Reinvigorating Devotion

Near the End of Mom’s Life, Jesus Hasn’t Forgotten Her

It hurts to have to admit defeat and sit in tears as you realize that you have failed. And that pain is even greater when you’d hoped to accomplish something for a person you love deeply. For me, my hope was for the person I love more than anyone else in the world: my mom.

“Is this the right decision? How can I know? How can we be sure?” I asked the woman who answered the Alzheimer’s Association hotline, my questions broken by sobs.

I felt all alone as I struggled with my own feelings about my family placing my mother in memory care. Even though I knew this was where she could get the assistance that we could no longer give her at home, it was so painful. Each person in my family suffered through this choice individually, even as we worked together to care for Mom.

As I walked under the autumn trees still ablaze with color on the evening that decision was made, I turned the eyes of my heart to God. “Where are you?” I whispered. “Are you going to take care of her when we aren’t there by her side 24 hours a day? We aren’t able to give her what she needs. Help me.”

The Eucharist in a monstrance

What Mom needs…

For almost 60 years, my mom had given me what I needed. With my father, she had given me life and had provided for me as I grew up and eventually entered the convent. And even after I was no longer at home, knowing my mom had my back, that her wisdom and love were just a phone call away, I knew that I would always have what I needed to get through anything in life.

In those final weeks before we brought Mom across the street from where she and Dad had lived to what would be her new home in the memory care center, I tried to give Mom as many happy and beautiful experiences as possible. I knew she couldn’t remember them, but for the moment, for that one precious moment when she laughed with joy, it was all worth it.

One of the most important things we could do for Mom was to ask a priest to bring her communion and give her the anointing of the sick. When he came to my parents’ apartment, Fr. Barnes explained to her that he would anoint her and give her the Eucharist. She understood. I will always remember the way she lifted her hands to receive the Eucharist, truly hungry for the Bread of Life, for the Life of the world, for her Life.

Mom had prepared me for my own First Communion, brought me to Rosary and Benediction on Wednesday evenings at the parish and all-night Adoration for the First Friday of the month. Countless times when we parted from each other she had told me, “I’ll meet you at the Tabernacle.” Wherever I was in the world, I had only to enter a chapel where the Blessed Sacrament was reserved and pray so that through the Eucharistic presence of Jesus, I would be in communion—through Christ—with my own mother.

Children attending their First Communion Mass

On the other side of the world, she was also often before the Tabernacle. In Jesus’ own most Sacred Heart—indeed, in the whole Christ, contained in the Eucharistic Species—was where we met each other, both of us united in the Body of Christ, the Church. Throughout my childhood, our family was always at Mass on Sundays, and as we children grew up and went our separate ways, my parents often went to daily Mass. My mother had prepared second-graders for First Communion and had been a DRE and parish secretary. The Eucharist had been a quiet presence in every era of Mom’s life.

The Eucharist had truly been the promise in her active years.

The Bread of Life

“I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world” (Jn 6:51).

On the day when Fr. Barnes offered her communion and anointing of the sick, the Eucharist was now a comfort.

“Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him” (Jn 6:56).

That day, I realized we had given mom what she truly needed. She needed Jesus, the Bread of Life, who would walk this last year with her. Jesus, who would be by her side when we no longer could. Not only would Jesus be by her side: Jesus would be in her and she in him. Dad is still with her several hours every day, absolutely, but Jesus is within her all the time. All her life, mom had come to Jesus in the Eucharist, to receive him, to adore him, to intercede for her family before him, and now Jesus had come to her.

Priest holding up the Eucharist

He had not forgotten.

He knew her too well.

He loved her too much.

It won’t be long now before the Eucharist will be fulfillment.

“Whoever eats this bread will live forever” (Jn. 6:58).

It will be the Eucharist that will still be our great joy as she becomes the first member of our family to enter into eternity.

“We celebrate the Eucharist ‘awaiting the blessed hope and the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ,’ asking ‘to share in your glory when every tear will be wiped away.’ On that day we shall see you, our God, as you are. We shall become like you and praise you for ever through Christ our Lord” (Mom no. 1404).