Oh, Master Grant that I may never seek so much to be consoled as to console.
She stood there, a silhouette awashed in sunlight in the middle of Bishop Hannan High School. I saw her as I came up from the boys’ locker room and I realized what was happening. Scott, my closest friend, was gone.
I was going to a cross country practice when my coach came into the locker room that day and said I had a visitor. The strained look in his eyes warned me. Something was wrong. I assumed it was Mom. A year before, she’d had a heart attack – one of those that people call “A Big One” as if that’s some medical term. I figured I’d meet one of my sisters in the principal’s office and they’d give me the news.
But there she was, like some wingless angel with her purse hanging from her right hand.
Scott had beaten cancer once before. Even though my parents and his parents had told me things were bad, even though I’d said my last goodbye two nights earlier, I’d held out hope. He was going to show them.
But there stood Mom.
I walked up to her and she said the words and I started to cry. Mom reached up, holding my face. Then she pulled me down for a hug. I became aware of a few girls I knew standing nearby. Suddenly I was awash in hugs and a crippling loneliness.
She asked me if I wanted to go home or run with my teammates.
I ran. And I cried. While she waited. Then she drove me home.
To be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love with all my soul.
I walked up the stairs at 3:20 Saturday morning in a NyQuil fog. One of them was gone, of that I was sure. You don’t get 3 a.m. phone calls with happy news. Mom, I had prepared myself for that. Well, as much as you can. That heart attack and a few other trips to the ER over the years left me repeatedly telling Molly that “Every time I leave her, there’s a chance it’s the last.” The idea of Dad going has terrified me since fifth grade. One day before the school bell rang, I hid in the boys’ bathroom and wouldn’t come out. For some reason, I was convinced he was dead. I still remember that morning thinking “He’s gone, and he always has the answers. Who will have the answers?” So as I walked up the stairs, I wondered who it was and how I would handle it. Mom has just gone to the ER because of a temperature. But she was supposedly OK. She was going to be home in the morning. Dad spent the past two weeks with an awful sounding cough. Both possibilities horrified me.
Again, it was mom at the top of the stairs. This time, she wouldn’t be driving me home.
Make me a channel of your peace; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned.
Every parent-child relationship has its tumultuous moments and Mom and I had our share. Words were said by both that could never be taken back. I’ve always wondered how I would handle those words when she was gone.
The strange thing is, I don’t care right now. The good words, deeds and memories far outweighs those handful of words.
I keep thinking about Christmas mornings. Long after my siblings moved out, I had a monopoly on Christmas morning with Mom and Dad. Mom brought Santa to vivid Technicolor life. Oh, sure she’d be stressed about the 50 or so guests who would be arriving by 5 p.m., but Christmas morning was magical and mine. She’d shower me in gifts. I’d give her mere trinkets and she acted like they meant the world. Now I understand why parents feel that way. Then there were her cinnamon rolly pollies. She’d make them from leftover pie crust. My favorite treat every year.
And there was so much more than Christmas.
Breakfasts at Mark II or lunches at Big Boy when she took me to work with her. She always had food whenever friends would come over on summer days. I remember her teaching me how to color inside the lines when I was no more than 4. Reading to me as we trekked to North Carolina to visit Mary Jo. Slipping cash in my pocket whenever I visited after moving out. The time we got locked in the Globe when I was just a kid and it was like some crazy adventure. The phone calls; I’ll miss them the most. How she’d brag about one sister’s voice, another’s mothering and the other’s latest adventure. And anything and everything my big brother did. How she adored each of her grandkids and laughed telling stories about them.
When I became a parent, she regularly went out of her way to say how proud she was of me. Those words mean the most. Even if she gasped any time one of the kids walked down the back step.
In giving of ourselves that we receive.
What I’ll never forget about Mom – both parents really – is how much they gave. To charities. To their church. To each other. To their kids. To strangers. Sometimes it was money. Sometimes it was time.
Always, it was love.
And in dying that we are born to eternal life.