On Thursday the northern tier of the family near enough to do so gathered at Mom’s home in Hudson, New Hampshire. The house was built and completed in the year 2000. Dad was eager to move in. He came as it was built and took photos of the builders’ progress, even when the home-to-be was only a hole in the ground. He could see it in his mind’s eye, or perhaps rather in his heart’s hope.
But Dad never lived here. Two days following his death in August of that year the town granted an occupancy permit.
But for Mom, this has been home now for between fourteen and fifteen years. Succeeding 75 Eastern Avenue in Lynn, this house on Barbara Lane became the de facto center of the McGinty universe. Visits, phone calls, holidays have centered here. Innumerable meals have been prepared and served with love. Summers and winters at special seasons have seen this home house more people than ever it was designed to hold. It not only held them. It embraced them. People of three generations, linked by blood and linked by love. Conversations, debates, loud comments directed toward the television screen during football and baseball contests – all these have happened here more often than could be numbered.
Thursday, Thanksgiving Day, we gave thanks – along with all our blessings – for all of this. It was the last holiday here. Anointed by snow and nourished by two turkeys and several pies, it was last Thanksgiving for us in this place, made sacred by all the events of these past years.
Fragments of so much rise up in heart these days: joys, wonderments, sorrows, moments of warmth and blackouts of cold; the planting of trees and roses; children playing in the grounds around, growing bigger year by year; guests received and loved, until they could come no more; prayer offered from one heart and from a family together; dogs and cats bounding across the house; photos displayed and new photos taken; new photos becoming the old.
All these and more, although I at least cannot retain them all, are together the constant fabric of grace in this place. They are the moments when you catch the fragrance of God’s loving presence. They are the instants when you swear you hear the constant breath of God. They are the instants when you know the eye of Jesus looks with love on this place and its people. They are the nanoseconds when the passing instant of the Spirit’s wing brushes your cheek. They are blessings, sacraments pointing gently and constantly to the ‘more’ that life together is. More than is seen, More than is expressed, More than is expected.
This coming Tuesday Mom is moving, with emotion but by her own realization and desire, to the community of God’s own at the Jeanne Jugan Residence of the Little Sisters of the Poor. There new memories will be made, and new friendships, There old friends will grace the doorway and sit to share stories. There the Fragrance and Breath and Loving Look and Brushing Wing will be as present as ever. Because there too we continue to live in the grace that is the presence of God.
Somehow the epicenter of family life will shift again. I cannot quite see how it will all fit together. But I know that it will. Because the fitting is only partially up to us. There is another Hand and Heart guiding the way.
It remains only – and constantly – to say, thank you.