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In the nine short years she had with her mother, Kathy Perusek learned that time spent with her loved ones is the most important gift of all.

Cleaning and scrubbing can wait till tomorrow,
For babies grow up, we’ve learned to our sorrow.
So quiet down cobwebs, dust go to sleep.
I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep.
(“Song For a Fifth Child,” Ruth Hulbert Hamilton, Ladies Home Journal, 1958.)

Years ago, while raising my children, I found a wall hanging with these words which resonated in my soul, and reminded me of my own dear mother, with whom I had the joy and privilege to share time on this Earth for nine years. At first glance, these words may seem to excuse keeping a dirty house, yet, in reality, they proclaim a far greater truth which transcends the physical realm, and that is the brevity of years that we mothers have with our children, to hold them, play with them, sing to them, show them the beautiful aspects of God’s creation, and mold them into people who live close to God.

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God blessed my sister and me with a good and loving mother, Ruth, a convert to the Catholic Faith. Every day she gave witness how to live the Catholic Faith, to pray, worship God, and how to treat other people. My mom was warm, loving, kind, gentle, meek, and compassionate. She had a warm smile and open heart to everyone, considering no one a stranger. She could not turn away a door-to-door salesman, always feeling compassion for them and the difficult work they had to do. She taught us, through her difficulties in her marriage, how to turn the other cheek and forgive.

Mom spent time with us. Every day she took us for a walk, read lots of books to us, joined in on our imaginary clubs and games. Mom let us have the run of the house, climbing on the couch, kitchen chairs, vacuum cleaner, sliding down the carpeted steps, and spinning around on the bright orange, vinyl, swivel chair. We danced to music, had picnics in the back yard, and lay back and watched the clouds float by, naming all the interesting shapes.

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Sometimes Grandma, our mom’s mom, who kept an immaculate home, would visit, and chide my mom about all the dirty dishes in the sink. My mom’s response was always the same: “I’ll have plenty of time to clean house after my children are grown.” Our mom did her share of housework, but we children knew that we were her priority. And we knew, without a doubt, we were loved and cherished. My mom had plenty of hugs, and advice to go around. It was as if she knew her time on Earth would be short.

My mom personally knew and loved Jesus, Whom she had learned about, in Baptist Sunday school. I have many fond memories of cuddling on my mom’s lap, while she read my sister Linda and me Bible stories and taught us about the Faith. Every night we knelt beside our bed and said our prayers. Our mom sang to us: Braham’s Lullaby, Jesus Loves the Little Children, He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands. Christmas Eve, when my dad was working, our mom gathered my sister, Linda, our baby brother, Ricky, and me, around her piano, with only candlelight, as she played, and we sang beautiful Christmas hymns. This was our last Christmas with our mom and Ricky.

Sadly, tragedy struck our family on June 3,1973, the night of a suffocation accident involving our Mom, baby brother Ricky, sister Linda and me. Trapped in a closet, hiding from a tornado, my Mom and Ricky went home to Jesus, and Linda and I recovered from a coma and miraculously survived.

What are the priorities we have in the raising of our children, and how can these priorities best be lived? #catholicmom

Years later, I marvel at how God snatched us out of the jaws of death that day. Our purpose on this Earth has not been fulfilled. I cherish the time I had with my mom and baby brother, for it gave me an appreciation of what really matters -- people, not things, and love, most of all. So, I encourage everyone to cherish the short time they have on this Earth with loved ones and to know, love, and to serve our Lord in this life, to raise their children with an eternal perspective.

Ponder: What are the priorities we have in the raising of our children, and how can these priorities best be lived?

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Copyright 2020 Kathy Perusek
Images (top to bottom): David Brooke Martin (2018), Unsplash; all others copyright 2020 Kathy Perusek