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 | By Father Charles Irvin

How I honor my parents

I wish I had honored my father more when he was alive. Now, I can only honor him with my prayers for him. He passed over into the next life 48 years ago. He was 57 years old and I was 23, a freshman in law school. My relationship with him was “strained,” as is the relationship many boys have with their fathers. He was less-than-perfect and did not meet my youthful perfectionistic standards. Now, I can love him only through my prayers for him – prayers asking God to fill him with infinite happiness, along with prayers of thanksgiving to God for having given me the manly father that he was.

Burying my mother was an entirely different matter. She died on my 59th birthday, when she was 88 years old, after having suffered from Alzheimer’s disease since she was 80. At that time, I had been a priest for 24 years and had dealt with death and dying many, many times. I was with her when she passed away, while she was peacefully sleeping. She simply stopped breathing and was gone, quietly and unassuming. Her whole life was quiet and unassuming.

My first feelings were that I was now an orphan and that I no longer had a home. I never had any brothers or sisters, so “home” for me was wherever my mother was, even though she was in a nursing home. If I was with her, I was home. Her passing stripped me of having any family, save visiting some cousins every once in a great while.

The next thought that came to mind was that the woman who had given me life was now dead. The woman in whose womb God had fashioned me was now gone, born into eternal life. Needless to say, it was a sobering thought. Suddenly, I was next in line for death in our little family! The truth is that we all have but a tenuous hold on life.

Our belief in the communion of saints is so very comforting. I stay in touch with mom and dad via my prayers, continually asking God to fill them to overflowing with His love, asking Him to give them happiness that knows no bounds and asking them to pray for me.

The death of one’s father brings with it one set of sorrows, along with, of course, another set of happy memories and the gratitude that goes with them. But the death of one’s mother is quite something else. Priests will tell you that their mothers’ deaths have a special meaning and significance to them, a significance that the few words in this little column could not possibly convey. It should come as no surprise that many priests have a special devotion to our Blessed Mother. We are “part of the family,” a family whose bonds death cannot even touch. She is our Mother.

One final thought. For me, to “honor my father and my mother” means that I must live an honorable life. My honoring of them is to try – however much I fall short – to live my life in such a way that it wouldn’t make sense at all apart from the existence of God. It’s the only way I can thank God, my mom and my dad for the gift of life they gave me.