Today is All Saints Day, and it is also my late mother-in-law's birthday. Before age made it too difficult for her to do so, she loved to go to daily Mass and was a daily commmunicant. I think it is fitting that this deeply devout Catholic woman was born on a day honoring the saints--a holy day of obligation when all faithful Catholics go to Mass in remembrance of them.
My mother-in-law grew up with just one older brother and lost her father when she was only ten years old. She was not used to big families, and she said that if anyone had told her when she was young that she was going to have eight children, she'd never have believed it. But that's just what she did: she raised eight outstanding children--four boys and four girls--with my wonderful late father-in-law; and if any set of parents was meant to bring a lot of children into the world, it was those two.
My mother-in-law was stunning, a raven-haired Irish beauty with almost translucent blue-green eyes. As a senior in college, she was voted Rose Queen. Even in her later years, when her hair was snow white and her health was deterioriating, she was beautiful; she was the kind of person whose smile and laughter absolutely lit up the room. But Mom had no vanity and was in fact self-deprecating.
This woman could sing like an angel, but was always shy about having to get up in front of a crowd and do it. As a young girl, she attended summer music camps, and her soprano voice was so exquisite that it could have launched a professional career. She never became a professional singer; but she did sing at weddings and at her parish church every Sunday--making that congregation a truly lucky bunch, that's for sure.
Mom didn't consider herself a great beauty or a great singer; she didn't identify herself as a teacher, either, even though she taught for many years, starting when her younger four children were almost school-aged. Above all else, it was her role as mother that defined her.
My mother-in-law spent much of her time praying for her children and their many intentions. When one of her daughters-in-law was trying desperately to have a fourth child, she began a novena for her. Not only did that daughter-in-law conceive, but just about every woman of childbearing years Mom knew, all up and down the east coast, did, too! And that included one of Mom's daughters and myself (so three of Mom's thirty-two grandchildren were born within six days of each other)! Everybody joked about that novena, "Mom, stop praying! It's too strong!" But I feel like I have my mother-in-law to thank for my #5 son, and I can't even imagine my life without him in it.
Mom is missed so much by the children she adored and their families. It's sad that we can't see her anymore; it's sad that we can't go to her with our problems, knowing we'll find a loving and sypmathetic ear, and ask her to say one of her super-powerful novenas. She always did seem to have a direct line when it came to praying. And you know, I believe this special woman born on the Feast of All Saints still hears us, and the line might be more direct now than ever. So we're going to just keep talking to you, Mom, and I'm sure you'll be listening.
Happy Birthday, Mom.