Each April brings reminders of her. I was preparing for my second Fulbright teaching exchange in the former East Berlin. My mother died April 26, 1994, in Colorado so I flew out for the funeral and to help close her estate with one of my sisters. My thoughts immediately went to my first Fulbright experience when my father passed in 1990 while I was in Neresheim, Germany.
We were well prepared for death as part of life and had been taught by their example. Both my parents spoke matter-of-factly about dying even though as young people, we did not want to speak about such subjects. So thoughts raced through my mind about preparing for the July departure to Germany with our two children as I sat on the long flight from Upstate New York Colorado.
It was a beautiful, comforting funeral Mass at Christ the King Church at the end of Horseshoe Drive, the same church in which I had been organist for five years before college. My sisters and I walked the block to church each morning for the 6:30 AM daily Mass. Sometimes I had to be excused from school to play the organ for funerals which were sad and happy at the same time. Determined to celebrate my mother’s life, I did one of the readings at Mass. I am grateful for a strong, abiding faith.
During the second Fulbright experience in Berlin, I decided the children were older now and in second and fifth grades so we traveled to more cities throughout Europe. On the anniversary of my mother’s death, we were in Rome in St. Peter’s Square for a public audience with the Pope. All the chairs set up outdoors were wet from a rain so I attempted to dry them off for the three of us. Some lovely young students from Ireland offered me their tissues to help dry the chairs. We struck up a conversation. I smiled inwardly as I listened to these Irish ladies speak and thought my Irish mother must have sent them to comfort me and visit for awhile.
Recently I have had to deal with the deaths of friends. When I walk by the lake or drive to my favorite restaurant in Sherrill, New York, I compose poetry in my head as a form of prayer and as a remembrance of loved ones now gone from us. These are life’s bittersweet moments, and sometimes I recall them with a heavy heart. As I gaze at nature and ponder the meaning of it all and why our loved ones are called to leave us before we are ready to say goodbye, I understand that there is a Greater Power. After a silent prayer or two, I smile again as I remember the past and the good memories I have of these family and friends.