I was thinking about all this yesterday, and about her, and I reshared this blog post from February 13. I think at the time I wrote it I knew deep down that she wasn't going to get better, but I wasn't quite ready to face it. I was still hoping and praying for a turnaround. It never came.
My mom died with saving faith in Jesus Christ. I had thought she was baptized as a child but in going through her things I found a certificate of both adult baptism and confirmation in the Episcopal church. She also had me baptized in the Episcopal church, but for the first 10 years of my life we didn't attend regularly. Then when I was in sixth grade we moved, and a friend of mine invited us to her church. I asked if we could go, and we did, whereby my mom discovered Roman Catholicism. It was a turning point for her. She became Catholic and so did I. From that time on we were in worship every week. I give thanks for that friend and that church, which changed the course of my mom's life as well as mine.
As I reflect on it, I think that one reason Catholicism spoke to my mom so strongly was that it offered a sense of stability that had always been missing for her. She was an only child whose parents left her to be cared for by relatives. In a life marked by abandonment and insecurity, the ancient Church presented her the opportunity to feel connected to something unchanging and bigger than herself. The liturgy, ritual, majesty and history afforded her a kind of security she had never known. Finally, she felt like she had a family.
At the same time, though, she heard from the Catholic church that if she just tried a little harder and did a little more she could "work out" her salvation. She looked at the suffering of this life as something that got her a step closer to God, proving her worth. On more than one occasion I talked to her about the gospel as I had come to understand it as a Lutheran--something completely free and unearned, total gift. But it seemed almost impossible for her to conceive of. I wish that before she died she could have somehow found the comfort of knowing that although there was no way she could ever be good enough, she was nevertheless saved by grace through faith because Christ did it all for her.
I spent a good deal of time during my mom's last days singing, praying and reading the Bible to her, particularly the psalms. A recurrent one was Psalm 27, linked above. In her Bible it was one she had marked, bracketing off verse 10: "For my father and my mother have forsaken me,
My mom did not fully understand the gift of grace, but neither do any of us. Thanks be to God we don't need perfect understanding to get into heaven. We just need faith in Christ, however imperfect and weak that faith is. I know my mom had that and that when she departed this life she was immediately welcomed into the presence of her Savior. What a joy to know she doesn't have to try, doubt or wonder anymore! She is "in"--not because of how much she loved God, but because of how much He loved her. May all of us as God's children cling to that certain hope.