“…Then she gathered us all once more for the prayer she loved the best
And those dear ole beads we had known so well were clasped to her dying breast
And there we knelt by her beside in the hush of a starlit night
While we prayed the words of the rosary our mother’s soul took flight
But we know that we will gather again in a home where no partings be
And kneeling at Mother Mary’s feet we shall finish our rosary…”
It was a fortunate coincidence for my mom that she died during a time when public gatherings were prohibited (or at least discouraged). She didn’t like attention or fan-fare. So after she died on a starlit Friday night amidst the prayer she loved the best, her family gathered on Sunday for her funeral to commend her to the Lord in a quiet Mass of Thanksgiving. Not quite like the Disciples who huddled from Good Friday till Resurrection Sunday but we did feel some of the same emotions of loss and gratitude.
At the Mass, I mentioned the children’s book, Love You Forever, by Robert Munsch. It begins as a young mother holds her newborn child, rocks him back and forth, looks at him lovingly, and softly sings: “I’ll love you forever; I’ll like you for always; as long as I’m living, my baby you’ll be.” As the story progresses, the child grows—soon he’s two and then nine and, before she knows it, he’s a teenager. Like most kids, he advances from crawling to walking to running up great schemes: from mischievous to destructive, from bad words to wayward friends, from double-trouble to triple, and weird to wild. But at each stage (terrible-twos, naughty-nines, treacherous-teens…) she doesn’t miss a chance when he’s asleep or vulnerable to hold him, rock him, and look at him mercifully and sing: “I’ll love you forever; I’ll like you for always; as long as I’m living, my baby you’ll be.” The story ends when she grows old and is dying, and her grown child returns to her, holds her, rocks her, and looks at her lovingly, singing softly the same words he heard throughout his life: “I’ll love you forever; I’ll like you for always; as long as I’m living, your baby I’ll be.”
Our mother was not much attuned to modern times. She had no interest in technology, never owned a computer—never sent or received an e-mail message. She had no cell phone. In fact, she had no phone at all for the past quarter century. Most three-year-olds have watched more television than she had in a life spanning ten decades. She didn’t have a radio either but enjoyed the local newspaper. Unlike most aging people who don’t want to give up their car key because it symbolizes their independence, our mom was anxious to give hers up; I think she did so on the day our youngest brother turned sixteen. I don’t think she ever snapped a photograph and only boarded an airplane a couple of times in her life. It wasn’t that she was against advancement or particularly liked the way things were in the past. It was more about what was important to her. Growing up in the Great Depression, coming of age during the Great War, marrying and mothering in isolated rural settings while America was urbanized and technolized, she focused not on what was trendy, but on what was in front of her: home, heart, family, faith, vocation, and virtue. What became important to her was loving and liking those placed under her care as long as she was living.
Saint Ignatius of Loyola once said: “The goal of our life is to live with God forever. Our only desire and one choice should be this: I want and I choose what better leads to the deepening of God’s life in me.” Our mother understood this; she chose well. As we finish her rosary through our daily prayers, we also hope to build upon her mission and ministry of love.