May 27, 2016

Emmaus Walk / Debra Tomaselli

The powerful example of a prayerful mother-in-law

Debra Tomaselli “Here,” my mother-in-law said. “We’ll put the documents in these manila folders. The next time you come over, we will finish sorting them.”

I was sitting on the floor surrounded by piles of bills, insurance policies and bank statements. I slipped each stack into a folder, placed the folders in her file case and stood up.

“Where do you want this?” I asked.

She took the case. “Right here,” she said.

Mom opened a closet door. The closet was jammed with boxes of every size. At least for now, we shoved the little gray file case inside and pushed the door shut.

Mom sat in her recliner.

I turned toward the sink for a glass of water.

“Would you like a drink?” I asked.

“Sure,” she said. “Water, please.”

As I reached for a glass, I looked around.

There was a large framed picture of the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi, which hung in her living room. She’d had it for years, and every time she moved, it moved with her. Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.

The ice clinked into her glass, and I filled her cup. Stepping toward her, I handed the drink to her.

She looked back at me with that characteristic twinkle in her eyes and irrepressible hint of a smile on her face.

Where there is hatred, let me sow love. That definitely was my mother-in-law. She lived that prayer.

I thought of all the changes Mom had endured in the past year. Moving here from another town. Losing her beloved husband. Losing her involvement in the church choir.

Yet, she never complained.

I turned back to get a glass of water for myself.

Near the sink, I noticed a well-worn plaque. On it was the familiar verse, Psalm 23.

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.

Mom saw me reading it.

“I pray that a lot,” she said, smiling.

“The Lord is my shepherd,” she began, quietly.

“I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures.

“He leads me beside still waters.

“He restores my soul.”

She had it memorized.

“He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake.

“Even though I walk through the darkest valley,

I fear no evil.

For you are with me;

Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me

in the presence of my enemies;

You anoint my head with oil,

my cup overflows.”

She got up and headed toward the sink, cup in hand.

I turned and faced her. In one unforgettable moment of my life, our eyes met.

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me,” I watched her say.

I joined her in praying the final lines of the verse.

“All the days of my life,

And I shall live in the house of the Lord forever more.”

(Debra Tomaselli writes from Altamonte Springs, Florida. She can be reached at

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