Remembering Mom’s Epiphany

By Lauren R. Stanley

I lost one of my most precious notebooks recently, the one that holds my notes for my post-graduate studies. It’s a nice notebook, an old-fashioned journal actually, with heavy, dark paper and a soft leather cover. I love that notebook – its feel, its smell, the way the ink spreads a little on the page … But right now, I can’t find it.

Since my post-graduate studies resume in a few days, I have to have another journal. I own a lot of them – a friend keeps me well supplied. The one I settled on is small, also with a soft leather cover, and is hand-stitched together. I’ve used this one before, but hadn’t really touched it in years.

Flipping through it, I discovered that this was journal I used while sitting with my mother in her last days on this earth. On the very last page was a sketch I drew of her a few days before she died. She was lying in her hospice bed, sleeping peacefully, and as I sat beside her, I quietly sketched away.

It’s not a good sketch; I am not a good artist. But it seemed like the thing to do at the time, and I’m glad that I’ve found this journal again.

My mother died eight years ago, on the Feast of the Epiphany. Since that time, whenever I have celebrated the Eucharist, I’ve thought of her. When we reached the introduction to the Sanctus – “where with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven” – I particularly rejoice, for I am convinced that she is part of that company of angels, and that she is singing beautifully again to the glory of God.

You see, when I was a child, my mother had a beautiful soprano voice, and we often would sing together in church, she hitting all the high notes while I struggled to come anywhere close.

I remember well the day that I first hit the highest notes of the “Ave Maria.” My mother, standing next to me, singing away, turned to me and gave me the biggest smile. We finished the hymn singing together, and that day, for at least that moment, I felt all grown up.

From that time forward, my mother and I sang together … in church, at home, in the car. We didn’t always sing beautifully, and we didn’t always sing beautiful songs. My mother would often let me pick the radio station and sometimes, the songs were the catchy rock-and-roll that I preferred. At home, more often than not we sang show tunes or hummed along to classical music. One song dear to us both: “Que Sera, Sera.” The future’s not ours to see, she would sing. And somehow, hearing her sing those words, softly and gently, she managed to remove whatever fears I might have had about whatever was, or was not, going on in my life.

Long before my mother died, her singing voice had deserted her. She still loved to sing, and she still loved to sing with me, but now it was my voice that led hers, my voice that hit the high notes. Her voice, as she admitted, quavered, and her high notes were nothing but a long-ago memory.

In her last days, I sang to her a lot. I picked hymns that she knew, and sang canticles and prayers, and on occasion, when I was alone with her, I would sing “Que Sera, Sera.” My mother wasn’t sure she was ready to face God. She wasn’t certain she had lived a good enough life. She was somewhat afraid of being judged and found lacking. So I sang, over and over again, “What will be, will be.”

I like to think it brought her some comfort. I know that when she died, on the Feast of the Epiphany, she had an epiphany of her own, for my belief tells me that when at last she reached the Alpha of the rest of life, she found that God loved her and welcomed her home.

And now, whenever I celebrate the Eucharist, and especially when I celebrate on the Feast of the Epiphany, whenever I speak of angels and archangels and all the company of heaven, I think of my mother, and I smile a bit, because I know that she’s part of that glorious company, and that her voice has been returned to her and that indeed is singing away in heaven. Her epiphany of God’s love helps me remember that I am loved as well.

The Rev. Lauren R. Stanley is an Appointed Missionary of the Episcopal Church serving in the Diocese of Haiti, where she works on the Partnership Program and Development, and teaches at the Theological Seminary in Port au Prince. Her website is, where she is providing regular updates on the aftermath of the earthquake.

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