Most people had told me in the days leading up to the funeral that burying one's mother is as hard as it gets. I won't lie and say it was easy. It wasn't. I did shed some tears. But I can say now with a heart full of gratitude that the death of someone I loved deeply wasn't a train wreck. What prevented that, I feel, was a deep desire and prayer to understand more about God and His creation.
I know what I've just said may sound trite. Or like I'm in denial. Or maybe that I didn't care about my mom that much. None of the above. As I said at the very end of my eulogy, "I pray that God blesses every child with a mother like mine."
The foundation of my prayer was a Bible verse from Psalms, "Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing" (30:11). I read that verse while sitting in the hospital room with Mom, and it invigorated me like ice water splashed on my face. I felt hope and peace. I knew God was right there, with me and Mom and everybody else in the hospital. I knew that God would show us how to turn "mourning into dancing." Not long afterward, Mom went to sleep - the first rest she'd had in days - and a few hours later she peacefully passed on.
During those final hours, I really began to understand who and what Mom was - a wonderful expression of God. Her substance wasn't a material body sustained by a heart that would eventually stop beating. I began to see that her substance was totally spiritual, not subject to death.
I must admit, it was tough to see beyond what my eyes were showing me, a human body apparently on its last legs. But instead of giving in and accepting that was all there was to life, I prayed harder. With great expectation, I silently asked God over and over, "Shepherd, show me how to go...." That's the first line of a prayer written by Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of this newspaper.
Words can't express how close my prayer made me feel to God and to Mom. My love for her was upgraded, spiritualized, a million percent. I felt like I was dancing - rejoicing in the understanding of her spiritual identity. This assurance stayed with me and satisfied me. I clearly glimpsed the truth that she is, as stated in the first chapter of Genesis, made by God in His "own image." Because God is Spirit, Spirit's image is spiritual. It's not material. Never was, never will be. As God's image, Mom will always be expressing her unique and perfect individuality. That individuality is composed of spiritual qualities, not body parts. Some of Mom's qualities I thought a lot about were exuberance, tenderness, wisdom, selflessness, wittiness. There were many others.
Mom had a gentle but powerful way of always leading me in the right direction, even if I didn't agree with her. She pushed me to excel, to accept nothing less than the best, to work my tail off in everything - shelving groceries, practicing golf, and doing schoolwork. Mom taught me to be charitable, to be a giver and not a getter. If I had a choice between going to the movies or volunteering as a reader for blind people, the choice was obvious: read.
The day Mom passed away, I attended a meeting at my church. Two days later I coached a youth ice hockey team, and the following evening, a few hours after the memorial service, I played a game with my office's indoor soccer team. The best part of all that activity? I never felt guilty or sad about doing any of it. Prayer had effectively turned my "mourning into dancing." I wasn't mourning a loss. I was rejoicing in a great gain - a fuller understanding of Mom as she was, is, and always will be. Thanks, Mom. Thanks, God.
Therefore the redeemed of the Lord shall return, and come with singing unto Zion; and everlasting joy shall be upon their head: they shall obtain gladness and joy; and sorrow and mourning shall flee away.
(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor