My mother, Mary L. Woods, died at her Long Island home during the first week of Advent. She slipped away peacefully in her sleep the morning of Dec. 2 at age 88.
Mom had battled a progressive disease that increasingly asserted itself recently. She was forced to concede to new limitations placed on her independence, sometimes to her extreme displeasure.
My sister and I were happy that Mom was able to remain in her own home, one that she had shared with Bill, her husband of 55 years and our father, until his death seven years ago. They made a great life there together, raising their family. As they grew older, their mutual love and affection for each other continued to grow. Their devotion closed any gaps in their lives.
There is never a good time to lose your mother, no matter how old you are. In the immediate aftermath, our family is naturally saddened by the loss of our Mom and Grandma. You play back all the memories you held in common—of Christmas gatherings, vacation trips and Little League games where she cheered loudest and longest—over and over.
I probably would not be accomplishing the work I’m doing now without the support and encouragement of my parents. They made our faith come alive for my sister and me when we were younger by the way they lived and never, ever flagged in their pursuit of the Lord. We always understood how important their faith was because it was always at the center of their lives.
My dad’s devotion to reading and explaining Scripture rivaled a theologian’s. My mother’s ability to extemporaneously pray with us through any difficulty or in search of a solution was a constant source of inspiration. She never wavered from that approach.
Mom was generous in serving others. More than 25 years ago, she and a couple other women began a parish outreach program that soon expanded to a storefront on the main downtown street where it remained until the Covid-19 pandemic shuttered its doors. She volunteered two days a week, providing clothing at a modest price and building a brand of caring that made her a recognized figure around the village where she lived. People she had assisted or with whom she volunteered would frequently call out greetings.
My folks never had a lot of material resources, and they lived a very modest life. Yet, somehow they always had enough. Whenever they came into any money, they would generously share it with the people they loved and causes they supported. I could tell you stories…
Writing less than two weeks after my mother’s death, I have gratitude for her well-lived life. I’m happy, too, because I am confident of her place with God whom she loved so dearly.
The last year of Mom’s life wasn’t easy. On Holy Saturday in early April, she took a fall at home that necessitated a month-long hospital and rehab center stay. One of the conditions for her release was that a live-in home care aide be with her 24-7.
We wondered how that would work with a person like my mother who had lived independently for so long. As it turned out, the aide who came to assist my mother was a wonderful Filipina named Cecilia, who became like a part of our extended family in the seven months she was on the scene.
When you asked how things were going, Cecilia’s standard response was pluralized: “We’re good.” Helping my mom select an outfit each day became like a mini-fashion show.
Near the end, Cecilia told us that Mom was “like a second Mom to me.” We’ve heard that one before. Mom was like that.