I woke up this morning to drizzly gloomy skies, a reflection of my heart and mind, it seems summer is taking her own sweet time. Generally, the weather alone cannot get me down, but today would have been my mom’s 76th birthday, and I was hoping for sunshine and blue skies to celebrate her warmth, her kindness and gentle spirit. Seven years have passed and more than ever, I would love to visit with my mom. I do talk with her every day, on the beach trail during my morning or evening walks, in my car driving home from anywhere, and lying in my bed at night. I ask her to help me with difficult decisions, and sometimes I cry because I miss her. I have stared at my ceiling in the dark, searching for answers and asked, What should I do? I know what she would say, Pray and go to church.
Growing up, religion was a huge part of our lives. We attended mass every Sunday without fail. As a teen, I remember walking to church with my siblings after long days at the beach, all of us fresh out of the shower, tanned with wet hair. I found peace in the rhythm of the rituals and the singing of hymns. As a young mother I took my own children to church but found it increasingly difficult to attend. Life grew busier . . . . and I grew restless.
For reasons I cannot explain or justify, I made choices that damaged relationships and changed the course of my life. During this time, I stopped going to church. My mom never nagged or lectured me, instead when I seemed overwhelmed or upset by the problems I had created, she would tell me she was praying for me, and suggest that I do it too. Having lost my faith, and feeling stubborn I would shake my head. Occasionally when she was running off to church she would say, You know, you can come with me? I would reply . . . I know. But I would not go.
Overtime I softened to the idea of stepping inside a church. A few times I attended mass with my mom on our infamous Vegas trips. Another time, our whole family, in Milwaukee for my Grandma’s 90th birthday, attended mass together. I remember glancing down the pew at my mom; she was literally glowing, full of light. Sometimes I think faith is a special kind of giftedness. My mom had that gift.
During the fifteen months she lived with cancer, I went to mass a few more times with her. I begged God for a miracle. I know my mom prayed and prayed for a miracle too. As faithful as she was and as much as she believed in heaven and life everlasting, she absolutely did not want to die and leave her family behind. However, she accepted her fate with grace. In her last days of hospice, priests were at our family home every day. We five kids sat on her bed, praying with her, and for her, until she finally found peace.
I still do not attend mass regularly. However, I find solace visiting churches, lighting candles, sitting alone and listening. I imagine my mom’s glow and smile. I continue to struggle with faith, and God, reconciling what I was taught with what I have learned and experienced in adulthood. I do believe we are all connected in some way and we have an obligation to maintain every connection with integrity, acceptance and love.
I do follow my mother’s advice, Pray and go to church . . . I go to the ocean, I walk in the canyon, I spend time with my family and friends, I listen to the tiny wisdom of my grandson Luca, I lend a helping hand wherever I am needed, whenever I can, and I practice gratitude daily. After all, this is what my mother taught me.
The sun did emerge late this afternoon, creating an absolutely gorgeous day, perfect for celebrating my mom, a woman of admirable faith and immeasurable grace, even in the last moments of her life as she left behind her most precious gift, her family.
Happy Birthday Mom. I love you.