The wise men may have brought Jesus gold, frankincense, and myrrh. But those were nothing compared to what my mother gave me.
On the morning of my mother’s funeral, I awoke before my alarm went off. That wasn’t too surprising. It had been kind of hard to sleep in those final days of Mom’s life. When you know someone you love might not make it through the night, it’s kind of hard to get the mind to shut off. Even the few nights between her passing and the funeral Mass were a little restless.
As I lay in bed, waiting for the alarm clock to tell me I absolutely must get up and shower, I marveled a bit at the fact that I wasn’t a sobbing heap. We were about to bury my mother that day. Why wasn’t I a puddle of tears?
Don’t get me wrong. I had done plenty of crying in the months, weeks, and days leading up to her death. And I had wept in the early morning hours when my brother called to tell me she had just passed. And another hour or so later, I wept at her bedside with my brothers and my father nearby.
Tears had definitely been shed, but on that morning of her funeral, I was remarkably calm. Sad still, but calm. Why wasn’t I sobbing hysterically, liked I’d always imagined I would do when losing a parent?
With my head still on my pillow, I searched for an answer. What could possibly have made this grieving less horrendous? And then the thought occurred to me: Maybe I was calm because I knew my mom was at peace–and not just as in no longer in pain, but that she was in heaven. There was no doubt in my mind she was with God. How could she not be? I mean, seriously, if my faith-filled, loving mother didn’t make it into heaven, I dare say we all have reason to worry.
At that moment, I realized what a gift my mother had given me. She had lived a life full of faith. She had taught me to love God and to always try to do His will. She did this mostly by example. Simply by being what Mathew Kelly would call “the best version of herself,” (in other words, by trying to live a holy life), my mother gave me a great gift. The gift of peace at the time of her death. The gift of knowing she would find happiness in heaven. So that on the morning of her funeral, I didn’t have to worry about what had happened to Mom. I knew she was in good hands. The best of hands. Jesus’s hands.
“It’s the greatest gift she ever gave me,” I said aloud. No one was there to hear me. But I think maybe Mom heard me.
A few weeks later, I had another birthday (funny, how those little stinkers sneak up on you every year!), and I realized that I would never again receive a birthday present or a Christmas present from my mother. But that’s okay. She’d already given me the greatest gift a mom could give a daughter, just by being herself.