People ask me how often we talk. Should I say? Hmmm. Well, somedays it is hourly. Next to John, I think "Oh mom will love this." So we call and chat. hang up. Call again. Hang up. Dream of our lives as next door neighbors almost everyday. Hang up. On and on.
The hands of a mother. How many babies she has held? How many hands she has held? How many prayers she has said? How many times she clapped with joy and hoped for goodness for her children? How many meals she has cooked? How many heads she has felt? How many tears has she wiped?
You are a known "baby holder." People will say to me, "Oh, I remember your mother. She just came up to me and took my baby." You do that and I have inherited the gene. We feel more comfortable with a baby in our arms than without. I remember going to a conference with you once. I couldn't find you for a while only to find you out in the hall walking someone's baby so they could attend the conference. You are the baby whisperer.
You will be known for your bread and rolls. You have made bread since we were very little. Every Monday, right? There is nothing like fresh bread out of the oven.
Although, THIS is our #1 favorite hobby together. D & D's. I am sure the people in our little town think we do go for drives A LOT. It is an art and extreme hobby. We first stop by the Banner and order our XL Diet Dr. Pepper. We chat with the lady at the window. They have all gotten to know our names over the years so they always look in the car to see who is home for the weekend. We then drive around town for hours. Yes, hours. We talk, laugh, cry, drive by dad's grave, see all the new sites in town. If anyone complains, you get dropped off at home.
You will even tempt me to come home by saying, "I've got something great to show you on our D & D." You won't tell me in hopes of me coming home to see the big event. Always a great surprise.
We sip. We drive.
God has blessed her and has asked of her many, many sufferings. I sit at my computer now almost without the ability to type the depth of love and admiration I feel for her. Being the oldest daughter, I have watched her efforts, her love, her struggle, her tears, her joy, and her desires. She loves deeply and hopes deeply.
I have always been close to her. She told me that when I was born, she became alive. I love looking at the three pictures of me in the hospital with her. Her face is beautiful and she sat proudly holding me with rather a death grip upon my fresh little body. I was hers and she was mine. The love was instant.
After her third child was born, she became deathly ill for over a year. We lived apart from her because she was in the hospital so much. She received last rites several times because of her pending death. She tells me a story of one night in the hospital and the pain was so excruciating that she buzzed the nurses and was asking for more pain medicine. They told her that she had all she could handle. That night she remembers begging God to live, to see her babies grow. She tells me that night St. Padre Pio came to her and said, "You will live." She has a very strong devotion to him. He is the first saint I remember hearing about as a child.
The next morning the doctors walked in to find her sitting up in bed asking for something to eat. At this point, she weighed only 85 pounds. She says within six weeks she gained 40 pounds. Andrew, the third child in our family, was only a year old and barely knew her. She ached to see him. The doctors told her that she wouldn't be able to have anymore children. Well, seven children later she proved that theory wrong. I grew up hearing her intense excitement with every baby. Every baby to her was another chance, another life, and proof that she was alive. She would say, "I can't believe I GET to have another baby." Every time.
I remember her telling me she was pregnant with all my siblings. They are my #1 childhood memories. Truly. I would cry every time out of excitement. I loved it. Our home felt full and every new baby was so wonderful. I loved helping her. She never wanted me to regret coming from a big family so she never asked me to do much regarding the care of the babies which I think in turn made me LOVE them so much. She would find me with them in my bed at night. When the tenth baby was born, I was a freshman in college. It was so exciting and I felt the whole campus was awaiting the arrival of this child. Sometimes, I think if people only knew. If they only knew how most children are yearning for siblings. I remember one of my friends who was a boy wanted so much to know what it was like going to visit a new baby at the hospital. He asked if he could come with me. His mom told me that he slept on the couch by the phone when my mom was in labor so he wouldn't miss the phone call.
My father was not a Catholic, but was always very supportive of her and was always open to life. He was very PRO-LIFE. My mom had to become the spiritual leader of our home and taught us our faith well. We prayed every morning as a family and every evening. My father never prayed with us, but always sat in the room and heard us. We all prayed every night for his conversion. He died four years ago. Three weeks before he died, he converted to the Catholic faith. My mother prayed a long time. At his funeral, thirteen priests and the Bishop of our diocese offered his funeral mass. UN-BELIEVABLE. He was only a Catholic for three weeks and so many wonderful priests came for him and my mother. She has always had a love of the priesthood. She says everyday, "May God Bless the priesthood."
