When I was a young priest my mom sent me a short story about motherhood by twentieth century author Temple Bailey. It had helped her find comfort and feel gratitude after her own mom’s death and she thought that it might help me help others when bidding farewell to their mothers. It is a classic Mother’s Day tribute.
A young mother set her foot onto the path of life. “Is the way long?” she asked. Her guide said, “Yes, and the way is hard. And you will be old before you reach the end of it. But always know this: the end will be better than the beginning.” But the young mother was happy, and she could not believe that anything could ever better than these years.” So, she played with her children and gathered flowers for them along the way, and she bathed them in clear streams and the sun shone down upon them and life was good. The young mother cried: “Nothing will ever be lovelier than this.” Then the night came, and it brought the storm; and the path was dark, and the children shook with fear and cold. But their mother drew them close and covered them with her mantle to protect them. And the children said, “O mother, we are not afraid for we know that you are near, and no harm can come!” And the mother said, “This is better than the brightness of day for I have taught my children courage.”
Then the morning came and there was a hill ahead and the children climbed it and grew weary. The mother was weary, too, but at all times she said to them: “A little patience and we will be there.” So, the children climbed and when they reached the top they said, “We could not have done it without you, Mother.” The mother, when she lay down that night, looked up at the stars and said, “This is a better day than the last, for my children have learned fortitude in the face of hardship. Yesterday I gave them courage; today I have given them strength.”
The next day brought strange clouds which darkened the earth. They were clouds of war and evil. The children groped and stumbled and fell. And the mother said: “Look up. Lift your eyes to the light.” And the children looked up and they saw above the clouds an everlasting glory, and it guided them and brought them beyond the darkness. And that night the mother said, “This is the best day of all, for I have shown my children God.”
The days went on as they turned into weeks. The weeks became months and years and decades and generations as her children had children, too; and their mother grew old and, growing old, she grew weak. But her children and grandchildren were tall and strong, and they walked with courage and faith. When the way was hard, they helped their mother; and when the way was rough, they lifted her for she was no burden to them.
At last, they came to a hill, and they could see the shining road and golden gates flung open wide. Their mother said, “I have reached the end of my journey and now I know that the end is better than the beginning, for my children and grandchildren can walk alone.” And they said ‘good-bye’ and she said, ‘I love you’ and they stood and watched her as the gates closed after her. They said: “We cannot see her now, but she is with us still. A mother like ours is more than a memory. She is a living presence.”
As we approach another Mother’s Day weekend, we offer gratitude as we seek to walk on in courage, strength, and faith. As the Holy Spirit kept the presence of Jesus Christ alive for His disciples and all who follow, may the spirit of our mothers keep their presence living in us.