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Jan 10, 2020 42 0 Sister Jane M. Abeln SMIC
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A WORD OF COMFORT FROM THE HOLY BIBLE

Time Waits for No One

“Jesus!” I prayed through tears. “Where in this Bible is a word to comfort my soul?” Kneeling before our chapel’s wooden tabernacle, I grasped the Bible my mother had given me and held it close to my heart. It was just one month since her beautiful but sorrowful funeral Mass. I still felt burdened by my failure to adequately demonstrate my love in the week before that tragic car accident.

During my last visit home, Dad revealed how sick my mom had been that month. Mother did not like “interrupting” me in my busy parish ministry and I had neglected to call her. “I’m sorry I didn’t know how sick you were. If I don’t call you, please call me,” I implored her.

Over the dishes, she told me about a fellow parishioner, “Such a good man—he died suddenly. I hope when my time comes, I can go quickly.”

“I hope your time doesn’t come for a long time,” I replied fervently. But when I took her shopping, her response to my suggestion that we look in the animal shelter for a new dog shocked me. “O, Honey, another dog would be too much for me.” Her passion for dogs had been legendary.

On Saturday morning, she stayed home instead of joining my brothers and their children for an outing and slipped me some money to treat them. I still regret that I did not think of arranging a “Thank you” card to show our appreciation.

All those thoughtless omissions to demonstrate my gratitude kept running through my mind. I will never again have the opportunity to hug her when I find the little gifts she prepared for me, like my favorite chocolate, or thank her for thoughtful acts of service, like pulling my laundry out of the dryer. To ease my aching spirit, I poured my heart into a letter of praise to be read at her funeral.

The Unexpected Departure

Her last day is forever branded into my memory. After Mass, Dad and I stayed to pray and perform some errands in the Church and school before picking my plane ticket up on the way home for lunch. Surprisingly, Mother’s car was missing, but she had left a note: “Gone to get my blood pressure checked.

” Suddenly, the phone rang. It was the police. “I’m afraid I have bad news for you. Your mother’s been in a terrible accident and was taken to Parkland Hospital.”

I was stunned. “How bad is it?” I gasped. “Very bad,” was his stark reply. After I contacted my brother to tell him that Dad and I were going to the hospital, the policeman called again, with news about the gravity of Mother’s condition. “Well, she’s not dead, is she?” I replied, but he regretfully murmured, “Yes.”

As I sobbed into Dad’s chest, we could barely hear the policeman telling us how an unregistered vehicle, speeding down the street, had bulldozed her car all the way up a driveway. Although the police caught them, the damage was devastating. Paramedics rushed to the scene and spent 20 minutes trying to save Mother but the violent impact of her head hitting the door jamb probably killed her instantly.

Crying Out to God

By the time we reached Mother her swollen body was already cold. Squeezed into a tiny, dark room, I helplessly held Mother’s hand while grief engulfed Dad and me.

Now in my convent chapel, I prayed earnestly, “Holy Spirit, please help me.” Despondently, I randomly flicked open my Bible and read the words beneath my finger: “Mary was standing outside the tomb, weeping” (John 20:11). As I contemplated these words, I felt a weight lift off my chest. Merciful Jesus had tenderly provided the right passage to accompany me in my anguish.

Mary Magdalene wept because she could not find Jesus’ body to carefully wash away the marks of His terrible crucifixion and anoint it with fragrant oil. As she stood sobbing by the empty tomb, she was addressed by angels. “Woman, why are you weeping?” Then Jesus Himself came to her inquiring, “Why are you weeping?”

I felt that Jesus was asking me to trust that His plan for my mother had not been sabotaged by the criminal carelessness of the man who had run into her. In His mercy, she would be safe in His care as He gathered her to Himself.

Jesus loved Mary Magdalene enough to engage with her desolation as she mourned the “One” she so loved. Jesus loved me enough to encounter me in my great sorrow over the loss of my dearest friend and mother.

Jesus tenderly spoke Magdalene’s name, “Mary.” In the same way I heard Him call me, “Janie.”

My Sorrows Into Joy

Jesus never referred to Magdalene’s past and He was not referring to my failures either. At that moment, Jesus began to bring some joy into my sorrow as people shared recent happy memories with me. After Mother confided a premonition of death to her friend, Bianca, they prayed together and Bianca had been holding her in prayer throughout a weekend retreat. The nurse who had taken her blood pressure told me how Mother had warmly hugged her twice just minutes before the tragic car crash.

I even imagined Mother dancing like Snoopy under the banner where I had photographed her the previous Sunday —“Happiness is knowing Jesus.” After she complimented the musicians at the Youth Mass, another parishioner remarked, “We’re the young at heart.” Our family chose those musicians for her uplifting funeral liturgy.

Every day of my week’s visit, Mother had never missed an opportunity to hug me tightly and whisper in my ear, “Janie, I love you so much.”

“I love you too,” I had responded. I still felt enfolded in that unconditional love.

Each Easter, when I hear the good news of Jesus’ resurrection, I remember my amazing encounter with Jesus when He entered into my darkness and His Word poured oil over my wounds. Now I could hear Mother speaking: “Janie, don’t cry! I’m happy here with Jesus. I love you so much.”

Over and over, I said, “Mother, I love you so much, too. Thank You, Lord, for letting me find joy again. Mother is happy with You. Hug her for me. Someday, I will embrace her again, too.”

Sister Jane M. Abeln SMIC

© Sister Jane M. Abeln SMIC has been a Missionary Sister of the Immaculate Conception for 59 years and in the Catholic Charismatic Renewal for 48 years. She taught English and religion in the United States, Taiwan and the Philippines and has various spiritual ministries.

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