by Father Mark Goldasich
Humbled. Comforted. Grateful.
Since my mom’s death on June 4, these three words pretty much summarize how I feel. I’ve received a deluge of sympathy cards, emails, Facebook messages, phone calls and hugs — all a testament to the impact my mom had on others. The many people who came to her wake and funeral Mass brought tears to my eyes.
Even though I’m sure Mom saw me as the “professional” religious person, she was actually it. In other words, she practiced what I preach.
And how did she do that? This little story explains it well:
A woman in a Bible study told about an interesting discovery she made recently when going into her basement. Some potatoes there had sprouted in the darkest corner of the room.
At first, she couldn’t figure out how they received enough light to grow. Then she noticed that she had hung a copper kettle from a rafter near a cellar window. She kept it so brightly polished that it reflected the rays of the sun onto those potatoes.
“When I saw that reflection,” she said, “I thought, ‘I may not be a preacher or a teacher with the ability to expound upon Scripture, but at least I can be a copper kettle Christian, catching the rays of the Son and reflecting his light to someone in a dark corner.’” (Found in “Sower’s Seeds of Encouragement: Fifth Planting,” by Brian Cavanaugh, TOR.)
That was definitely my mom. She reflected the light of Christ in her radiant smile, her grateful attitude, her simple lifestyle, her generous nature and her warm hospitality. She especially enjoyed giving “low fives” to kids after Mass and at restaurants.
She lived the joy of the Gospel in her sense of humor, her exuberant singing (in Croatian and English), her readiness to polka at any time and in her ear-splitting “yee-hoo-hoo!”
And she shed light for me on the many copper kettle Christians brightening the world, especially now as I grapple with her death. A bookmark someone sent me said it well: “It’s the little things that make life beautiful.” Here are just a few examples:
• One parish family brought me enough tasty spaghetti and garlic bread to sustain me for several meals as I planned all of Mom’s services.
• The donations of so many to Mom’s favorite places — St. John’s, Sacred Heart and the Strawberry Hill Museum — have astounded me.
• Another parishioner sent two sheets of postage stamps in a sympathy card, anticipating what I’d need in writing thank-you notes.
• Skradski Funeral Home on Strawberry Hill made arranging the wake and funeral as easy as possible and did a stellar job.
• Two of my parishioners were a tremendous help as they cleared out my mom’s room at the nursing center.
• Friends have taken me out to eat and talk.
• My parish Knights of Columbus organized an honor guard for Mom.
• My home parish of St. John the Baptist in Kansas City, Kansas, could not have been more hospitable — from the support of the parish staff to the beautiful music of the funeral choir to the delicious meal after the burial.
• My brother priests concelebrated the funeral Mass.
• A parish council member brought a bag of chocolates to share at our last meeting in honor of one of Mom’s main food groups.
• A Monster Truck driver from the parish dedicated a maneuver in her show to my mom and sent me a video.
• And the concern of so many people as to “how I’m doing” and the offers of “call if you need anything” have truly touched my heart.
It’s these copper kettle Christians who show what the faith is all about. I recently came across this story in “Illustrations Unlimited,” edited by James S. Hewett, which captures so well why I continue to believe and do what I do:
When Robert Ingersoll, an ardent 19th-century agnostic, was in his heyday, two college students went to hear him lecture. As they walked down the street afterwards, one said to the other, “Well, I guess he knocked the props out from under Christianity, didn’t he?”
The other said, “No, I don’t think he did. Ingersoll did not explain my mother’s life, and until he can explain my mother’s life, I will stand by my mother’s God.”