We had a good plan. My mom and I would go to the hospital to visit my father, who was awaiting admission for a serious infection. In eighty-four years of life, he’d never been in a hospital. He’d been mom’s care-giver for the past few years.
Two hours later, as I drove to my parent’s home, I tried to imagine that my younger brother’s “Mom is gone” did not mean she had died. I grabbed the rosary hanging from my rear-view mirror and began to pray. The Holy Spirit descended upon me with understanding: my mother had died that night.
Flashing Lights on the Familiar Street
As I turned onto the familiar street where mom and dad had lived for sixty-four years, my eyes met the glare of flashing red lights from fire and police department vehicles parked in front of the home. I wedged my vehicle into the driveway, then ran past paramedics and police standing silently on the front porch, holding clipboards and filling out paperwork. Their eyes met mine, their glance sorrowful. No words were exchanged.
My father, pulled from the hospital, three younger brothers, a sister-in-law and young niece were in the room. My mother was on the floor, covered in a blanket. I fell to the floor and uncovered her face so that I could kiss her goodbye. She was still warm.
I was comforted by her familiar maternal warmth. I stroked her eighty-three-year-old face, now frozen in an expression of peace. From the depths of my soul, I wailed with cries of grief as my cheek rested on hers. My brother said, “We should pray the rosary for mom now. She’d like that.” We surrounded her lifeless body and prayed as we waited for the mortuary to remove her body.
Mom was rarely left alone. My dad, siblings and a religious sister accompanied her and enabled her to live in the home that she filled with love. But she was alone when death visited suddenly. A heart attack. Another brother shared that when he found her, there was no sign of life, but he tried CPR. I was told that paramedics heroically tried to revive her for a long time.
It was the Feast of the Visitation of Mary, a feast that has great meaning to me. I had just finished an EWTN “Women of Grace” webinar on “Spiritual Mothers: God’s Special Weapon Against Evil.” I never imagined that my foremost spiritual mother would die on this Marian feast.
Right after the webinar, mom called and we made our plans. She seemed happy but worried about my father. Her final words were “I’m fine. Take care of dad.”
Loss and Gain
Intellectually, I anticipated my mother’s death from heart and lung disease. Emotionally, nothing could prepare me for the loss. Mother suffered physically over many years, but she loved life and cheerfully fought for it. God’s plan to call her into eternal life when she was alone at home was quite different than ours.
We were left longing for one more conversation with a mother full of wisdom. We understood her sudden death was our loss but mother’s gain.
Kathleen Beckman, L.H.S., is president of the Foundation of Prayer for Priests and hosts the weekly radio program Eucharist, Mercy & Saints on Radio Maria. Her latest book is When Women Pray: Eleven Catholic Women on the Power of Prayer. For more on her work, see her website .