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The day was warm and breezy, and there was a scent of lilac in the air. Mother’s Day 1986 was about to commence with a flurry of activities in the parish.

After the morning services and the Mother’s Day breakfast, it was time to go home and to celebrate Mother’s Day with Mom. Mom wasn’t feeling well, so I had prepared her favorite meal to take home as a surprise.

I lived only a half block from home, but this day I would drive the car and the cargo it carried: two buckets of lilac, Mom’s favorite flower.

As I entered the back hall of our family home, the wonderful aroma of roasting chicken filled my nostrils. I opened the kitchen door and, to my surprise, the table was set – potatoes were gently boiling on the stove, and chicken was roasting with some root vegetables.

Stunned for a moment, I thought Virginia, who lived in the upper apartment, might have done it. Looking for Mom, I found her in bed almost too weak to speak. She woke when I entered her bedroom, and I asked if Virgie had prepared the meal. She smiled and said it was her Mother’s Day gift to me.

Speechless, I didn’t quite know what to say. She could barely speak, and yet she had found strength enough to cook a meal and set a special table so we could celebrate her special day.

It would be another week until I knew this was to be the last Mother’s Day I would celebrate with Mom. You see, she was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer and would soon go home to God.

How strong the love of a mother must be that a dying mother found strength enough to cook this last Mother’s Day meal. I ate that special meal sitting by her bed, telling her all that had happened in church that morning.

She didn’t talk much, but I felt her love and her happiness that I was there.

As a priest, I have often spoken about love and how as Christians it is a sign of belief in all that Christ taught us.

He tells us in the Gospel: “Love one another as I have loved you,” and “By this will all men know you are my disciples in that you have love for one another.”

If ever I learned what sacrificial love was all about, it was on that last Mother’s Day in 1986.

Love to the end – love without counting the cost – love is the greatest gift we can give.

At times in this life we admire great teachers renowned for their academic skills and knowledge. We look so often outside the homes we grew up in for the teacher who will make us great and wise. So often we fail to take a close look at those around us – especially good parents.

Looking back, I can recall the countless times that my parents taught me not by their words but by their selfless example what love was all about. There is a price to pay for loving and, at times, the price is very high – but if we truly love, it is never too much or too painful.

As her son and as a priest of Jesus Christ, I strive each day to share my love with all I serve and encounter.

This is truly the ministry of Christ taught to me on Mother’s Day by my dying mother.

I pray on this Mother’s Day that your memories of your mom are as sweet as mine.