Marie Gerard Polley
I am struck by the devotion, inner grace and peace of elderly mothers. I think it begins with the beginning of motherhood when a young woman realizes that she is pregnant, deepening when she holds her infant in her arms. I saw it the other day when I received a photo of a young friend, holding her firstborn son in her arms, gently nuzzling him. It doesn’t diminish with age. I recognized in the look my mother gave me as she lay dying. She was eighty-five and I was fifty-six, but the look she gave me was the same one my young friend gave her infant son; it was a look of utter tenderness and grace. And also, for my mother, a look of sadness in knowing that I would soon be alone and motherless.
I once knew an eighty-one year old woman whose fondest desire before she died was to see all her grandchildren gathered around her so she could gaze upon them and give them her silent blessing. Robbed of speech by Lou Gehrig’s Disease, she wrote everything on a writing board. I remember asking her how she was, and how she was with her imminent passing. She replied that she had her worries. When I asked what they were, she said: “My family.”
“How is your family a worry to you?
Writing out one word after the next on her board, she replied: “I want their future to be filled with peace and happiness.”
“And if you could make that true unto the tenth generation, you would, wouldn’t you?”
In large, bold letters, she wrote one word: Yes!
It was there in the words of an eighty-nine year old woman, who still mourned her two sons, killed in battle during World War II. It was there when my grandmother ran the annoying neighbor off when he tried intimidating my mother. He took one look at the fire in her eyes and hastily left, tail between his legs. It was there in an old woman at St. Francis X. Cabrini Hospital in Seattle who refused to die until her lost son was found, holding on until her body couldn’t, the lost son still missing.
It was there in the eyes and voice of the mother who stopped as I parked my bright red Mazda Protege. Gazing at my car she sighed, saying: “My son had a car just like that. He died when he was only fifty-five. I miss him. May I touch your car?”
“Of course you may,” I replied, watching as she wiped a tear from her eyes.
“Thank you so much,” she said, smiling and walking on down the sidewalk, touching me as much as my little red car had touched her.
Mothers: None of us would be here without you. Thank you.