The way she lived

Let everything you do be done in love. - 1 Corinthians 16:14

He threw open the door and bounded into the bedroom at sunrise yesterday, Good Friday, throwing his 7-year-old self underneath blankets and scooting close to me. So much for sleeping in, I thought. But then, as his head settled into the crook of my neck on the pillow, my son declared, “This is the BEST!” And as I inevitably do each day, I found myself awestruck at his wonder-filled brown eyes, toddler-like cheeks and a nose sprinkled with freckles that are, I believe, actually specks of angel dust. 

What a great surprise he had been -- a joyful life since its beginning, instinctively doing love.

In the momentary silence, I recalled this same week in 2014. Despite being in my third trimester of pregnancy, and considered “high risk” because of my age, I boarded a flight to Minneapolis. My sister’s text the day before prompted my travel: “Mom received last rites this morning.”

Myrna Sr., – she’d “encouraged” friends and family not to call her “big” Myrna or “old” Myrna when distinguishing between the two of us – had just turned 81. She and my father, married for 62 years, had welcomed six children before learning she was pregnant with me many years later. I’m told she was tearful at first. With my father’s support, they welcomed me in love.

In the midst of growing up, most of us can’t understand how much our parents sacrifice for us; we can’t comprehend the scale of selflessness weighted so profoundly in our favor. From putting up with rowdy sleepovers and endless carpools to courageously letting you take the wheel, and eventually wishing you the best as you leave home, it's a bittersweet hindsight we experience, years later, that brings into focus the profound love in everything they did, especially when it came to honoring life.

Diagnosed with terminal cancer in 2013, Mom’s dementia became an oddly welcome condition, concealing from her the severity of her illness and allowing a simple joy to take root during her life’s last chapter. At my parents' house after my flight, I felt that joy, which I believe she passed on to my baby, her hand resting against my skin as my unborn son kicked, seemingly greeting his Grandma Maloney as her beautiful smile lit up a tired face. 

Two days later, on April 16, her hand was in mine, my son snuggling his seven-month-old self inside me at her side. We all surrounded her, in pain yet in love, and wished her the best as she left home. If death can be beautiful, hers was, in its dignity and honor. That Easter Sunday, though our sadness was still new and raw and painful, my family and I sat in church as a fresh understanding of sacrifice and love and new life hovered. 

On behalf of my colleagues at MCFL, I wish you and your family deep and lasting joy this Easter season. I hope that no matter what life chapters you might be enduring, they are written with a peace that, as you and I know, is found only when love and respect for life is in everything we do.