The Eucharist, Grief, Loss and Hope

My mother passed away in July 2017. She battled kidney disease heavily during the last years of her life. A kidney transplant prolonged her life much longer than many would expect. She spent her last years going to dialysis three times a week. It was a great burden of suffering for her that wasn’t alleviated until she passed away.

After her death, I couldn’t sleep at all. I would wake up in the middle of the night weeping. I remember laying on my couch and sobbing during the midnight hours; asking the Lord why she suffered so much and why I didn’t get more time with her. My mother’s life was fraught with loss and pain – physically and emotionally – and she carried a lot of wounds that never healed. A lot of my mourning was not just for the loss of her life but for a life that never was well-lived

One night, my seven year old offered my mother as the intention for bedtime prayers. And, my heart was finally consoled. I knew that my prayers for her were carried to the heart of God and met with a final purification for a woman that may have “failed to respond in a correct and perfect way to” the love of God. [1] In light of this, I knew that the love that I had tried to express to her for all of my life was now expressed in the most perfect way through the love of God. Through the death of my mother, He even found a way to pursue my heart.

It’s been almost 8 months since Mom passed. This weekend, I was sitting at Mass with my husband and our now 11-month-old daughter. She was waddling up and down our aisle, grabbing hold of whatever she could to give her balance – the back of the pew, empty chairs, strangers’ knees, etc.

I often look at my daughter and remember bringing her to meet my mother. She was three months old and my mom was recovering from a horrible bout with pneumonia in an assisted living facility. She was small and frail on her hospital bed but she was so excited to meet her newest grandchild.

“Oh, Rachel,” she said. “I’m so glad you brought her to me. That’s all I needed. I can go home now.” She passed away just a few days after that meeting.

Back to Mass. We were sitting next to another woman and her wheelchair bound mother. My daughter waddled over to the mother and grabbed onto her knee. My daughter looked up at the woman’s elderly face and grabbed onto her hand which was shaking from visible tremors of age and deteriorating health. My daughter didn’t let go and the shaking increased from excitement as tears welled up in the woman’s eyes. I watched this and stopped breathing. How incredibly beautiful.

I remember thinking that my mom wouldn’t be able to enjoy our youngest if she were still alive today. With her declining health, she had visible tremors like the woman in the wheelchair at Mass. As I sat watching our daughter grasp on to her, I could almost feel my mother inviting all of this to happen for my mending heart.

After Mass, the woman next to me thanked me, “My mom lacks grandchildren. This made her day.”

I replied to her, “My mom passed away last year. This made my day too. A gift for you and a gift for me. Thank you.”

For the rest of the day, I cried on and off. Upon further reflection, I realized that the tears weren’t because of the absence of my mother but they were tears from the realization that God pursues me and loves me deeply. He has found me in the midst of some of the deepest pain and dropped moments of clarity and beauty for me to remember his relentless pursuit of my heart.

Christ does this for all of mankind – giving us constant reminders of His love in every day life. But, He does this most perfectly through the Eucharist. “To receive in faith the gift of his Eucharist is to receive the Lord himself.”[2]

We must approach the Eucharist with thanksgiving for His sacrifice and love but also for the opportunity to be one – united together across time and space. You, the reader, with me, the writer, and even with my mother as the Eucharist allows us to “unite ourselves with the heavenly liturgy and anticipate eternal life, when God will be all in all.”[3]

Even now, I have very real moments of grief over the loss of my mom. I don’t think that will ever fully go away. But as I mourn with hope, may I continue to see Christ in every moment of every day and especially in the moments when He consoles my broken heart during my own loss or amid the darkness of the world.

And, I’ll see you in the Eucharist along with my mother and all of those who have gone before us and will come to be.

[1] “General Audience of 12 January 2011: Saint Catherine of Genoa | BENEDICT XVI”www.vatican.va. Retrieved 2017-05-17.

[2] Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1336

[3] Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1326

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rachelbulman

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