09 December 2021, The Tablet

'Everything is gift': reflecting on a mother's death

'Everything is gift': reflecting on a mother's death

The words I said to myself like a steadying mantra as I left my mother’s house two hours after she had died. I wouldn’t see her again but she is forever with me because she is, was and will always be the very definition of gift

I first came across the term in a podcast sermon by Bishop Robert Barron in which he talks about the theology of grace, writes Shelagh Fogarty. He puts it so simply. God, creation, your life, every life and everything in it, is gift. Nothing you have done generates this gift. It is freely given by a loving God. Once you understand that, the only thing to do is to make a gift of yourself. Pour yourself out. Empty yourself instead of guarding yourself, instead of holding on to what you have.

When we hear this, I suspect most of us leap straight to thoughts of the material things we can give, share, or let go of – and of course we should – but it’s more than that. I only really understood “the loop of grace” in the years I was with my mother and caring for her before she died three months ago. The vulnerability that crept up on her in ever-accelerating stages rarely felt like a gift to her, I’m sure. She struggled with it, sometimes despaired of it, and felt sorrow because of it. As did her children. But during these years I often experienced that loop of grace that Bishop Barron speaks about. The more you empty yourself in giving, the fuller you seem to become. That has certainly been my experience of the last few years with Mum.

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