At The Bedside of The Sick and Dying

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How Do You Love Someone Who Cannot Love You?

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By Anna Costa

I want to share a miracle of mercy with you. It is the story of the life and death of my mother. I was her only child. She met my father when she was 14 years old. They got married when she was 21. Seven years later, I was born. I know she wanted a child, but I think her own painful and abusive childhood made it hard for her to love.

As a result, my own childhood was difficult. There was every kind of abuse, and my mother became an angry alcoholic. I grew into a lonely, terrified adult with my own battles with addiction. But by the grace of God and my Catholic faith, I married a good guy and had a daughter of my own. I found sobriety and serenity, and broke the cycle of abuse in my own family.

My mother never changed, though. As she aged she grew more bitter and toxic. In spite of this, I made the decision to remain in a relationship with her for the sake of my father. I also hoped for the outside chance that someday she might be able to receive my love and maybe give back some in return.

It was through my relationship with my mother that I learned the hardest, yet most valuable lessons, such as how to love someone who cannot love you, how to forgive, and how to have healthy boundaries.

My father died in 2006, leaving me to take care of my mother, who was becoming very dependent and, of course, demanding. It was tough.

Then it became clear that my mother was suffering from dementia. I noticed the changes because the relentless anger in her was softening. Not only that, but her constant complaints and criticism of me were becoming almost nonexistent. To make a long story short, dementia turned my mother into the kindest, gentlest little old lady you would ever want to meet!

I'll never forget the first time my mother told me she loved me. I was 50 years old!

As the disease progressed, so did the miracle of healing of our relationship. My mother started calling me Mom. She was confusing me with her own mother. She was content and I let her. I have often said that only God could have made it happen that, through dementia, I could become the loving mother she never had, and she became the loving mother I never had.

The healing was profound, but the dementia progressed fast. In two short years, she was near the end. On March 3, 2015, it became clear that it was time for Last Rites. I sat with my mother with the iPad playing the Rosary when the priest came by at around 11:30 a.m. At that time, I prayed, "Lord if she is going to go today, wouldn't it be lovely for her to die during the Hour of Great Mercy?"

When 3 p.m. came, my mother was in bed laboring to breathe. I began playing the Divine Mercy Chaplet on the iPad. As soon as the last chord of music ended, my dear mother took her last breath. I looked down at the time and it was 3:33 on 3/3.

I know in my heart that it was God's way of letting me know that she would be with Him. Our Lord's miracle of mercy unfolded in our lives and culminated at her death. It lives on in my heart, and I know that I am being called to share the message of mercy and the need to pray for the dying.

God is amazing and true, and His unending mercy is the power that heals and transforms hearts and lives.

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Julie, Ohio - May 27, 2016

Beautiful story. Thank you for sharing !

Elizabeth - May 28, 2016

What a touching story!

Sheila - May 31, 2016

Thank you for sharing such a wonderful story!

Peter Grant - Jun 1, 2016

Thanks for sharing.