Thursday, July 15, 2010

gingham and the Eucharist

So I made it to Mass today, pretty good for a Thursday these days. On my way out the door I prayed for Jesus to reveal something, some kind of word or moment like he used to give me. He's been rather quiet lately. I dragged Adam with me, who was sorely angry with me for interrupting his computer game. Gave him the usual lecture on the way about the gift of a mass and the great tool prayer is in life. He shot back with 'no one else has to go'...well they were at camp or work..and besides, they used to all come with me everyday. So 'don't worry about them, just you'. Ive let myself get lazy with daily mass, the two babies put me over the edge. The church is half a mile from my house, I really have no other excuse. My 'littles' aren't getting what my big kids did and I'm constantly reminded to simplify so that I can return to that place and nurture the souls of the younger half of the family better.

Heads turned as Ellie cooed and Adam sulked. When it was time for communion I walked up behind a woman with gingham shorts. Purple and green gingham to be exact. I had the same shorts 20 years ago. I never wore them, but my grandmother loved them. She wanted them, but when I tried to give them to her she refused to take them. Kind of a silly memory of her, but for some reason I remembered today. She was my Dad's mother, she never had a daughter and I was her only granddaughter. Though she wasn't perfect, she was special to me. My baby Ellen's middle name is Lucille after her. She passed away 15 years ago. Though not Catholic she is the one who gave me holy water from Lourdes that we used on Emily's eye when she was a baby and had surgery. The surgery was so successful that her eye is in a text book....that's another story. Grandma is present, still she sends me little hello's here and there. The shorts were definitely a Grandma 'hi'.
As I walked up to Father Vinny Flynn's book popped into my head, The Seven Secrets of the Eucharist. . We are all a part of the mystical body, those here on Earth and those who sleep in Christ. We are unified in Eucharist. It's why we share the sign of peace before we receive, it is 'communal', we go forward as the body to receive the body. Even those we have lost are present. He spoke of his Dad in the book that he had recently lost, for me today it was my Grandmother. So my word from God was a visual, a pair of shorts. My little reminder that love doesn't die with the person, love and life is eternal.

....As for Adam, he was still annoyed, but lucky for him (and me) our Parish is now offering confession after Thursday mass. We both got to go. A little lighter, soup removed, we continue our day close to our creator and those we love here, and there.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


Not the food the weather. We walked this morning the two babies and I. I thought it was a good idea but about a half a mile in I almost turned back. The humidity was so thick it was an effort to push the long double carriage. I asked Matthew if we should turn back and get the car, but he wanted to go to the park and there would surely be a tantrum if we turned back. So on we pushed through our town, which is 'main street USA' and usually enjoyable. None of the stores were open,there were hardly any cars and only a few shop owners milling about. Its one of my favorite things about living here, the times when it feels like its all ours. No Benny's (tourists), just us looking through the windows, dripping and hot. We stopped at the bakery quickly (to use the bathroom) and bought a $1.75 mini brownie cupcake with peanut butter frosting and scones that were 1 weight watchers point a piece.
It wasn't worth the walk. There was one family at the park with us. I did what I cant stand seeing other moms do, I was stuck texting my son and Chip while telling Matthew to hold on. The other mother started yelling at her 2 year old daughter because she was blowing bubbles the wrong was time to go. We stopped at the little toy store in town on the way home for, bubbles, and the air conditioning wasn't working. I was screaming on the inside, I hate humidity. I still had to walk the 6 blocks home. It started to rain a bit, but not enough to cool things off. No relief, I was walking through soup.
I got home and wanted to run in to air conditioning but had to take the garbage cans out of the street..because none of my 8 children (well, 2 are too small) could do that for me, only to get to the back yard. It was starting to rain, the sand box was open, a beach towel left out and 5 bikes. one home to help I had to put them away myself. I was drenched the baby was crying, my phone was ringing and I was sweating and annoyed. I really don't think there is anything more aggravating.
Finally I opened the back door. It hit me, the air.
So what does this have to do with anything but my own personal discomfort?
Well, as I got into the shower it hit me. hard life is when we try and walk through and work through sin. Its thick and oppressive, like the humidity. We go on and move through our days with the same kind of effort when we are stuck in sin. Not the horrific mortal sin kind here, but the collection of venial sins... the thick layer of goo covering our soul. I guess confession is calling. Its been more than the usual month or two, we've gotten lazy in our business. And though I know I may not 'feel' the relief as I did in the shower, I'll notice it as I walk through my day. As I sit to pray or clean a mess. Ill see it in the way I listen or stop to hear a silly story that I really don't have time for but that is important to my child. The little signs that confession has lifted the oppression. Too often we look for the obvious signs that confession makes a difference. We don't take the time to look to the small things. What good did the humidity do for me? Saturday afternoon Ill be in line with kids in tow.

