She made me a better person.
My words do not adequately capture what a magnificent woman she was. Nor do they capture how dearly I love her still.
“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
“He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
“He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
“Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.“
Suzanne Elizabeth Anderson’s column “Walking Our Faith” publishes Saturdays in the Summit Daily News. Anderson is the author of 10 novels and nonfiction books on faith. She has lived in Breckenridge since 2016. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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