“Will we have served our purpose for this incarnation? It takes so many thousand years to wake, but will we wake for pity’s sake.”
(pg 120/ A Pilgrim’s Guide to the Camino de Santiago)
This morning I set out ‘mindful’ of the long stretch ahead…the journey reminded me of the road to Emmaus. I walked in the deep solace of SILENCE—the chill in the air brushed my face and the wind picked up its face (we gazed at one another) as ‘we’ began to ascend the mountains. I say ‘we’ because three IMPORTANT women were with me this day—my mom, my friend Helen (affectionately called Peanut), and Alberta (her endearing name, Nunny—my greatest teacher, kindred soul and friend).
I walked with my mom. I am her youngest…her baby. I stayed close to her as I was growing up…we were ‘companions.’ I have two older siblings—a sister and a brother. It seemed that I had two sets of parents as I grew…I mean this in the most loving sense. MY sister, seven years older, ALWAYS had a HEART— bigger than an ocean. She wanted to give ‘good’ things and she loved me for who I was. My mom has a deep affection for her first born—it’s a bond I cannot explain, but have come to admire. My sister and I could not be ANY more different…she is the epitome of a girly-girl while I’m the extreme tom boy—still am…boots, mud, sneakers—the WILD. Surprised I’m walking THIS Camino? NOT A DOUBT.
My brother…if my mom’s father ever got to ‘see’ his grandson, he would never have given him back to my mother and father. My brother was my guide in my growing-up years. He looked after me, talked to me about life and the road ahead…temptations that would enter my path. When he left for the service (Navy), my heart broke. No one ever left our family. I MISSED him.
My mom’s three children are her prized possession. If she could keep us with her, she would, BUT she’s ‘stretched’ through the years. We are still HERS, but she shares (ha!-ha!) SOMETIMES!
My dad and she just could not make things work—they tried, but their lives lived separately seemed to work for the best in later years. My mom is a care-giver…even if you don’t need care—she’ll HELP you. She cannot STOP offering what is hers. There was a time in our relationship that we ‘parted.’ We both needed to grow apart in order to find our way back—AND we have…I know she is present daily. We all have our own ‘MOTHER’ stories. As an adult, I realize how richly blessed I am by my Mother’s love.
I journeyed with Peanut (Helen)…Alberta’s mom. Peanut and I connected more than 30 years ago during this exact time (The Easter Season). We had ‘some-thing’ special immediately and I also shared this bond with her life’s LOVE—Mikey. They welcomed me into their lives—taking me in while I studied in college and in the seminary. Oh, the stories—ENDLESS! So many joys…memories that have made me who I am today.
Mikey has moved on from this world and Peanut is 96. Talk about an amazing woman. When her LOVE died, her world collapsed. Grief can be a STINGER that NO TIME can heal. Her spirit and faith go on…I’ve never seen such resilience. I’ve watched as the years have taken so much from her and still she prays—“Just for today God, just for today—it’s all I ask.”
I watched and admire her as she gave up driving, her home, as she transferred to an Assisted Living facility where everyone LOVES her. She’d fallen far too many times—the walker was given up and a wheel chair replaced her mode of transportation. She found ways to make her rounds…to roam…to visit and help others less able than she. In her mind, she is INDEPENDENT. To watch her raise ‘her’ temple from that wheel chair is a feat beyond words. She’s stronger than anyone I’ve ever known, AND she has a heart bigger than I can describe (I’m blessed that she has shared some of her heart’s most intimate treasures with me). She is ready to move on from this world. When her number is called, she will REMAIN in my heart…a place ONLY she/Peanut will fill.
(While I was on the Camino…she was on the Camino with me every step of the way. Peanut listened to Alberta explain where I was each day. The day I returned HOME—I spoke with Peanut three times—each time she was delighted to hear my voice as if hearing it a first time in a long while. Her gentle words—“YOU’RE HOME, NOW NUNNY IS NOT ALONE—” a mother’s heart for her child—so, so endearing! That night Peanut was hospitalized and we almost lost her. She’ll NEVER return to the Assisted Living—she’s preparing for her Eternal Camino…again with ageless GRACE).
I traverse the terrain with Peanut’s daughter, Alberta…Nunny—
I met her when I was a student in college…attempted to avoid her course at all costs. Rumor had it that SHE WAS TOUGH. I do like a challenge…in my final semester I registered for a seminar she taught, HEMINGWAY, FAULKNER & FITZGERALD. Needless to say, I was lassoed into an amazing world of writers. It was also a time in my life when I was fed up with religion…I saw too much AND I stole away by myself with God…this was GOOD!
One day, because of some life altering circumstances, I took to the chapel…ALWAYS a place of refuge for me. BEFORE I knew it, I was not ALONE. A hand was on my shoulder and I heard the gentle words, “About time you prayed, MATTUCCI.” Nunny & I bonded that moment. I did have to ‘test’ the waters a bit—so we went out for a bite to eat on a Friday in Lent. I purposely ordered a ham submarine. Nunny did not bat an eye. We laugh about it to this day. She was/is so many things for countless young people—especially me. She SAW in me SOMEONE who had SOMETHING to offer life.
‘Our’ story is a collection of endless chapters—each day another page is written and often more than one. We are community to & for each other AND love inviting others into our ‘holy dwelling’ place.
It is because of Nunny, that I AM here NOW—at this MOMENT. It has been ALMOST two years that I have cared for her after she experienced a series of falls. She is NOT a complainer…takes after her mom—women with strong constitutions, BUT one fall too many and she was NOT able to walk.
The first surgery led to rehab, but gains were NOT happening…a knee replacement was scheduled. Nunny, being a cancer survivor, thought this would be a WALK in the park—it has taken a long time for her to get to the park. Many a day, her spirit adrift, her exercises slowed, but she did them. Through ALL these personal challenges, she continues to love and care for her mom—even from 700 miles away. Her devotion and love for Peanut is like an ocean that has no shore. She made a promise to her dad—AND she continues to fill it even at a great price. Yes, Alberta is my greatest teacher. She is honest and wise; she is truthful and follows her instinct even when others would disapprove because of her unwillingness to go along with ‘unjust’ maneuvers…(Before her father died he asked us both for forgiveness—he knew).
She bears this weight amidst EVERYTHING else she carries, AND she NEVER stops LOVING. Even when sharp remarks are made, she does not waver. I have held the tears…tears I sprinkle along this path….because she, so like the mother bird, again & again pushes me from the nest and says, “Go fly—return with stories of your adventurers…I’ll be right here WAITING…”
I’m not naive…one day her chair will be empty. Many persons don’t like to talk about death. Imagine—we’re and Easter people afraid to speak of death—ALLELUIA…
I’m so NOT alone on this path—this overall path called LIFE. If death opened its door to me tomorrow, I would miss so many of my soul sisters and brothers, BUT my life…ONE incredible STORY.