When I could make the sun shine…

This is a melancholy time of the year for me. I lost both of my parents in 2008. Mom passed away on November 24, which was their 71st wedding anniversary. Dad followed her into eternal life only 13 days later. I miss them very much, especially during the approaching holidays, which they loved to celebrate.

Dad was a huge football fan, especially of his New Orleans Saints. They won their first Super Bowl in the 2009 season, which we naturally attributed to Dad’s heavenly intercession 🙂

Dad seemed to send us another gift shortly after his death. Two days before his funeral, 6 inches of beautiful snow tumbled out of the sky and blanketed everything in white until the day he was buried. In south Louisiana, that was even more of a miracle than the Saints winning the Super Bowl! Both mom and dad knew how much we loved the extremely rare snowfalls we’d experienced during a lifetime of living in the deep South. Was it just a coincidence, or was it a sign from Heaven: We’re home! It’s beautiful here…and we are with you still. “Love never ends.”

Below is a post from the archives, remembering my beloved parents.

Have you ever walked into a room, and filled it with sunshine?  Do you have the power to elicit the most beautiful smiles merely by saying hello?  Do others rush to greet you and embrace you as though you were the most important person in the world?

I have regularly experienced all of the above, not by being rich or famous, but simply by being daughter — to my elderly parents during their last years on earth.

Until they passed away, within 13 days of each other in 2008, I didn’t fully appreciate how much it meant to be so loved and cherished simply for being me.  I now know that I will never again be loved on earth with that uniquely unselfish, unabashedly proud, and unconditional love of a parent for their child.

Mom died first, on the day they would have celebrated their 71st wedding anniversary.  How could she be gone?  She had always been there for me.  Even in those last few years when dementia had set in, she always recognized my voice and broke into a radiant smile which lit up her gray-green eyes, blinded by macular degeneration.  “Patty,” she would call.  “Come give me a hug.”

Dad had dementia too, but he covered it well most of the time.  Being alert and observant, his would roll his wheelchair into the kitchen as soon as he saw me pulling into the driveway.  “Oh, you made my day!  Honey, Patty’s here!”  He would call out to my mom as she sat swathed in fleece blankets in her bright pink recliner.

My parents had always taken care of me.  I remember mom holding cold compresses on my head and supporting me throughout agonizing waves of nausea during migraine attacks when I was a teenager.  And, I can still see the trays of tea and broth and crackers she brought when the worst of it was over.

They were there when cancer surgery put an end to my dreams of having babies.  They were devastated, but mom kept vigil with me, and dad cooked up all my favorite dishes.

We shared many happy times too — like the summer after my first year of college, when my best friend and I went to Europe with a study group.  We had taken off a semester to “type our way to England.”.  My parents gave me a small going away party with close family and friends.

But what I remember most about that party, and what I treasured more than any of the other gifts I received, was a glass coffee jar into which mom and dad had both collected all of their spare change over the preceding months.  They surprised me with this extra bit of spending money.

I don’t remember how much was in that jar — perhaps around $50.00 or so.  But it might as well have been a million dollars to me.  I was so touched by the joy on their faces when they handed me this little sacrificial gift.

Mom worked in retail, and she bought up the cutest clothes as soon as they went to markdown, so that my sisters and I could have a nice wardrobe during our teen years.  We had many good laughs over all the compliments we received on outfits that had cost less than ten dollars.

Dad borrowed on his life insurance to give me a beautiful wedding — because he wanted to.

Even as a child, I was humbled watching my parents deny themselves nice things in order to give my sisters and me piano lessons and pay tuition to Catholic schools.

But it was during those last five years of their lives, that they taught me more than I had learned in all those years growing up in the two-story, two bedroom brick home which they loved so much.

I experienced the great dignity which accompanies advanced age.  There was something almost sacred about my parents in their helplessness and frailty.  The trust in their eyes, the personal modesty they tried to maintain while being bathed and dressed by live-in caregivers was hauntingly beautiful.

My dad had been an artist, and even when Alzheimer’s had taken its toll, he still commented on the clothes my sisters and I wore — especially a pretty handbag or cool looking shoes.  He also liked to study the art hanging on the walls of the many doctors’ offices we visited.

