A Final Tribute To Mom

As I prepare to leave southern Indiana behind once again to return to Anchorage, I wish to share some final thoughts about our family’s experience of accompanying Mom through her final days.  Please bear with me for one final reflection.

At the prayer service the night before Mom’s funeral, each of the family members offered some reflections about Mom. I could not think of Mom without thinking of Pop.  The two naturally went together, and it is barely possible to separate them.  I recalled a plaque that hung over the kitchen entrance to our home (back door) which said: “The best thing a father can do for his children is to love their mom.”  That is what Pop has done so well for 60+ years.

Part of God’s intention is that children be raised in an environment of love.  Children need to see their father and mother gaze at each other in love, express their love, and live their love in concrete ways.  This is the ‘domestic church’ in which my family was raised, in which every child is meant to be raised.  This is the school of love that trains each person in the basic human virtue of charity, which is the ‘mother of all the other virtues.’

Dad’s love for mom, especially in these past nine years was such an example of fidelity.  “In good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, I will love you all the days of my life.”  This is the love of Mom and Dad.  I mention this because I want people to know that it is possible to make and keep such promises.  Love is hard work, but it carries such rewards.  Part of the reward is yet to be seen by us in this life, and much of it was on full display for both Mom and Pop as we, their children, surrounded each of them for the final two days of Mom’s life in the hospital room where she died.

As my brother Bernie also mentioned at the vigil, our family is not perfect. We have our own dysfunctions as every family does, and we humbly own them! This, too, should give every family hope, that even in the midst of our foibles and weaknesses, great love can take root.  The goal is not perfection, but rather, love.

My brother, Zach reproduced a prayer the Mom and Pop prayed together each day for years. I share that with you here.  However, before the prayer, the simple ‘take-away’ here is for married couples to pray together!  Root your love and life in the Lord, and all will be well.  I cannot begin to share the impact upon all of us kids and grandkids seeing and hearing Mom & Pop daily pray together.  Prayer is what allows couples, parents, families, and individuals to carry the crosses and trials of each life, with a hope in God’s promise of presence and grace:

Protect This Relationship, Lord

Keep us, O Lord, from pettiness. Let us be thoughtful in word and deed.
Help us to put away pretense, and face each other in deep trust without
fear or self-pity. Help us to guard against fault-finding, and be quick to
discover the best in each other and in every situation.

Guard us from ill temper and hasty judgment; encourage us to take time for
all things, to grow calm, serene and gentle. Help us to be generous with
kind words and compliments. Teach us never to ignore, never to hurt, and
never to take each other for granted. Engrave charity and compassion on our hearts.

Please, pray for us.

A final reflection in the wake of this experience speaks to the dignity of the human person and the sanctity of every human life. Alzheimer’s is a dreadful disease, robbing people of their memories, and ultimately of life.  As Mom taught us how to live, she now has taught us how to die.

For the past few years, I have prayed: “Lord, Mom no longer knows us, and we do not know ‘where she is,’ but she still knows You, and You know where she is. Be present to her as only You can be, and assure her of our love.’  Pop lovingly cared for Mom during this nine year odyssey, and faithfully visited her each day at the nursing home these last fourteen months. Again, the point being; love was at the heart of our relationships, and faith was our compass, that despite the ravages of Mom’s path to death and eternal life, it is what God chose, and we found our peace with that.

Our world needs each of us to recover the sense of sacred, which in reality, is more than a sense.  Sacredness is the very definition of human life.  In these very hours, the Bishops of Alaska are hammering out final language for a Pastoral Letter on Human Dignity and Sanctity of Life which will be published next week on Ash Wednesday.  The experience of seeing Mom through her final hours has reinforced my belief in the sacredness of human life, and especially in the sacred experience of dying, of allowing God to determine the time and means of our final breath of life.

Rest in peace, Mom. Thanks for the many memories. Thanks for the gift of life. Thanks for the gift of faith. Thanks for teaching us how to live, and how to die, and to do both with trust in God.

Peace,

+pde

Arcbishop Etienne

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Patty Vieck • 6 months ago

Another beautiful tribute to our wonderful, Aunt Kay. Eloquent words for a fabulous woman. Great job, Paul. We love you all and will miss Aunt Kay. She was one in a million and we were all better for having had her in our lives.

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Fr. Scott Medlock • 6 months ago

Beautiful and moving reflections. How blessed you are to have such faithful and loving parents. We look forward to getting you back home.

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Anne Wessel • 6 months ago

Bishop Paul, Thank you for sharing how your Mom and Pop loved each other through their precious and intimate faith in our Lord and Savior. I know your pain. But I also know your joy of having loving and faithful parents and the wonderful memories that that you will always have of them together. After beginning a book just now that Charlie gave me about prayer, Steve sent me a link to your blog. He said I would understand when I read it. (hint, hint!) Perfect timing is God's timing! His love for us is the heartbeat of our lives! We love you and will pray for you!

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Eva Estorga • 6 months ago

What a beautiful tribute to your mom. It is evident that the love of parents is reflected on their children and that is what your pare What a beautiful tribute to your mom. It is evident that the love of parents is reflected on their children and that is what your parents have gifted you. The Holy Spirit Will always be with you and your siblings. May your mom Rest In Peace

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Richard Combs • 6 months ago

What a tribute to your Mom and Dad. I am also Truly Blessed with loving Parents! Examples of love are what the world and church are desperately in need of teaching our young adults. Thank You and your family for sharing your life with us. May God Bless!

