The flurry of events in the past days still leaves me in a daze; everything still seems surreal; a part of me still numbed, tears surge every now and then…
I still can’t believe that today it’s the fourteenth day since my mother passed on to her eternal Home. Death came waiting for her, gently waited while she agonized in pain…
They say that it was her purification…that she has now gone straight to Heaven. Not only was it her earthly “purgatory,” but the nun-formator at my sister’s convent said my Mom was a Victim Soul, –
a “CHOSEN SOUL who freely sacrifices oneself, one’s health, material goods, happiness, etc. as an offering to Divine justice for the sins of the world, for sinners, or for the benefit of the Church. Or as Our Lady has often said, these generous souls, after the example of the crucified Christ, are needed to “balance the scales.”
That should comfort me enough, yet deep inside – the pain of losing her sears through. Although Mom was already in the winter of her life, and though she was battling the disease that had grown big inside her, still it had not dawned on me that she’d be taken away from us this soon. Deep inside this sense of denial seems more real than the fact that she is no longer with us physically.
Perhaps it is because Mom was always a picture of vibrancy and youthfulness even if she’d already bequeathed to my sister much of the tasks she used to do around the house. Countless vivid images of my elderly Mom will always be etched in my heart, but the most striking image, however, is that of her, alternating with my father in leading the daily family prayer centered around the Most Holy Rosary and prayers to the Sacred Heart, and personal family devotions. If you’d heard her pray, it would’ve been impossible not to be moved by the passion and ardor in her voice.
Perhaps because I had also grown used to having her around all these years until her 85th year, so I’d sort of created a mantle of invincibility around her and my Dad.
I don’t know, but it’s still hard to accept that she is no longer here. At the back of my mind lurks a nagging doubt whether letting my mother undergo surgery to remove the great mass that had been causing her the great pain in those last nine days was indeed the right thing to do. It was a most difficult choice to make – between seeing/hearing your beloved one writhe in torturous agony you were so helpless to take away from her – and trusting in the goodness, skills and care of doctors you believed were also God’s vessels of His Healing Love. Did we trust the doctors too much? It was a risk we had to undertake, and at that point, my mother also entrusted herself to what the doctors could do to alleviate her pain no amount of their strongest painkillers could ever do so. Thus there was hope in her too of a physical remedy.
Yet I also remember when Mom was still home in her last week there, she seemed to know her time would soon come: she gave each one of us her children her final message of love and hope in a letter she dictated to one of her granddaughters.
A month before that, on a family visit to my nun-sister at their convent, a day after her 85th birthday, she whispered to my sister it would be her last visit to her, my sister and the community of nuns. Finally, after a week of enduring extreme pain at home in the last week of September, she who wouldn’t want to see a doctor, my mother asked to be taken to the hospital. After all these years of surrendering her illness to God, she willed to be put under human medical care, one last time — yet…
As I reflect on the latter phase of my mother’s faith-journey, from the time she was diagnosed in 2010, albeit not so-conclusively — she adamantly refused any further medical/hospital intervention — only opting for alternative herbal treatments — until the time of her death, I appreciate how she fully surrendered her condition, herself to God and Mary’s Maternal Care through her faithful devotion to the Rosary. That was the start of her final days here on earth, and Death waited for her gently until she was ready for her purification while still here with us. That was her grace from God; and God’s grace suffices. Perhaps indeed she was a Victim Soul — God was preparing her for that final purging of her earthly imperfections, attachments and desires, together with all the sins of the world, including ours in the family — so when it was time, she would already be in her purest state worthy to be in His Divine Presence.
Never in all the past years did we hear any word of complaint about her sickness; on the contrary she was full of life – so we even had taken to kidding her gently about when she would give birth. Mom’s cheerfulness amidst her physical pain, in the face of impending Death, was her grace from God; and God’s grace suffices.
Yet, as a Victim Soul, she must endure pain in all its severity — Mom had always had such a low threshold for pain — thus, it was the only time we heard her moan, groan, cry out loud in pain — but did she ever utter human expressions of pain??? No never! Every tormenting spasm or stabbing ache would send her crying “Lord, forgive us! Lord heal us, O Merciful God!” over and over, at home, in the hospital. At the ER, staff and patients/strangers were taken aback by her painful cries of prayer! “Lord, forgive me; Lord forgive us; heal us!” Then on the entire night before surgery, in her private room, we prayed with her, and she even sang “Come Holy Spirit I Need You…” As Death gently waits, God’s grace suffices.
I have to hold onto this hope that she is now with God to ease my hurt, grief at recalling her dying form and sorrow at her parting. True it is that when your mother dies, a part of you is forever gone, as they say. Yet, there’s the joy in believing she has found her eternal Heavenly home. Our family’s grace at Death’s door was to accompany my Mom’s soul unto the gates of Heaven through our prayers, songs, whispered words of love, kisses of sad farewell. That God allowed Mom’s wake to be as beautiful, joyful yet solemn celebration of her life, faith and love was our grace. God’s grace suffices.