I planned to return to Italy last December for Saint Lucy’s day and my aunt decided to join me. She asked if we would be staying in the same house because she was unsure of the language and I’d taken some lessons. “The same house,” I exclaimed, “I think we’ll be sleeping in the same bed.” If my mother were alive I would’ve gone to Italy with her or she would’ve gone with her sister. But as Aunt Toni and I admitted, we were an unlikely pair to make the trip together. We did sleep in the same room and in the same king-size bed. Little did I know that of all the gifts we received that trip (and there were many), sharing a room with Aunt Toni would be the greatest. Each night I had the pleasure of sitting next to my aunt as she prayed the Rosary. We were told when we arrived that the room we shared was special because it had belonged to our late Uncle Giuseppe. With its high ceiling and shuttered windows, it did feel rich in memories and prayer. An even bigger holiness seemed to fill the room at night when Aunt Toni prayed the Rosary… “Hail Mary, full of grace…” One night when she said, “Good night, Sweetheart,” I recognized the lilt of my mother’s voice. It had been six years since I’d actually heard my mother’s voice, but this time my aunt’s blessing was just as sweet. I became acutely aware of the mother energy around me with Aunt Toni in my bed, Aunt Domenicantonia across the hall and my aunts, Maria, Antonia and Libera, down the street. Throughout those ten days in Italy, mother love enveloped me and in its arms I was held, rocked and healed. One night I asked my aunt to teach me the Rosary. Gently and kindly, she did. The very next evening when we showed up at Aunt Anna’s, we were presented, as always, with gifts. I opened a shiny gold package that held a white set of Rosary beads blessed by the Pope. Could Aunt Anna have known? Mother love was at work again, pulling the details of my healing together. On our final night together in Italy, Aunt Toni and I sat in bed together as our hands moved along the beads and our lips moved along the prayers. It was then that I realized something was different. The hole in my heart, that only a mother’s love could heal, had been sewn together by the hand of One and the hearts of many. I bowed my head in gratitude… and at the end of the Rosary when I said “Amen,” I really, really meant it.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again… God never creates a hole in our lives that he doesn’t eventually fill. This story of transformation and mother love took me well beyond healing and into a new dimension of faith, love and hope. It seems that when I do something right these days, it’s for all the wrong reasons. My “Mother Love” trip to Italy was no exception. I chose the date because in 2009, Saint Lucy’s Day fell on a Sunday and the tradition in my grandparents’ hometown is to attend Mass followed by a parade down a winding cobblestone path into the village square. I simply wanted to sit in the church of Saint Lucy on that particular day and honor the saint for whom my mother and daughter were named. I had no idea that my heart was still in tatters or that it would be so beautifully mended. But, as usual, the test came before the lesson. Leading into the trip, some less-than-love energy swirled around me involving the date I chose but this time… for the very first time, I was able to avoid its grasp. I stepped back and recognized accusations as opinions (or maybe, wounds), the difficulty as a lesson and those who delivered it as my teachers. It wasn’t the end of the world, thank God… and in instead for me seemed like the beginning… of a different world where love trumps fear. Rather than get caught in the muck, I chose joy and, as I wrote in my very first post, “When I choose joy, I like to jingle all the way… others can either join me in joy or wait for me at the door.” I stepped into a lighter way of being and continued down a love-lit path where there’s room for different perspectives without fallout or blame. I insisted on love and, in return, love insisted on me… and healed my heart through the hand of God and the hearts of mothers across the world.