During their last years, I lost count of the answers to prayer, some miraculous, which were associated with my parents’ needs and care.  Truly God has great tenderness for those who are old and infirm.

I am so grateful that I was able to be there for my parents during those last five years.  It is my greatest comfort now in missing them….and it is one of God’s greatest gifts to me.

Both of their deaths were unexpected.  Mom was only ill for two weeks before she left us, and dad died only five weeks after he was diagnosed with cancer the doctors had somehow overlooked for months.  But all was as it was meant to be.

Our Blessed Lord took mom first, and dad never knew she was gone.  We just had time to bury her and then to see him through the last week of his life.  He didn’t know he was dying.  God was so merciful.  Dad slipped in and out of a coma, watching his beloved football games from his favorite chair on a Saturday afternoon, and drifted away to God (and mom) the next morning.

Losing them both at the same time was so hard, but was exactly what they would have wanted.

Of all that I miss about them, it is not what they gave when I was young or what they did when I needed them.

What I miss most of all is lighting up their lives and their faces simply by walking in the door.  I miss being their child.  No supermodel, no rock star ever received such an enthusiastic welcome.  I felt like the most important person in the world.

But as much as my parents made me feel loved, what will God’s Love be?  Like the Father of the prodigal son, will He not, with unrestrained Divine Love, rush down the path to meet us when we take our first steps into eternity?

Mom, Dad, I love you!


16 thoughts on “When I could make the sun shine…

  1. Patricia, this is so beautiful!!! You have really given me something to ponder in your description of how your parents treated you when you walked in the door. Do I treat others like that, I wonder? Do I let people know how truly special and loved they are? Your parents must have been such wonderful souls. What a blessing to know that you were so loved and that you are still so closely connected in the communion of saints. God bless you.

    • Thank you, Anne. I love your insightful comment: “Do I treat others like that, I wonder?” Me too! I wonder if even my son and his wife feel as welcome as my parents always made me feel..

      They were from that amazing generation who worked so hard, but somehow weren’t always stressed out, and always had room for a few more at the dinner table. My husband’s parents were that way too. As for me, I worry too much about dinner being an elegant affair, if there are guests. I think my parents’ generation was less complicated than some of us tend to be.

      The best thing of all was that I knew I could always count on their love, and I miss that so much now. But like you said, we are united in the Communion of Saints, and that is such a blessing. And, as I pray for my parents, I know they are praying for my family and me. Did I tell you that my son and his wife are expecting…in May? I’m so excited! Maybe I”ll learn to relax more as a granny 🙂
      Hugs, to you Anne!

  2. How beautiful, this tribute to your parents, Patricia! I miss them with you and I never met them. Oh, the joy of heaven when we all walk in the door and are greeted as long-lost sons and daughters by each and every one and walk into the loving embrace of Our Lord!
    Joined in prayer today for all the Carmelite souls.

    • Oh Cindy, what a lovely comment. Thanks for missing my parents with me, and I miss Tim with you! I truly felt that way while reading your lovely, touching book. Oh yes, Heaven’s Door…what joys will we find when we enter?! It’s fun to imagine, and we know that our best hopes and dreams don’t even come close to the reality. I’ll introduce you to my parents there, and I’ll hope for a giant hug from Tim. 🙂 God bless you, dear Cindy, and thank you so much for commenting.

    • Thank you, Nancy. I can smile now too. I thank God that time does help, and that grief is lightened by wonderful, happy memories. Of course. I was so blessed to have my parents with me for a very long time, since they were both 93 when they died. It’s somewhat different than losing a child or a husband or sibling. But, even though it’s expected, because of their age, it’s never easy to lose loved ones. But, I carry them in my heart, until I see them again. Love and prayers for your loved ones. xo

  3. These expressions from your heart are so beautiful. How blessed you are to have such parents who are watching over you even now. And how blessed your parents are to have such an amazing and loving daughter!!! Love does continue through our deep losses and what a moment that will be when we are reunited again for eternity! Thank you for sharing these amazing and humbling examples of unconditional love. You do have a wonderful way of lighting up my life, and I am absolutely certain others as well, when your soulful and blessed words come into our rooms like a burst of sunshine. And yes, what will God’s love be like rushing down to meet us?!!! A Big Embrace for you dear friend during these melancholy times…my prayers go out for you and your beautiful, luminous parents….God Bless You…xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxo.