My mother has taught me everything I know. The most important thing she has taught me is how to sacrifice and love well. She always says, "Love means sacrifice." The amount of sacrifices her body has done over the years brings me to tears. I have so many memories and stories of her that I feel desperate at times to write them down. She loves so deeply and cares so much about the souls' of her children and others. She lives out St. Therese's little way to perfection. I remember watching her taking my little ones for a walk one time and cried at the beauty of her giving spirit. I know she is tired. I know she is battle-weary yet she still gives her whole heart. When I have a baby, she always comes to help, offers to takes our kids for a week while I recover, or will stay to help in our home. She cooks, cleans, brings joy, brings support, will sit and cry with me, will sit and listen over and over and bring hope. She has been there and remembers. She encourages me every baby reaffirming the magnitude of what John and I are doing by bringing more souls into the world. "You are doing God's work, honey. Keep going." I remember crying after Clairvaux in my room and her sitting with me stroking my hand. "You'll be fine, honey. I remember. You are doing great work. I am so proud of you." She has gone with me over to my friend's homes after they have had babies to encourage them. She loves so deeply. She always knows just what to say to help.
God has blessed her with a missionary heart. She is always aware of others especially those hurting. She makes everyone feel welcome. Many times during my childhood, different people from around our town would befriend her and come to our home to talk with her. She would sit and listen for hours not ever getting a word in on the conversation. She loves our friends. She loves other peoples lives and their children. She prays for everybody. One should really see her prayer book. She wants so much for us all to be together in heaven. If she tells you she is praying for you, SHE IS PRAYING FOR YOU. She writes your name down in her journal and will say your name everyday. Her car can usually be found at our church. She is becoming a little church mouse. She calls Jesus her friend and tells me that all is better when she sits and visits with him. She goes several times a day to pray. I hope to be like her.
Her best gift is that she give people HOPE especially in motherhood. She is such an encourager. You can do it even though it is hard...keep going. Don't take the easy rode. Every life is valuable and irreplaceable. When we were growing up, we always took two adults who had Down's Syndrome to mass. She picked them up every week and took them home. She showed them so much love. One of them always wanted a Diet Coke after mass. My mom always stopped and got her one. She took us to confession once a month, to visit people at the nursing homes, and then out to breakfast. She taught us to love those whom people seem to overlook because on the other side we will want "them" as our friends.
She is a fabulous mother-in-law. Really. Ask my brothers and sisters-in-laws. She wants to help when they need it. She only wants our marriages to be strong and happy. She wants us as married couples to be one. She loves her grandchildren and prays everyday for them to get heaven. I love how I can count on her to pray. I will call her with a concern and say "Please pray...I am so worried." To which she always replies, "I am honey. I do everyday. I asked God in a special way to be with you." The best gift she gives. I love how she loves my John. She tells me everyday how grateful she is for him. She calls him my "off button." She loves how he can turn my worries off. My kids cry every time she leaves probably because I do. I miss her every time. Still. I am 33 years old, but still miss her.
Over the years, she has given me so many books and I love to read the inscriptions. I love her words, her handwriting, her love. She loves so deeply. Sometimes, I tell her. "Mom, I see everything. I see all that you do. I will always treasure our time together, our talks, our trips. I remember watching "Anne of Green Gables" with you for the very first time. We were both giddy. I remember when you had just had Kellan and I visited you for the first time in the hospital. You asked me to sit with you and hold her. I remember sitting with you for several hours. You said, "I needed to rest, but I needed to know my baby was being held. Lindsay, you were such a gift to me that day." I felt honored to sit in the room with you. I remember watching you sleep and admiring you so. I was so in love with this new sibling you had just given to me.
Thank you for loving my friends. Thank you for taking an interest in the things that are important to me. Thank you for hosting my friends last December to great food, great friendship, and lots of love. We were all so grateful for you. I love you so much and am humbled to call you my mother. You will shine in heaven. Sometimes, I think to myself, "If they only knew..." If they only knew how I know you. Kindred spirits we are...you and me. I love you.