May 2017 Prayer of the Month: Pausing to Remember Our Mothers
This month's free reflection is taken from
Haiku and Reflection by Judith Valente
As Mother’s Day approaches, I am helping a friend host a baby shower for her daughter-in-law. The mother-to-be doesn’t like being the center of attention, but it won’t be long before her child steals the spotlight.
My time in the spotlight was short. Before I was three years old, there were four younger than me and, after a short break, three more. (My mother had two sets of twins.) It took me until my early years of college to fully understand the burden my parents had carried for us; how much they had sacrificed to be sure we participated in sports, music, and dance programs; and how much they loved us. But I still didn’t understand the depth of that love.
On my birthday, not long before she died, my mother phoned, sharing details of my birth I had never heard before and calling me “her little Patricia.” I was startled. Her little Patricia. She had loved me as myself, someone distinct from the brood. Now as I sift through my treasured collection of family letters, I discover new hints of the depth of the love that brought me into being and sustains me still.
Judy Valente is the editor and one of the three contributors to The Art of Pausing: Meditations for the Overworked and Overwhelmed. In the following haiku and reflection from the book, she reflects on how she came to love the mother-in-law she had never known.
GOD, THE LIVING
In yellowed journals
they work, love, argue, complain:
those long dead, live
I never knew my husband’s mother, Helen Rizzoli Reynard. But one day, rummaging around the cellar, my husband unearthed a set of her diaries. Suddenly, I was able to enter the life of this dedicated mom who worked the night shift as a registered nurse. Her entries, sometimes recorded in leather-bound journals, at other times in inexpensive spiral notebooks, span the years from 1953 until 1985, when she became too debilitated by Alzheimer’s to write. She often crystallized in a few terse sentences an entire day.
A typical entry might read, “Today I went to Galyan’s and bought a cut-up chicken on sale, then on to the yarn store but couldn’t find the green color I wanted.” Then a few days later: “A man was admitted to the ward last night with congestive heart failure. He’ll probably die here. His young, inexperienced doctor doesn’t know which end is up.” She records the day President Kennedy was assassinated and the morning her second husband collapsed and died of a stroke on their front porch while she and her son were at church. She writes of having her gall bladder removed and her disappointment at being turned away from a dance class because she didn’t have a partner.
In these journals, the mother-in-law I never knew lives again. Through them, my husband can reconnect with grandparents, aunts and uncles long gone, memories long faded. His mother’s journals are proof that no life is “ordinary.” Each day is its own feature film worthy of being preserved.
About The Art of Pausing
The poems and reflections in The Art of Pausing: Meditations for the Overworked and Overwhelmed are the work of three writers who inhabit very different worlds. But for each, the reading and writing of haiku is an essential spiritual practice.
Bother Paul Quenon is a Trappist monk of the Abbey of Gethsemane who studied under the great spiritual writer, Thomas Merton. Brother Paul writes from the confines of a cloister and with the boundlessness of one who has spent a lifetime contemplating what really matters. He is the author of four books of poetry and a talented photographer. His photographs accompany many of the poems and reflections in this book.
Michael Bever is a retired educator, a doctor of theology and an ordained Disciples of Christ minister who was drawn later in life to Catholic traditions. He combines Zen and Sufi practices with his Christian heritage.
Judy Valente is a broadcast journalist who covers religion news for PBS-TV and the author of two poetry collections and a book on contemporary monastic life. As a retreat leader, she helps busy professionals slow down, find more balance, and tap into the transcendence of the everyday.