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Pat Sherwood • 6 months ago

Bishop, I'm sorry about your Mom, your loss. I am honored to have shared in a bit of her life via your posts here. Thank you. I was heartened to hear you say " I want people to know that it is possible to make and keep such promises", that is such an important thing to say! Out loud!! I know that to be true, because it was so for my husband and I, whom I lost 3-1/2 years ago. Ours was not a perfect family either, but we were faithful to each other and worked through the things which needed to be worked through. We were married 54 years, the last twenty of which he fought off 3 different kinds of cancer. It was through his faithfulness to the Church that I was brought into it, and through which I find peace now. Those marriage vows MEAN something! There is life within them! And thank you for sharing that prayer-- I'm going to print that up and share it around. It is beautiful, it is true, it is life-giving, it shouts of hope! All young people should read that, ponder it! Thank you from Wyoming, and many blessings on you!

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Felicia Vogel • 6 months ago

My prayers are with you

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Rev. John Candido Rodriguez • 6 months ago

Thank you for sharing your beautiful tribute to your Mom.

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Mary Riley • 6 months ago

So beautiful, thank you

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Teri Perez • 6 months ago

Thank you Archbishop, your words are truly inspiring. Peace be with you.

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Sandy gilland • 6 months ago

How beautiful! Thinking about you and how blessed you are to be such a part of an amazing love!

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Barbara Block • 6 months ago

Your mom would be proud of your tribute to the love your parents shared.

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Edna and Chad Resari • 6 months ago

Thank you Archbishop. God has truly blessed us with you being our Archbishop and the example of your loving parents.

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Louann Oberhausen • 6 months ago

Well said.I hope that your family continues to share this love story. It brightens all our lives to see their commitment to God and family. Peace.

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Gustavo Azpilcueta • 6 months ago

Thank you for sharing your reflection, it was so beautiful and enlight how the family relationships are built on love. I am so sorry for the decease of your mother. I wish you soon resignation and may the perpetual light shine for her

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Anne Ross • 6 months ago

Your beautiful words made me cry. So much is taken for granted. I would like to copy this and the prayer of your parents. Simple but profound. Prayers to an amazing family❤️

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Mary Dimmett, Good Shepherd • 6 months ago

What a beautiful tribute to your Mother. It is possible to keep the vows of marriage. Ours was 69 years. It was a 10 year time at the end with the terrible Alzheimers. I wish more couples would take their vows seriously. It would help our children. Will keep you all in my prayers.

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Karen (Alvey) Wynn • 6 months ago

Paul, your words brought me to tears. I always thought so highly of your parents & your family. All of you were such an inspiration to me, honestly you were. I have such great memories of you & Bernie in band. I think of you all frequently. I ran into Rick one day in Tell City & got to talk to your Dad too. I had just lost my father at the time & Paul was so encouraging, as he always was. God bless you & your family during this time. Karen Alvey Wynn

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Martha Wilder • 6 months ago

What a beautiful description of your parents and their love for each other. Thank you for sharing and safe travels back to Anchorage.

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Alice C Cassidy • 6 months ago

Thank you for the beautiful tribute. We at Tell City miss and love you. I bet my Sister, Evelyn welcomed Kay in heaven. I miss her, still so much. May God keep them in his loving arms.

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Michelle (Girten) Porter • 6 months ago

Thank you for that. I am bringing that prayer and those thoughts into my own family and “domestic church.” Prayers for you in your mission so far North.

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Pam Stucke - Holy Rosary parishioner • 6 months ago

What an extraordinary remembrance of your parents' love for each other and for each of you. Your words remind all married couples the importance of maintaining a strong relationship with God and sharing it with their children. God bless you in all you do.

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Sister Harriet • 6 months ago

Thank you Paul, for sharing this final tribute. And what a tribute. There were so many highlights to your mom’s whole dying process, it’s hard to see how you found words to express this final tribute. But you did. Thank you for letting us share in her dying ritual from a distance. Your sharings are a blessing to us who could not be present. We are grateful and say “thank you”. Our prayer and love will travel with you as you continue to live the life your mom and pop have taught you so well. God bless us all. In loving gratitude for each of you.

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Rudy • 6 months ago

My folks had a magnet on the fridge saying "The best thing a father can do for his children is love his wife". It struck me, as a preteen, as one of the wisest things I'd ever read. It remains so today.

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Michael Hawker • 6 months ago

The beautiful spirit that has guided and blessed your family just leaps out of your prose. May all our families be so blessed!

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Trudy Reister • 6 months ago

Beautiful...

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Susan Theobald • 6 months ago

Very moving and beautiful reflection on life, marriage and death too. It also encourages those of us who are dealing with loved ones with dementia as well as Alzheimers disease too.

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Karen Beckwith • 6 months ago

Archbishop Paul, Don and I were saddened to hear of your mother's death. Thank you for sharing your love of her and your family in your blog. May God continue to bless the Etienne familhy.

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David Mitchell • 6 months ago

It sounds like your parents shadow their lives after the holy family . I pray your mom rest in peace and for strength for dad in the coming months .

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Susan Halvor • 6 months ago

Thank you so much for this beautiful reflection about the life of your mother and your parents' faithfulness. Our prayers our with you in this time of grieving.

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