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How Did She Do It? (from Fr. Mark)

Posted by The Rev. Mark McKone-Sweet on

Journal entry from a son sitting at his mother’s bedside …

How does she do it? I have asked this every hour it seems. How can this woman maintain such grace while her body is changing rapidly before my eyes?

We moved mom from the hospital to a residential hospice. As mom was placed on the ambulance gurney – she motioned for the banana next to her hospital bed. Wrapped in tight from head to toe she was – there was mom being wheeled out with a banana in one hand. With the other, she gave a “queen wave” as we jokingly edged her to so.

How does she do it? The more I searched, the more I wondered. Then I found mom’s small prayer book at home. Slowly I read it. The more I read, I sensed the answer forming. The first clue should have been the prayer from Mother Teresa, on a folded piece of paper. It begins with …

“People are often unreasonable, irrational and self-centered. Forgive them anyways.

“If you are kind people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyways.

As I read onward, into the book, these prayers appealed for the gift to let ones’ life shine with the radiance of God’s in every moment and to be relentless in the task.

It was now that the stars aligned. Why did it take me 48 years to learn what made mom, mom?

I can see why she insisted on a simple in life, including material goods, work, ministry, family and her relationships. All she wanted was for the other person (her son, daughter-law, son-in-law, grandchild, neighbor, co-workers, student, friend and stranger) to experience God’s Grace through her simple ways. This freed her to meet each person in a uniquely personal way.

Her deep faith and conviction enabled her love each of her sons, most especially this week, knowing we would each react differently and have our, unique needs. She knew her sisters and neighbors all would have different needs too. And she gracefully allowed us all, one at a time, to love her back our way. Regardless of her own needs or desires.

Then I watched over the weekend … it was remarkable, profound. I smiled, despite the tears. It all became clear for me as I was sitting at my mother’s bedside.

I could see why she went to the Sister’s of Saint Anne – Bethany House all those years. I thought it was to be cared for and loved by those amazing nuns. Instead, it was to serve them and love them, so they could continue in their ministry as they aged.

I could see why she worked for 18 years after retirement, to help other preschools be healthy and strong. Why she worked for the State of Massachusetts to administer tuition grants to parents who could not afford preschool. Why she chose to teach not at Tuft University, rather night classes at Middlesex Community College. She told me, she wanted to work with parents and adults trying to get ahead with their lives, to help them fall in love with serving children. I always thought she volunteered at the Town Library to save on her property tax. She worked to support a ministry deep in her heart the joy of reading in public library – free for all people.

I can see why, despite her sons begging her, over the years, to travel the world and enjoy life our way, she chose to volunteer and work locally for 19 years.

My mother never once said the words “Yes, I love Jesus.” Now I can see her life as a billboard: I love Jesus, and Jesus loves you. A free gift from God.

I also found in her prayer book, her morning and evening prayers that were marked up, that enable her to ask God for help to live her humble life.

Mom was not perfect. She would never deny that. Once in a while, I would wonder if mom was only “surface” happy and sad inside. At times, I am sure it was true. But now I know it was deep in her heart.

It makes sense, doesn’t it? She knew at this stage of her life, it was time for her pass this gift on to others to carry on. It is clear now, as I wipe her brow with a damp cloth, knowing it soon time to say goodbye.

After seven days at my mother’s bedside, I can see more clearly. Thank you, Jesus. Thank you, mom.

Day by Day,
Dear lord of thee three things I pray
To see thee more clearly
To love more dearly
To follow thee more nearly
Day by Day.

What are your prayers than enable you to serve Jesus more fully in others? How do you invite God into your life – every choice you make?


This prayer is credited to Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Found in my mother’s small prayer book.

  • People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.
  • If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.
  • If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway.
  • If you are honest and sincere, people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway
  • What you spend years creating, other could destroy overnight. Create anyway.
  • If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be Happy Anyway
  • The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.
  • Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.
  • In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them, anyway.