Long before she went home to her Lord this past Aug. 17, my mother taught me what it means to be a true Christian.
She was born Ruth Katherine Floyd on May 27, 1922. She spent most of those 91 years devoted to her six children. And her 11 grandchildren. And a host of great-grandchildren.
My mother was the fourth oldest of six children herself, all raised Catholic. When she had children of her own, she raised them in the same faith.
So it was off every Sunday to Mass, followed by Sunday school. Summers found the six of us ensconced in the nearest Catholic Bible school.
During the regular academic year, we would probably be in catechism classes – preparing for either our First Holy Communion or Confirmation – after school.
For years, Ruth Floyd – she was married four times, but I never use any of her married names when I write about her – was a devout, dedicated Catholic, and raised her children to be the same.
That was before what I call “The Test.” There are those who might feel we have a God that will test our Christianity, and test it sternly, if not severely, at times.
I imagine that’s how my mom felt in January 1996, when my oldest sister, Barbara, died of cancer.
Mom took it hard, of course. All parents expect their children to outlive them. Parents sure as heck don’t look forward to burying their children. But “The Test” wasn’t over.
On Nov. 25, 1996, my youngest brother, Tyrone, was fatally stabbed after a senseless street fight on a drug corner in Easton, Md.
My mother had lost two of her six children in just 11 months. I’d have understood if she reacted with even mild disgust, if not hatred, toward the man who murdered my brother.
Anthony Tyrone Mills was his name. My brother Michael and I, not even making a pretense of hiding our feelings, let our mother know just what we would do if we got our hands on Mills.
“Let go of your anger,” she urged us. “We have to pray for him.”
Oh, I was praying for Mills, but probably not in the way my mother intended.
I was praying no harm would come to him before I had a chance to get my hands around his throat. My mom was passing her test as a Christian; I was flunking, and flunking big time.
With one daughter dead of cancer and a son murdered, “The Test” still wasn’t over.
In May 1997, Carolyn, my mother’s second oldest child, dropped dead of a heart attack. Three of my mother’s children gone in a span of 17 months.
Still, my mom’s faith never wavered. She still kept after my brother and me to pray for, and forgive, Anthony Tyrone Mills.
Ruth Katherine Floyd, I told myself, had no idea how hard it would be for me to forgive Anthony Tyrone Mills. Oh, how wrong I was.
Ruth Katherine Floyd knew exactly how hard it would be for me to forgive Anthony Tyrone Mills. It sure as heck couldn’t have been any easier for her.
It finally dawned on me that being a good Christian – the kind that Christ called on to pray for and forgive enemies – is never easy. If it were, what the heck would be the point of being a Christian?
Redemption and forgiveness are at the core of the faith. My mother understood that after Barbara died. She understood it even more after she had to pray for and forgive the who murdered her son.
I pray that, one day, I’ll be even half the Christian my mother was.GREGORY KANE, a Washington Examiner columnist, is a Pulitzer Prize-nominated news and opinion journalist who has covered people and politics from Baltimore to the Sudan.