My mom went to heaven three weeks ago. It was the end of a long life and a short transition period, when we all knew it was soon. This has been (mostly) joyful.
When I was 15, I was preparing to receive the sacrament of Confirmation. I considered this opportunity and the ceremony that accompanied. I decided that a commitment of faith, and the attendant relationship with God, is a personal thing; therefore, I concluded that wearing a red robe and participating in a big ceremony was silly and unnecessary. My mother, rather than simply mandate, said that I might have a point. She suggested I discuss it with a priest at our parish, Father Merv Sullivan. Father Merv, rather than acknowledging that I might have a point, said that I was simply missing a very key point. You see, he explained, as much as you profess your faith and commitment, the community professes its support in your faith journey. That made perfect sense to me, so I donned the red robe and happily received the sacrament, graces and community support.
And so it has been for the rest of my life. With the Notre Dame sisters and Jesuit priests, at Notre Dame San Jose and Gonzaga, I was given the opportunity to discuss, debate, test and celebrate my faith.
One Saturday, I had a tough day, coming to terms with my mother truly being gone. Then we went to 5 p.m. Mass and my spirits were lifted. I hugged my friend Germaine, who had sent a beautiful Mass card. We cherished our Saturday tradition of meeting Lon & Peg at Mass and heading to dinner after. I hugged our pastor Father Rick Rodoni, who has known my mom since he was 5. I joyfully participated in the Eucharist, a source of joy and strength. In addition to my family, this community, this ritual and these sacraments sustain me.
As I was growing up my father would say “I’m open minded. I don’t care who you marry, as long as he’s Catholic, Italian and Rich; and not necessarily in that order.” Underlying the levity was his deep commitment to his faith, which was strengthened by his relationship with my mom. It was she who supported him as he found his way back to his faith.
By the time you read this, we will have gathered at Saint Justin to celebrate my mom’s time on earth, and the promise of eternal life. We will have talked, sung, laughed and cried, we six new orphans. We will have held each other and given thanks, for the foundation of love laid out so strongly by our parents.
Once again, I marvel at my faith. I receive it with gratitude and wonderment, still puzzled as to “why” I have this great gift and others don’t.
So, I say “farewell” to my mom, with gratitude for all that she gave us, and deep certainty that I will see her again.