This has been a year filled with both high, and low level grief for me. Grief began with my mother’s death almost a year ago. It continued through the year, mostly at a lower level. This week, grief crescendoed again with the interment of Mom’s ashes last Tuesday. The harsh sound of earth hitting her metal urn made the stark reality clear to me. Her body is now at rest beside my father, my brother Michael, and many others of the family who have gone before us. The selection of the above chapter from the Rule may seem out of touch with the subject of Mom’s death and my grief. In fact, is directly in touch with the many wonderful gifts she passed on to me.
Above all, Mom loved to read. She could be found at almost any hour of any day, curled up in a comfortable chair with a book in her hands. She would read almost everything. And the books she really loved, she read over and over. In fact she read them so many times that she would note the proof-reader’s mistakes in her books margins. During the time of her declining health I asked her what she would most love to be able to do again. The answer was simple, “I want to be able to read again.”
Mom began to pass this love for reading to me when I was very young. My childhood evenings where spent with her arm curled around me while she helped me learn to read and to read well. She did this so well, that I too can be very often found with a book in my hand. I actually seem to go into a type of withdrawal when I haven’t been reading for awhile. I start to get restless, realize what I am missing, curl up in comfortable chair, with a cat in my lap, and open a favorite book. If I could have one last day with her here on earth, I think I would choose a day with some quiet conversation about all she’s meant to me, but there would also be time for both of us to curl up in our chairs and read together, while the loving atmosphere of home surrounds us.
Mom gifted me with so many other things it is almost impossible to count them: a clear, strong, and true voice and a love of singing; a strong love for pets, especially the little people in cat suits that frequent my house; the knowledge that all people of what ever race, creed, nationality, gender or sexuality are God’s people and should be treated with the love Christ showed us; a deep love for the church; a deeper love for God.
Those last two gifts were the most wonderful of all. She and my father raised us in the Christian faith, not with overt preaching, but with the quiet example of their own faith and their own lives. Going to church on Sunday was not optional. But there never was a struggle about that as they raised us to know Sunday was the Lord’s day, and Sunday morning was to be devoted to worship and learning about our Lord and Savior. It was no accident that two of her sons became pastors. I like to think if my oldest brother, Larry, had survived he would have been pastor too. That love, combined with the love of reading combined to make me pick up a different book one day; the Rule of St. Benedict.” So in a very real sense I my presence in my Benedictine community is also Mom’s gift to me.
At Mom’s committal service I was moved to read a poem written by Joan Sauro in Weaving magazine. It describes a woman’s connection to her mother and to God. In many ways it parallels my own connections.
"I was born connected to my mother. She diverted the rivers and streams from her body
into my body. And my body remembers. It remembers my mother’s singing in the rivers and streams. It remembers how she walked in a good, quick step, and how she rested, with her hands laid gently across her body and mine.“
”One day I was pulled kicking and screaming from the body of my mother. The long, swooping cord connecting us was cut. But no matter. The deed was done. I am flesh of my mother’s flesh, bone of my mother’s bone, made according to the design that she and my father
“She fashioned my large, dark eyes. He made the deep and endless space behind my eyes. She took her hand and made my lips, and my wide, bright smile. My father’s hand made my tongue and laid poems and stories there, and clear, true singing. When he had finished, my mother made the tip of my tongue, for wit and plain speaking. Then she put a little wave in my hair to remind her of the sea at Bristol where she was born. And my father painted just the slightest trace of red in the wave to remind him of his red-haired mother who died when he was born.”
“And so it was that my father and my mother made me, according to the design
that they worked out together. But I am flesh of my mother’s flesh, bone of my mother’s bone.
I was born connected.
I was connected before I was born. Before my mother and father were born, and their
mothers and fathers, before the earth was born, and time, long, long before then, I was connected
to the Spirit of God so that there never was a time when I did not exist. And my spirit remembers the Spirit of God. It remembers how God diverted rivers and streams into my spirit.
It remembers the humming of God in the rivers and streams, and how the waves rose and curled
in the humming. My spirit remembers the warm breath of God over the rivers, and the name of God that rose and fell in the warm breath.”
“One day the Spirit of God made me a tongue and wrote the name Jesus there, in remembrance of God’s first born Son. In my eyes the Spirit of God put darkness and light,
evening and morning, birds, fish, every kind of wild beast and tame, the very image of God,
and my eyes remember.”
“So does my hand. It remembers the hand of God and how it is to make darkness and light, evening and morning, to create birds and flowers and the image of God out of the word of God written on my tongue. Every time I hear the words ‘Do this, and remember me,’ my spirit remembers the name of God which is Jesus, remembers the supper, the body and the blood, the kiss in the garden, and long before when the garden was created, and long, long before that. My spirit remembers the Spirit of God and how I was connected long before I was born.”
“One day God who put the breath in me will call the breath back. On that day my body
will lie down next to the body of my mother. There will be two times carved in stone over me
- the time when I began and the time when I ended. “
”Do not believe it!”
There never was a time when I did not exist. I have always been connected to God.
Sometimes I feel the cord coming out of my center connecting me to God. Then I remember
how I always was connected to God and how I always will be. Mostly I remember how I cannot live without God.‟
This coming Sunday, All Saints Sunday, Mom’s name will be named in the Roll of the Saints; those who have gone before us; who now are members of the saints in light. The grief I feel now will never vanish. Over time it will lessen and interrupt my days less and less. But the gifts Mom gave me, those will blaze on as long as I live, and blaze on in my children and their children.
Thank you Mom, thank you for the time I had with you and all the gifts you passed on to me. I will always love you. I will always miss you. God be with you Mom. I will see you again on the day of resurrection.
Into your hands, O merciful Savior, we commend your servant Marie. Acknowledge her, we humbly pray, a sheep of your own fold, a lamb of your own flock, a sinner of your own redeeming. Receive her into the arms of your mercy, into the blessed rest of everlasting peace, and into the glorious company of the saints in light. Eternal rest grant her O Lord, and light perpetual shine upon her.