Of all the articles of faith of the Catholic Church, the Communion of Saints is one of my favorite. Forgiveness of sins rates pretty high, too, but since we are in this season of remembering I'll spend a moment on those who've gone before us. My mother had a deep ache in her life . Her father died when she was eleven. Quite suddenly. Her mother, my grandmother, never recovered. She spent years 'crying into the potatoes' as my mother put it.
Her father's death was the pall that hung over her life. When she married my father, a wounded war vet, she was sure she would be widowed any minute now. She instructed us not to upset him because he was likely to have a heart attack and die. He's now 91.
My mother, who lived in a state of precipitant loss, carried her grief as a trusted friend. In the years before she died, suffering from Alzheimer's, she often spoke of her mother and father and Aunt Jule. She wanted to go home. Home was the house where she grew up, the house where her father died. Not the house where she raised her own six children.
The seasons I was pregnant with my four children, my mother warned against baby showers or anticipating the joy of the children I carried.. Her mother's first child was stillborn. They had a crib and layette ready for the child who would never use them. Therefore,the lesson was, do not anticipate joy or life. It can be taken without notice. And break your heart. Broken hearts do not recover.
But they can. They will be changed. They won't be smooth or innocent. The hope is a broken heart will be bigger, stronger, wiser and more compassionate. Within a broken heart there can be space to tender life, not live always in anticipation of its loss. Growing up I wanted to tell her to stop living in the past. Stop living in a state of suspended grief. There is life. There is joy. But I couldn't tell her that. Her grief was too precious.
Here we are at All Hallow's Eve, All Soul's Day and All Saint's Day. We face our fears and we face our grief. We acknowledge death. We confront death. By dressing up and handing out sweets we steal its bitterness. We tell Death is does not win. We will not allow it the power it demands. Life is stronger than Death. Life continues. Altered, of course, but eternal.
I miss my mother. I wish I could sit with her and play with my grandson Jude. I wish we could shop for pretty pink things for Sophia Ann who is due Christmas Day.
We do sit together, though. She is with me here, in my home far from where I was raised. She is with me when I call my children and grandchildren 'Lovey"-- a name she called us in her joyful moments when she put down the burden of grief. She is present in the thick wavy hair and clear skin of my children and our family wide affection for words and story and whatever inherent dignity we carry. She is with us in our graces. I am so very glad she is my mother. And so very glad she is in good company.