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Nov 02, 2020 473 Mary Therese Emmons,
Engage

Mom… Wow!

My mom should have been resting peacefully, pain-free, in a hospital bed; but her final days reflected how she lived her entire life.

It was the last day of my best-loved month, October. I was hurriedly dressing my small children in their costumes for an evening at my parents’ house. My mother had been diagnosed with cancer the year before, and her time on earth was nearing an end. The hospice nurse was sure that my mother had only days left before the aggressive cancer conquered her delicate, little frame.

This news was unfathomable. Three days earlier, I had witnessed her alert and engaged as always—repairing broken rosaries and making dinner for my father. That was my mother. She was a wonderful example of selflessness and love. Everyone who knew her called her a living Saint. By her beautiful example, she taught us all how to take up our crosses with trust and hope. Because of a life well lived, my mother was not afraid to die. Her devotion to her faith and dedication to the Holy Mass and Our Lady’s Rosary was inspiring. Saint Teresa of Calcutta once stated, “A life not lived for others is not a life.” And my dear mother truly lived these words.

Rushing into my parents’ house that evening, I made my way to my mother’s small, dark bedroom. I found her lying in bed, appearing to be asleep and surrounded by my siblings. Grabbing my hand, my sister explained that a few hours earlier, my mother had gone to lie down because she wasn’t feeling well and had fallen into a coma-like state. She could no longer communicate. She had spent the day preparing food for the family gathering that evening when she should have been resting peacefully, pain-free, in a hospital bed. Her final days, her final actions, were exactly how she lived her entire life—emptying herself in caring for others. She was a living example of self-sacrifice.

My mother never complained about the debilitating, relentless pain, nor did she complain about the draining cancer treatment, or even the fact that she was given this tremendous cross at all. My mother, with the faith and grace she lived her entire life, accepted all without question—gladly offering up this cross to God.

For twelve continuous hours, I stayed by my mother’s side—unable to leave her in her time of suffering. My mother did not want to die in a hospital, and I couldn’t help but think to myself how merciful the Eternal Father was in allowing her to pass peacefully, in her own home, surrounded by her husband and all ten children. As the hours of my mother’s passing slowly dragged on, we prayed the Rosary one last time together as a family, just as we did growing up. We watched with tearful eyes as our parish priest gave her the Anointing of the Sick for the final time. We took turns sitting at her bedside, thanking her for being such a perfect example for us in truly living her faith with absolute trust in God’s plan. We all knew that although my mother accepted this cross and was ready to enter the Heavenly Gates, her heart was hurting at the thought of the pain we would endure with her passing. However, after her diagnosis she confidently assured us that she would be of more use to us in Heaven than she could ever be on earth—and I have never doubted it.

Completely unable to communicate, my siblings and I noticed that our mother would move her fingers ever so slightly in front of her mouth—as if gently batting away my brothers when they tried to administer pain medication. It was unmistakable. Looking at each other with tears in our eyes, we finally spoke aloud what we had all been thinking. She wants to suffer and she’s offering it up for us.

The night slowly turned into day, and as we all fought to stay awake, we noticed my mother’s breathing slightly changed. Gathering around her in the small bed where she lay, we said our final goodbyes, promising her that we would take care of each other here on earth, so she could go home to Heaven peacefully, where her dear daddy and grandbabies who were taken too soon, were waiting for her. I watched with a heavy heart as she drew her last breath. All twelve of us, filling the small, cramped bedroom, fell silent. I quietly whispered, “Our Mom has now seen the face of God.” At that moment, I stopped praying for my mother and began praying to her. It was All Saints’ Day. What a welcoming she must have had!

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Mary Therese Emmons

©Mary Therese Emmons is a busy mother of four teenagers. She has spent more than 25 years as a catechist at her local parish, teaching the Catholic faith to young children. She lives with her family in Montana, United States of America.

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