Mother’s Pride, Collapsing Eternity

Mother’s Pride

My heart is breaking as I write this, and yet, I wrote this in love, sending compassion to all the mothers sending their sons and husbands to the front lines, fighting for love, fighting to protect the world we thought we knew just a few short weeks ago. This is for the husbands, fathers, sons, (the daughters too). I swore I wouldn’t bring a child into a world at war, and yet, in 2003, troops were being deployed. Now, my son, a grown man, almost nineteen, witnesses war for himself. I thought we were better than this. I know we’re better than this. Praying for peace to prevail in Ukraine and everywhere. Love collapses moments into eternity. May war not collapse humanity.

Collapsing Eternity

In May, 2002, we lost the patriarch of our family, my grandfather. He had fallen into poor health and heart issues again, in late 2000, and had fought to make it this far. Earlier that winter I visited a site known for its miracles. I had prayed at that place earlier in times of trouble and confusion and myself had made it this far now, a newly wed now after dating for eight years, we would celebrate our first wedding anniversary that summer.

Bittersweet that my grandfather had been able to attend our wedding but he was frail for sure. We returned to Western New York so I could pray at Our Lady of Victory Basilica, purchase, and bless a special rosary for my grandfather. His time was nearing. I grew up kneeling beside him, modeling after his every cue. The sincerity in his devotion, always on his knees, in front of the cross with the dried palm of Easter yesteryear, a few prayer cards tucked in behind the bottom, just beneath Jesus’ bronze feet. Papa was no longer able to kneel and his breath was labored as I now knelt beside him, giving him a rosary with burnt orange wood, smooth, and a bit more modern than the beads my grandmothers had kept and prayed upon. I said a prayer and talked to him gently, wishing there was more I could do for him than “just pray”. 

One of the last conversations I had with him of any sincere value was the day I placed those rosary beads in his hands. This was the day I told him if I ever have a son, “Papa, I’m naming him Ray, after you.” He shed a tear, and I knew for once my birth order would play to my full advantage. If I were to have a son, someday, I could claim it, my son, his namesake, Raymond, who would later insist at eighteen, we just call him Ray. We weren’t ready for children at this point, still grieving him. In a few months we would attend a Cleveland Indians game, now the Cleveland Guardians. Papa Ray was their biggest fan, growing up in Erie, PA, listening on the radio and all. A Cleveland fan in Central New York was fun to watch growing up! We were in Yankees territory after all. Turns out that my son’s father and grandfather were huge Cleveland fans too-I guess it was meant to be-we would have a son too to follow in this long line of fans.

Turns out three months after we laid my grandfather to rest, that we would celebrate our anniversary weekend in Cleveland a couple days early. The entire trip, I felt queasy, something was off, just entirely off. I think I took four pregnancy tests, and it was true. We had a baby on the way as our first official wedding anniversary gift. I would count the days and months, write to that baby, play music on earbuds taped to my growing tummy, jazz and classical, and have cravings for all things potato and Friendly’s Reese’s pieces sundaes. I loathe peanut butter, so this was quite amusing to me!

A few weeks into the pregnancy, I boarded a bus to Toronto, Canada, World Youth Day. Pope John Paul II, blessed the event. Rain and mud made the grounds look more like Mudstock ‘94 than World Youth Day ‘02. I vomited a good bit of the bus ride there. I slept on the squishy, soppy grass. And I cried when a musical group sang one of my favorite Peter Gabriel tunes, “Blood of Eden.”  My son in utero was blessed by the Pope I had been raised to respect. Some say he performed miracles. I know my Ray is one of them. 

Ray was to enter this world on St. Patrick’s Day. The little Catholic School I taught at even threw me a pot o’ gold baby shower. Yet, my Ray o’ Sunshine didn’t want to join us on the outside until April 1st. He held out to be my lil’ April Fool. A fool though, Ray is not.

The minute I held my son for the first time is still one of the most sacred of my life. My sweet jaundice, yellow baby, looked up at me, and for the first time in my life I saw them, my own eyes, staring back at me. Finally, I had a living blood relative, someone I truly could call mine own. I worked hard for him too, we labored from Sunday evening until Tuesday morning, and then into Tuesday afternoon. Finally, after two epidurals, and one C-section, Ray was in my arms, swaddled in his Winnie-the-Pooh blanket. Our eyes a spot on match…

Today, Ray’s eyes are almost a carbon copy of his father’s. Over the years they changed, blue to green to hazel to brown. Today, when he opens his mouth to speak, he sounds like an echo of his father at age nineteen, our first year in college. He swears he gets the good genes from his French Canadian father (my ex-husband) and grandfather (who we lost too soon as well). In some moments now, looking at him, yes, he could be their clone. For those few weeks, my sweet newborn son captivated me, my own eyes of love, staring back at me. I often wondered if my birth mother had been able to share any moments like this with me before she was stripped of me. Was Theresa at age nineteen, given a sacred moment to share with her firstborn, her daughter? I may never know. As I looked at my son for the very first time, I thought of her, and stared back at her through space and time. Somewhere, may the circle of love have reconnected us that afternoon I first held my Ray o’ Son.

Today, they all look down from Heaven as I write this and warm my heart in these memories that will bridge a ladder to eternity. 

“Just pray,” they all said. All those who have gone before me.

And in these prayers I hold the space between. In my son’s eyes I swear I collapsed eternity. 

Hold someone you love ever tightly today.

Live egregiously. Cherish every one.

Collect moments of eternity ❤

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