Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Priest

I have lots of thoughts and emotions running around. In keeping with my cognitive difficulties I doubt I'll be able to do justice to them but I'll try.

Yesterday, my mom's birthday, happen to fall on the first day of Lent. This hasn't occurred since she died. I decided to find a Church to attend Ash Weds Services not only to honor her but in the hopes that I might find her there. She was a devout though liberal Catholic and came from an Irish Catholic family. I loved her family. It saddens me to have lost contact with them since they were a big part of my life growing up. Even though we lived in different states we would travel to visit them a couple times per year ever since I was born. I have such treasured memories of times spent with my cousins, Aunts and Uncles.

I spent time looking up various Catholic Churches in the area and decided on one because it was one that my mom, dad, and I had went to once a couple years before she died. It meant a lot to me at the time.

But yesterday, steeped in the Valcyte depression, I changed my mind at the last minute. Instead I decided to go to the newly built Cathedral because by chance I found the priest that performed the wedding ceremony of my sister and her husband during the time my mom was dying. It was a beautiful and tragic day. My heart breaks for my sister when I think of how hard that time must have been for her. She and her husband had planned on getting married on Oct 26 of that year. She and my mom had picked out wedding announcements, invitations, and all sorts of other stuff that they ordered.

My mom had a very aggressive form of cancer that took her life 44 days after her diagnosis. One Saturday about 3 weeks before she died, she was really struggling emotionally. She was upset, angry, and wondering "why me?" Privately she would ask me if I thought we should move the wedding date up. I would always tell her that we would do whatever she needed and wanted. She would say to me "I don't think I can make it to October, I'm so tired." The only reason she underwent a harsh chemotherapy treatment was so she would live long enough to see my sister get married.

Anyway, that Saturday was very tough for her. My sisters and their husband and fiance were off doing something and wouldn't return until later that night.

Sunday my mom felt very peaceful. She said she had a spiritual experience in the middle of the night where "God told her everything would be okay and that we would be okay." But she desperately wanted to talk to a priest. My parents were very active in the local Catholic Church and they knew several priests in the area but they were all away on vacation so the Church sent this young priest whom I had never seen before over to speak with my mom. They cleared us out of the house so he and my mom could have some privacy.

They spoke for a long while. When he came out he said to us "we have to move up the wedding and we have to do it as quickly as possible." Four days later on Thursday the wedding occurred and was officated by this same priest. It was the most beautiful wedding I've ever been too. My parents were very popular. We had a huge backyard. Relatives flew in from out of state. My mom and I watched from the family room window as friends brought over baskets of flowers from their yards, chairs were brought in, the musicians showed up, the photographer was available. People brought in food they made. The backyard was soon transformed into a beautiful setting for a wedding. My mom was so weak by then that she had to lean on my dad and sister as she walked down the aisle but by God, she was going to walk down that aisle. And she did. Her belly and legs were swollen from the cancer. She was thin and frail and jaundiced. But she made it. And all her friends were there, and she saw her youngest daughter get married. It was a beautiful day. But the end. Oh, the end of the day was so painful. I watched with tears streaming down my face as she said goodbye to her brother and sisters and my cousins. We all knew it was the last goodbye. I knew mine was coming. I can't begin to describe the heartbreaking grief that was in the room. I don't know how we all made it through.

So I found the priest that was there those two important moments in my mom's journey towards death.

I set off to go to Church hoping he would be there and I could ask him if I could make an appointment to meet with him. I showed up to the Church early. I saw it was full of people but knew that it was the Mass said in Spanish so I waited outside the Church for it to end. Except it didn't. It started to sprinkle so I decided to go inside. It was a beautiful Church. I sat down and started getting worried. I couldn't understand what was being said because it was said in Spanish but I realized that the Mass was far from over and certainly wouldn't be over with by the time the english Mass would start. So I sat in the pew waiting, and waiting. Finally I looked at the Sunday bulletin and discovered that I had missed the English version of Mass which was held two hours earlier. I was deeply disappointed.

Today I went to Church again hoping to find the priest. He wasn't there. But after I searched for his office and found him. Even though I've only seen him twice his face was so familiar. Seeing him was bittersweet and brought up fresh memories. He remembered that time, remembered the wedding, my mom and dad. He said "they were an extraordinary couple" and "those were some hard times." It was wonderful to see him gain but surprisingly painful too. I made an appointment to speak with him. Then I got in my car and sobbed all the way home.

I'm very worn out and too exhausted to finish. Hopefully I'll remember what I wanted to write about later.

3 comments:

Pris said...

I'm so glad everyone was responsive to moving the wedding up so your mother could see it. You lost her so early. Commemorating a parents' death does mean something very special. If you're not up to going to a service or church, I'm sure you can find some way within your physical/cognitive limits to do it.

Many hugs.

Renee said...

Terri
What a beautiful true story of deep love within a family and a deep love of God. I never cease to be amazed at the stories others share that bring blessings and healing into my life an the lives of others. Thank you for sharing it with us and thank you for sharing your deepest feelings. It really touched me.
You are in my thoughts.

Waterstone Jewelry said...

What a moving story! This is my first visit to your blog and you've brought me to tears. Isn't it wonderful that your mother had the experience of seeing her daughter married AND had the message of comfort from God? God is indeed good.

I hope you are feeling better.