Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Of Saints and Sinners

I don't believe in chance. I believe that everything happens for a reason, even if I don't find out until I stand in review of my life before God. So let me dive right in.

I love autumn. It's been my favorite season for as long as I can remember. At one point in my life, I would have gladly changed my name to Willow October if I’d know I could when I was adopted. But names are a story for another time.

Some of my fondest memories were Trick or Treating with my family. And my mother was born on October 23rd, so Halloween was always a big thing when I was with her. This year, especially, it's poignant for me.

I am not a "Cradle Catholic." Although my father was raised Catholic, and the first church I attended was Catholic, I was raised far from it. I have only been a Catholic for about two and half years.

That said, I’ve been trying to embrace the Catholic lifestyle and celebrations (part of why I became Catholic) and one of those is All Saints - remembering those who have gone before us. And this is where my mother ties in: She died on Leap Day in 2012.

My mother was no saint. Some who knew her would put her into that category as soon as she died, but I was not so blind. Don't get me wrong, I loved her and I have a few precious memories of her. I am thankful that she gave me life. But she banked on me and my father's faulty Catholicism to keep him. She told me so in one of the last conversations we had. In a strange way, I have the faith to thank for being alive and having two sisters. 

I have not really been at leisure to mourn my mother. My cousin called me and told me that she had died - but they debated almost the entire day before telling me. Why? I was 4 months pregnant with my son.

While my father's family barely cared, only one of my sisters had vague memories of her, my mother's family was mostly terrible to me. I had one aunt tell me I wasn’t allowed to mourn my mother because I didn't grow up with her. (My mother gave us up when I was 7.)
I shelved mourning for her due to the pregnancy, the hostility, then nursing and caring for my children. I made a memory box for her and it’s somewhat unfinished. She didn’t have a memorial service, and she was cremated. Due to her family's infighting, even her ashes have been hidden.

It is only now that I can take a moment to reflect.

My mother left me an orphan.

For years, I was almost sure she was dead due to her lifestyle. The people who adopted me eventually disowned me, even though we are blood. I reconnected with her as an adult and while it helped me to understand her better, it ended up benefitting neither of us. Then her lifestyle caught up to her and I really lost her.

It was more devastating than I thought it would be.

Her loss brought out the worst in her family and my father's family had little sympathy - but I’ve learned from it. My faith was not shaken. The family I have with my husband is firm. The actions of my mother were refreshed in my head. I can learn from her mistakes and try to avoid them.

I can see why some things affect me the way they do now. For instance, I’ve had short hair for years, because I was so terrified of becoming her. I couldn't have long hair like she had when she was married to my father and had small children.

I can also remember the times she showed who she could've been, the mother of my dreams. 

I have my new faith too. I have a mother figure to look up to in Mary - a strange concept for me after the other mother figures I've had in my life and my Protestant upbringing. I’m still trying to wrap my head around that. I am trying to be a good mother too.

Out of all of this, I find myself thankful. Everything I’ve gone through in my life has brought me to where I am today. The pains I have endured have given me the ability to not only have sympathy for others, but empathy also. The joys have given me opportunities for praise and blessing others. The mistakes and triumphs have given me greater ability to be humble, either from pride fallen or realization my battles were not won alone. None of that would've been possible if my mother had not been determined to have me.

In this upcoming event of All Saints I think it's fitting to remember my mother. Like the real Saints who have been examples of how we should live, we can also learn from the sinners to avoid the pain. This year, I will pray to Mary and thank her for her example of how to be the Ultimate Mother. I will also pray for my mother. While her time here on earth is done, her ripple is still on the water. I want to do what I can to make sure that it's a gentle one.