    • Dearest Cynthia, a very heartfelt thank you for that “Big Embrace!” I smiled seeing all those x’s and o’s 🙂 You are so kind and such a loving friend. Your comment is so full of warmth and joy. I was with my mom when she died, and I sat there for some time afterward, touching her and wondering where she was…could she see my sister and me and our tears. Was she still somewhere in the room, or had she already gone to Jesus? What a mystery! She was blessed to have been anointed three times in the previous two weeks, including the night before she died. What a great gift the Sacraments are!

      Oh yes! Can you imagine God’s Love rushing to meet us and embrace us…oh so tight?! Safe at last in His Heart. What a day that will be! And finally, I will meet you and our other friends here….such joy! I hope you will still be able to write poems in Heaven. I think so! Won’t we use all of our gifts for all eternity to give glory to God? I know I won’t be singing…not without a miracle 🙂
      Blessings, dear Cynthia! Love and many, many hugs!.

  4. Patricia, I’ll be remembering you this time of year..What honor you have given to your parents by sharing their great sacrifices of love. The only commandment with a promise “Honor your father and mother, that it may be well with you and you may live long on earth.” Saddens me when I visit the elderly to see how many children literally abandon their parents in their aging years. Such harsh loneliness they experience. But, here is the blessing of family life lived out as the Lord asks of us.
    You are a jewel in His crown and I know your parents are smiling down on you as they intercede for the Lord to bless your journey.

    Love always and +

    • Dearest Caroline, I have missed you! I left a long comment at your blog the other day, but didn’t have my glasses on when I typed in the captcha… I like to think I did at least know the math…just couldn’t tell an 8 from a 3 🙂

      Thank you for your kind remembrance. Yes, Sunday is the anniversary of mom’s death, as well as their wedding anniversary. I thank God that He has a way of healing our hearts so that we don’t remain in that intense place of grief forever, but it does come back somewhat at these special times, and I know you know this so well…through your own loss. The best part is that one day, we will all be together again.

      I can smile at their pictures now. For the first couple of years, I was too sad to look at them. I’m grateful that God gives us memories, so that we never forget the love and kindness we have been shown by the special people in our lives.

      Thank you, Caroline, for your dear friendship. Love and blessings…xoxo

  5. How beautiful it is when someone really appreciates their parents and feels so loved. The love you received has made you a loving person also. I thank you for your friendship. I hope your memories at this time of year will bring comfort into your life. God Bless you 🙂

    • Monica, I thank you for your friendship too, and for your prayers…most recently 🙂 You are such a blessing to me. I really did appreciate my parents throughout most of my life. I think because even a child can realize when others are making sacrifices for them. I know that you are being such a loving daughter to your own mom right now. It’s wonderful how you can both do art projects together 🙂 Making memories that will last forever…. Yes, they are a comfort. Thank you, Monica. Love and prayers….

  6. Thank you for sharing these beautiful memories of your parents with us, Patricia! They both sound so wonderful!

    Do you know that I have never met anyone who celebrated 71 Anniversaries? 60, yes, 70 no. Amazing!

    • HI Mary…so good to “see” you here! 🙂 Yes, that was a long time to be married, wasn’t it?! They didn’t get married very young (for those times) either. I think my mom was almost 23. A few years later, Dad went off to World War II. I love movies from that period…all the great movies. Mom and dad loved them too.

      Thanks so much for sharing my memories of my parents. It’s nice to re-live, in a way, some of those happy times.

      Hope you return soon. I miss your blog posts!!! But, I know how it can be. I’m barely keeping up here these days. I think we all need a break now and then.

      God bless you, dear Mary. It’s always such a joy to hear from you. Have a Happy Thanksgiving next week! Love and hugs to you!

    • Amy, I pray your mom is celebrating in heaven today…watching over you, of course, I keep track of my parents’ birthdays and how old they would be too. We’ll always miss them, don’t you think? Thanks for sharing. I’ll say a prayer for your mom tonight, may God bless you!

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