Lent with a new lens

I was looking ahead on the parish calendar to see what the month of March would bring apart from the celebration of Lent. It was then I came across a simple marker “Mother’s passing.” It was four years ago now – hard to believe that much time has passed since my mom passed away. But that is the way of things as one grows older oneself; loved one are lost and time passes at an ever-increasing rate.

I am pretty sure I got my love of big band music from mom. She had several 78s of Tommy Dorsey (…and if “78s” is unknown to you, ask you grandparents…or great grands…or wikipedia). It was the music of her era.

Born in 1923, her teenage years were during the Great Depression and the beginning of the Second World War. She was 19 when the War broke out. It opened up an opportunity for her to move from the farming community of Paradise, Utah to Logan then to Ogden, Utah, and eventually to Washington DC where she worked for the War Department, lived in Woodley Park – and somewhere in the middle of all that met a dashing Army officer who married her and took her away to Atlanta. There, the daughter of a high school English teacher met Margaret Mitchell of Gone with the Wind fame. She met Miss Daisy of Driving Miss Daisy and Bobby Jones, the founder of the Master’s golf tournament – and came to know that Flannery O’Connor was related to the Corrigan clan (and if you do not know the author Flannery O’Connor…well…I just don’t know what to say!)

Of course, I could go on to pull just one of many threads that make up the complex woven life of my mom. Just as I am sure that you can call to mind the loved ones in your lives. The ones with us and the ones now gone. The ones who lived a long life, the ones taken too soon. The ones bold and bodacious, the ones quiet and calm. The ones known by all; the ones known to but a few. All of them a fountain fullness of memories that ever linger just below the surface of recall; stories that are the occasion of laughter, tears, deep sighs, or a smile whose joy is graced.

All of that and more came to mind just seeing a simple reminder on my calendar that the anniversary of mom’s passing was near at hand. I suspect that even as you read this, memories are encroaching on your consciousness. And the thing about memories is they are always connected. While one memory may be the first in line, there are always connected ones that follow. It is as though once the door is opened, the others pass through invited or no. Eventually comes the one happy, but bittersweet also. It is akin to the moment you reach out to the beauty of the rose, take in the fragrance, touch the flower, and yet feel the unexpected prick of the rose’s thorn.

As the poet Rainer Maria Rilke said about the prick of a rose: “deepens the red of my blood.” In the moment of pain, there is revelation. Maybe it is the same as moments of encountering our memories. Remembering the love that was always there in my life, sometimes taken for granted, now abundantly clear in the mind’s recall.

There’s a beautiful passage in Ursula Le Guin’s novel The Dispossessed about how we only see the true beauty of someone or something when we see the whole of it. She writes:

“If you can see a thing whole, it seems that it’s always beautiful … [but] close up, a world’s all dirt and rocks. And day to day, life’s a hard job, you get tired, you lose the pattern. You need distance … The way to see how beautiful the earth is, is to see it as the moon. The way to see how beautiful life is, is from the vantage point of death.”

And maybe that is the great vantage point of a simple reminder on a calendar, remembering the whole. That is the perspective of Lent as we are reminded of the journey of Jesus: Last Supper, arrest, death on the cross, and Resurrection. It is all connected. It is all beautiful.

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