I heard stories about you; not many, but a few. The story I’ve heard the most is the story of your death. Headaches have always meant a little something different to me because of you. Headaches remind me of the eternal. You met with eternity after a headache.
The story I know best about you is the one where you left your youngest daughter, sixteen-years- old, motherless on this earth. The sixteen-year-old girl loved freely and without discrimination, and she took care of her father when you were gone. You would have been proud of her. Actually,
strike that, I’m sure you watched from heaven and you were proud of her.
You were proud of her as you watched her graduate from high school, and move out of the home that housed your family. Perhaps you winced a bit when she made mistakes, the ones we are all apt to make as we live life, but I’m also sure that you rejoiced in her successes and smiled happiness in her moments of joy. I believe you celebrated with her when she gave birth to me; the granddaughter you weren’t able to hold, but I like to think that you hugged both of our guardian angels that day.
You loved my mother, and my mother loved you. When my belly was swollen with a baby of my own I came to love you too, even though I’ve never met you. When I was dressed in white and the body and blood were offered to me for the first time, you were in the cloud of witnesses. The night I joined the Catholic Church, many gifts were bestowed upon me, but perhaps the most precious of all was something that once belonged to you.
I opened up a small white box, and once the lid was uncovered, scraps of brown fabric looked up at me. A note from two of your daughters, my mother and my aunt, spoke of the meaning of these brown, frayed pieces of cloth. It was your scapular; a representation of your life of prayer, and a sign of your decision to follow Jesus, like his mother Mary. You had this scapular pinned to your hospital gown as your headache turned into a stroke and the stroke turned into death. Even in your death, you longed to be guided by faith, hope, and love.
Throughout my life and until my death, I also desire to move in faith, live in hope, and to love freely. Your scapular sits on a little black table in my house, and my brand new scapular sometimes finds its way into my pocket or purse or rests in my jewelry box. The tattered and the new, we need each other, you know?
Every Holy Mass you’re there, along with all the angels and saints. The living ask the dearly departed to pray for us because there is life beyond the grave. I think of you on Sundays, and I wonder if you prayed me into the Church; perhaps you prayed both of us there, my mother and me.
When the water was poured over your great grandson’s head, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit; that’s when I felt your embrace for the first time. You were there, bearing witness to my son’s first sacrament, and you clasped your hands in prayer as the priest spoke, “This is the fountain of life, water made holy through the suffering of Christ, washing all of the world. You who are washed in this water have hope of heaven’s kingdom.”
Today, I have new stories about you to tell, and they are stories that supersede death; stories of prayer, communion, scapulars, and baptism. Beyond the grave your faith has impacted me, Grandma Mary. Stories don’t have to end. We have eternity to live them.