The Best Gift of All

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My mom loved to purchase gifts for everyone that she knew. Because she had so little money she was always searching for something that was inexpensive and also uniquely suited for the individual. Sometimes that meant that it would be a package of the person’s favorite cookies or a special box of candy. She took great joy in bringing a smile to someone’s face and the things that she purchased were always backed up with a great deal of love.

As I look back on her life I realize that the best gifts that she ever gave me my brothers were intangible, and I didn’t really appreciate them as much as I might have when she was still alive. As more and more years go by since her passing I find myself valuing them them more and more. Of course our education was something for which she would sacrifice without hesitation. While she was very careful with her finances, when it came to learning she somehow always found the means to get us whatever we needed whether it be monetary or her time. In the end, however, it was the gift of faith that was more important to her than anything else that she might have done for us.

She was a truly godly woman who was a living example of the lessons of love that Jesus taught. Her faith in God was unwavering even in the very darkest of hours. She read the Bible daily and truly believed that the Lord was her protector. She often reassured us that His plan was always at work and that in the end we would all be okay. She rarely worried about material things, insisting that God especially loved widows and promised that He would watch over them.

I admittedly sometimes questioned her eternal optimism, especially in light of the difficulties that seemed to be so unfairly heaped on her. I often had my own conversations with God in which I would express my anger that she had to suffer so much. I didn’t seem right that she should not only lose her beloved husband when she was only thirty, but would then be afflicted with mental illness. I would literally ask God why he was picking on her when she was such a good a faithful servant. When I once mentioned my concerns to her, she smiled sweetly and insisted that God had never been anything but good to her. She told me to search instead for the blessings bestowed on our family and urged me to be more thankful.

When death came knocking on my mother’s door she was ready, not because she wished to leave a hard life, but because she believed with all of her heart that she was about to embark on a heavenly adventure that would be glorious. While she lay dying her face literally radiated with an ethereal joy and whenever anyone asked her how she was doing she smiled and pointed to heaven with a twinkle in her eyes. It was hard to lose such a special person, but it was also difficult to be too sad because we all understood that she had been ready for the ultimate fate that we all will one day face. She not only embraced the end, but she was overjoyed in the belief that something far better lay ahead for her. It was a comfort to all of us. Her faith was visceral, something that nobody doubted. She was as giving to us at the very end as she had been throughout our lives.

It’s been seven years since my mother died and I have found myself missing her in so many ways. I often think of the fun that we had together and long to hear her laugh again. I want to share stories of her great-grandchildren with her and walk with her up and down the aisles of Walmart. On a hot day I think of how much fun it would be to take her down to the beach and slurp on ice cream cones. Mostly though I meditate on her love of God, and I realize how much joy He gave to her. I find myself relying more and more on Him in my own way, and I want to spread the good news that she taught me to my own children and grandchildren. I realize more than ever how much my mother’s faith truly protected her and me and my brothers, and now it serves as a stalwart for me in her absence. It is comforting for me to know that she is enjoying a heavenly life without any of the pain that once seemed to follow her here on earth. Mostly though it has given me a way of coping with the inevitable problems that exist here on earth.

When my mother was dying the nurses noted that they did not always see as uplifting an end as she had. I suppose that if one truly thinks that death is all there is, it is frightening devastating. Because my mom convinced me that she was simply going to a new and wonderful place where I would one day be reunited with her, I felt less of a sense of finality. Somehow it has been as though she and my father and all of the other souls who meant so much to me are actually still very much with me. Not only do they live in me, but I believe that they are angels who watch over me.

I suppose that there are those who will laugh at my thoughts. They do not believe in some higher power or heavenly domain. They think that we live and then we die, period full stop. Of course they are entitled to their opinions, but I am so happy that my mother took the time to show me her way. From her example I have learned how to lead a purposeful life and I believe with every inch of my heart that God is with me now, always has been and always will be. I have managed to endure many horrific experiences because I have felt His presence, and of late He appears to be more with me than ever.

My God is a protector, a distributor of love. He is good and wants us to be that way as well. My mother understood as well as anyone what it meant to lead a faith filled life. I doubt that she ever had an enemy anywhere and I can’t think of anyone that she disliked. She never questioned the hardships that came her way. In fact even when her mental illness reduced her to a state of depression and psychosis the voice of God somehow reverberated in her addled mind, telling her that things would soon be okay. Her psychiatrists all said that she was enigmatic in that she never lost hope, not even when her brain was making her unable to do anything but cry in the dark. She fought against her illness with medication and therapy, but mostly with her faith.

I know that not everyone is so blessed to have such a selfless and loving parent. I pray continuously for those who feel lost and abandoned. I wish for them the kind of serenity that my mother passed on to me. She always told me that God cares for us whether or not was ask Him to or even believe that He will. That is such a powerful thought. I just wish that everyone feel the power that it brings


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