It was raining- pretty steadily the other night. In spite of the dismal effects a cold winters rain has on many of us, it was the perfect setting for some reflective music, candle light, some reading and meditation.
… oh, and a visit from long past relatives.
My house is rarely quiet. Between my husband, 2 of my 4 sons living with us, a good friend couch surfing and the cat’s ruling over us all, it is indeed rare that I have the whole place to myself (well, the cats… but you know what I mean) so I decide to take advantage of the solitude.
So, I lit some candles, put on Gregorio Allegri (starting with Miserere Mei Deus of course!) and dive into a new book Amazon brought me that day.
The book, “A Book of Uncommon Prayer- 100 Celebrations of the Miracle & Muddle of the Ordinary” written by Brian Doyle, was not at all what I was expecting.
It’s reflections had titles like “Prayer of Thanks for Good Bishops, as Opposed to Meatheads who think they are important.” & “Prayers in Celebration of Brief Things, for example, Church Services.”
Thank heaven for the Gregorio, or I may have chucked the book into the bin.
I then read a reflection that brought my soul into harmonious refrain with the Gregorio, and the choir singing it – which happened to be my relatives, long gone home to sleep in Christ, waiting for the Eternal Easter.
Prayers for Women named Ethel, and Men named Elmer, for We Will Not See Their Likes Again.
It speaks to these “cool, hoary names like that that reek of American character and dignity and hard work and laced dollies on Sunday before the Roast. For all the brave though quiet generous unassuming souls who came before us and built this country and built our cities and farmed our generous land and raised their children and never asked for much except the chance to breath free and love widely. “
And I wept.
I wept because in that description, I saw all my childhood memories in an instant. Names like Rose, Naomi, Edith, Albina, Eva, Antoinette, Francis, William, Mary, Otlie, Donald, Eleanor, Harold… all so fresh in my mind. They were homemakers, farmers, blue collar factory workers, truck drivers, railroad men and construction workers, living the small town American Dream, and more importantly, contributing to who I am today.
The reflection continued… “… their rough, worn hands and their seamed leathery faces that endured allot of a lot of weather and war and pain and loss but they kept working anyway.”
These passages remind me of my entire life back in small town Connecticut. It reminds me of my family, whose presence I felt with me in this dark, cold winter rain. Despite the conditions, I was warm, I was being embraced, and I was reminded of the deep love that family brings to us.
My thoughts then turned to the reflection in my mind- to the family I have. 4 wonderful, amazing sons. My wonderful relationship of 15 years, and our close, close friends who are also family. In each of them, I see my relatives.
As I reflected on my present day family experience, I see my relatives long gone, but ever present. Their examples passed to me are reflected in those who I pass along their wisdom, stories, and love, and I see the effect that ripple in the ancestral pond. That realization, until that night, was lost on me.
And I weep. I weep with sadness for those faces I can no longer touch and the laps I can no longer sit on. I weep for the loss of the farming lessons I will no longer receive, and how good a tomato plucked from the vine and immediately eaten has a taste that is truly indescribable.
I weep for the long gone family Christmas Eve, the every-pasta-ever-consumed for the first 25 years of my life came from a kitchen and not a box, and attending Mass every Saturday evening, 5th pew on the left, with scowls at the ready if some visitor took our pew. Oh, Saint Barnabas- what you must have thought!
I also weep with joy. Sunday Mass with the kids. Family dinners and trips, and truly the most amazing bond we all share.Watching them each grow into their relationships and the people they choose to bond with. I revel in joy that they are all in public service, working to help others in their hour of need.
This was such a cathartic experience for me truly. Thanks to my passed on family, for in that exact moment, you reminded me how you aren’t gone from my life, but that you define it.
The reflection ends, “For those names, which are mere sounds and handles, but mean so much to so many. And so: Amen.”
May God Bless you all.