A dear friend died last week and the world lost a much-needed saint.
She was only the farmer’s daughter who grew up to be a wife and widow, mother of six and sole provider. She worked late into the night and wrestled demons in her darkness, but she always lived for others in the light.
She was born in April, which Shakespeare claimed, “hath put a spirit of youth in everything.” She had that spirit for over 100 years — an effusion of energy, hope and gratitude.
She died in May, in Mary’s month. She had a great devotion to the mother of her Lord, and I believe it was mutual. More than a name, they shared an openness to God’s will, a love of their children with its attendant pain, and a tendency to keep “all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.”
She gradually lost most of her hearing and sight. I asked what she did all day.
She said she spent most of it praying. When I wondered who was on her list, she explained: “I just pray. I figure God knows who needs them the most.”
In a way, she was always deaf and blind. She was deaf to the gossip of others and blind to skin tones, lifestyles and affectations. She always thought it took more effort to judge than to love.
During high school, her home was a hangout and safe harbor. It was where we always gathered and if you were hurting or hiding, it’s where you’d want to go.
There was more drama there than we admit: broken hearts, family tensions, failures and all the specters of adolescence. You could tell her almost anything and though she would seldom say much, there was kindness in her listening, wisdom in her silence, and healing in her presence.
There was always food on the stove, and if you were lucky, maybe a pie. In her 90s, she was still cooking and baking. It was usually something to take when she visited “the old folks.”
It is appropriate that she came and left in the spring, when seeds break through, leaves burst forth and flowers flash their color. In spring, all of nature shouts “Alleluia,” praising its Creator. Her life did no less.
In recent years, we’d tuck her in as we left. Smiling from her pillow, she’d say, “God loves you and so do I.”
With Marie, I never had a doubt about either.