Mark’s Gospel mentions the Pharisees needing a “sign,”
and signs and gifts will be the focus of my reflection. The signs
and gifts of God’s power and love are all around us, if we will
take the time to look and listen.
I have written about my mother’s death in previous reflections,
and I do so, today. She died in 1998 with a malignant parotid gland
and a malignant liver. The parotid gland is along the jaw line and
toward the ear. The parotid tumor grew so large that it invaded
the carotid artery, and she died very quickly of the hemorrhage.
This was a tough time for me, and despite my prayers for her recovery,
the recovery did not happen.
I believe that we get ourselves into emotional trouble because
of the things we say to ourselves, so as I found myself sinking
into a funk immediately following her death, I looked carefully
at what I was telling myself about the situation. I found that I
was asking, “Why was God not listening to me?” I, then,
modified this question by saying, “How has God listened to
me and responded through signs and gifts?” This made all of
the difference in the world.
As I asked this question about what had just happened, in the week
that followed, I came up with several profound and not-so-profound
answers to my question.
· First, my mother had lived 81 years, and I had had
the gift of a loving mother for all of my 51 years. She had opted
not to be treated for her cancer, and she had lived in comfort during
the six weeks from diagnosis to death. She seemed at great peace
in her last days and was ready to die. This was a great gift from
God to her and to me.
· Second, the hospice workers gave her exceptional
care, she was never uncomfortable, and she could die at home. They
are God’s loving hand.
· Third, I was with her when she died, and although
that was painful and frightening, it was an invaluable gift.
· Fourth, my dear wife knew that I was frantic
caring for my mother out on the West Coast, so she arrived at my
mother’s apartment about four hours after my mother’s
death. My wife is the best gift of all!!
· Fifth, Mom’s hemorrhage left a soiled
mattress that the hazmat folks wanted $650 to remove, but just after
they delivered that news, a childhood friend called to express his
sympathy. I asked him if he still lived near a dump and if he still
had a pickup truck. His call was truly a gift, and with lots of
bleach, the mattress no longer contained even a hint of viable human
· Sixth, old friends in my hometown heard about Mom’s
death and turned out to be most supportive as I tried to get her
stuff ready for my return to Omaha. I could not have done all that
needed to be done without them.
· Finally, my wife and I drove my mother’s
car back to Omaha. In the middle of Wyoming, we stopped for gas,
and I discovered that I had forgotten to replace the gas cap at
the last fill-up. I went into the gas station and asked if they
sold gas caps. The attendant said, “No! But, we do have a
box of caps that people have left behind.” He grabbed the
box, and it only contained one gas cap. The man apologized but said
that I could try it. Low and behold, it fit!!
God works very hard to give us gifts and signs of love and power.
We can choose to notice signs and gifts, or we can to choose ignore
them. They are there, and they are so incredibly abundant for each