I had the privilege of working with Kim’s mother for many years and she made us all better people and taught us a thing or two about character, integrity, and an amazing work ethic. Please welcome my friend Kim Laney-Gonzalez to the blog today and may you be as blessed as I was with her thoughts about Matthew 5:4 on the 1 year anniversary of Joyce going home. -Julie
Christ’s Sermon on the Mount gives us eight wonderful gifts, called The Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12). I have taught The Beatitudes many times in RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults) in my parish. The Beatitudes are phrases that tell us we can happy or blessed, why we will be happy, and what the reward will be if we do what Jesus asks of us. Beatitude is a word for “blessing” or “blessedness”. There are two parts to each Beatitude. The first part expresses a position of spiritual joy and peace for the person who practices it. The second part speaks of some gift in which those are practice the Beatitudes are already sharing. When reading the Beatitudes, try substituting the phrase “Happy are” for “Blessed are”. The Beatitudes give us ideas about how to choose the things that are good for us and for others. When teaching this topic, it always seemed so cut and dry to me. If you do “this” you get “that”.
The past year has really tested my understanding and trust in the Beatitudes. Especially Matthew 5:4, “Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.” One year ago this week, I sat by my mother’s bedside, held her hand, and watched as she took her last breath and went to be with the One who heals perfectly. Since then, I have mourned. I have come back to Matthew 5:4 many times in the last 365 days and wondered “Lord, how am I really happy about mourning my mother? I don’t feel comforted. ” I recently realized two things. One, I totally forgot what I had taught others regarding this particular beatitude. And two, I have rejected God’s comfort this past year. Let me explain.
Why are those who mourn blessed/happy?
Well, the cut and dry reason is that when we mourn, we are telling God two things: how sad we are and how appreciative everything he has given us. We may be sad about losing a loved one, but we were blessed to have loved that person. It doesn’t even mean that the person you loved died. You may have lost a relationship with someone and are mourning that situation. But if you loved them, there was some blessing in that relationship at some point.
I was blessed to have my mother. I had the honor of being her first-born and her only daughter. As I grew up, she raised me to be a productive member of society. She led by example and worked hard her entire life. As an adult she was my friend and confidant. She and I had the unique blessing of working together professionally. My dad and my husband used to tease us about “talking shop” all the time. Not many people can say they worked with their mothers. It was a blessing to me in many ways because I got to see and talk to her a lot! We even traveled together for work on a few occasions. She was and always will be my hero and my role model. Reflecting on these reasons and many others, I realize now that I am “happy” to mourn.
How are we comforted?
Those who practice this Beatitude recognize that God is their comfort and they share in this gift from God. God is there for us in our time of sorrow. This is what I have been missing, well rejecting, during this past year. When I have wondered why I wasn’t being comforted, I now realize I was rejecting God’s comfort. I need to allow God to comfort me. I look over the past year and I realize He has been comforting me. But like a spoiled child I have taken it for granted or ignored it. He has sent his comforting in many ways.
I remember the day we told our children that Grandma died. Our son was 4, the twins daughters were 3 and the baby (another girl) was 9 months old. We were putting the kids to bed and my daughter Elizabeth put my face between her hands. She asked me “Are you sad that Grandma died?” I replied, “Yes, I am very sad.” Elizabeth wrapped her arms around my neck and hugged me and said “Don’t be sad, Momma. Grandma is with Jesus.” She did not let go of me until I stopped crying. That was God comforting me through the arms of a little child.
God has sent comforting to me in other ways. My sweet friend, Libby, has been a comfort to me. We are kindred spirits in that we both lost a parent recently. In her own mourning and despair, she has reached out to me to offer comfort. I hope I have reciprocated that to her and paid it forward with other friends who have lost a parent recently. My father has also comforted me. I know this year has been hard for him. He lost the love of his life after only 45 years of marriage. Yet, always a parent, he has listened to me and comforted me. My wonderful husband, Marc, has been my rock throughout this year. I could not have gone through this without him. He has held me when I have cried, he as supported me with words of encouragement, and he has also busted my chops when I needed it!
This next example of comforting may seem odd. On August 2, 2012, I attended a funeral service for my friend Julie’s daughter and grandsons. This service came at a very low point for me and I was probably as close to spiritually bankrupt as I could be. I was not doing well with my mother’s death at the time I heard the news about Lizz and the boys. I sat there wondering why God would let this happen. I mean, losing a parent is one thing, but children/grandchildren are not supposed to die first. What was He thinking? Strangely, I was comforted in the messages delivered that day from all the speakers. The music used in that service nourished my soul. To this day, I cannot hear “10,000 Reasons” without thinking of the Diem/Herro/Dowdy families. Thank you for letting me participate in that service. God was there that day comforting all of us, regardless of our situation. That was the day my spirit began to bounce.
So now that a year has passed, I’m supposed to be done mourning right? No. I will never stop mourning my mother’s passing. That would mean forgetting how much I loved her when she was here on Earth. However, I step into this next year and all the years to come with a new perspective and attitude. I believe my mother is always with me. I believe in Christ’s promise that I will be comforted and that I believe I will see my mother again.
Regardless of your situation, regardless of whom you are mourning, you are blessed and you will be comforted. Keep your eyes and your heart open for it! It is my prayer that you feel that comfort when you need it most.
In loving memory of my mother, Joyce Laney. June 6, 1945-March 15, 2012
Yours in Christ,
Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. Matthew 5:4