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I am the mother of a prodigal

Close up of sad pensive millennial woman sit alone

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Laura Phelps - published on 05/17/23

My son’s life for the past 10 years has been a slow and subtle drift. Away from me and away from himself ...

I spent years trying to pray my suffering away. Through an impressive collection of Rosary novenas, Mass intentions, and candle offerings, every lamentation shared the familiar cry: “Please heal my son.” 

You see, I am the mother of a prodigal. 

On the days when life made little to no sense, I shook my head in disbelief, wondering, “How did we get here?” I read all of the baby books cover to cover and then reread them. I breastfed for years, despite it being incredibly painful and did not come nearly as naturally as “the experts” had promised. I bought the overpriced Baby Mozart CD and faithfully played it every night. I was guaranteed success!

But the truth is, I’ve always been on the road to here. I didn’t suddenly wake to the ache of empty arms; my son’s life for the past 10 years has been a slow and subtle drift. Away from me and away from himself. And while I’d give anything to see him today, healed, whole, and fully alive, I am comforted by the truth that I never loved him better than the day I removed myself from the chaos and gave him back to his Father.

I didn’t always feel this way. For years I was convinced that my love, not God’s love, was going to be what opened my son’s eyes and brought him back to his senses. I grasped onto my ungodly self-reliance, believing that it was a mother’s job to save her son, and thanks to my degree in “Codependency” I was up to the challenge.  But this all changed one summer morning in a church in Rhode Island. After discovering a detour in the latest plan, I went to Mass, slumped into the pew, utterly disappointed and numb to the grace I was about to receive.

Aware of a presence behind me, I turned around to find an older man with a message that would change everything. “The Lord will take of you,” he said. “He told me to tell you.”

I never saw that man again.

On the days when life looks nothing like I had imagined…

In the moments I am startled by grief …
When the calendar page turns, and life apart is lengthened …
When it hurts to breathe …
I remember …

The Lord is taking care of me. Taking care of my son. Taking care of everything.

And it’s in the remembering that I come alive.


This is part of the series called “The Human Being Fully Alive” found here.

ParentingThe Human Being Fully Alive
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