Since our son, Tim, married several weeks ago, I’ve made a seemingly futile attempt to clear our house and garage of items that we no longer need. While doing so the other day, I came across a box of my mother’s things. It occurred to me that the elder good deacon and I are on course to leave each of our sons and their poor wives a truckload of similar memorabilia. So it was that I set out to extract something from the mounds of boxes we’ve accumulated. Unfortunately, as I poked around, my attention returned to that box of my mother’s things. Before I knew it, I’d perched myself on the steps, opened the box and looked through these treasures. Somehow, they carried me back in time to my mom’s condo where my sisters and I were going through her things, trying to decide what to keep, what to pass on to the family and what to give away…
One of my mom’s most prized possessions was a huge assortment of fabric that she’d accumulated over the years. My mother purchased fabric whenever it was offered at a good price, and her walk-in closet was literally filled with the stuff when she left her condo for the last time. Now my mom wasn’t a compulsive buyer. She purchased fabric only when she had a project in mind. When we were growing up, my mom made most of our clothes and her own. She also upholstered furniture, designed drapes and did alterations for various family members. Two of my mom’s greatest sources of pride were the bridesmaids dresses she fashioned for our family weddings and the sewing she did for the veterans housed in Chicago area VA Hospitals. She sewed lap blankets for vets confined to wheelchairs. She made neck pillows for those confined to bed. She also made ditty bags in which each of them could store personal items for safekeeping. When Mom fashioned some of these items for women vets from our old bridesmaid dresses, she observed, “I knew I’d make good use of them!” A few years before my mom passed away, her hands began to ache from arthritis. Since she found that she could clothe herself with store-bought items as inexpensively as with what she made herself, she began to limit her sewing to projects for the veterans. These projects ended the day she left her condo.
Though sewing had been a huge part of my mom’s life, she didn’t mention it much after she moved. Rather, she concentrated on the new business at hand. She had taken up residence with her children, and she focused on being a good houseguest and causing as little disruption as possible to our families. Her sons-in-law agree that Mom was easy to have around, too easy, for sure. When we eventually discovered that she had cancer, my mom’s life work changed once again. Her new goal became to live the life she had left to the full. This involved enjoying the daily activities provided in her hospice setting, being a good patient when she needed care, offering good company to her fellow residents, holding on to her dignity at all costs and assuring her daughters that she was absolutely fine. Apparently, my mom focused on the right things because she embraced her passing with peace and joyful anticipation.
In today’s gospel (Luke 12:13-21), Jesus tells us of a rich man who didn’t quite understand how to find happiness in his treasure. Jesus explains, “There was a rich man whose land produced a bountiful harvest. He asked himself, ‘What shall I do, for I do not have space to store my harvest?’ And he said, ‘This is what I shall do: I shall tear down my barns and build larger ones. There I shall store all my grain and other goods and I shall say to myself, ‘Now as for you, you have so many good things stored up for many years, rest, eat, drink, be merry!’ But God said to him, ‘You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?’ Thus will it be for all who store up treasure for themselves but are not rich in what matters to God.’” The poor man doesn’t understand the blessing that wealth of any sort is meant to be. He busies himself hoarding, rather than using what he has to enrich others. He loves himself more than he loves others, and he completely misses out on what matters to God.
My mom became expert at giving up the things of importance in her own life in order to enrich the lives of those around her. You know, we’ve all been blessed with gifts and talents. We can hoard them like the rich man or we can share them with those we’ve been given to love. Today, you and I are invited to make the choice that will make all of the difference in the world to someone who needs just what we have to offer.
©2010 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved