Like May, October is a month of special dedication to Mary and therefore also to mothers. Three of our daughters were born in October, and though not born then the due date for our eldest could have placed her there too. The youngest of these October-babies was named after my grandmother – and born the day after Gramma died. While not unexpected, her death was felt deeply by many. Though Gramma was not herself part of their social circles, friends of my parents and in-laws of our relatives honoured her and our family with their presence at the funeral. Her young great-granddaughter, less than a week old, flew with my wife back home to be there. And I drove the eight highway hours with our other six daughters.
As a group, mothers exemplify the best of those supportive qualities, especially their own children. While fathers certainly love our children too, it has been said that in some ways we learn how to father by watching our wives mother. The Second Vatican Council said the family is “a school of deeper humanity.” To be in Gramma’s presence was to learn, and being deprived of that presence (even if we know that death changes life, does not end it) fifteen years later is still a loss.
Thinking of Gramma brings memories of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. We call these Fruits of the Spirit, the result of living a life of virtue. They came from how she lived her life, but like real fruit they were enjoyed more by those around her than by the one who produced them.
Our eldest daughter commented that she wished the lesson of appreciating others better was not learned after their death. It doesn’t need to be so but we often let it be. May reminds us to appreciate what is perhaps the first of our human relationships, with our mothers. We can thank these women explicitly with words and gestures, as well as implicitly in how we generously live our lives.
Catholic Pastoral Centre Staff and Guest Writers