May I tell you of the death of my Mother, Marie Temperance Foster? I was a teenager and she at mid-life, or so we thought. Her death, however, was far from sudden or dramatic. At first no one knew what was wrong–Mom just had difficulty walking. In time her condition was diagnosed as Multiple Sclerosis, though no one seemed really certain. She grew slowly worse. I sometimes discovered her up at 5:00 a.m. trying to vacuum the floor. She would struggle to clean a small patch of carpet and then slump into the sofa exhausted. After a bit she was up and working on another patch.

As her condition worsened, my Father and we three brothers took over the duties of daily life. She was bedfast by now and we set up a hospital bed in the living room. I had become a Christian by this time and one of my earliest prayers was for her healing. It was not to be.

Untheatrical Regularity of the Uneventful

Soon I was off to college a thousand miles away. Mom was now in the hospital. Three times in that first year I rushed home because we thought the end was near. But each time she would rally a bit and the dark tragedy of death would be replaced by the untheatrical regularity of the uneventful.

As it turned out, I was home on summer break when Mom passed away. Did she know somehow? I was the last one to visit her. For months all speech and physical response was mute, but on that last visit she squeezed my hand. I’m glad for that.

But I wasn’t with her when she slipped into eternity. It was 2:00 a.m. and she was completely alone … except possibly for the angels of God. She simply stopped breathing. That’s what the medical staff said. Actually her leaving was so quiet, so uneventful, that they didn’t discover it until later.

The Sanctity of the Ordinary

Perhaps that is as it should be. So much about my Mother was uneventful and ordinary. There was no spectacular drama, no newspaper headlines, no high adventure. She lived an ordinary life and died an ordinary death.

But she did both well. She loved my Father well and she loved us kids well. She lived through the gray terrain of the ordinary with grace and gentleness. She accepted her slowly deteriorating condition with a noble faith. She received death as she had life and disability, with patience and courage. My Mother understood the sanctity of the ordinary.

Few of us will be famous or major players in momentous events, but, like my Mother, we can all do the tasks of daily life with grace. It was Teilhard de Chardin who said, “the value and interest of life is not so much to do conspicuous things … as to do ordinary things with the perception of their enormous value.”

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