I left off my last posting with many questions that raced through my mind as I stood mesmerized before a “tearful, loving gaze” of the Blessed Mother. It seemed to me that all the “happiness” and “peace” I felt prior in the church, was instantly replaced with emotions of fear, confusion and sorrow at what I was seeing with my very own eyes. As a ten year old, I was plain scared! So much so, that I raced out the doors of the church that I had just run through. Looking both ways, I ran as fast as my legs could take me. . . right back across the street to my aunt and uncle’s home.
Running through the door of the apartment building, my legs felt like Jello and more so when I came face to face with Aunt Grace and Uncle Joey. I felt like I was truly having an “out of body” experience, so I spilled the truth like I was spilling “Good & Plenty” from a candy box at the movies! I was met with looks that revealed that neither of them believed one word of my truthful accounting and marked it up to the fact that “she is probably missing her parents” and concocted a wild tale as you would of an imaginary friend.
I’m not quite sure if my parents got an earful when they arrived back to pick me up or not. Sharing that story would have shed a poor light on my aunt and uncle and revealed that maybe they weren’t as “on the watch” for me as they had promised to be! I was relieved and happy to be out of potential trouble!
Life went on for me, but I never forgot that experience for one minute and knew that one day I would understand why the mother of God revealed herself to me that day in a darkened church. I knew the answer would come and that I surely would not be disappointed.
After the road trip that summer, my mother’s condition worsened and by Thanksgiving she was in the hospital. She made it home for Christmas but returned once again to be treated for pancreatic cancer right after New Year’s Day. I could not stay by myself while my dad worked and visited my mom, so plans were made for me to move in with our neighbors’ right next door. “Aunt Gerry and Uncle Tony” were loving people and made me feel right at home, giving me their daughter Jane’s bedroom while she was away at college. They made sure I ate well, got off to school, did my homework and had clean clothes. Again, life went on but it was about to change drastically for me.
It was to happen on the evening of January 16, 1961. Kneeling at my bedside in Jane’s room reciting my night prayers as my mother had taught me, I heard a “gentle whispering voice” and knew it wasn’t Aunt Gerry calling me. “I will be your mother,” the loving voice told me. For one quick moment, my mind filled with the memories of standing before the statue of the Blessed Mother gazing into her tear-filled eyes. I knew clearly who was whispering to me. It was at that moment I realized one of the reasons why I saw her tears that summer day in 1960. I knew, too, that clearly my mother was most certainly going to die and the Blessed Mother would “mother” me on earth for the rest of my days. What did that mean? How would I do without my earthly mother who had loved and nurtured me for ten years? Sleep soon came to my eyes and the anxiety of those questions in my heart were put to rest as well.
The next day after returning from school, Aunt Gerry told me that my dad was waiting next door for me at our house. He was there with my Uncle Johnny and they wanted to talk to me. I must have startled Aunt Gerry with my reply, because I answered her with “my mother died last night. . . didn’t she?” That is what they want to tell me! How does one verbalize into words what was happening inside me at that moment? “It was like standing in the middle of a thunderstorm and not hearing the thunder!” I was in complete silence. I was all alone in my thoughts as I left Aunt Gerry’s protective arms and went out the side door of her home. I realized I had been prepared for this moment in time months before when I made a “run for it” visit to the church that day. I realized then that what I experienced would make me strong for what I was to face at this moment and whatever would befall me in years to come.
As I made my way next door and went into the house, I found my dad and my uncle sitting in the living room on the couch with grief stricken faces. They both got up to hug and greet me and I knew what was coming as I sat down with them. I was told that, yes, my mother had died the evening before shortly after midnight. Yes, I thought silently to myself, I knew that already. I knew that, because the mother of God, had visited me that same evening to tell me that “she would be my mother.” I knew, too, that I had nothing to fear or be scared of. I would be taken care of and watched over by the most loving and compassionate mother of all humanity. . .the mother of Jesus Christ. I was given the gift of seeing her tears that summer day and knew that she loved me tremendously. She was offering me her hand to hold. On January 17, 1961, sometime after 3:00 pm, I reached out and clasped that hand and have never let it go.
Image by Anita Guariglia