What would have been my mother’s 91st birthday is coming up in a few days, and one of the many words that could be used to describe her is “strong.” She was not physically strong — even though PEPI Exercise classes were among the activities on her busy schedule even as she passed the 80 mark.
No, her true strength lay in her unwavering faith in God. She must have relied on God on a daily basis when she had to wrangle my two brothers and me, born within 3 ½ years of each other, in the early years of her married life.
She certainly needed that strength many years later when Dad began his slow but inevitable descent into the darkness of Alzheimer’s disease. How else would have handled the sorrow of seeing of the brilliant man she had married more than 40 years before fade away or the constant stress of what might happen to him as a result of his condition?
Seven months before turning 80, Mother underwent a double-knee replacement. My brother Phil stayed with her for a few days when she returned from the hospital. She tried to stop her pain medication too soon wound up spending several hours in severe pain that night because she didn’t want to wake him up to get her pills.
During her terminal brain cancer, she didn’t even ask why something like that was happening to her. As long as she was able, she prayed her daily prayers and went to sleep while saying the rosary. She didn’t complain of pain when she broke her hip or even when an aide in the long-term care facility accidentally caused her to fall off the bed, coming perilously close to breaking her neck.
As our family remembers Mother on the 91st anniversary of her birth, we will remember her spiritual strength. Even more importantly, we will remember that the source of that strength was her faith in God.
Faith gives us the support of a strong spiritual spine.