Going through her precious things was heartbreaking. I didn’t think I had the strength to do it only one year after she had gone home to God. But somehow, we mustered up the strength to lovingly open every drawer, search every dusty shelf and closet in an effort to gather a lifetime of things belonging to one precious soul.
At first we sorted clothing and shoes, saving special items for her grandchildren, ourselves and beloved friends. When we got to her shelves of books and drawers of cards the task became almost impossible. We sat for many moments on the floor of her room talking about the items she cherished most – “what did they represent about her as our mother, wife, grandmother and friend?” It was beautiful to read cards she had kept from all of us over the years. She even had a program from Grace’s kindergarten graduation at Milford Catholic. On it she wrote “Grace – adorable, bright, brilliant..” She kept so many things from specific cards from her beloved husband Joey of 52 years to baby photos of her 4 siblings and 10 grandchildren to notes from her best friend Marie. These were the items she cherished most in this life, these were her treasures.
Mom’s books varied in subject and topic. She was an avid reader who loved to engage in her book club fiction novels each month in addition to deeply spiritual non fiction books. I was amazed to see the notes she wrote in many of her book’s margins. She was always stretching her mind and asking questions. She loved the many gifts of her Catholic faith and the numerous holy cards that filled her books were evidence of her friendship with God’s saints in heaven. These men and women were her close friends whom she drew inspiration from in her desire for a closer relationship with God. She knew that they (and us) are not perfect, and it is through these imperfections and sufferings that we come to know the love of God in a much deeper way. She taught her children this important truth which has allowed the 3 of us to meet God where we are, sufferings and all.
When I think about all the things we found in mom’s room, the most precious were her books, her holy cards, rosaries, prayer books and prayers cards of those whom she loved but who had gone home to God (her sister, parents and many other loved ones). She kept all of these things close to her, along with photos of her family. This is what gave her strength to face the tough days – the changing cancer diagnosis and ultimately – the realization that cancer would take her from this life. She was able to be peaceful – so very peaceful throughout her life, and especially at the end, when many of us would be anxious and perhaps angry. Why? She knew her God and she knew that He loved her and was calling her home to paradise. He was in loving control. That took the pressure off and it allowed her to live in joy and peace.
I recently received some news about my back that was not entirely welcome. It looks like total healing may not be in my future and that my injury and 2 back surgeries are severe enough to predict some level of back pain for the rest of my life. It took some time to go from feeling sorry for myself to being in a thoughtful place where I could reason and think about what mom had taught me. God is in control. If back pain is part of my life, then so be it – I will learn to deal with it and work around it. Perhaps they may find something to help in the future – who knows? But because of this incredible soul whom I was blessed enough to call my mother, I understand that “all things work together for good for those who love God.” This may mean God will give me the grace to handle the suffering, or it may mean He will take it away. Either way, I can live without anxiety knowing that He is in charge. I’m not sure about you, but life is certainly much more manageable and joyful when we put God in the driver’s seat and “go along for the ride.” as mom would say.