My Mother's birthday is on All Saints Day. She used to tell us when we were little that she loved having her birthday on a Feast Day because she always had it off school (I guess in those days Catholic Schools were not in session for Holy Days). I loved listening to her stories about growing up, her siblings, and what it was like living through the Depression and World War II.
My Mother passed away several years ago after a very difficult battle with cancer. As I sat by her bedside, I could see how the pain was wracking her body. We would talk about her life but mostly about God and what Heaven was going to be like. I cherish the memories of those conversations. As I approach the age my Mother was when she passed away, I realize how short a time she was with us and how sacred the time we have with each other is. There isn't a day that goes by that I don't think about her.
Even though Mom isn't physically here, I know she is with me every day. When our daughter got married, I knew Mom's spirit was with us. She was there for every graduation. She was at our grandchildren's births and baptisms. She is also with me in the times of struggle; times when my heart was breaking and all I wanted was a hug. In all these times, knew she was there.
Our relationship wasn't without it's challenges. I was far from a perfect child and was the typical know-it-all young adult who didn't need any help from anyone. After all, I went to college. I knew everything I needed to know. I had a great job. I got married to the man of my dreams. My husband and I were living the American Dream--a house, two cars, a cat and a dog.
It wasn't until I had my own children that I realized how little I actually knew about life. I could "do" just fine. What I realized is that life is more than "doing", it is "being." It was in the struggles of being a mother that I learned to truly appreciate my own Mother.
Regardless of the relationship, Moms hold a very special place in the hearts of their children--I wish I could physically tell my Mom how special she was to me. She encouraged me and taught me how to stand on my own two feet. She volunteered for countless school and scouting activities. When I look back over my childhood, I know it wasn't perfect. I was a sassy kid that caused my Mom to lose her patience on more than one occasion (like the time I mixed all the chemicals together from my chemistry set and threw a match in to see what would happen). We tested each other to the max, I am sure, but I always knew deep down I was loved. My Mom never gave up on me. She continually gave of herself. Her life wasn't about "doing", it was about "being."
Her last words to me the night before she died summed up the entirety of what it means to be a Mom, a parent, a saint. Mustering up what little strength she had left, she told me "I love you. I have always loved you and always will love you." Eternal and unconditional love. I can still hear her say those dear words to me. It isn't about the "doing" but the "being"--being love.
We will gather on November 1 to celebrate my Mom and all the other saints (both canonized and not). Not a single one of us will live forever, however, we do live on in those whose lives we have touched. Though my Mom won't be sitting around the table for dinner as we celebrate, she holds a special place the hearts of each of us who knew her.
Happy birthday Mom!