Thursday, July 03, 2008

The Strength of a Mother

Today was a day that a precious life was celebrated. Hayden O'Brien, just 17 years of age, has left his earthly life and gone on to his eternal one.

The funeral Mass was so beautiful. It was held at the family's parish, St. Mary's. The church is an old country church, originally erected by German immigrants. The inside of the church was so wonderful to see. Special paintings and stencilings throughout the church have been carefully restored to capture the devotion and love of the people who built this church.

The church is very small and might hold 150 - 200 people. There had to be 3 times that many that attended the funeral. Most of us stayed outside for the Mass, some had seats but many of us stood among the Marian gardens that adorned the parish grounds.

It was hot. It was humid. But God provided enough shade and just a slight breeze that made it possible for us to feel comfortable. He is always so good to us.

When I heard of Hayden's death, I found myself asking, "Why?" Why, if God can do anything, why would He let this unspeakable tragedy happen? Why does He let any child, any person suffer? Why does He take babies from their mothers? Mothers and fathers from their young children? Why can't we understand?

I attended the Mass partly looking for an answer perhaps, to some of these questions. I know that there isn't one. I know that we can not possibly understand all of God's plan. And then came Father's homily.

During the eulogy, Father noted that the end of our life on earth is not the end of our life. Our life has changed. We move from our earthly life to our eternal one. Sometimes this happens before we are ready for it to and we feel that we still have so much to say to them, so much to ask them.

After pondering this for awhile, something hit me. If our lives do not end, they merely change, then our relationship with those who die doesn't end; it also changes. It goes from a relationship of the human form to a relationship of the spirit. I suppose it would be similar to when I carried each of my children. I couldn't really speak to them or touch them, though I could feel them moving inside of me. But I could pray with them. I could speak through my heart, without words or even with words, directly to them. There were no interruptions when I spoke with them then. Just as there are now no interruptions when I speak with my mom now. There are no voicemails left for her to answer. I just call on her, I feel her presence, and I begin to share with her in our changed relationship.

I don't ever wish the death of a loved one upon another, because in our humanity, we yearn for a person's touch, their scent, their smile to fill our days, I do find great comfort in this reflection. Life does not end, it changes. Relationships do not end, they change.

After the funeral Mass, Hayden's casket was carried out by several Boy Scouts. It was a very moving scene to witness. They placed his beautiful casket, with images of the twelve apostles at the last supper and the Pieta adorning it, onto a hand-drawn cart which was pulled by the Scouts to the cemetery. We followed behind as we said our final goodbyes to this wonderful young man.

A home-schooled boy. He touched so many lives. I attended the Mass with some home-schooling friends, as this is how we came to know Hayden and his family. As I turned around, I saw a former neighbor that had moved 40 miles away more than 10 years ago and discovered that they knew him through Scouting. Inside the fellowship hall, I saw a running friend whom also knew him through Scouting. Hayden touched many lives. Many that he probably never knew he touched.

As we stood listening to Mass, I overheard some of the folks from the hospital where Hayden's dad works comment that they had grown up Catholic but hadn't been to Church in years, especially not a Catholic one. I witnessed them fall into the comforting traditions that accompany us at each and every Mass, from the sign of the Cross, the the sign of Peace, to the reception of Communion. I saw others who obviously had a very hard time being in any church, and put their feelings aside to be there for their friend during his time of grief.

Afterwards, I had an opportunity to speak with Hayden's mother and she was glowing. While I realize that she hasn't even begun to process what has happened just yet, her faith is amazing. She is trusting in God's plan and though I went to offer my support to her and her family, I found that I am the one that received that support through her faith.

She is an amazing woman and she has the strength of a mother. A very special mother, similar to that of the Blessed Mother. She was comforting those who had come to comfort her. She was mothering those that were coming to mother her.

She spoke of her son with such pride and admiration. I fell in love with him through her, the way that we come to know Christ through His Mother.

I ask you to continue to keep the O'Brien family in your daily prayers as they move through their grief and sorrow.


MC said...

My eyes welled with tears reading this. You know, looking at the passing of loved ones as "the relationship changing" ... brilliant. That concept really helps to understand ourselves in the true big picture. It's another way for us to begin to relate to the concept of eternity. Beautiful.

Tigpan said...

This was an absolutely amazing perspective on life and death and our relationship with it. K, I grow so much in my faith through your strength and example. I am so thankful to God for you! Thank you for opening up and sharing your heart.

Soul Pockets said...

The way you compare the relationship between a mother and her unborn child to the relationship we have with a loved one that has passed on is something I have never thought of before. I will remember it.
I will also have this boy and his family in my prayers.

SP said...

Oh K - As the mother of a child with health issues, the fact that he may not be with us forever always looms heavy in the back of my mind. You have put the mother/child relationship into such amazing perspective. I feel lucky to know you. We will be praying for this family.