August 16, 2013

Reflection / Mike Krokos

A mother, wife and disciple of Christ who gave so much to others

It was a day tinged with sadness, but also a time to remember someone who had lived the Gospel mandate of seeing Christ in others and being Christ to others.

My mother-in-law went home to God on July 24 at age 83.

She had been residing in a nursing home on the East Coast for the last few years, suffering from the effects of dementia and other maladies, but cared for by a wonderful group of religious sisters who truly made her time there a witness of how God can use each of us as instruments of grace, compassion and love in life’s final days.

Anna Marie Kuzma—a second “Mom” to me because I learned plenty and received much love and support from her—had lived a full life, one dedicated to her faith, her family and her country.

She was a pillar at the Shrine of St. Jude Parish in Rockville, Md., her longtime parish before she became ill, a founding member of its respect life committee, a longtime member of Sodality and so many other groups that serve the needs of so many—both at home and abroad.

Mom also volunteered with the Missionaries of Charity in downtown Washington as they provided so many things—especially love—to the hungry and homeless in our nation’s capital.

But there was more to the life led by the wife of the late Paul Kuzma and the mother of eight children, grandmother of 25 and great-grandmother of 14.

She never questioned God’s plan for the family. Not when their daughter, Mary Ann, died at 6 months. Not when their son, Thomas, was born with severe disabilities.

She was always there for her children—and their spouses—and never let anything deter her from the unconditional love and support she provided.

As she led by example and planted seeds, Mom was no doubt hoping and praying that faith would become a cornerstone of her children and their families’ lives. As we prayed the rosary as a family before her wake, I couldn’t help but think she succeeded.

I vividly remember the first time I visited her with my wife, Madeline—before we were married. We talked with Mom about her love of the Church and her family. We prayed with her and examined her first-class relic of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton that she encouraged travelers to venerate before leaving on a journey. Even after getting a hug, kiss and blessing from her, I walked away not knowing then what a profound influence she would have on my life of faith.

Mom’s love of life extended to the U.S. and many of its treasures.

I recently found out she fulfilled a big-ticket item on her “bucket list”—visiting all 50 states—thanks to a son-in-law who spent a day driving her back and forth from the Twin Cities to North Dakota so she could complete her lifelong dream by visiting The Peace Garden State.

Her hot dog casserole was delicious, and I enjoyed hearing stories about how she and her father attended St. Louis Browns’ baseball games when she was young, and how she loved America’s pastime.

I was truly in awe as I watched person after person console Madeline, her siblings and our family at the wake on the night before Mom’s funeral.

For three hours, there was never a break as folks came by to offer their condolences and share memories of a woman who had touched them in such heartfelt ways—getting them involved in a ministry 40 years ago that is still a part of their lives, cherishing her kept promises of prayer when they and their family faced a challenge, being present to so many of them in their time of need.

As we reflected on her earthly journey, I think we were able to see a life lived to its fullest by a person committed to her vocation as a wife, mother and humble disciple of Christ.

It was a life we came to truly admire, one that reminded us of Blessed Teresa’s wonderful quote that I will keep at my desk in Mom’s memory: “We can do no great things; only small things with great love.”

She lived that way.

And gave so much to countless others in the process.

(Mike Krokos is editor of The Criterion, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.)

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