Friday, November 1, 2013

Remembering Mom on All Saints Day

When I was in the throes of raising a passel of boys (who were extremely close in age, with the exception of #5, the baby--who took his sweet time joining the fray, after a five-year hiatus), my next-door-neighbor, the mother of two girls spaced four years apart, always used to say, "You're a saint."

As if.

If only.

If merely being the mother of five boys was all it took, I would be golden.  But I'm quite sure that there is a lot more to achieving sainthood than that.

My mother-in-law, who died on Holy Saturday in 2009, was born on All Saints Day in 1931.  And how fitting indeed, because I believe she is a saint.  She would have been 82 today, and she is sorely missed by her many children, grandchildren, and now great-grandchildren.  I met Mom when I was a shy 15-year-old who'd started dating her oldest son (the second-born in a household that included four sons and four daughters), and from the moment I knew her, she was a figure who loomed--and still looms--large in my life.  I can hardly imagine my life without her in it.
Mom, when she was young and single.  She was quite a beauty.
We were talking once about raising kids, and how hard it is to name guardians who will raise them for you if, God forbid, both you and your spouse die while they're still young.  And what she said impressed me so, because as a mother to toddlers and babies at the time, I could not imagine a single soul on earth who could come even close to loving my children the way I did.  (Shame on me for the sin of pride; shame on me for my weak faith in God, who surely loves them more than I do and would have seen to it that they thrived in my absence.)  She said that when her kids were growing up and she thought about that terrible possibility of not being there for them, it wasn't whether or not someone else could love them that worried her.  She knew others could do that, maybe not as well as she did, but well enough.  [And just an aside here: how right she was, because her eight tight-knit offspring are just about the most lovable bunch you've ever met.]  What scared her was that the children God had given her would not be raised with the morals she wanted them to have and a deep love of, devotion to, and connection with the Catholic Faith.  Faith was everything to Mom; she was the novena-sayer extraordinaire, a longtime daily Communicant, and a great friend of the Blessed Mother and the saints.

Well, Mom did live to see her children reach adulthood, all with their Faith intact.  Well done, good and faithful servant!  In a world where so many Catholics have lost their Faith entirely, or remain Catholics in name only ("C and E Catholics," they're sometimes called), Mom's brood continues to embrace their Faith and to pass it on to their children.  There isn't a greater legacy than that.  None of them would think of missing a Sunday Mass.  And I find it so absolutely fitting that every year on Mom's birthday, her children (and their children, and their children, hopefully) will be sure to attend Mass--to celebrate the feast of All Saints, to fulfill their obligation to attend Mass on one of the holy days on the Church calendar...and in doing so, they will also honor this woman they loved so much.
Mom with her oldest grandchild (our firstborn son) in 1985.
I've been thinking so much lately about being a mother, hoping that I've done okay at it; and I've been thinking about the fact that this vocation provides many opportunities for sainthood.  Several bloggers whose sites I visit regularly have obviously been doing the same thing.  I read this post by Rachel over at Testosterhome yesterday, and it really resonated with me.  It made me realize that all that time spent worrying that I'm not doing as good a job as this mother or that one, or that my sons' mothers-in-law will be more fun than I am, or better at expressing affection verbally (because as Jane Austen said of writers--which I guess I am, although it still feels funny to say it:  they are often not very good talkers*), is a complete waste of time.  Instead, I should love my children as well as I can--with the personality and gifts God has given me--and embrace my "littleness."  As a flawed and sinful human, these words are easy to say, but sometimes hard to put into practice.  Yet the saints embraced such humility with joy.  Susan over at Sole Searching Mama also had a poignant recent post on this topic, if you'd like to check that out.

Mom probably didn't waste as much time as I do wondering about the job she did as a mother; she just did what needed to be done, and she did it with a lot of laughter, love, and faith.  If I could be half the mother to my five that she was to her eight, that would be quite an accomplishment.

Happy Birthday to a mother who is a role model for us all.  We hope you're having a great birthday, surrounded by all the friends you were so devoted to during your time here with us!
And Happy All Saints Day!

*from Jon Spence's Becoming Jane Austen

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