It is still Christmas! Today is the tenth day of this miraculous feast of Our Lord's birth. This month began with first day of the year devoted to the feast of Mary, Mother of God. Earlier this week, I got to attend Mass on this holy day by myself as Bill took all the kids the previous evening to the anticipated Mass. (I stayed home with the napping baby).
It seems like this would be a wonderful time of the year to introduce you to another mother--someone special who entered my life over ten years ago. Susannah was a veteran Catholic wife and mother of five children. When I first met her, I had just given birth to my third baby, Grace, and Susannah came to a pro-life meeting I was leading. I remember her dispensing common-sense mothering wisdom about breastfeeding (she had been a card carrying member of La Leche League and a Lamaze devotee) and telling me how babies love mashed avocado and to try that with Grace when she started showing an interest in foods. Her husband, Charles, was already a friend of my husband's as they had met attending daily 6:30 a.m. Mass. Charles, my husband, and their fellow Mass buddy, Joe, were meeting up each morning, at the local La Madeleine for breakfast and fellowship after Mass. So, when I was finally able to meet Susannah, it was like meeting an old friend.
During this time of my life, a dear friend of mine and I decided to try and begin a Catholic Attachment Parenting Group at our parish. I knew Susannah would make an excellent speaker at one of our meetings and I gave her a call. Talking to her that afternoon, many parts of the conversation are still crystal clear. (And for all my friends who know me, this is a true miracle, my memory is pathetic!). At one point in our conversation, Susannah quizzed me about family size--how many children did I hope to have? I told her I would love more children but that I was no "spring chicken." (I was about 32 at the time)...She chuckled and told me that God had sent her two babies in her forties. This encouraged me immensely at the time and today, about a month after turning 42, her words encourage me still.
At one point in our conversation, she asked me if I had ever heard of a "Mary Wall." I hadn't and intrigued, asked her about it. She told me it was a wall in your home that was dedicated to the Blessed Mother with framed images, statues, all to show our love for Mary. As mothers, she told me, we need to have an area to go where we can look at our Blessed Mother, pray for her guidance, and send a kiss to her Divine Son nestled in her arms, especially on the days that seem to just bear down upon us (and as mothers we all have those kind of days).
Charles and Susannah were a wonderful example of a loving, strong Catholic couple and it was apparent to all who knew them that their devotion to one another had grown stronger as they shared the cross of Susannah's poor health. She had already had a long battle with breast cancer and was in remission when I met her but this terrible cancer finally cut her life short. Her body was tired and weak when she suddenly died from the effects of this cancer in 1999. She left behind her husband and her five children, the youngest just in fifth grade.
Susannah never did get to come speak about the Mary Wall but I kept her idea with me and close to my heart over the years. I nestled out a small wall for my pictures and statues of Our Lady. I was never really satisfied with how it looked, though. It never seemed beautiful enough to pay homage to our Lady....
Well, Bill and Charles still attend daily Mass with Joe. Their friendship has grown and deepened over the years. Charles is godfather to our baby Joseph! And we were so happy when we heard that he was marrying again--a dear lady-friend he had been seeing for years. They decided to begin their life together, by building a new home for a fresh start. So, Charles began the daunting task of clearing out his home. As you can imagine, after many years of living with a very ill wife and then raising his family of five children, there was a lot of work to do....Periodically, Bill would come home from work with gifts from Charles--a whole box full of "antique Polly Pockets" (my girls squealed they were so happy!) and some Cabbage Patch dolls, classic cookbooks of Susannah's, as well as some pretty baskets for the kitchen. All these gifts reminded me of Susannah and her motherly devotion to her family. I really felt as if she were smiling down from heaven and reminding me how blessed I was to be healthy and present to all my children.
Well, one day Bill came home with his arms full--another present from Charles. This time, I cried. It was most of her Mary Wall. Bill said Charles had pulled a few pictures from the wall for himself, but then asked if we would like the rest. I immediately thought of his children, his daughters, surely they would want them? No, Bill said, they had been given the option to take whatever they wanted. So, Bill came home with Susannah's Mary Wall.
Below are some pictures of my wall. Most of the wall is Susannah's but I did add many of my Marian pictures and statues as well. I sat down and prayed before I began on my Mary Wall. I really tried to make it as beautiful as I could. Along with the pictures and images of Our Lady that came with the wall, another gift came as well, notes from talks that Susannah gave on the Mary Wall. I sat down and read through her notes and they are lovely--an explanation of why each Catholic home should have such a wall dedicated to Mother Mary.
I can see my Mary wall from my kitchen. I often pause and look at it during the day. It is a beautiful daily reminder to stop doing dishes and thank God for the gift of His Mother, who so tenderly loves and cares for me and all her children. I also thank God for the friendship of a Catholic mother whose life touches me still, through the intercession of our Heavenly Mother, Susannah's friendship and love are with me--and I look forward to meeting her again one day.
*I hope to get Susannah's notes on the Mary Wall scanned into my computer and up as a sidebar on the blog very soon. :)