By Lena Gokelman, BM ’85
UIW Coordinator of Liturgical Music
The passing of my mother unexpectedly in 1995 is a moment powerfully etched into my memory. My mother, who was not a great adventurer, had decided to take a trip to Europe with a group of seniors. She was in good health and spirits, though still working through my father’s passing 16 months earlier. Within 12 days, she died in France from complications of Legionnaire’s Disease.
I recall the homilist at her funeral making reference to her life in one word – her dash. Mom was a very simple woman, but spiritual, compassionate and selfless in what she did for others. Her birth and death dates were only markers in time. But, the dash between them was her life – how she lived and loved.
One of the inevitable realities of getting older is “taking stock” of our lives. At some point, there is an expectation or need to document our accomplishments professionally. For some, success might be in the length and breadth of the visible list. For others, there might be a need to see the fruit of one’s labor in order to feel that sense of accomplishment. But, if the success of our life’s work must be measured within our lifetime, we must think outside the box.
In the words of Salvadorian Archbishop Oscar Romero: “One person plants a seed in the soil. Another waters it. We plant seeds that one day will grow. We water seeds already planted knowing that they hold future promise. We lay foundations that will need further development, (for what we do) may be incomplete, but is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for God’s grace to enter and do the rest. We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the Master Builder and the worker. We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs. We are prophets of a future not our own.”
Life can change in an instant. So, as I consider my own dash, I am grateful to the CCVI congregation, university faculty, staff and my mother who planted and nurtured the seeds of faith, truth, service, innovation and education in me years ago. I know that what I do in my life may always be a “work in progress.” But, I am blessed and privileged to be a minister, planting and nurturing the seeds (and songs) of mission within others, and knowing they will one day do the same. Soli Deo Gloria!