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Seasonal Reflection: A Mother’s Love

Mother’s Day, celebrated three days ago, brings to mind a variety of experiences, memories and traditions. Reflecting on the sadness of losing a loved one, Thomas Vigliotta, OFM, shares fond memories of his mother, who died in 2009. Todd Carpenter, OFM, of Wilmington, Del., has provided a reflection on the beauty of new life that springs from mothers.

ATHENS, Ga. — May 9, 2010, was the first Mother’s Day that I was not able to express my love to my mom with a card, a flower, a gift or a phone call. It was the first Mother’s Day that I would not be able to hear her 85-year-old, young voice say to me: “I love you.” Over the past years, I have come, more and more, to appreciate her presence on this earth and mostly her presence in my life.

My mother was an incarnational woman. Her priority was my father and their seven children that extended into 18 grandchildren and more than 20 great-grandchildren. She loved each one uniquely.

Devotion to Family
Her German and Irish decent often meant my mom was not overly demonstrative with a lot of hugs and kisses. She did express her warmth to her family in a physical way, but that physical love was matched with deeds — never-ending deeds.

After a long battle with cancer, my mother died Nov. 14, 2009. Just the fact that 2009 has rolled into 2010 makes me feel that she is further from my six siblings and me. If that is hard for me as her son, I often wonder how hard it must be for my father who was married to her for nearly 65 years. I can only imagine what it must have been like for my dad on Dec. 31 at midnight. When the ball fell in Times Square, he could not welcome the new year by kissing his beloved.

When I was home visiting her in the summer before she died, my mom was physically weak, but her mind was always less on herself and more on her kids. This time, her focus was on me as the visitor. One morning, she came out from her room into the kitchen and she stomped her feet — her custom. She then announced to me that she wanted to do my laundry.

I was so torn. I knew, and could feel, how weak her health was. But I also knew how strong and fulfilled she felt when serving my dad and her family. I told her that I would let her know if I needed her help.

The rest of that day was filled with good quality time. She never did do my laundry again, but I think if she had, on that day, I would have held those washed and folded clothes in my hands as if they were the gifts of the magi presented to Jesus at his birth.

Always My Mother’s House
I think my mother felt at that time as if she was losing her grip as the matriarch of our house on Long Island. In fact, one day she said, “This is not my house anymore.”

reflect-rEveryone assured her that it was very much her house, but having to give up so much of her labor of love was hard on her. She loved to cook, to serve, to vacuum and even to do the laundry.

In those last months of her life, it was very much my mom’s house because we — her family — tried to love her the way she loved and cared for my dad and my siblings and all those who entered our house.

This summer, when I go home, it will still be “her house” because I will bring the love she showed to others and to me. I share that love when I am home or ministering to the people of God in Athens.

At home, it is interesting how my family members now — without blinking an eye — wash dishes, wipe the table and sweep the floors just the way she taught us. At least we try!

Though it saddens me that 2010 is a reminder that my mom’s presence is further along from me in this world, I am consoled by faith that I am ever closer to that day when I will be with her again. One day, we will be together with other loved ones in the house of God.

— Fr. Tom is director of the Catholic Center at the University of Georgia in Athens. The photo above shows him with his mother, Rosella, in the early 1980s. Future topics of seasonal reflections to be included in this newsletter include St. Bernardine of Siena (May 20), St. Anthony of Padua (June 13) and St. Irenaeus (June 28). Readers are welcome to submit reflections to communications@hnp.org.