A Mother’s Love

By Jenny Koch

Connecting Faith and Life

Easter blooms make me think of my mother. She always had a knack for planting the roses with the lilies and spacing the hydrangeas so that they complemented the other flowers. She had vision and spatial awareness like an interior designer, always discovering new plants and new paint colors. I remember strolls through the landscaping aisles with my young kids, as she explained different plants, always giving suggestions for my yard. The kids would be running wild, trying to splash in the fountains or run up the mulch pits. My nervous self wanted to stop them, but Mom just smiled at their curiosity.

Sometimes at Easter, she would find a corner and hold a baby. We have a large family, and, at one time, Mom had ten grandchildren under 10. Isolated from the chaos of the day, I remember Mom taking time to rest, often rocking one of our babies to sleep. While I was distracted by the egg hunt and making sure the mayonnaise-based chicken salad wasn’t going bad, she often took time to relax, exhausted by the preparation.

We lost mom over two years ago to an aneurysm. Until now, I have found myself incapable of writing about her, always wondering how to honor her memory without focusing on my grief. After reading, “A Severe Mercy” by Sheldon Vanauken, I have come to see my grief as a severe mercy. In this book, Vanauken writes his love story as well as his conversion story. Intertwined are letters from C. S. Lewis, explaining the grief process and illuminating the severe mercies that we face in life. A severe mercy is defined as God’s permission of our suffering that draws us closer to him.

Learning to live without my mother has helped my introverted self lean on others around me instead of tackling the world alone. This severe mercy has drawn me into community, including my Catholic community. Instead of “missing” Mom, I have learned to see her reflection in those around me, cherishing the little things and always trying to create a little peace in the chaos. In every way, I believe this attitude completely supports my continual conversion as a Catholic mother and honors her memory well. After all, I am reminded this season that Jesus’ first words to his followers after the Resurrection were indeed, “Peace be with you.” He didn’t say, let’s get to work. He didn’t mention the factions of Jews still plotting or even ask them to script his words. Peace. He wants peace for us.

In many ways, Mom and I interacted like Mary and Martha. She countered my busy-ness and encouraged me to focus on the most important things around me. During this season of chaos and beauty, I need to remember that even more. I find myself veering towards the headlines, so eager to see which country is going to send missiles next or which court decision is going to affect the political future of our country. I think Mom would tell me to plant a flower, read a book, or do a puzzle with the kids. If she were still here, I would not see this. I would more than likely still be focused on the big things. It is indeed a severe mercy.

C.S. Lewis reminds us that “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” Whether you are enjoying this Mother’s Day with your mom or pondering the severe mercy of grief, I hope you will cherish the moments and memories. Lean on Mother Mary to help you be grateful and bring you peace. Ask for her intercession as the Queen of Saints. This month as we honor Mary and celebrate all mothers, I will be praying for you.

Jenny Koch is a local publisher at Decided Excellence Catholic Media. Her family attends Corpus Christi Parish in Evansville.