2013 10 May

Moderator’s Message – Giving Thanks on Mother’s Day

Posted in Steinbach United


Giving Thanks on Mother’s Day

by Gary Paterson


I have walked with so many people through the loss of a loved one, and I have warned them about the busyness that follows every death: the funeral home, obituaries, arrangements for the service, the death certificate and visits to the lawyer and bank officials, the extended family arriving. It seems to go on and on, and the heart is always on the run, trying to catch up with everything that’s happening. That’s what I tell other people…but it was different when it was happening to me, when my mother died.

But there were moments when what was really happening got through:late at night, when Tim held me; when my daughters arrived; when we chose flowers and hymns for the service; when I looked through pictures of my mother, and laughed and cried…and when I began to feel surrounded by a community of prayer.

Let me backtrack. One of the necessary tasks that faced us was the visit to the family safety deposit box to sift through various papers and documents, stocks and bonds, and the will. However, there was a real surprise in the box—my baptismal certificate! One Gary Paterson, born November 27, 1949, baptized six months later on May 28, 1950 (and by delightful coincidence, my future spouse, Tim, was celebrating his fifth birthday on that very day!). Our family was living in Whitehorse back then, so since there was no United Church minister in town, I was baptized an Anglican. I am fond of that ecumenical beginning.

I was amazed that my mother considered my baptismal certificate important enough to stash away in the safety deposit box for all of those years. I took it with me for some pondering time. Why had it been that important to her? What did it mean that she’d kept it as one of her treasures—“in the bank” no less? Was it that important to me?

And so I pondered away. That baptism marked my entry into the Christian family, into the church. To be sure, the journey hadn’t always been smooth and straightforward (that’s probably true for most of us)—there were lots of occasions for family fights, for leaving home, not sure if I’d ever darken a church door again. But still, the church had remained family—a community I kept coming back to and where I finally found my place and knew I belonged; where I kept being reminded of the Holy and, sometimes, where I actually encountered the Mystery. That long-ago baptismal certificate helped me remember the journey.

So, here I was, some 63 years later. My mother was gone, and my heart was heavy. And that’s when the messages started to come…“We’re praying for you.” A few phone calls; many e-mails and Facebook messages; postings on my blog; letters and cards from extended family; friends; colleagues; people from congregations where I have ministered; friends of my mother; members of the General Council Office and Executive, Conferences, and United Church Women; and from many people whose names I didn’t recognize but who were part of the wider church…my family through baptism!

In this time of sadness, I have been carried by a river of prayer from one day into the next, by prayers that hold and sustain; that help me remember I am part of a wide, wide network of care and love; that remind me that my life and my mother’s life are part of something much greater than any one of us, than all of us; that we are embraced by Love, by a God who holds us all, the living and the dead, from whom nothing in all creation, including death, can separate us; prayers that offer the hope of a peace that passes all understanding.

I am grateful for my baptism and for a mother who treasured that baptismal certificate. I am grateful for this United Church, my home. And I thank all of you who have carried me and Tim and our family in your prayers.