My very dear friend’s mother passed away. Her funeral is today. Rest in Peace, Elsie.
“Then Jesus said, ‘There was a man who had two sons”
My mother gave birth to five children, of those two girls lived and stayed with her into our adulthood. My mother passed on two years ago.
“The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father give me the share of the property that will belong to me.”
I was always aware that my younger sister asked for and received money from my mother even after she was grown and had a job. I resented her for it and complained about it to my mother.
“Not long after, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant land and there squandered his wealth in wild living.”
My sister got married, moved away and lead an extravagant, upper middle class lifestyle she couldn’t afford so she still needed money from the family. My mother and I discussed, more than once, the character flaws that led my sister to be in constant financial trouble.
“After he had spent everything there was a severe famine…. and he began to be in need…He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.”
My sister’s husband died and then she had a stroke. That chain of events led to her final and total financial ruin. She couldn’t keep her corporate executive job. Her home went into foreclosure and she had to apply for food stamps. She was embarrassed in more than one way. To make matters worse, she didn’t have any friends in her adopted city to help her.
“And he arose and came to his father. But while he was yet at a distance, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.”
By that time my mother had suffered a heart attack so she was in a weakened state herself. Still, my sister came back to our home state and told my mother that she had bad luck but she had also made bad choices.
“And the son said to him, `Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet; and bring the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and make merry; For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to make merry.”
My sister moved into my mother’s apartment. My sister wasn’t working because of her disability. She did my mother’s grocery shopping and they cooked together. They enjoyed meals together most evenings.
I asked my mother how she could be with my sister so easily after all that was said and done. She said she was glad my sister had survived the stroke; glad she had known enough to come back home. She said she was glad she could “lay eyes” my sister every day.
When my mother died my younger sister got a lot of her furniture, including her beloved Grandfather clock and many of her books. I didn’t care about any of it except for the books. My mother had a lot of theology books. It was a subject she and I shared a love of. Many times I drove her to her bible study class and listened to her discuss the lesson on the car ride back to her home. I was angry and wondered why she didn’t leave the books to me.
I remembered something my mother said to me a few days before she died. First she said, “I really love you, you know. Then she said, “Take care of your sister because everything took a lot out of her and she needs you.” To this day I am left wondering, was my mother leaving me a lesson about forgiveness? Or was it a lesson about acceptance? Or did she just want my sister to have the books?
(I wrote this piece as an experimental exercise for my writers group. It’s a work of fiction. The news of Elsie’s death is what prompted me to post it.)