When I booked the flight to attend the funeral of my former mother-in-law, I did not fully realize the impact of the trip would have on me. I wanted to go to support my ex-wife and older children simply because it was the right thing to do, but as I prepare to leave for Washington, DC tomorrow afternoon I thought I would share my thoughts.
In her mid 90's, Mary Callahan Schwartz was ready to join her husband in heaven, these were her words just before she left this earth. But in the years she was with us, she had a major impact on many lives and her six children. Mine was one that was influenced by her kindness, love and forgiveness. She reminded me of the actress Maureen O'Hara who played John Wayne's wife in one of those old Irish movies, she was strong, opinionated and not afraid to let you know how she felt. She will be truly missed.
Her beautiful daughter, Teresa and I were married by 3 Catholic Priests (that's another story) and went on to have 3 children who are now very successful adults with families of their own. What will always be a thorn in my side is how my own alcoholic behavior tore that family apart and is something I will always regret. But when I came to the Lord, I realized there was a chance for redemption.
My feelings this moment are not about the disappointment and hurt, but about the forgiveness that has been given me by Teresa and my kids, which mirrors the forgiveness of our Lord. When my Mom died, we were all together again, and their support helped get me through. When Teresa and I met in my Mom's apartment to discuss what the kids would get, etc., she pointed out with precise memory what each memento meant, and where it came from.
In those moments since through various trials, we have remained there for each other, and as I think about this trip, which commemorates Mary's homecoming to heaven, it also is a homecoming for me. It is a chance to stand side by side with the people who I love most in this world whom I have also hurt the most.
The impact on me, as it may have on you, is that no matter how much hurt we have done God stands by us ready to forgive and have us move on to reconciliation. Though we never forget how we have behaved, today is more important than yesterday, and how we turn our lives around is a testament to the forgiving grace of Christ on the cross.
If we always live in yesterday, today will never mean as much. There was a song that said, "That was yesterday, but yesterday's gone." We can't have a homecoming without coming home, and as the father accepted the prodigal son back, it is important that we as human beings reflect this wonderful image of God.
As Teresa mourns through this loss, it is heartening to know we will see her Mom through her. And it must be a distinct thrill when God sees his image carried on through us.
Glenn is an ex-Marine Viet Nam vet who is also a recovering alcoholic, clean and sober for 30 years. He has been involved in start up and ongoing recovery ministry at North Atlanta Church and Campus for the last two decades. He has a passion for outreach and to spread the message that the answer to lasting and fulfilling recovery from addiction is in a relationship with Jesus Christ. He and the ATB team are available to assist in your questions or needs on an individual basis and will do so maintaining complete confidentiality. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.