Matney: A mother’s final wish
As we celebrate Mother’s Day, I am remembering my own dear mother. She taught me how to love and forgive others. And, I frequently get to practice forgiveness when the guy cuts me off in traffic, when people say and do mean or insensitive things, and even when I’ve lost income because of others. Not every mother is like mine, but we all can learn the lessons she taught me.
Several years ago, a local senior passed away. Her daughter said she and her brother had fought horribly over their mother’s estate. She said, “My brother and I will probably never talk again.”
I know this is not the outcome the mother would have wanted for her children. There is a desperate need for all of us to know the nuts and bolts of how to forgive and, hopefully, enjoy subsequent reconciliation. I would like to share a brief lesson from a novel with which I’m familiar.
Local author and longtime valley resident, Shirley Welch and I have co-authored a novel that is loosely built around people and places we’ve known here. The title of the book is, “Final Wishes.” Simply Google, “Final Wishes, Shirley Welch, Dan Matney” to find it on Amazon. Currently, it is only available on Amazon. It is available as a paperback or on Kindle. Download it on Kindle and have it in time for your mother to start reading it on Mother’s Day!
Here are a couple of brief passages from the book that has to do with our Mother’s Day theme and how to forgive. They’re on pages 161-163 of the novel. Hanni is one of the seniors living at the Piney Senior Center. One of her final wishes is for her sons to be reconciled with each other before her death. They have been estranged for many years due to financial disagreements.
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Pastor Stan, the center’s chaplain, along with Richard, another resident at the center, travel overseas to talk with Finn, Hanni’s oldest son. Stan is encouraging Finn to forgive his brothers. He has Finn read Matthew 5:44 and count the steps involved in moving toward forgiveness.
Finn picked up the Bible, read the verse silently, and then counted out loud. “One — love your enemies. Two — bless those who curse you. Three — do good to those who hate you, and Four — pray for those who spitefully use and persecute you. I see four commands.”
Stan replied, “Great. That’s the way I read it. I’d like you to do something which may be hard at first, but as you practice it, it will become easier. This will be the first step toward your ultimate goal of seeing your mother, along with your siblings in Colorado.” Stan paused a moment, cleared his throat, and continued. “I want you to pray for your bothers.”
Finn protested, “Whoa, I’m not a religious man. I’m not sure I believe in God, much less believe in praying for my siblings.” Finn stuttered, “I’m not sure I know how to pray.”
Stan replied, “The nature of prayer is such that if you start with only a sincere wish in your heart to see things change, you will begin to see it happen. Your deeply held wishes and desires can become a focused hope, and hope can become faith, and faith can move mountains.”
In the novel, Stan tells Finn to faithfully practice prayer, even when he doesn’t feel anything and see what happens. Even now, when I read the rest of the story, it brings tears to my eyes.
The novel is not a religious book, but it contains a few spiritual conversations. There are many other scenes and final wishes that will make you laugh, cry and warm your heart. It is a touching tale of life, love and death in a Rocky Mountain senior center. It would make a good Mother’s Day gift. Now, back to the lessons on forgiveness and reconciliation.
Sincere wishes, directed as humble prayers to God, will help neutralize harmful pride and nourish forgiveness and reconciliation. Practice blessing rather than cursing your enemies. Do good to them. Be the one to reach across the aisle and offer forgiveness and reconciliation.
A mother lay dying. Her husband and son, standing on opposite sides of her bed, were estranged from each other. Her final wish was that they would be reconciled before her death. She reached out one hand to her son, the other to her husband, and with her last ounce of strength she brought their hands together over her dying body. This is a picture of Jesus stretching out his arms on the cross. With one hand, he is holding God’s hand. With the other, he is reaching out to you.
God was in Christ, restoring the world to himself, no longer counting men’s sins against them but blotting them out. This is the wonderful message he has given us to tell others. We are Christ’s ambassadors. We beg you, as though Christ himself were here pleading with you, receive the love he offers you — be reconciled to God, as 2 Corinthians 5:19-20 states.
Friend, if you are estranged from family, a friend, or coworker, begin to wish them well until your perspective changes toward them. And, if you are estranged from God, even if you’re an atheist or agnostic or a rebellious backslider, pray. God will hear you and begin to change you and your circumstances. The world will be a better place because of it.
Dan Matney is the pastor at New Life Assembly of God in Avon. Email him at email@example.com.