Today we celebrated a Memorial Mass for Rose Margaret "Peg" Ryan, Mother of Rev. Jim Ryan, who died on January 7. Here are some of Jim's thoughts on his Mom and some gratefully repeated from Maya Angelou.
(I Love You, Mom.
Your son, Jim)
From a poem by Maya Angelou
.... Great souls die and
our reality, bound to them,
takes leave of us.
dependent upon their nurture,
now shrink, wizened.
Our minds, formed
and informed by their
radiance, fall away....
.... And when great souls die,
After a period peace blooms,
slowly and always
Our senses, restored, never
to be the same, whisper to us.
They existed. They existed.
We can be. Be and be
Better. For they existed.
We have been given blessings.
Parents see their children as the greatest blessings of their lives. Children who recognize their parents in the foundations of their own convictions and in the inspirations to believe and to love, these children return blessings to their parents. Such parents are truly able to count their blessings.
In the 88th year of her life, in the 65th year of her marriage, on the day after the Feast of Epiphany, God brought Mom to her new life : her forever life.
Epiphany is the celebration of Joseph and Mary presenting their child to the world. Not to upstage these saintly parents, Mom waited until the day after Epiphany to enter a well deserved and hard earned eternity. Like them, Mom knew much about presenting her children to the world. She could count her blessings in them.
Last week Jean and I were with Mom when the nurse came in at 4:00AM to begin the day by asking the usual reality questions. "Can you tell me your name?" "Can you tell me what year this is?" "Can you tell me where you are?" Mom answered each one correctly and the nurse was assured that she was still based in reality.
Mom would say with not a little condescension (though always kindly stated) "That's their routine." You see Mom was indeed grounded in reality, but here is how she stayed grounded. Mary overheard Mom reciting an all too familiar litany of her life-long and loving reality. Here is Mom's litany. Mom said: Tom, Dennis, Dan, Tim, Jim, Sean, Chris, Mary Pat.
And with each name she paused and you know she was including daughters-in-law and her favorite son-in-law. She included grandchildren and great grandchildren. Her thoughts were with her latest great granddaughter who will be born in the next few weeks. And you know she is the only one in this church who knows us all by name. We have all become less knowing in her passing.
This woman reciting her litany had arrived into her 65th year of marriage to Dad : loving him completely, with her whole heart. She was a woman : strong, loving, wise.
This woman was strong. She was our anchor. She had to be. This young Mother often experienced the mayhem her growing brood of sons created around her. And when she looked closer she saw that her husband, their father, was very likely in the middle of the mayhem and leading it. This occasioned some of Mom's greatest lines, like "Harry, you're worse than the kids!" This was a strong woman.
This woman loved us. She sent one of her sons to the war in Viet Nam. Then she lived in dread and with her prayers every moment of every day until he returned safely. This was a loving woman.
This woman was wise. Wise people are able to use simple things to teach the deepest lessons. Jesus took bread and wine and gave us himself. In these wisdom teachings a little self-preservation helps too. I recall in the era before miracle, wrinkle-free materials, when her children had jobs and needed a lot of clean shirts, how she dealt with this situation. One day she swooped up every dress shirt in the house and took them to the dry cleaners. When we arrived home she presented us with the tickets with the lesson, "If you want your shirts, go and pay for them at the dry cleaners." This was a wise woman.
What does one call such a woman?
You call her Wife, Peg, Life's Companion.
You call her Mom, Grandma, Great-Grandma.
You call her Sister, Aunt, Cousin, Friend.
Today, though formerly we may have said it with a tinge of humor :
Today, we call her truly : Saint.