Peace and joy. That’s what I prayed for at Mass yesterday. In the homily, I heard that God told Solomon that whatever he asked for, God would give. My immediate thought was peace and joy. That was my prayer, amidst these troubled times of uncertain finances and family illnesses and unknown futures — peace and joy.
And God delivered.
After Mass, Mike and I headed to Ohio to say goodbye to my Aunt Patty. She was the second of my grandparents’ 13 children. Today, we would call her “special needs” or mentally handicapped. Growing up, we said that she was retarded, and there was no malice in the word, just an acceptance of who she was.
My grandparents were advised at Pat’s birth to put her in an institution. They refused. She was part of the family and she was going home with them. And yesterday, family showed up.
The grounds of the hospice center where Pat arrived on Saturday are beautiful. They could rival any of the best parks I’ve been to. But what happened outside Patty’s window would have been beautiful if it had happened in a concrete jungle.
It was holy ground.
I’m frustrated by my own inability to capture what happened there yesterday. The words I have typed and deleted and typed again are so inadequate to explain the power, the grief, and yes, the peace and joy that was in that space.
In the courtyard outside the window, an area not normally meant for visitors, given that there were no walkways through the landscaping, our family gathered. Visitor restrictions placed on indoor space (thanks COVID-19) were not going to stop us from being there. Mike and I arrived at the encampment, spread out and wearing masks, as one of my aunts was leading the rosary, praying on my grandmother’s rosary beads into Pat’s open window.
About 20 family members, many of Pat’s siblings and their spouses and several of my cousins stood there. It didn’t matter that not everyone there practices the Catholic faith. It was a display of love for a woman so special to us. After the rosary, my cousin Zach who is a pastor offered a loving prayer into Pat’s window.
Mike described it this way: “You could feel the warmth of the Holy Spirit was over you — like stepping into a warm room out of the cold.” The vigil that was our collective gift to Patty was a gift to us and a testament to the faith and family that my grandparents gave to us.
We stayed for a couple of hours. I had a chance a few times to go to the window and tell Pat how much I loved her. How I knew that Grandma was there waiting in heaven for her and what a joyful reunion that would be.
With a last goodbye kiss blown through the window screen, I felt the peace that I’d asked God for and the joy of being part of this family and part of this sacred day.