Over the years and in various writings, I have alluded to my mother’s faith as a source of inspiration for me. On this eve of Mothers’ Day, she is on my mind and so I thought there might be some value in elaborating on the simple yet profound faith she lived.
The cornerstone of my mother’s faith had to do with facing tragedy. When my mother was 6 years old, her own mother died in the flu epidemic of 1918-19. My grandfather never remarried and so my mother, the second youngest of 7 children, suffered a grievous loss. It would not be the first.
My mother had hoped for a big family. She had my brother and then looked forward to the birth of her second child. This girl was born with spina bifida, a disease that at that time was fatal. Patricia lived only a few days. After me, a second girl came along, she too was born with spina bifida. Linda lived for 4 months.
My mother drew upon her faith to bear these tragedies. She didn’t say much about God’s will but would often comment that “We all have crosses to bear. Some are heavier than others”. Similarly, when I once asked her about her devotion to Mary the mother of Jesus she said “Only another mother can understand the heartbreaks of a mother’s heart.”
Her faith was more than Irish stoicism. She had an abiding belief in the power of prayer, stating from time to time that she was “storming heaven” on behalf of a loved one. Others in my extended family would often turn to her with prayer requests. With one exception, her prayers were always for others. I can still see her getting on her knees at night, storming heaven.
Her faith had a strong dose of service. I remember coming upon her putting balloons into an envelope. She said “They’re for the lepers”. Somehow she was in communication with a priest in the Philippines and was meeting his request.
My mother’s faith was very other-oriented. But on her deathbed, I believe she made a final request that involved herself. She prayed about her hour of death. She wanted very much to live through Christmas of 1994. “I don’t want to ruin everyone’s Christmas”, she insisted. I tried to persuade her to let go but she apparently made it a private matter between her and her Lord. She died on December 28.
Our mothers have great effect on our journeys. Some of us were not blessed with kind mothers and so their spiritual journeys include the need to heal. Others have spent years searching for their birth mothers, trying to make a deeply missed connection. Still others, like my own mother, spent time trying to fill a painful absence.
I didn’t share all my mothers beliefs then and still don’t. I argue with God on an almost daily basis. Even when I was young, I asked Why. I analyze and try to understand difficult spiritual concepts. I sometimes question the value of prayer or the reality of the afterlife. And yet from time to time, I refer back to this simple woman’s simple faith and I am humbled.
The night my mother died, I went into my backyard. Inspired by my readings in Algonquian spirituality, I wanted to look for my mother’s star. There it was. A bright star between two smaller stars. She was with my sisters and she was smiling.
Reflection: 1. How does/did your mother, your mother figure, or the absence of a mother affect your own spiritual journey?
Thanks again, Rich, for sharing from your personal losses to inspire us. My mother passed away May 2006. She & I were total opposites, or so I thought! She passed along her strong faith and I am so thankful for this! Like your mother, she didn’t say a lot but her actions spoke louder than words! Out of the many things she passed on, I remember how important it was for her to tithe & she made sure my sisters & I did too. I still remember how hard it was to drop that dime into the basket! lol!! Love you, Mom, and thanks for everything!
I am a pessimist so I tend to look at the dark side of everything including my mother. But on Mother’s Day I like to remember her sitting with me on a warm summer night in rural East Texas showing me the star formations and helping me watch for “shooting stars”. I remember her teaching me to read after my first grade teacher said I never would read due to dyslexia. I remember her making “S’mores” with me in a cabin in California which was lighted only by a fireplace. At the same time she played reel-to-reel tapes of my father’s voice which he had sent to us from his deployment in Korea. Hmmm, maybe this looking for the saintly side is a good thing.
i guess i’ve realized for years that your mother is never far from your thoughts — you have a great companion — happy mothers day to you and especially to pins — tom
My mother passed in 2003, and since then, I have come to an amazing place of forgiveness of her that I never thought possible. These days, I think of her a lot, but more recently, I have become very focused on the really Big Mama, the earth, and it is her that I am holding in my heart on Mother’s Day more than anyone or anything because she is dying. Today I want to thank her and bless her and take care of her as much as I possibly can.
Reblogged this on Psyche and Spirit/Richard B. Patterson PhD and commented:
For those of us who have lost our Moms, every Mothers’ Day is hard. I thought I’d post this again as a loving tribute to Genevieve McDonald Patterson.
Some times like today. A profound sense of loss. A deep sense of loneliness and yet a deep appreciation for the many years she was here to show me how much I was loved. If I believe in anything. It is that our souls will once again dance in the cosmos together. And that is worth the living the best in each moment. Thank you dear richard for stirring the memories.