Wednesday, 21 January 2015

"May today you know peace within..." and Remembering Mum

These are hard times. I don't know if they're any harder than usual or if it's simply that we know so much so quickly. The world seems to be, as Dad used to say, "Going to hell in a handbasket." Whatever that means. 

Just FYI - from The Phrase Finder on the internet:
"The first example of 'hell in a hand basket' that I have found in print comes in I. Winslow Ayer's account of events of the American Civil War The Great North-Western Conspiracy, 1865. A very similar but slightly fuller report of Morris's comments was printed in the House Documents of the U.S. Congress, in 1867:
Speaking of men who had been arrested he [Judge Morris] said, "Some of our very best, and thousands of brave men, at this very moment in Camp Douglas, are our friends; who, if they were once at liberty, would send the abolitionists to hell in a hand-basket."
'Hell in a handcart' is found in print before 'hell in a handbasket'. The earliest citation I can find for that is in Elbridge Paige's book of Short Patent Sermons, 1841:


Well, if the abolitionists were going to hell in a handbasket, many of us would have been in good company along with them ... all depends on one's perspective, I guess, whom one is condemning to hell or elsewhere.
How about not condemning anyone to hell? How about none of us being the judge?  How about we try more love and compassion in the midst of our fears of the violence around us? Having celebrated Martin Luther King's birthday this week we've seen his sermons, quotes and images on facebook and elsewhere... thank God.



St Teresa of Avila apparently had a wonderful sense of humour, and of playfulness - even with God. We all likely know the story of her journey on a cold and stormy night :-) ...   She was travelling to one of her convents and was somehow knocked off her donkey, falling into the mud and injuring her leg. 
“Lord,” she said, “You couldn’t have picked a worse time for this to happen. Why would you let this happen?”
She heard a response from God in her prayer : “That is how I treat my friends.”
Teresa answered, “And that is why you have so few of them!”
This is the same saint (although I have seen it attributed to Mother Teresa) who prayed, 
Twenty years ago today, Mum died in the end peacefully - though unwillingly - of cancer. She wanted to live. She loved us. She adored her grandchildren. She was only 75 - which is getting younger all the time, sez I at 68.

In the grand scale of the universe, her death is a small thing - but not to those who loved her. In the midst of terror at the violence and seeming hopelessness of the world situation, her death and anniversary will go unnoticed by the world at large. And yet ... 


“... can it be that in a world so full and busy, the loss of one weak creature makes a void in any heart, so wide and deep that nothing but the width and depth of vast eternity can fill it up?"

Charles Dickens


I prefer this version - "...whispers the o'er fraught heart...."

Mum was courageous, determined, had a sense of humour... Her life was hard in many ways. Her childhood was unsettled, to put it mildly. She endured the sudden death of her firstborn son when he was 8, an unwanted divorce from Dad, MS, cancer ... I've written more about her elsewhere on my blog - look for daffodils in the titles. 

Mum registered at Sir George Williams College after Lorne's death and, with night and summer courses, earned a BA. She shifted from working at Pratt and Whitney to teaching, first at our local William White School. She was one of the first to really recognize and address issues like dyslexia. (In those days children were simply forced to repeat grades - and were thought to be - and thought themselves to be - slow.) She earned her teaching certificate at Macdonald College in the summers. She drove alone across Canada with Jim (aged 11) and me (aged 9) in 1956. Mum was our camp cook at Wa-Thik-Ane Girl Guide Camp in 1959 only a few miles from the camp where Lorne had drowned in 1950. No exaggeration: we had the best meals anyone ever had at camp, including lemon cake pudding for dessert. :-) She flew to the UK the day after the divorce was final, rented a car, and drove around (on the 'wrong' side of the road) to visit family and friends. She went to Haiti as a volunteer in 1975, when I was to return to the ministry with our Sisters in Port-au-Prince. (That part didn't work out, when I had my breakdown/break-through and couldn't go.)

Those are some of the big things. The innumerable little things are written in the hearts of those who loved her, and whom she loved. She re-married.  She hopped about on spontaneous adventures in Quebec and Vermont with people like Antoinette Tracy. She loved to travel back roads, as do I. 

Mum was an ordinary woman who loved ordinary people. Down-to-earth. Kind-hearted. A bit nutty in the best kind of way. Burnt cookies because she liked to do five things at once. I'm my mother's daughter. Though I don't usually burn the cookies, I feel her essence in me when I take on the kitchen. If  zucchinis were living creatures, hers would have taken over the world by now, so many did her garden grow. Picked blackberries by the bushel. Bent over with laughter. I laugh like Mum when I get going. Sort of a cross between human and horse (a nice horse, and a small one, of course).

So, in the midst of a world seemingly gone mad, of one anonymous person posting hateful horrors on my blog in response to my saying "I'm Not Charlie," I remember our Mum. 

And I pray for peace. 

Peace in the world. 

Peace in each of us. 

Peace for Mum, wherever she is. 

Peace today for Sister Marie Margaret who has died in Boston. She was the first Sister of Haitian origin in the community. Little, mighty, and feisty, she gave her all to faithfully serving others in the Religious Life. She was so kind to me when Sister Rhoda was dying. Sister Marie Margaret was a nurse and in charge of the infirmary at the Louisburg Square convent. I often went over after work at the Donovans looking after 'my children' and SMM always welcomed me in with a smile to visit with Sister Rhoda. SMM has been Sister-in-charge of the convent in Port-au-Prince for quite a few years and was one who survived the earthquake and continued the Sisters' ministry afterwards. 

Peace for her Sisters at St. Margaret's Convent - in Duxbury, Dorchester, NYC, and in Haiti, and for her family.

Peace. Period. 

Love, hope, and compassion.

Daffodils to brighten our days and to remind me of Mum, and to remind us that we are a resurrection people even as we "wander lonely as a cloud..."


And a kitty and an English robin to help us keep on keeping on - through grief and sorrow - through fear and longing ... to peace.




1 comment:

  1. Beautifully said.... Thank you and....THANKS MOM!!! <3

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