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Photo: Courtesy of Rick Hinshaw

A Model of Mercy

One More Time, My Mother Helped Strengthen Our Faith

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By Rick Hinshaw

My mother, Mildred Hinshaw, died a year ago this month. She was a woman of strong faith. Still, unlike so many people, she would be the first to admit her own weakness and sinfulness. That knowledge, combined with her concern for the suffering and salvation of others, led her always to invoke God's mercy — for herself and for others.

She had a strong devotion to The Divine Mercy and its 20th century messenger, St. Faustina, and she prayed the Chaplet of The Divine Mercy every day. In her final days, we saw our mom's prayers answered. Her suffering from cancer, though severe, was relatively brief. She spent her last week on earth in peace surrounded by the two things that mattered to her most: her faith and her family.

Later, as my brother, my three sisters and I buried our mom, we had occasion to reflect on how this remarkable woman, who sought to live the message of Divine Mercy every moment of her life, had touched so many people.

We knew what she had meant in our lives. With our father, she provided a loving, faith-filled home. She was there for us, always, sharing our joys and supporting us through our fears and sorrows and always reminding us, through her words, but mostly through her example, that our faith would sustain us through everything.

She saw every human life as a gift from God. She viewed each life she encountered as an opportunity to encounter Christ. And, in turn, she saw in every person she met an opportunity to bring Christ to others. She always stood up for and assisted the poor, the sick, the disabled, and, especially, the unborn.

She did not just have a "prayer life"; prayer was her life. It permeated every part of her day, and the most important gift she could give to anyone was to pray for him or her. Even in the last months of her life, when she lay wracked by pain and anxiety, she would often implore us to join her in praying for other hospitalized patients whom she knew to be suffering.

We all drew inspiration by the strength of her faith. But it wasn't that she was so innately strong as to be free from fear. Rather, her faith gave her the strength to overcome her fears and to especially put her own concerns aside when others needed her. When she was told in June 2005 that she had stomach cancer and that her entire stomach would have to be removed, she embarked on a brief, but valiant, struggle to continue living for others.

Chief among those "others" were her 18 grandchildren and two great grandchildren for whom my mother was an active playmate in their younger years and a loving friend as they got older.

In what, to us, was a sign from God, we learned some days after her funeral that the date on which she died — August 25 — was the 100th birthday of St. Faustina, the herald of Divine Mercy to whom our mother was so devoted! We saw this as a divine assurance that our mom was in our Lord's merciful embrace. Through St. Faustina's intercession, our mom, in death, had been given the opportunity to give witness to the power of God's mercy.

One more time, our mom was helping to strengthen the faith of all who knew and loved her.

Rick Hinshaw lives in Lynbrook, N.Y.

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