A Remembrance of Motherís Day
Among my duties at my first assignment as a priest was the management of the parish cemetery. Little did I know that this experience would become a key element in the performance of the greatest deed of my life. A number of years and two pastoral assignments later my story begins.
One day my mother - seventy-two years of age at the time - told me a tragic and mysterious story. It seems that my two brothers and I were not the only children that she had. We had a sister who was stillborn. She was my motherís first child. Increasing the sorrow of this event was my motherís yearning to have a family. I cannot imagine how horribly she felt as her child in the ninth month of her pregnancy stopped moving in her womb. The umbilical cord had wrapped around her neck. According to the wisdom of the day, my mother never saw her baby. The burial arrangements were accomplished by my father and he spoke little of it to my mother.
Perhaps, it was the trauma of the loss and not knowing where the grave was located, but my mother had a recurring dream about the little girl she never saw. It was always the same: against a black background, there appeared in the form of a babyís body dressed in an infantís white dress. In this simple setting, the sadness of never seeing her baby and the longing for this separated child was manifested. The close bonds between my mother and me tightened more on that day.
Not being particularly bright, it took a couple of days for the bells to go off in my head. I know about cemeteries and the quality and thoroughness of record keeping especially in respect to plots and burials. The memory of my eighty-three year old father was not exact about the facts of a burial that took place over fifty years ago, but we narrowed it down to two cemeteries.
In earnest, I applied myself to the task of finding the grave of my baby sister. My knowledge of procedure and nomenclature gave me confidence in speaking to the director of the first cemetery. I called. She retrieved the old record books and began her search armed with as many details as I was able to provide. It seemed like hours but in a few minutes she announced that she had located a grave where four babies had been interred and an unnamed baby girl born to Albert and Anna Petrucci was one of them.
My mother was overjoyed on hearing the news and arrangements were made to visit the grave. It was a lovely late spring day. My mother was anxiously awaiting my arrival. I carefully helped her into the car. She had become rather sickly and was not as stable on her feet as she once was. We stopped at a local florist to purchase a bouquet of flowers for the grave. The ride to the cemetery was full of anticipation and my mother repeatedly expressed her gratitude for what I had done. For me it was a simple gift that I knew had meaning beyond expression.
On entering the cemetery, I followed the directions the cemetery officials gave me and parked near the site they described. My mother waited in the car as I wandered about looking for the marker newly placed at the grave. In a few minutes, I discovered a small metal rimed marker flush to the ground. I peered through the plastic covering and read Baby Petrucci. I signaled to my mother that I had found it. Before I could return to the car, my mother was out and making her way to me. My heart broke as I watched her, old and frail, push herself toward the spot where her daughter laid. We prayed and cried. As we slowly made our way back to the car, I observed over half a century of longing and wondering depart from her heart and soul. It was the first of many visits until my mother died some five years later and joined her daughter.
That day my mother told me that I had done the most wonderful thing that I could ever do for her. When we look back at our lives, I pray that our most wonderful achievement may not be some thing we possess, but some act we have done out of love.
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