Monday, July 12, 2010


We found out that George passed away over the weekend. He was 89. Who is George? George is a sweet old guy that used to work part time for my husband at the golf course. He would come over to the course, grab a cart and go after the geese. He had a gun, not a real gun, but a gun that made a loud swirling noise that scared the flocks away. Usually to the next hole and always back days later. He was a retired army soldier and the youngest of 8 children. I met him about 12 years ago when he was beginning to write his memoires of his childhood and service to the country. 'A Country Boy Gone Soldiering'. The first project I did for him was a house drawing of his home from West Virginia. I don't do houses, but for George I would draw the house he was born in.
I am always reminded by God that the gift He gave me is for others, I'm able to share with people through the paintings memories frozen in time. He spoke fondly of his parents and siblings, he loved his family. I knew I had given him a gift of fond memories, even though I griped through the project.
Whenever he saw me after that he would smile and kiss me. He thought I was 'great'. He would tell Chip that with me standing there like a charming old grandpa. Every baby we had he would mention TV as a hobby as many people do, and we would smile because explaining John Paul's theology of the body is usually not an appropriate response.
Then we had number 8. He showed up at the golf course one day with a horrible disposable picture of himself wanting a portrait for a library dedication at a local community college. He proceeded to leave for Florida and said he would be back in March when he needed the portrait. He didn't ask, he assumed and left. I had a new baby and had just started classes at Lasalle University for ILEM, our diocesan lay ecclesial ministry program. I was overwhelmed and had no time. I griped yet again. Ungrateful for the opportunity, knowing I could only charge him a small fee. I left the cruddy photo and ignored it. Chip would say to me from time to time, you know he's coming home you need to start it. I would react and complain and do nothing. March arrived, George came home and asked for the painting. Uggh, I had to put aside house work, school work and cram a 6 month project into one. I asked Chip to take my camera and have George come over so he could get a better shot for clarity and coloring. They came out awful. So the next week I packed up the babies and went to the golf course. George came after teaching a class in gentleman's attire still handsome through all the wrinkles. I took 6 photos the last was 'it'. One of those one in a million shots, beautiful coloring and clarity...just perfect. I painted the portrait in record time without a choice. The house fell apart and I fell behind in school work. the painting came out well, what he was hoping for. Chip delivered it framed and he was pleased. I was relieved, one more thing to check off the list.
The invitation for the dedication came two months later. Begrudgingly we went, I don't like being the center of attention..believe it or not. It meant leaving the big kids in charge for the morning, potential chaos. We sat in the back of the library, it was a much bigger deal that either of us realized. He was way more important than we realized. I felt a little guilt at not being more gracious. I fell into the patronizing attitude of the 'sweet old guy' instead of the honor and respect he deserved from me. He called me up, made me leave the baby with Chip asking him if 'he could handle it'. He wanted me to sit right up next to him so I could help unveil the painting. He told the emcee that he had to introduce me twice like an excited child. After the painting was unveiled he told the entire audience how much he liked me, how I was the mother of 8 to a gasping audience. He said tongue in cheek 'I think she's great...and some of us think she needs another hobby that's why I asked her to paint the picture'. That was the connection, I was the mother of 8.
8 is the number the Chinese say reaches up to heaven and back down to earth. I reminded him of his mother, his beloved family. Forget the painting, all of that doesn't matter. Chip called me this morning, 3 weeks after the dedication to tell me he had passed away over the weekend. Ill miss his charming face, but his passing reminded me of a consolation God gave me to share with my own children when my grandmother died. He was the youngest in his family as she was. Imagine the joy at the birth of the baby in a family. The joy that child brings to all the siblings and the parents. The baby is special. Imagine again that the whole original family is already with Christ in Heaven, how they wait with the same anticipation that they did for that baby to be born for that child to join them. Imagine the great celebration as that child joins them in Heaven.
The little things do matter, but they can overtake us and turn us into 'Martha's'. Mary chose the better part, our hearts our motives and the gift of self. That's what makes us special as mothers. The love we give our children and family lasts through eternity. Our vocation comes first only after our intimacy with God. Prayerfulness is key to our heart and how we approach the small things. Had I prayed more perhaps I would have seen the gift at the time. Hindsight hopefully doesnt leave us with should haves or would haves, but gratefulness in sharing our gifts with others. George was a great guy, a charming man but he was someones baby.
It leaves me thinking about Ellie, she has a journey ahead that will leave her perhaps like George. Alone here on earth waiting to join the rest of us. I pray that God works through me to teach and guide these children so that we are all together one day for eternity. Alone I am incapable, with him there is promise and hope.