Let nothing disturb you,
Let nothing frighten you,
All things are passing:
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things.
Whoever has God lacks nothing;
God alone suffices.
–St. Teresa of Avila (1515 – 1582)
I was sitting with my mother at Medical Center Plano when the oncologist came back with the report from a recent CT scan. It was April of 1996, approximately two years after she had been diagnosed with cancer. The news was not good. The cancer had metastasized in ways that left the doctors without any serious treatment options. The doctor’s tone was compassionate, but without equivocation, he told her that her life expectancy was approximately three months and that it was time to put her affairs in order. He then said, “I’m very sorry.”
My mother, who was a radiant beauty at age 71, smiled warmly at him and spoke words I will never forget: “Thank you for your kindness.” She then stood up, walked out of the hospital, and got on with the business of living the life she had been given. I was shaken, but she was not. Between that moment and the moment she took her final earthly breath on the morning of June 2nd, I never saw a tear or heard a single word of self-pity. She lived what I call the resurrected life, utterly convinced that what lay ahead would be better than that which had been left behind; confident that God was in control.
The words of St. Teresa are taped to the bottom of my computer screen. I confess that they are purely aspirational for me. Many things disturb me, there is much that I fear, and on a daily basis, I strive to hold on to things that are passing. The virtue of patience has been a life-long quest, and it remains elusive as ever. But I read her prayer every day, and often I think of my mother and how she embodied and lived it in the final months of her life. In recent years I have come to believe that we ultimately become what we practice, and so I am hopeful that Mother Teresa (and others) will lead me, perhaps ever so slowly, to that day when I discover for myself the vitality, and peacefulness, of the resurrected life.
Rev. Don Underwood