Sunday, May 14, 2006

A View Of A Heartfelt Thank You

When I began formulating the idea for this post, it was originally going to be a lighthearted Mother's Day tribute to my mom. It was going to be just satirical enough to be entertaining, and just sentimental enough to be a loving reminder of how lucky I am to have my mom in my life. It was going to be a nice, little thank you to her for everything she's done for me, my sister, and our family. It was going to be as fun as this picture of her, taken yesterday before we sat down to dinner.

But, as is often the case, what one plans to do and what circumstances have in store are two different things. Earlier this week, my family received word that our former parish priest, Fr. Edward Farrell, died in his sleep on Tuesday morning. His death was the close of a chapter in my family's life. As you've read in this blog, the church my family attended will be closing this summer. Most of my family has either found a new church home, stopped attending church, or (in my case) moved away from religious beliefs altogether.

Receiving the news of Fr. Farrell's death brought a rush of memories for which I was not prepared - a mix of mourning for the past and pride in what both he and my Mom had given to throughout my life. Memories like Mom waking my sister and I up every Sunday morning to get ready for Mass. Visiting my Mom at the church rectory when she worked there as a secretary - a job she received when she needed the work, one of the many ways Fr. Farrell helped our family through difficult time - and seeing our priest without his vestments, drinking a soda, and joking with my mom. (It was a unique experience seeing a priest as a regular, relatable man and not as remote, formal "Father." It was also fun to watch him turn red all over as he laughed at something he found especially funny.) Listening to Mom as she reminded us not to view attending church as a chore to be tolerated, but as a chance to learn how to be a better person, and to respect the wisdom and guidance that Fr. Farrell provided - even when she wanted to get back into bed and get a bit more sleep, too. The pride that beamed from both Mom and Fr. Farrell as I went through my first confession, confirmation, and became an adult - the same pride I got to share when my sister took the sacraments of first communion, had her confirmation, and when my Mom and grandmother made their profession of faith, officially becoming Catholic.

Then there's the toughest, yet most compassionate memory of all; the way Fr. Farrell comforted my family and I through the deaths we endured. He was there to console us with the sudden losses of my father and fraternal grandmother, and the anticipated losses of my maternal grandmother and uncle. When my mother was being strong for my sister and I during these difficult times, he was there in whatever form he could provide to be a source of strength and support for my Mom.

Mom, sis, and I went to pay our final respects to him on Thursday. We saw many old friends, some less familiar faces from the past, and met some new people who'd all been influenced by him. I watched my Mom as she talked to everyone we encountered - giving and receiving comfort, being strong and seeking strength, remembering the good times and grieving their loss all at once - and I saw all the facets of her that I admire and love. She has a quiet strength and dignity that defines her. Her sense of humor and compassion draws people to her. Her ability to listen and say just the right thing at the right time brings comfort to everyone with whom she makes contact. She doesn't suffer fools gladly and has little tolerance for any nonsense, but has a way of making people see the error of their ways that neither humiliates or belittles them. She loves openly and cares for everyone without judgment or prejudice. Mom is like a mom to everyone she meets.

These facets of her personality were also present in Fr. Farrell. They taught me grace, reliance on personal strength, and how to love without judgment. And while I didn't get a chance to say this to Fr. Farrell while he was alive, I am thankful that I get to say this to Mom today - Mothers Day 2006: Thank you for your guidance. Thank you for your positive influence on my life. Thank you for caring about me and my family. Thank you for your acceptance of me, even when I tried to push you away or when I didn't follow the path you would've chosen for me. Thank you for your unconditional love. I'll always be grateful for everything you've done for me, and will keep doing for me.

Happy Mothers Day, Mom. Rest in peace, Fr. Farrell.

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