Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of October 31, 2005
A mother's love survives death
Kindness continues to bear fruit when dust returns to dust
By GLEN ARGAN
My mother, Helen Argan of Regina, died Sept. 13 at age 79. She had suffered for many years with emphysema - pneumonia always a near possibility, her lungs growing progressively weaker.
Few people get to be closer to a person than one's mother. She carried me in her womb for nine months and she carried me emotionally for the rest of her days.
Some people have difficult relationships with their mothers. I didn't and I suspect the majority of people don't. I don't remember an occasion when I didn't trust her or when I felt she let me down.
But still the closeness meant a lack of perspective, a perspective that became clearer in her last years and, especially, after her death.
Mom gave me biological life, but she also was the chief intermediary for my life in Christ. She taught me to pray at an early age. I have fond memories of attending early morning Mass with her during Lent as a child, walking home and chattering to her while jumping on the thin film of ice that formed overnight on the spring puddles.
Longing for eternity
Much later, when I was lost and confused when breaking up with a girlfriend, she consoled me by saying what I needed to hear - that all our sufferings in this life are of little consequence when compared with eternal life with Christ.
As the end of her life drew near, Mom made special efforts to prepare herself for that eternal life. Her confessor and spiritual advisor told me before her funeral that she was exceptionally well prepared to meet the Lord.
After the funeral, a long-time family friend said that Mom was the kindest person he had ever met. A childhood friend later remarked on her kindness and her ready sense of humour.
Mom had a strong social conscience. She was not one to join in movements or marches. But she had a clear sense of what was right and wrong in world and national affairs. She was involved in politics for several years, but eventually drew back in disgust at all the backroom manoeuvrings and back-stabbing in the party she had supported.
Rooted in kindness
Her social conscience never died, however. That conscience was not rooted in an ideology, but in her own kindness. Her kindness, in turn, was rooted in her faith in God.
When I was very young, Regina was a lily-white city. Virtually everyone was Caucasian. One day when I was four or five, I encountered a black boy on the street. Having never seen anyone of another race, I ran home terrified.
Mom gently sat me down and told me that people of different races are people just like us. We should be kind to them and treat them with respect. Mom taught me something that day that changed my attitude for the rest of my life.
Later when my own social conscience grew stronger and recordings of Bob Dylan's nasal protest songs rang through the house day after day, Mom was quiet. After a period, she announced to me that she really liked Bob Dylan's songs . . . even his singing.
That was certainly one way to keep the lines of communication open with a son in the midst of teenage rebellion.
It wasn't that Mom never got angry. But even when she was angry, she managed to be fair. I cannot recall a single instance of harsh or unfair criticism passing her lips.
In last week's WCR, we published a story quoting Pope Benedict about his predecessor Pope John Paul II: "A man who goes to the Lord doesn't disappear. I believe that someone who goes to the Lord comes even closer to us."
This is not Church teaching - it is simply the pope's experience.
Closer after death
It is an experience I have been able to second in the six weeks since Mom's death. I have come across several old cards, letters and photos of Mom. Almost always, the words on the page or her image in the picture have hit me with force - much more vividly and powerfully than when I first read those words or saw the photo.
It is as though Mom were still alive - more alive - in those relics. Her kindness, her encouragement, her spirit have not died. Although I do not hear her or see her, I do experience her as "even closer."
My father, Bill, 84, is coping with Mom's loss better than any of us expected. Perhaps it is because Mom's health was in decline for many years and he had time to prepare. Perhaps it is also because the love between them was so strong that she continues to sustain Dad even after death.
My experience is that while people may die, the love they give and the good that they do does not die. We are not left alone. Just as Jesus sent us his Holy Spirit so too do those who are close to us live on in our midst in a very real way.
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