Tag Archives: Easter

My Mother’s Easter

Dean's christening, with Bruce

Dean’s christening, with Bruce

My Mom loved Easter, and not just for the stylish hats, spectator shoes and forsythia blossoms that made their spring appearance. It was truly a time of resurrection, when God made good on his promise to save the world.

In 1954, Easter fell on April 18 – almost as late in the season as this year’s. Six months earlier, Mom and Dad had lost their baby, their little girl Midge, to leukemia. Diagnosed at one year old, it had been brutal to watch Midge’s final remission end after more than two years of experimental treatments. Midge was not yet four.

When Easter arrived the following spring, Mom was big with child, and alone. The Marine Corps had delayed Dad’s solo posting to Japan as long as possible, but he was overseas as Mom faced the imminent birth of their fourth child.

It could have been a terrible time. In fact, one of the Naval medical professionals had advised Mom to abort the pregnancy, saying it would be too much for her psychologically given Midge’s terminal illness. I’d like to have seen the look Mom gave that doctor or heard her response. Never one to hold back, I am certain she gave him — and it was almost certainly a him — what for.

I imagine Mom looking out the window at the yellow forsythia, watching the earth renew itself, her hand resting on her large belly. After three pregnancies, I’m sure she knew her time was near.

Two days later, on April 20, she welcomed my brother Dean into the world. Dad said later, “It was as if the sun came out.”

Happy birthday, Dean. I know Mom is thinking of you today, and so am I.

Mom, Nana and I with Easter hats, by the forsythia, in 1961

Mom, Nana and me: with Easter hats, by the forsythia, in 1961

 

 

 

 

 

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Seeing, Believing, Remembering, Trusting

St. Ignatius San Francisco

Yesterday my friend and mentor Jim sent me a short email: “Giving thanks for your Dad’s life tomorrow. HUGS.”

It didn’t surprise me that Jim would suspect that this is a time of reflection for me.

January and February were always hard months for Dad. I expected that he would ultimately pass away during one of those barren months. But each year with astounding speed, daffodil buds would proceed inch-by-inch out of the ground, quince bushes would blossom into their full fuchsia glory, and tulip magnolias would burst into flower. And Dad would say, “I think I might make it after all.”

This spring, finally, he didn’t. But as the spring roars along, I am grateful that Dad is at peace. And I am comforted by the memory of his smile (that “big ass” smile as I so indelicately put it during my remarks at his memorial) a few hours before he died.

I awakened this Easter morning fully aware that, finally, Dad has moved on.

By happenstance, my husband, Todd, and I were in San Francisco for the weekend, which gave us the opportunity to attend church where someone very special to us is the new pastor. Fr. Greg Bonfiglio, S.J., former president of Jesuit High School, was slated to lead the 9:30 Easter service at St. Ignatius Parish in San Francisco. The many pillars of the church were festooned with garlands of flowers, decorated with pots of yellow narcissus and encircled with large bouquets of forsythia.

Commenting on the gospel, Fr. Greg described how Simon Peter had arrived breathless at the tomb and peered in. Only when he saw the cloth that had covered Jesus’ face did he believe that Jesus was no longer there, and had risen.

“Seeing really is believing,” Fr. Greg said, “but this is a different kind of seeing. This is the kind of seeing that is open…”

I still struggle with faith and questions of what happens after death. My blog posts are full of questions. But in my father’s last hours, I saw him in communion with someone he loved. By the time he died, the journey of his last few months affected me in a visceral way and led me to greater openness in resurrection after death.

On the day he died, my brother Dean and I told Dad it was okay for him to go, that we would see him again, and that we would be fine. I had to let go and stop trying to prevent Dad from dying. I had to trust God that He would care for him.

“Seeing” leads to believing, and believing, to trust.

Fr. Greg Bonfiglio

Fr. Greg Bonfiglio

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A Year Past: Good Friday at the House of Mary

candles

On Good Friday last year, I found myself, quite by accident, at a place of Christian pilgrimage in Turkey. We were on a shared 30th anniversary trip with dear friends when our tour guide decided to make a second stop after our tour of Ephesus. From the rolling hills covered in new grass and spring blooms adjacent to the sea, our van wound up a hill, arriving at a hilltop surrounded by leafy trees and tall, whispering pines. The breeze immediately cooled us after our warm walk through the long marble promenades of Ephesus. Our guide, Yesra, had brought us to the House of Mary (“Meryemana”), where Mary was believed to have lived during the period that Paul was busy spreading the gospel to the people of Ephesus, which was the strategic heart of the Roman empire in Asia Minor. It felt… peaceful.

houseofstmaryThe house is a place of pilgrimage for Christians, but is also respected by Muslims who recognize Mary as the mother of a prophet. After people visit the small house built of rectangular stones, which became a chapel after her death, many light candles. There’s also a Muslim wishing wall where people tie notes with their prayers.

We filed in to the quiet chapel where nuns in habits kept vigil by the small altar. For most visitors, it was a short visit: a solemn one-way walk through the small interior followed quickly by an exit into the small courtyard. I stopped in the chapel and knelt at one of the small wooden prayer benches. And I cried. I prayed for my Dad, who was in failing health. Although I am not Catholic, I prayed for Mary to intercede on his behalf and relieve him from the suffering of congestive heart failure and the grief that only the oldest know after their spouses, parents, and friends have gone before them. As I left, one of the nuns silently approached me and handed me a candle.

lightingcandlesOutside, I saw the glass-enclosed stands of candles implanted in sand. I prayed again, as did my friend, Lisa.

Many candles and many prayers later, my Dad was released. I will never forget the look of greeting on his face those last few hours. Dad, this is a good Friday, a better Friday, knowing that you are at peace, even if I miss you every day.

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