Did you ever spend a moment looking at your shoes and wonder about the places they’ve been? I must admit that this is something I’ve never thought about until my sister and I wandered into Mom’s closet last Sunday. We were looking for a sweater or something special of hers to wear to Mass with Dad. Our eyes were drawn downward to her shoes and rested upon a worn pair of her favorite Sperrys. These were not the shiny, fancy ones but the worn, brown ones that she loved to wear often. These were the shoes that accompanied her to many places and greeted many people. These were the shoes that supported a woman who gave without seeking anything in return and who only sought the best for others.
This past spring, Mom came down with a serious pneumonia after a chemo treatment. It was a scary time and we were all quite worried about her. My daughter Grace, who was home on spring break from college, drove Nona from Cape Cod to Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston so that Papa could sit in back to care for Nona. Once there, the doctors went into high gear so that emergency care could be administered right away. In the midst of this chaos, I contacted my sister and brother out-of-state. When we finally got Mom into a room and on medication she was quite weak and unresponsive as you can imagine.
My sister arrived from Connecticut and together we stayed by Mom’s bedside. At one point in the evening Mom kept saying “get the chicken, get the chicken.” We thought this was an effect of the meds or pneumonia and ignored it. Sure enough, Mom continued into the night “please get the chicken, I bought enough….get the chicken” We finally discovered that Mom was scheduled to cook for the Noah Homeless Shelter in Hyannis that week and while she was extremely ill, she did remember her obligation to these honored guests whom she’d gotten to know over the years. My sister and I were literally blown away.
Our beloved mother was fighting for her life and all she could think about was the meal – the chicken – for the Noah Shelter. This incredible effort by my mother reminded me of a famous quote by St. Mother Teresa “It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.”
This is just one example of my mom’s generosity. She gave of herself to everyone – those who knew her and those who did not. If she passed someone on the street, she’d smile. If someone would tailgate her on the road, she’d say “well, he must have an important reason to be in a hurry.” If someone needed a friend to listen to a story, that friend would be her. If a relative needed a lift, she’d bake her famous Italian cookies and mail a care package. If one of her children were down or overwhelmed, she’d send the most wonderful card, with the perfect message to lift them up and let them know they were not alone.
Most of all, she prayed for everyone – all of the time. Mom was a woman of deep faith her entire life. I don’t think she could be a woman of selfless giving, if not for her deep faith in God. It is because she trusted so fully in the love of God and the promise of eternal life that she was able to give fully and completely of herself. She filled herself up with God’s love and then poured out His goodness to everyone around her. She exuded this goodness – it was her very being.
Looking down at the brown Sperrys in Mom’s closet causes our eyes to fill with tears. These are tears of gratitude though. Gratitude to God for the gift of this incredible soul – this beautiful, light filled woman who we were lucky enough to call our mom. And this soul blessed so many others by putting on her Sperrys and stepping out in service each day with the goal of giving back and spreading joy, light and love. May we all follow her example and wear out our shoes in the very same way.