I was only technically an adult when my mom died. I was 22 and had only just begun “adulting” as they say today. Still such a child, and at the time, tight in someone’s clutches, but that is a story for another time. Today I write in honor of my mother.
I haven’t sentimental memories to call upon on this 41st anniversary of her passing. My mom had a hard life, made harder by her choices. She was only 11 when her mom died, so she, too, had to wing it on this journey. It was clear that I was too much for her- too much will, too much exuberance, too much a challenge. I grew up vowing never to make the mistakes my mom had made, but I plunged in just the same. And she, exemplifying “tough love” before it had a name, said, “You made your bed, now lie in it.”
So when I feel melancholy at this time of year, it isn’t a longing for a return to good ol’ days, or from missing a mom who could always make everything better. It is, perhaps, the sorrow at what never was, and for what might have been, had she not left this earth so early in my life. Despite hers and my precarious relationship, I know that my mom would have loved my children, would have beamed in pride at having 11 grandchildren between my brother and me. Maybe, if she’d had the chance in later life, she’d have been healed of the wounds of her childhood. Regardless, it would have been a blessing to my children to have known her.
Despite the lack of cherished memories or warm fuzzies, my mom did give me the greatest gift in life, after life itself. She imparted the Faith to me, and for that I will be eternally grateful. We believers in Jesus, and in the Catholic Church He founded, know too well that what Mother Church teaches is true and that the world knows not its Savior. There but for the grace of God… My mom did not receive Holy Communion for most of her adult life (having not been married in the Catholic Church), but she still went to Mass every Sunday. She reinforced at home what I was taught at Catholic school, that Jesus was truly present in the Eucharist. She believed in miracles and that the saints were her friends, who interceded for her at especially critical times. She prayed her rosary so much that its beads were worn down.
She also did her best to help those less fortunate than she. Thus we took in a young single woman in need of a home, the daughter of one of my late father’s former associates. She regularly passed things on to those in need. She sold our house to a nearby family, actually loaning them the down payment from proceeds of my father’s life insurance. A widow who made a meager income as a bank teller, she also loaned (actually gave) money she could have used to her step-sister’s daughter who was in dire straits at the time. She reasoned that one of her aunts had loaned her money one time, so she should, too. She was generous, and it was a natural outflowing of her faith in God, of her belief in the teachings of the Church.
So I have much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving weekend. Not for a mom who taught me to cook, nor gave me self-confidence. Not for an easy life, unmarred by tragedy. Not for a big extended family who are my roots. No, even my only brother has departed this earthly life, as have my mom’s two siblings. What I have is a love of God Who I know loves me. That is the most important thing of all. And I credit my long gone parents - especially my mom - for making sure that in the midst of our poverty, I had that treasure.